Players 2
Length 40 mins
Equipment Required piecepack, Icehouse set
Designer Michael Schoessow
Version 2.2
Version Date2004
License custom license: These game instructions may be distributed and copied for free as long as the author is credited or this header is left in place.


This two-person boardgame, created by Michael Schoessow, was the winner of the second piecepack game design contest, LudicSynergy. It's a very deep, two-player abstract game, and is among the most highly-regarded piecepack games -- probably at the top of the list, in fact.

Here's how a finished game looks (photo by JorgeArroyo):

Scoring is based on the road network built within the "city". In the next photo, the road network in the game above is clearly delineated.

You can read a tentative transcription of an Alien City game at SeattleCosmic:AlienCity20030111. There are also many other games available online.

Alien City in other formats

Seattle Cosmic member John Braley has been building a version of Alien City for use in ActiveWorlds multi-user, online, avatar, virtual reality chat worlds. He has a preliminary HTML version of the Alien City rules posted.

He also constructed a purpose-built wooden AlienCity set:

Here's another photo of the same custom set (with an actual completed game from SeattleCosmic:SeattleCosmicGameNight20030704) that shows the dimensionality of the board and pieces better:

Alien City can now be played online at Super Duper Games!

If you don't have an IceHouse set, you may wish to play AlienCityWithJustPiecepack -- it's the same game, but replaces the IceHouse set with a second piecepack.


AlienCity 2fTextVersion

Reviews & Comments

One of the RecommendedGames. (./) (./) (./)

My favourite piecepack game. --RonHaleEvans

Alien City is played with a piecepack and Icehouse pyramids together. Maybe because of the extra pieces, this is the richest piecepack game I have played. The theme of Alien City is simply of trying to build a city with the various pieces. You have to link up towers (the pyramids) with domes (the piecepack coins), on a bed of piecepack tiles. The piecepack tiles are laid suit side up, and these suits restrict your building options.

Ultimately, Alien City is a variant of Fresh Fish, designed for only two players. The mechanic of establishing unbreakable routes on a gradually more constricted board is the same. What makes Alien City superior is that you decide, as the game progresses, where the start and end of the routes will be as you go along. The combination of the piecepack and Icehouse looks great, in fact better than Fresh Fish itself. The theme also worked well with the look of the game and the game mechanics. The regular rules were well written, although verbose in places.

Alien City is now my favourite piecepack game. HangingGardens is good too, but I cannot see it getting as much play. More importantly, it is my favourite two-player no-luck game as well. The basic concept is complex, but it is clear once grasped. Its appeal reminds me of Tigris and Euphrates, which is about the highest praise I can give.

(./) (./) (./)


Now that there's an online implementation at [1] I've been playing this. Aaron nailed me in my first game, but fortunately the experience taught me enough about humiliation to improve in game 2. I do keep forgetting about the bonuses at the end, though, and can't seem to get my brain around the odd way they score.

One of the cleverest aspects of this game is the fact that the player making the last move cannot claim a tower - genius rule!

Phillip 2 90 Aaron Aaron pulverizes me!!
Phillip 70 42 Clark
Phillip 72 28 Subhan64
Phillip 69 45 Iain
Phillip (1644)91 26 Zevzimra
Phillip (1626) 60 72 Aaron My closest game to date.
Phillip (1641) 87 60 Busch
Phillip (1644) 80 69 Aaron Finally, a win against Aaron!!
Phillip (1668) 90 37 msaari

--Phillip Lerche

Alien City is a close relative of Fresh Fish (and as a result, Fresh Fish suddenly feels a lot less unique). In both games, a road network forms on the board as a result of players' moves and constricts future moves. The goals are similar, as well - try to connect certain buildings with each other.

In Alien City, you're trying to connect towers to domes and towers of different colours within two steps on the road. That score is multiplied by the distance to the nearest tower of same colour. Of course, Iain spoiled my towers by building same-coloured towers next to them, while at the same time building his towers up to 26 spaces away from the nearest towers. No surprise, then, that he crushed me.

It's a mind-bending game. I like it a lot. It makes me feel like owning an Icehouse set would be a good move. I'll take one or two challenges on Super Duper Games, if anybody's interested to try the game.

(./) (./) (./)


One of the most reputed Piecepack games altogether, Alien City offers quite a meaty blend of position and timing as players try to fill a board with "domes" and pyramids, and then claim three of the pyramids aiming to score as much as possible; all this must be done while keeping a single network connecting all pieces on the board.

It does seem that the topic might have inspired the scoring mechanic and not have been pasted on it, but overall the science-fiction background feels appropriately alien to the game. Not that the game really needs it: the rules can be assimilated over a couple of games and build a very tight whole that stands on its own. The rewritten ruleset clearly improves the original one in that respect, they make it far easier to remember the handful of options for each turn.

The game itself is very rich. Initially disorienting, it merely takes a handful of games to appreciate the tension inherent in every move, right to the opening of the game, as players carefully hint at passages without quite finishing them and then wait for the very right moment to claim the very right tower before the opponent does.

Even though Alien City has been conceived for a Piecepack and some Icehouse pyramids, it can also be played with paper and pencil: all it needs is efficient notation and a routine to determine the random distribution of tiles at the setup.

--Antonio Recuenco Muñoz

Example Game

  Name: Alien City
  Tiles: C3^Sa^S5vAa>/M4>S4>M3<A4^/C2vMa>M5>A3v/Ca<S2^C5vC4^/A5<M2<A2^S3v
1. B3x@e6 K1x@e6 {?!} 1... R3x@f5
2. S@c7 2... B3x@e5
3. M@d5 3... M@f6 W1x@f5
4. C@f4 4... M@f7
5. B3x@f1 5... G3x@f8 W1x@f8
6. G3x@e8 6... C@g3
7. C@h3 7... S@e9
8. A@g7 8... A@g10 {? A@f2}
9. R3x@h4 9... A@h9 {?}
10. B3x@g4 K1x@g4 10... C@e3 W1x@f1
11. G3x@c6 11... B3x@b7
12. C@b6 {? M@b8} 12... C@a9
13. S@c8 13... A@b2
14. S@c9 14... R3x@d2
15. A@a2 15... S@g1 
16. R3x@f3 K1x@e5 {? A@b1 this turn} 16... G3x@b1
17. M@c5 17... M@a4
18. M@d3  18... R3x@h1
{ Scoring:
    e5 = 4 x 8 = 32
    e6 = 5 x 9 + 2 * (10 - 2*1) = 61
    g4 = 3 x 15 = 45
    Black's total = 138 points

    f1 = 5 x 8 + (10 - 2*3) = 44 points
    f5 = 3 x 2 = 6 points
    f8 = 4 x 6 = 24 points
    White's total = 74 points

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CategoryGame ThemeCivilisationCategory RecommendedGamesCategory MechanicRandomBoardCategory MechanicStackedPyramids