Back in January, when the temperatures here in Los Angeles were hitting a frigid 64 degrees, I found myself staving off the Arctic winds by holing up with my laptop and engaging in some warmth-inducing retail therapy. One of my purchases was the humble game City Hall, designed by Michael Keller and published by Tasty Minstrel Games. I had previously read some encouraging things about this game — enough to make my frostbitten finger use its last sensation to tap the One-Click-Purchase button. It also helped that the game had been marked down to about $15. For the price of a stiff Bloody Mary, I had nabbed myself a brand new board game. The future was mine.
But why was City Hall so cheap? For starters, the game is ugly. Like, really ugly. We’re talking a color scheme that mixes forest green with copper with champagne. And don’t get me started with the blocky fonts on the board. It’s as if “Chicago” and “Charcoal” had a bastard love child. If pretty hurts, City Hall definitely has never experienced pain.
The unfortunately reality is that people generally stay away from ugly games, especially if they’re ugly AND about city bureaucracy. Out of the gate, poor City Hall had two strikes against its marketability. And then came the death knell: a lackluster review from one of an influential board game critic, who most likely turned off wide swaths of the purchasing audience. Mix those factors together, and it’s no surprise that this $60 game had been marked down to less than a twenty-dollar bill.
This leads to the inevitable question: is City Hall an ugly duckling? Or should it be voted out of office? (Yes, I mixed metaphors). Continue reading