2 Dec 2013

First Time Playing: Bruges

So, this was the game I voted for on the game night I ended up playing Kemet instead. And thankfully it didn't take long before I got the chance to try it out. In Bruges your goal is to gain status within a town through building houses, canals and hiring different characters to work for you. There are many different ways to score points, both throughout the game and at the end, and you will soon discover that there is no sure fire way to win

The way the game is played is that at the beginning of each round, the players will draw up to five cards one by one from two decks. Then the starting player will roll the five dice (each with a different colour matching the five different coloured cards) and ranges them from highest to lowest amounts. For every five or six that is rolled, all players have to take a threat marker of that colour (if a player at any point have three threat markers in the same colour, the threat come into play, which can be anything from losing money to losing workers, points, canals, houses or characters). Players will be given the choice of whether or not they want to advance on the influence track (the cost equals the sum of any dice that shows one or two, meaning it could cost anything from zero to ten coins to advance one single step on the track - depending on the dice roll).

Then players will take one card action at a time until all players only have one card left on their hand. These can be anything from taking two workers from the supply (in the colour of that particular card), laying down a house (the back of each card is a house), remove a threat token (of any colour), taking money from the supply (the die of that card's colour decides how much), constructing a canal (card needs to match the colour of that particular canal space) or hiring the character on the card (this requires having a vacant house to put said character).

When a player puts down a character, the character will sometimes have actions - some that come into effect at the time the card is played (and only then), some require a worker to activate, some can be activated once per round at no cost, and some award bonus victory points at the end of the game.

The game's final round starts when one of the two drawing decks empties, and once completed, points are scored. As previously stated there are many different ways of scoring points in this game. Some points are scored throughout the game, like using a card action to remove threat markers or using character actions that award victory points. Some points rely on the player having single majority status on one of three possible fields at the end of any game round; influence track, longest canal, most characters (these aren't scored until the end of the game, though). These bonus points are not taken away if another player reaches majority in the same field in a later round. Most points, however are only awarded at the very end of the game.

These points include; houses built, characters hired (each character have a point value ranging from zero to four), canal built to certain lengths (three bonus points if you reach halfway, and a bonus chip with a certain point value if you complete a canal), placement on the influence track, and characters' special abilities (earning points according to what other characters have been hired by the player).

So, how newcomer friendly do I think this game is? Well, there are a lot of things to keep track of, and it's very easy to get really focused on just one bit of the game that you forget to advance in anything else. In my first game, I got really caught up on earning the bonus points by achieving majority, and constructing canals. I did not pay a lot of attention to the houses or characters, nor did I realize that by using an action to remove a threat token I would gain a point. I was actually the only player in the game, who did not earn a single point during gameplay (I did, of course, earn some points at the end of the game) - which naturally landed me in last place when we tallied up points at the end of the game.

This is definitely not the first game I would recommend to new players. It's not the hardest game I've played, by far, but when you have a lot of things to keep track of (especially character abilities versus points), you just get lost, even when you have a bit of gaming experience. It's not until the second time around that you stand any chance to actually come up with a strategy worth anything. I personally did much better when I played this game the second time around (I even won), because I paid much better attention to the all around aspect instead of honing in on anything in particular. So, wait until you have a little bit of experience with things like resource management, worker placement (even though this is not a worker placement game by far, you still have worker-triggered actions), character abilities and such.

It's definitely a fun game, one that I intend to play again when the opportunity presents itself. Whether it will make it into my personal collection, that I'm not sure of.

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