Bruges Review

BrugesSPECS

Bruges, a wealthy city in 15th century Europe. The city flourishes and you want a piece of the pie. Influence the townsfolk, high and low-born, to gain power, reputation and wealth. Build houses, canals and statues. Your name will be known and people will greet you warmly when they see you. But be aware, it’s a balancing act, one whisper of a bad deed can turn into a large scale riot. One tiny spark can turn into a blazing fire.  

Overview

What you get for your money?

165 cards, 2 card holders, a game board, 50 workers, 44 coins, 45 threat markers, 40 canal tokens, 6 statue tokens, 4 50/100 point tiles, 2 players emblems in 4 colours, 2 pawns in 4 colours, 4 majority markers in 4 colours, 5 dice, a start player banner, overview cards for every player and the rulebook.

How do you play the game?

Think of this game as a card game with a board. The board is there to keep track of all the things you’ve done. On the board you see the city of Bruges with the canals around it. There’s a guard house with five canal spaces in five colours on each side for every player in every corner of the board. On the town square you can see the town hall with a reputation track, the dice spaces and the statues you can earn during the game. 
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At the beginning of the game, every player gets five workers, one of each colour (blue, brown, yellow, red, and purple), five guilders, three majority markers (most canals, reputation or recruited people) and two players pawns (one for the scoring track and one for the reputation track).
The card stack is divided in five smaller stacks, take a stack per player, shuffle them together and then divide them in two separate stacks (the unused cards are put aside). Then every player draws five cards. The game begins.
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The first player rolls the five coloured dice (blue, brown, yellow, red, and purple) and puts them on the dice spots on the board. When a die shows a five or a six, each player takes a threat token of the die’s colour. If a player has three tokens of the same colour, something bad will happen to him (after this happens, he puts the tokens back into the supply).
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What can happen to you? Blue, a devastating flood, lose all your workers. Brown, the plague, lose a recruited person. Yellow, a violent raid, lose all your money. Red, a blazing fire, lose a building or a canal. Purple, political intrigue, you lose three points.
When a die shows a one or a two, these or added together and every player then has the opportunity to increase their reputation (by one step) for that amount of money. You roll a one and a two, so you can pay three guilders to gain one reputation.
After that every player will, one by one, play one card from their hand until they have one left. When they play a card they can perform six action with that card.
There are five different card colours (blue, brown, yellow, red, and purple) and they have a front and a back. On the back a house is depicted in a certain colour. On the front, five basic actions are depicted. Take two workers, take guilders, discard a threat token (and get a point), build a canal token and build a house.
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When you have a yellow card and you want to get money, you play the card (discard it) and look at the yellow die on the board, it’s a four, so you take four guilders. You want red workers, play a red card and get two red workers. You want to get rid of a yellow, raid, token, play a yellow card. You want to build a canal on a blue spot, play a blue card and pay the price that is depicted on the blue canal spot on the board. Lastly, you want to build a purple house, turn over a purple card and put it on the table and put one purple worker back in the supply.
The sixth action is a bit different. Every card shows you a townsperson (the baker, the mayor, the minstrel and so on), the price, the group it belongs to, the points and a special action you can perform. You can recruit a person if you have the money to hire him and a house to accommodate him (or her off course). There are special actions you can do once and actions you can do every turn (some in exchange for workers). Others will give you extra points at the end of the game.
When every player has only one card in his or her hand, the three majorities are verified. When, at any point in the game, you have the highest reputation, most recruited people in front of you or the most canals, you may flip the corresponding majority token over and it will give you four points. You can never lose those points.  
The starting player changes and, in player order, everybody then draws back up to five cards. A new round begins.
When during the drawing phase one of the two card stack is finished, the game ends (in that round).
You can earn points in many ways (it’s a Feld). The majority markers, the reputation track, the houses and people will give you points. When, during the game, you’ve built three canal pieces on one side of your guard house, it will give you three points, when you’ve built five, you take a statue token and that will give you additional points. Points, points, points!
Everyone counts their points (that’s quite important) and the one with the most points, wins Bruges.

Review

Gameplay

It’s a card game and it’s all about scoring points in multiple ways. You want to be the best in everything, but you can’t. You’ll have to pick your battles. That’s sort of how many games of Stefan Feld work. The majority markers changes this a bit. It makes you think: “If I just keep up, I, maybe, can sneak past him and claim a majority token”.  But on the other hand, when you focus too much on keeping up with, for instance,  building the most canals and never really take the lead, it can cost you points.

The threat tokens are very interesting. You can look ahead, calculate: “Can I survive that catastrophe next turn,  or doesn’t it bother me that much”. You can get rid of a yellow, raid, token, but you can also makes sure you don’t have any money to hand in.

You can do six different things with one single card. So, every time you must play a card, you need to think about how you can get the most out of that card. You may have a card with a fantastic special ability, but it can also give you six guilders. You win some, you lose some. Many interesting, tough decisions to be made.

You cannot do everything you want in your turn and sometimes you can’t do anything you want (you draw cards, so you need a little luck), but you always have to make the best of it. That is key.

Bruges is one of the easier Felds, I think. The rules are fairly easy and the ways to score points, except for some cards, are obvious and clearly displayed on the board.

This brings me to a negative point. You cannot always see what the other players are doing. All the things on the board are clear, but everything on the cards lying on the table are not. You cannot always read the actions others can do or end game points they may score and therefore it is difficult for you to take them into account.

This game can be played very casually and I think that Bruges is a great one to introduce ‘family gamers’ into the (more difficult) strategy games.

Theme

Do I feel like a merchant (are something like that) in 15th century Bruges? No, not really. There are 165 different characters (cards) in the game, they give the game a 15th century flavour. The board itself does too. But it is all superficial. When you look at the mechanisms themselves, they aren’t very thematic. The guy on the picture (his profession) and what he can do as an action, do not correspond with each other. The different colour cards and dice, don’t make thematically sense.
In addition to the appearance of the board and the cards,the thing that does feel like you are in the 15th century are the threat tokens and the corresponding disasters, like the plague, riots or fires. These things happened.
A lot of flavour in appearance, not much in mechanisms.

 

Looks

Michael Menzel did a wonderful job. I said it already in the theme section. The 15th century flavour comes from the illustrations. The board looks gorgeous, warm colours, people walking around, quite detailed.  There are 165 different character illustrations, very nice.
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The board really is a big score board and you can see in one glance of the eye what is happening.
They have chosen to use non-standard player pawns and workers and they look great.

Quality of the components

Nice wooden pieces. The board is small, but very good quality. The quality of the cards and the cardboard pieces is also good.
I don’t have any negative comments to make here.

Fun

This is a fun, light strategic card game, with a board. Or, maybe even a more difficult family game? Probably depends on who you are playing with.
Bruges looks great and it plays very smooth. There are many ways to score points and therefore you can try to win in a different way every time. There are just lots of possibilities.
Yes, it’s not very heavy, but it still has a lot of decision making packed into it with all the different character powers and the different coloured cards.
It plays quick. Sixty minutes is clearly the four player play time.
So if you are a very casual (family game style) gamer and want to take it to the next level, this is a great game to start with. Or if you like strategy games, but you just don’t have the time to play those 1.5/ 2 hour games, this is also great.
Or, you just like games with interesting card play and many paths to victory. Buy Bruges. It’s a winner.
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