Preview Review of Brides & Bribes

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Recently I was given the opportunity to preview an upcoming new game that is currently available to back on Kickstarter. I received a print and play copy of the game and rules. These are my thoughts and opinions on the presented materials. Enjoy!

Brides & Bribes is a game by Andrea Gallazzi, Elisa Lenardi and Pietro Navarotto, published by Spaceballoon Games. It is for 3-5 players. In this game, players will take on the role of one of the influential families in Genoa during the Renaissance era. They will be trying to become the new Lord of the city known as the Doge. They’ll have to send family members to the different boroughs of the city to perform tasks all while trying to gain influence by marrying the daughters of local Lords. Of course their opponents will be trying to earn the Lord’s trust as well which might end up leaving them with nothing. In the end the player that can best balance increasing their richness and growing their influence will be declared the winner.

To begin, the board should be placed in the middle of the play area. Players randomly chose boroughs to be in play based on the number of players. The port must always be chosen regardless. Each in play borough then has the corresponding worker of the matching color along with an influence token, randomly chosen first bride and randomly chosen second bride placed on them. The common characters deck is shuffled and placed on the corresponding borough. The top card is flipped face up. In the port, the assassin is always placed on top. A Lord that has 3 prestige is chosen for each borough. These are then shuffled together and randomly placed on each of the in play boroughs in the correct space. The boroughs are randomly assigned to each player. They then take a player marker of the appropriate color and place it in the 0 space of the influence track. Players then place a player marker of their color randomly in the top dock of the Doge’s Favor track. The influence tokens, coins and workers are placed in separate piles next to the board. The workshop cards are placed in decks of the same kind in descending order along with their corresponding objects next to the board. Each player chooses a family and is given the corresponding residence and loyal characters, along with 3 coaches of the player’s color, 2 Ducato coins and a worker of their choice to start with from a borough that is not in play. Depending on the number of players, an extra coin is given to certain players and a white coach is given to a different one. The specifics on this are in the rule book. The player that has the white coach is the first player. Play now begins.

The game is played over 6 rounds or till a player reaches a certain amount of influence points. Each round is made up of 4 phases; tile placement, distant colonies, borough resolution and end of round. The first phase is the tile placement. Beginning with the first player and continuing in turn order, each player will 2 take actions from a list of 4, or they may pass. Player can send a delegation to Genoa. This is done by placing one of their tiles face down on a Genoa borough. One of the player’s coaches are placed on top of the tile. They can choose to send a delegation to the distant colonies. To do this they simply place one of their tiles face down on an available ship. One of their coaches is placed on top of the tile. Players can reinforce a delegation. This action allows the player to add one of their tiles face down under one of their already placed delegations. This can be done up to a maximum of 3 tiles. The last action they can take is to ask for the Doge’s favor. This is done by showing the other players one of their available character tiles. It is then discarded in their residence alley. They then are able to move their colored disc to the first available position on the other Doge’s Favor track. Finally the last thing they can do is to pass. If a player passes, they are not allowed to take any more actions during this phase and must discard all their tiles that are left in the residence alley. These tiles are out of play for the rest of this turn. The Doge’s Favor track is then adjusted by moving discs in order to the other Doge’s Favor track.

The next phase is the distant colonies phase. This phase begins with the first player in turn order that sent a delegation to a ship. They are able to take the corresponding action a number of times equal to the character tile that they placed on it. First they must show their tile to their opponents. They are then able to perform the corresponding action based on the ship that they chose earlier. They can exchange a worker to take a different one of another color. They can exchange 2, 3, or 4 coins to take a worker of their choice of any color.

The third phase is the borough resolution phase. Beginning with the first player in turn order, each player activates and resolves a borough of their choice. Any player that have an active presence in the borough, choose a character as their guide. This character is then revealed simultaneously and placed face up in the borough with their coach next to it to show ownership. This phase consists of 2 steps; borough turn order and actions. The first step is the borough turn order. This is determined by the player married with the first bride, player married with the second bride and then highest guide prestige value. Players can then used tiles with the I symbol on them.

The second step is the actions step. In this step starting with the player chosen in turn order, each player will declare an action from one of the following; marry the first bride, marry the second bride, employ workers, hire the common character, collect influence tokens, or collect one Ducato. Once the action has been declared, the other players that are active in the current borough can then mess with that active player using tiles with the II symbol on them. Here’s how each action works. Marrying either the first or second bride works the same. For a player to marry a bride, they must meet a set of conditions. A loyal character must be the guide for their delegation. Only that guide can marry a bride. The guide must also have a prestige value that is equal or higher than that of the Lord. They can however lose influence points to raise their character’s prestige value higher at a rate of 1 to 1. The guide must also have a charm value equal or higher than the chosen bride. A player can spend an equal amount of Ducato coins to raise their charm value higher. If the character is able to successfully marry a bride, they place the character tile face up on top of the bride tile. The loyal character is then out of play for as long as the relationship lasts. The marriage gives the player 2 influence points, the dowry as indicated on the bride tile and additional influence points of either 3 for a first bride or 1 for a second one. Employing workers is done by taking all the workers available in the active borough and placing them in the worker placement area of their player board. Hiring a common character is done by taking the common character from the borough and placing the tile in the alley placement area of their player board. Collecting influence tokens is done by taking all the influence tokens that are available in the active borough. These are then scored on the influence track and discarded to the token pile. Collecting a Ducato is done by simply taking one from the pile and adding it to the Ducato placement area of the player board. Once the active player has declared their action, the other players that are present in the borough can play one of their tiles in turn order. The active player can then counteract by playing one of their tiles. This can go back and forth until no more counteractions are done. The next player in turn order can then play a tile which can be counteracted as well, if the player has any tiles to use. Once players have taken an action each, the turn ends. Players retrieve all of their tiles that are still present in the borough, in front of them and from their hand and discards them to their alley on their player board. A new borough is then activated and the same steps as above are taken. This continues as long as their are boroughs to be resolved. The third phase ends once all the boroughs have been resolved.

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The final phase is the end of round phase. This phase follows the Doge’s Favor track and in the following order. Each player receives a Ducato coin for each worker that they have in their residence. They must pay 1 Ducato for each Common character that they own. If they can’t pay for the character, it must be discarded to the box. Players can then pay a Ducato to buy back every used object that comes from a workshop that they own. Players can build a workshop and then take the corresponding object into their alley on their play mat. However, only one per type once per round can be built. Players then check to see if the victory conditions have been met. If so, then the game ends. If not, then a new round starts. Before a new round starts, there are a few cleanup tasks that must be done. For each borough, any untaken face up common characters are discarded to the box and a new one is turned face up. A worker of the corresponding color is added, as well as an influence token. The white coach is passed to the next player in turn order. Players then retrieve their tiles from their alleys. A new round then starts.

The game continues until during the check for victory conditions, one of the following conditions has been met. If the sixth end of round phase has been completed, the game ends. It can also end if during a 4-5 player game, a player reaches 20 influence points or if they reach 25 points in a 3 player game. Once the conditions have been met for the end, each player then adds 1 influence point for every 5 Ducato coins that they have in their residence. Players then compare influence points and the player with the most is the winner and becomes the new Genoa Doge.

There are a couple of things that I didn’t really cover earlier in the overview, that I feel should be pointed out. Brides can be assassinated by an active player by playing an assassin or poison tile in the active borough. Of course, this can be prevented by the player trying to wed the attacked bride by playing a tile that is present in their delegation. The other thing of note is the workshops. These can be bought if the player has the correct workers that are indicated on the workshop card. These are then placed beside the player’s residence. Workshops will then provide an object that can be used later as well as an amount of influence points that are marked on the influence track.

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COMPONENTS
Since the only thing that I had to do this review from was the print and play files, I won’t go into a lot of detail here. If you want to know more about the actual components, I’ll point you to the Kickstarter link below. This will give you a better idea of the actual components and pieces that you’ll receive with the game. I can say that the artwork is really top notch and that it looks really great. Looking at the campaign page, I’ll say that the quality appears to be there. The design is a little different looking from any other worker placement game that I’ve played. However, that’s not a bad thing. It’s nice to see a new design. The different character tiles are especially nice looking. I think they’re really well done. Overall, I think you’re going to be getting a really nice looking product.
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RULEBOOK
The rulebook falls into the same category as the components, print and play quality. I’ve been told that the version that I received is a bit off in it’s translation and that the design company is aware of this. They plan to have things all cleaned up and fixed prior to the game’s actual release. It’s not that things were difficult to understand, just that there were a few words or concepts here or there that you had to figure out what was being implied. There are lots of great looking pictures and examples throughout the book, so that’s a plus. Each of the different phases is laid out in great detail so that you shouldn’t have any problems with the rules. There is a great appendix section devoted to all the different tiles, character, borough and object abilities. There’s also a list of the workshops and their features. This is very helpful as the iconography takes a bit of getting used to. I really liked having this section in there. Overall, I think like the components, it should end up looking quite nice.
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GAMEPLAY
This is a really intriguing game. It’s kinda like a mixed box of chocolate, it all looks the same but every part is different. This game is at it’s heart a worker placement game but there’s so much more to it than just that, plus it’s introduced in a completely new way. Each decision you make is going to be important and you better make the right decision before your opponents do. Otherwise you’re gonna get left out in the cold when it comes to scoring points. There’s actually quite a bit of strategy involved in the game, deciding which boroughs to go to and which actions to take with which character. If that wasn’t enough to think about, you have to worry about your opponents messing with your plans. So there’s a bit of a take that feel to it as well. Then there’s the bluffing aspect of the game as well. You don’t have to always place a character, sometimes you can use an object in it’s place to really get into the head of your opponents. There’s really a lot to think about. If you’re AP prone, then this might be a bit of a hard game for you. That’s what I like though, there’s so many decisions available. You want to do them all, but you can’t. Needless to say, this is one of the most unique worker placement games. Fans of games like Village, Orleans or Kingsburg should really enjoy this one. This is a game that I recommend, especially if you’re a strategy minded gamer like myself.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Brides & Bribes is a worker placement style game that incorporates several other mechanics to make for a truly unique experience. The game takes an average amount of time to play. Most game sessions last about an hour and a half, give or take. The game looks quite nice, even in a print and play format. I really like the character designs and the board. The game is full of decisions. Knowing which ones to make and when to make them is difficult. AP prone players will have some difficulty with this one. However that should not sway your judgement in a negative way. It’s just that there’s so much to think about. Trust me, that’s a good thing. The mixture of mechanics will entertain lots of different gamers. Fans of worker placement games like Village, Orleans and Kingsburg should enjoy this one too. It’s really well done and should be even better once it’s produced. I look forward to seeing this one once it’s finished.
8 out of 10

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For more information about this and other great games, please check out SpaceBalloon Games at their site.

http://www.spaceballoongames.com/

You can also back it on Kickstarter now by following the link below to the campaign page.

 https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spaceballoongames/brides-and-bribes

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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