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One of the hotest games at the Origins Game Fair was Bruges, designed by Stefan Feld.
As soon as the show room floor opened on the first day, people flooded to the Z-man booth and were buying copies like hotcakes. It quickly sold out, but before it did I managed to play it and brought a copy home with me.
Thematically, I’m not sure if Bruges works. I know it takes place in the city, but other than that, the mechanics and gameplay are sort of a stretch. So if you are looking for a perfectly themed game look the other way. That being said, the game is still fun and the broken theme is no worse than something like the DC Deckbulding Game.
Bruges is best described as Point Soup. There are a whole bunch of ways to score points and at the end of the game you tally them all to see who won. I’ve only played a handful of games but so far I’ve not seen anything close to a clear strategy on how to win.
In many ways, Bruges feels like a tense Cold War build-up because at the end of every round three things are tallied: canals, reputation, and people in buildings. If you have the most in any three of the categories you score extra points. Because of this you are constantly trying to build and develop your own engine for point scoring while also trying to match what everyone else is doing so that you aren’t left behind.
My favorite mechanic in the game is that on their turn every player plays a card there are up to six different ways a card could be used. So I could cash in a card for the amount of pips shown on a dice, I could use it to build a building, or a whole bunch of other things.
Mechanically speaking, the game is very Euro, and it looks super light, but because of the fact that you can use cards in so many different ways there is a deep tactical feeling to the game. Adding to that is that your plans will constantly go south so as a player you will always be adapting on the fly and trying to set things up for a turn or two later.
Out of everything that Bruges does, the best is that it scales amazingly well. I’ve played a three player, two player and four player game and all of them felt identical. That’s a hard thing to accomplish and it’s impressive that it works so smoothly in Bruges.
If you are a Feld groupie, then Bruges is clearly a must buy, but even if you aren’t you should still check it out because it’s a lot of fun and has a lot of meat to it.