Find Out How Well You Can Run That Town

It took me way too long to write this review. That’s because every time I opened the app to reference something I’d get sucked back into the game. But I couldn’t help it — there was just so much to be done in my town! I needed to review proposals; read up-to-the-minute headlines about my decisions; and check on my construction projects.

See, Run That Town is a strategy game grounded in reality: You are put in charge of a neighborhood in Australia and must use real Census data to decide what will be best for your citizens. Your actions will determine whether they applaud you — or chase you out of office. Click “more” to see what it’s all about.

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Take Office

The game begins by asking you which postal area you’d like to play with. You can input whichever four-digit code you want, use your current location (if you’re in Australia, obviously), or allow the game to choose for you.

Choose a town by entering its postal code, allow the app to use your current location, or let the game pick for you.

Choose a town by entering its postal code, allow the app to use your current location, or let the game pick for you.

You’ll also be asked to provide your name, or whatever you want to be called, plus your gender. And you will be made aware of the narrator, who interjects amusing, sometimes even snarky comments, throughout gameplay.

Then you’re given 10 game years to turn your neighborhood into the absolute best version of itself. The ultimate goal? Securing the No. 1 spot on the list of top 10 best places to live in Australia.

Hit the Ground Running

Run That Town has a built-in tutorial for first-time players, but that’s not to say it breaks you in gently or pulls any punches. Just like real public servants, who come into their jobs with numerous projects at various levels of completion, you too are thrown right into the mix and asked to make important decisions right away.

The game is complex in that it has a lot of moving parts and information that must be considered, but the underlying concepts are very simple.

Here’s the gist. Run That Town continuously introduces proposals to you (second tab from the left), and you must determine whether to approve or reject them. Some proposals are for new buildings or facilities, like schools, community halls, hospitals, nightclubs, ballparks and so on. Others are for add-ons or events, like extra seating at the local pub, a game night for seniors, or an outdoor fair at the park.

Proposals can be for projects or events and will require certain amounts of clout and funding to be approved.

Proposals can be for projects or events and will require certain amounts of clout and funding to be approved.

If your actions please the citizens, your popularity will rise. If you disappoint or anger them, however, your popularity rating will plummet. And fair warning: sometimes your decisions will have really unpredictable outcomes, although the citizens always back up their opinions with some form of logic (even if it’s entirely their own brand) — and you’ll get to read all about it in the papers.

You have a lot of information at your disposal to help you make the best decision possible. First, you have the Census data for your town, which you can access at any time by tapping the pie chart in the lower right corner of your screen. There you can view statistics related to population, median income, home ownership, family composition, education, transportation, employment, marital status, age and gender.

Use Census data to help you make your decisions, then read about the public opinion in the papers.

Use Census data to help you make your decisions, then read about the public opinion in the papers.

That’s important information to keep in mind when trying to figure out which members of society a proposal would impact, who would benefit the most, and who would appreciate it the least.

Second, you have the ability to hear opinions from two citizens per proposal — one who’s for, and one who’s against — plus view which demographic each belongs to and how strong their feelings are on the issue.

Read what your constituents have to say about both sides of an issue.

Read what your constituents have to say about both sides of an issue.

And third, you can draw on experience to help you decide what to do. A great resource for this is the Headlines section (third tab from the left). Here you can read what’s been written about you in the Daily Spotlight. Did the citizens appreciate the family fun night you held at the fairground? Or did they detest the extra traffic it created?

Details, Details

Your approval rating is front and center during gameplay, accompanied by a face that smiles or frowns depending on where you stand. To the left is your clout meter, and to the right your available funds. Here’s the rub: To greenlight a proposal, you’re going to need enough clout, and every proposal you do get approved is going to require funds for maintenance.

Clout and currency accrue periodically, depending on how well you’re liked and which income-earning facilities you’ve built. But you still have to use both judiciously, since you need to put them where they’ll do the most good. Also, because proposals expire after a certain number of months according to the game’s highly accelerated timeline, you can’t afford to let a great one slip through the cracks while you’re waiting for your clout meter to refill.

Handle incidents quickly and with aplomb and your approval rating will benefit. See your popularity charted over time.

Handle incidents quickly and with aplomb and your approval rating will benefit. See your popularity charted over time.

Tap your approval percentage at any time to view your popularity charted, incoming clout, incoming funds, outgoing funds and town population, as well as your score. You’re also given the opportunity to share your popularity via Twitter or Facebook.

One more tiny detail worth mentioning: Unfortunately, politicians are sometimes forced to deal with catastrophes or other incidents, and the same is true for you as a player in this game. How well and how quickly you handle the situation will certainly affect your popularity.

Last Word

This game is phenomenal. Run That Town is very well conceptualized and extremely polished, from the smooth integration of statistics (you don’t even realize how much you’re learning about the town while you’re playing) to the high-quality graphics.

This is not something I would have expected the Australian Bureau of Statistics to produce, but because it has, it’s raised the bar pretty high for other agencies and government branches looking for ways to connect with and educate their constituencies.

As a strategy game, Run That Town is very fun, addictive and the appropriate level of challenging. But because it’s based on reality, it’s all the more impressive, since that means there are lessons to be learned here — not only about gameplay, but also politics, government, statistics, societies and Australia.

So yeah, you’ll learn something. And you’ll have an awesome time doing it.


Summary

Use real Census data to make decisions that will sway popular opinion in your favor. Choose from hundreds of projects for your town, from the practical to the preposterous.

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