Saturday, February 01, 2014

One Feld Swoop

I recently got a chance to play Bruges, one of the newer efforts from a favorite board game designer of mine, Stefan Feld. Most of his games are rather involved affairs with multiple mechanisms all precariously balanced against one another, taking at least 90 minutes to play. But occasionally, he aims for something more compact... and Bruges is such a game.

The gameplay of Bruges revolves mainly around a large deck of five different colors of cards, divided into two piles. The fronts have all sorts of characters the players can hire, while the backs are marked in a way that you can tell which color a card is as it sits atop the two piles. Whenever a player is to draw a card, he chooses whichever pile to draw from that's offering the color he wants. Color is important, as every card can be played to take a variety of basic actions (instead of paying money to hire the person depicted on its face). Cards are needed to claim spaces on the board, hire workers, construct houses for your character cards to be played in, and generate income.

There are plenty of things to do in the game (even without Stefan Feld's customary "turn order track" to fight over), and yet the means for doing them are very simply connected to the cards in a way that makes the game far easier to understand quickly than Feld's other games. But the character cards themselves offer plenty of variety to dive into. In fact, many of the character cards have powers that make Bruges considerably more interactive than many German board games. Player interaction in these games is often indirect -- doing things yourself before an opponent can do them, working to gather different resources than an opponent, and so forth. Bruges character cards can steal from opponents, capitalize on the actions they take, and just generally gum up the works at times.

But it all comes back to that relative simplicity in the core rules. Bruges can be played in under 60 minutes, and is plenty satisfying in that time frame. These days, I don't find I need to purchase many board games; friends of mine are building substantial collections of their own, and seem to get to them first. But Bruges is the first game in a while that I found myself thinking "I might want a copy of that one, even though someone else has it." I'd want the option to play it, whether or not my friend who owns it is around.

I think it's another winner from Stefan Feld. How it holds up through repeated plays remains to be seen, but as of now, I'd call it a solid A.


Anonymous said...

I've played it a few times, and the only "problem" I've seen come up is that one player will sometimes get a "God hand" where every card meshes perfectly with all the others.
Mind you, it doesn't mean I enjoy the game any less, but it's turned one gamer friend of mine off the game. I can understand why, even if I don't agree.

But yes, it's a solid Feld game. I like it a little less than Amerigo, but I wouldn't trade or sell my copy. Not for another several years, at least. :)


Cush1978 said...

You ever try his game "Luna?" That's one that got away; it came, it went, and I never got to play it. I was wondering how it stacked up.

Anonymous said...

If I may, Cush1978:
I have played Luna twice, and while it's a very good game, it's got something dry and abstract baked into it that makes it difficult to "get." It's a completely fantastical setting, so the mind doesn't have the regular handles to hold on to when assimilating rules ("I'm building a building, so I need building materials", etc.). We found ourselves constantly wondering how things were done.
But it's still a good game! And you can't blame it for having an unoriginal theme.


DrHeimlich said...

I remember quite enjoying Luna, but it's been quite a while since I've played it. FKL's analysis seems about right.

Cush1978 said...

Yeah, I think it's the theme that grabbed me. It's not really my genre of game, but I did like the artwork and what I could discern of the game play. I only have a few worker placement games that I really like. I never knew anyone that had it, so it passed me by. I think I'd like to have a copy "just because", but not for the >$50 price tag it commands. Maybe I can find a trade or something online.

I have heard a lot about Bruges lately and am glad to read that it lives up to expectations.

BTW, this is Michael Bishop. Same Google account, but it's not using my real name anymore.