Bruges: The City on the Zwin Review

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Good games need expansions, right? Or are games good because they don’t need to expanded? I don’t know, my brain hurts. Why such difficult questions? I only know that Bruges is a game I like and there’s this expansion, which I’ve played, called City on the Zwin. Do I like this one too? Do you need to buy it? Well, I wrote this review to answers those questions, so you might want to read it.

Overview

What do you get for your money?

You get 40 new Person cards, 1 Game board for the ships and the fifth player, 2 Overview cards, 2 black player pawns, 2 black player seals , 3 black majority markers, 10 Workers (2 per colour), 10 Threat markers (2 per colour), 10 Canal tokens, a 50/100 token, 2 Statue tokens, 30 Ship tokens (6 per colour), 12 Market cards, 6 Market action markers and the rules

How do you play the game?

This expansion comes with four modules, you can add to the base game. If you want to know how to play Bruges, you can find my review from a while ago HERE.

The first module adds 39 new Person cards (plus a modified version of an already existing card). seventeen of them are part of a new group, the Travelers and a few new cards add the ability to choose cards from the discard pile and add it to your tableau as a house or a person in a house that’s already there.

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The second module adds a fifth player with its own board, tokens and pawns. It also adds two new statue tokens with a value of eight and nine to add to the game when you play with five players.

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The third module adds The Zwin, the connection between the North Sea and the harbour of Bruges. Here ships might dock every round and these ships can give players the option to buy an extra action after they’ve built a canal token.

After the dice are rolled in phase 2 of the round, you check if you’ve rolled fours and threes. If so, you place ship tokens of that colour on the Zwin board. After a player has built a canal token, she has the option to buy a ship action by paying a worker with the same colour as the ship she wants to use. The actions are: take six guilders, take three workers, discard two threat markers, advance one step on the reputation track, perform an action with a card from the draw pile or activate a ‘one-use’ person’s ability.

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The fourth module adds the market. During every round, after each player has drawn their cards, a market card is drawn. A market card will improve one of the six possible actions on the board. A card shows the action it improves, the effect it has and the amount of times it can be used. For instance the ‘Jack-of-All-Trades’ card shows the ‘take workers’ symbol, it shows that it can be used six times that round and it tells you that if you choose to use it, by playing a Person card for its ‘take workers’ action, you may choose the colour of the workers yourself. Or the Cabin that lets you build a house for free. Wonderful!

There are Market cards for every action and add the end of every round the card is removed, whether its been fully used or not, and a new card is drawn at the start of the next round.

Review

Gameplay

An expansion! The most important questions you should ask yourself when you think about buying an expansion is: ‘Is it worth it? Or can I just stick with the base game?’.

It’s so important to ask yourself that, because expansion prices are sometimes just as high as a new base game. So, why not buy a base game. From another game that is, because who want two copies of Bruges?

Hopefully I give you to tools to answer the question above and maybe even answer it myself.

With Bruges: City on the Zwin you are basically forced to buy four expansions, four tiny modules. I start with the module I couldn’t care less about: the fifth player. I have never played this game and thought ‘Oh my, what a nice game, only was there a fifth player’. So, the fifth player, take it or leave it.

The new cards are fine. They add a new group, which is nice, but the biggest change is the addition of character powers that make you use the discard pile. This makes you think about what you discard if you have such card in your hand. It might make it easier fr you to use a good card for another purpose, because you know you can pick it up later on.

It also adds some downtime to the game, because people might need to search to the discard pile for a while before they find a card they’d like.

The two modules that change the game the most are the ships in the Zwin and the Market cards. On the one hand I’m all for the ships, because they give you more thing to do and more things to think about, but on the other hand it causes the canal building action to be quite powerful. Well, at least more powerful than in the base game. The focus is more an these canals, you can get points for building them and, now, you can also do cool stuff when you have the right workers to pay for these actions.

The Market is a module that does not really excites me. OK, it might make you re-think your strategy, because you want to be able do these actions before it’s no longer possible. However, most of the times I found no need to do that, because the benefit isn’t that great and the amount of scrolls aren’t adjusted to the amount of players. There’s always five or six scroll per market card. That means that only with five players you might get the feeling of scarcity. With fewer players you probably can do it once and you don’t need to re-evaluate the order of the cards you wanted to play.

Therefore I would only add the Market cards when I play with five and maybe with four players. The other two modules, the Zwin and the extra cards, I add to every game.

Flavour and Theme

The same as the base game. 

Looks

Also the same, which means it looks very good. 

Quality of the  components

The expansion adds a bit of cardboard to the game. The other materials are the same as the base-game pieces, so they are fine. 

Fun

Bruges was and is a nice, almost family style, card game where you have to make lots of tiny decisions. These decisions make the game interesting  and fun. The game plays quickly and is  quite easy to teach.

Well, now you probably want to now if this expansion makes this game better or makes it more fun?

No.

That’s my answer.

It doesn’t make it less fun and it doesn’t make it more fun. It just gives you a bit more options and some variety, but I cannot say it’s a must-buy. I think it’s a decent addition to the game if you are already very fond of it, but if you find the game just to be OK, then leave the twenty-five Euro in your wallet and save it for another game. This one will not change your opinion about it.

I like Bruges, so for me that means that I’m happy I bought it and I would gladly play it multiple times over the next months or years.

One thought on “Bruges: The City on the Zwin Review”

  1. Thanks for your excellent review I was quite happy to hear that there was going to be an expansion for Bruges but after seeing a few play throughs and reading your review I agree with your assessment basically a nice to have but not crucial.

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