Saturday, February 01, 2014
One Feld Swoop
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.