But Shakespeare has got nothing on designers Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim when it comes to imagining conflict on a grand scale. Romeo and Juliet were divided by strife between but two families, whereas in Belfort you’ll be struggling to cope with the upheaval of an entire city – a city torn asunder into five districts, each of which has become a battleground for both fame and fortune! It’s a conflict involving entire races – like elves, dwarves, and gnomes!
Belfort is a game designed by two Canadians, and was published and released by Tasty Minstrel Games earlier this year. In the game, you’ll take on the role of a Master Architect who has been commissioned to build the great new city of Belfort. The trouble, however - as you discover when you arrive to take up your duties - is that the people in charge of commissioning this project aren’t too skilled when it comes to the fine art of organization. In fact, upon your arrival you’re shocked to discover that several Master Architects have been hired to build the city, and now you need to compete with these other individuals to see who can prove themselves to be the most capable and influential builder of the city. It’s going to be a tough task. You’ll need to organize your work force, gather resources, stake out building sites within the city confines – all while your competitors are doing everything they can to ensure that they succeed and you fail in your efforts to build this new and beautiful city.
The game can handle two to five players and it plays in approximately 90 to 120 minutes, depending on the number of players. It’s a game that meshes together a number of mechanics, but area control, worker placement, and resource/card management are the ones that figure most prominently. It’s a game that falls very much in the category of Eurogame, and in light of its accessible rules-set yet real depth in terms of strategic choices, Belfort is a game that should appeal to both the family and serious gamer demographic alike.
So do you think you can you handle the heat? Oh, you want to know more before you enter the lists to compete for the key to the city? Well, read on dear friend – all you need to know about the wonderful world of Belfort can be found below!
Board at end of a 4 player game
Our first introduction to the beautiful artwork of Joshua Cappel that’s featured throughout the game happens when we first set eyes on the game box. It’s the size of your typical euro, and oddly enough the box cover of our copy of the game was unusually bowed. Others have reported the same, but it’s not a significant issue, and doesn’t detract from the magnificent cover artwork.
The back of the box tells us more about the game, and you just have to read the fine print here to see that the guys who made this game have a great sense of humor! Get used to it – there’s a whole lot more of that humor to come! We love it!
Here’s what you’ll find inside this beautiful illustrated box:
• 5 Game board Districts
• 5 Player Boards
• 92 Worker Tokens
• 50 Property Cards
• 60 Property Markers
• 12 Guild Tokens
• 1 Collection Board
• 80 Resource Tokens and 46 Gold Coins (+ 6 Multiplier Chips)
• 5 Scoring Markers
• 5 Turn Order Crests
• 1 Key to the City Token
• 1 Key to the City Token
Everything inside the box
Now that’s a ton of stuff! Let’s take a closer look at everything.
Game Board Districts
Take it from us folks, Belfort has one of the most beautiful and unique boards that you’re ever going to find. Let’s start with the unique part. Why? Because, this is a board that you’re going to have to build. That’s right, you’ve got to put the board together – thematic isn’t it? The board is actually comprised of five individual wedges, each of which represents a district in the city of Belfort.
At the start of the game you’ll piece the district boards together (by placing the segments in the numerical order dictated by the scoring track located along the edge of board) and when you’re done you’ll have created one of the most beautiful game boards in existence today. Everything about this board is impressive. To begin with, you’ll immediately appreciate the fact that the board has been constructed from very high quality cardboard stock.
All five districts make up a single board
In addition, the artwork is as functional as it is beautiful. Belfort is largely an area control game, so each district of the city has been illustrated to show the same types of buildings. So in each of the five districts you’ll find that there is a: pub, garden, library, tower, keep, gate-house, market, blacksmith, bank, guild, an inn, as well as several sections of wall. Each type of building has been identified with a specific symbol (for instance, the pubs are denoted by a foaming beer stein) for which there is a handy reference table in the rulebook which identifies all of the various building icons. Players will be vying to build buildings in these districts and the player(s) who achieves a majority in each district will score victory points for having done so.
An anatomy of one of the five districts
What’s fantastic is that while each district contains the same number and type of buildings, the artwork for each segment of the city has been uniquely rendered. Indeed, in each district you will find the citizens of Belfort engaged in a range of different activities, many of which are related to the larger board gaming world. There are even a number of inside jokes and ‘easter eggs’ depicted in the Belfort artwork and you’ll never get tired of looking at this beautiful board. The artist for Belfort is Josh Cappel and he should get some serious props for the absolutely outstanding job he did in illustrating this game! There’s no excuse to be bored during down time – you can always amuse yourself by studying the board artwork! For more on the humour in the game, check out this pictorial thread:
A pictorial guide to the easter eggs and inside jokes of Belfort
A Robber has escaped from Catan and is engaged in illegal trade in Belfort!
As you play Belfort, one of the things which will quickly impinge itself upon your consciousness, is that the fact that everything about the physical design of the game has been crafted to help make the game play as smooth as possible. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the design of the five player boards.
A player board
Each player will receive their own board at the beginning of the game and these boards convey a wealth of information.
• On the left of the board there is an outstanding Round Summary of the overall flow of play that leads you through each phase of the turn.
• On the right is handy Building Cost reference, showing the cost, in resources, of each and every building in the game.
• At the top there is a handy place to situate your turn order crest.
• Around the edges of the player board, symbols and divisions have been made which correspond to each type of resource and worker type, as well your property markers. This means that organizing your workers and resources in a clear and efficient manner is just that much easier. In a wonderful extra touch, each of the spaces around the board also indicates the number of that type or resource and worker you will receive at the start of the game – and this makes setting the game up even smoother.
Friends, so often in life it’s the little things that count – and Belfort demonstrates the truth of that maxim again and again. The fact that the ruler pictured on the player board is constructed from 100% Ent-free wood confirms the level of thoughtfulness on the part of the designers and artist that is evident in every aspect of the game! It’s just remarkable how intelligently this game has been both designed and produced!
Well, if you are going to organize your resources in tidy stacks around your player board, first you’ll need to collect them – and for that, you’re going to need workers. There are three kinds of workers busy in the city of Belfort: elves, dwarves and gnomes. Each player will receive seven elf tokens (circular tokens), seven dwarf tokens (square tokens) in their player colour. Now when you first crack the cover on Belfort, you will find two sticker sheets and a pile of coloured wooden cubes. Something like this:
All the unstickered wooden bits
All the stickers
You’re going to have to sticker the cubes in order to play and while it takes a little bit of time the final product is very much worth it. The only down side is that it means you can’t play the game right out of the box the very first time, but need to allow half an hour or more to sticker up the blocks. But the elf and dwarf tokens not only look fantastic (although those dwarves do rather look like members of a biker gang don't you think?), and also have a pleasant heft and size to them. Once they are all stickered up, these are the workers that you are going to be sending out to collect the resources that you need to construct your buildings.
Types of Dwarf workers in all player colours
The stickering process will also alert you to the fact that a number of your elf and dwarf tokens are double sided. The one side represents your worker operating in its normal capacity; the reverse side – with the funkified artwork – represents your worker as a master craftsman. The key thing to be aware of is that master craftsman are more skilled at collecting resources and so, when you send them out to collect materials, they’ll bring back more goods than the resources of a conventional worker.
Types of Elf workers in all player colours
But wait a moment you say – what about the gnomes!? Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about the gnomes. These little fellas are pentagonal in shape and they too need to be stickered. Once they’re all ready, however, they’ll be placed on the calendar board and they’ll wait there eagerly until such time as you recruit them to work in the buildings you construct. You see, some of the buildings have what’s called a gnome lock on them and, when you recruit a gnome and place it on that particular gnome lock, you’ll unlock a particular power or benefit which that building provides. Gnomes are awesome! You’ll learn to love them!
All the Gnomes
Oh, one additional note about the worker tokens – elves, dwarves and gnomes not only help you gather resources, they can also score you points. At various points during the game, points will be awarded to players for having acquired a majority of each type of worker.
So workers get you resources – I’m sure that you didn’t see that one coming! But what do you do with said resources? Well, you’re going to use those resources to construct buildings of various types – buildings which are represented by the fifty building cards which come with a game. As noted above, each district of the city contains the same number and type of buildings. You’ll find a: pub, garden, library, tower, keep, gate-house, market, blacksmith, bank, and an inn in each segment of the city. For each type of building there are five cards and thus, five cards per building times ten buildings per district will give you a total of fifty cards.
All ten different Property cards
The building cards provide several pieces of information.
• The type of property that can be constructed with that particular card.
• The cost in resources to build that property is listed in the top left hand corner.
• Building cards also contain worker planks on which your worker tokens can be placed in order to obtain a particular benefit from that building. Some of these planks only become available after placing a gnome on a gnome lock.
• Finally, some buildings will provide you with income at the end of the collection phase, and those that do can be identified by an income coin in the top right-hand corner.
You’ll begin the game by selecting three out of an initial hand of five cards and you’ll have the opportunity to acquire more cards as the game progresses. One of the real keys to playing Belfort well is the careful management of these cards – you need to keep and gather cards that your work force can build efficiently and which you can deploy to maximum effect on the board.
Anatomy of a Property card
Once you’ve constructed a building, you’ll indicate this by placing one of your property markers on the board in a location matching that type of building. Placement of your property markers is critical because, as Belfort is largely a game of area control, so you’ll want to locate them in the districts in which you stand the best chance of being competitive in the race for the majority. Only one building of each type can be built in a given district, however, so if you have a pub card in your hand, but one of your opponents has already built the pub in the district where you are in the race for the majority – well, better luck next time, you’ll have to build in another district for now!
All the Property markers
The guild tokens represent the various guilds that operate in the city of Belfort. The guilds fall into one of three general types: basic guilds, resources guilds and interactive guilds.
Three types of guilds: Basic, Resource, and Interactive
There are four different guilds in each of these three category types, and at the beginning of the game the board will be seeded with five randomly selected guilds drawn from a combination of each of these categories.
There is a space on each district board in which to place a guild token – and beside each space there is a plank symbol on which it is possible to place a worker token. Placing a worker in such a location grants you a particular bonus or ability during the action phase of a round. These bonuses can range from receiving a particular resource, to being able to draw and retain a certain number of building cards, or even being able to re-arrange the property markers on the board.
As an additional note, it’s also possible to build and claim the guilds that are on the board – thus making them easier for you to use, potentially generating you some income and even counting towards determining the majority in a district.
The real genius of these guild tokens, however, is that their random selection and placement means that that each game can be quite different in the way that it plays out. And isn’t replayability always a wonderful thing to find inside a box?!
So far we’ve been talking in largely theoretical terms – you’ve got workers and they’re going to get you resources and those resources are going to be transformed into buildings and those buildings are going to be placed on the magnificent board you’ve created and then you’ll go on to win the game and to revel in the magnificent splendour of your victory. Achieving this glorious victory, however, is going to require the acquisition of all the resources required to build the buildings that will score you points. And that’s where the collection board comes into play.
The Collection board
The collection board has been divided into seven regions, six of which can have workers placed in them.
• Forest: The first location is the forest, and during the worker placement phase you’ll receive one wood for each elf that you place here.
• Quarry: The quarry will yield one stone for each dwarf allocated to this region.
• Mine: The mine will produce one unit of metal for each pairing of an elf and a dwarf that you dispatch to this location.
• Gold Mine: The gold mine will give you one gold coin for every elf or dwarf token you place there.
And if during the collection phase you’ve placed the most workers in a given resource generating location (the majority mechanic kicks in again!), then you receive a bonus of an additional one good of that type!
Additionally there are three additional sections on the board which can be found beneath the resource producing regions.
• Recruiter’s Desk: This is the first location on the bottom row. Remember how we noted that one way to score points is by having the most workers of a given type during a scoring round – well, here is one of the ways in which you can recruit new workers to you work force. You’ll start the game with three elves and three dwarves (and no gnomes sadly – but don’t worry they’re not too tough to get, as long as you have gold in your pocket!), but during the placement phase of a round you can choose to pay two gold in order to be able to place one of your workers on an available space in the Recruiter’s Camp (the number of available spaces varies depending on the number of players in the game), so that during the collection phase of a round you will be able to retrieve a worker from your general supply and add it to your personal supply for use on a subsequent turn.
• King’s Camp: The next region on the collection board is the King’s Camp. Placing one of your workers here will allow you to change the turn order by exchanging your turn order crest with that of another player. After you’ve completed a game or two of Belfort it will become very clear that turn order is critical factor in the game – and grabbing control of it at an auspicious moment can be a very effective means of achieving or securing a victory.
• Income and Taxes: The last space on the collection board can’t have workers placed on it because it is not a location but a type of ‘action’. At the end of the collection phase, each player will receive income from their income producing buildings, and in addition all players will need to play taxes at a rate indicated by their current position on the scoring track.
Resource tokens & Gold coins
These are the tokens which represent the money and resources that you’ll acquire via the placement of your workers. There are thirty wood logs, thirty stone blocks, twenty metal bricks and forty-six gold coins.
Wood, stone, metal and gold coins
All of the resource tokens have been very well produced and it’s nice that the wood and metal tokens were shaped like logs and bars – again it’s the little things that count. Do be careful when punching out the coins, however, because we did notice that there is a risk of tearing.
Should you run out of resources, six multiplier chips have been provided to help you manage the situation. The reverse side of these has x5 and x8.
Well, you’ll need some way of keeping track of how badly you’re crushing your opponents – and these five scoring markers (one in each player colour) will serve that purpose nicely.
Calendar board & marker
We love over-produced game components – we really do – and this is a wonderful example. The calendar board serves several functions:
• Gnome stockpile: Below the calendar track you’ll find a place to store your gnome tokens (a specific number of which will be used depending on the number of players in the game).
• Property card draw deck: Next to the gnome stockpile is a place to store the deck of property cards. Alongside this deck and adjacent to it you will also place including three face up property cards during gameplay.
• Trading post: Finally, the bottom of the calendar board is there to remind you about how Crazy Ord’s trading post can be used during the action phase of your turn.
Beyond functionality, however, there are some wonderful little artistic flourishes on this board – without needing to look too hard you should find the BGG username of TMG’s Seth Jaffee, for example!
The calendar board
Turn order crests
At the beginning of the game you’ll receive a crest which indicates the turn order for the placement phase and action phase. These crests can be stored at the top of the player board in the handy location that’s been provided for them. But why are the crests are double-sided you ask? Because your crest can be stolen from you by your nefarious opponents. Once they’ve acquired your crest, they will flip it upside down and place it their own player board as an indication that that crest has been stolen once this turn and that it is not available to be stolen again until a latter round.
Turn order crests
Key to the City
This is the token you’ll receive as the victor of the game. With it come the fame, adulation and adoration rightly owed to you as the champion of the cardboard battlefield.
The key to the city
Hear Ye, Hear Ye publishers far and wide – this is how rules ought to be written and produced!
Without a doubt this is one of the best rule books to be produced in a long time. The prose is crisp and clear. The overall flow of information is logical and orderly. There are many lovely, full colour illustrations that provide examples of how game play actually works itself out. And on top of it all – the rules are even funny! There is a wonderful sense of humour and playfulness about the rules which makes them a real pleasure to read. Outstanding on every level! You can download your copy right here.
Sample spread from the rules
Wow – there’s a lot of stuff inside that box! And every bit of it has been constructed from quality materials, resulting in a very highly produced game. TMG may be a smaller and relatively new company, but they sure have established themselves as dedicated to the highest levels of production quality. Great work!
So how do you get this boy up and running?
Each player should be given:
• one player board
• twelve property markers
• one wood, one stone, and one metal token
• five gold
• three dwarf tokens and three elf tokens (the remainder of your worker tokens should be set aside to form a supply)
Player starting items
Assemble the board in the middle of the table, by placing the five district wedges together so that the scoring track lines up numerically. Next you’ll need to select five guilds (you may do so randomly, however, there are a number of suggested combinations of guild types provided in the rules) and place them in the correct locations on the board. Then, place the collection board in a convenient location near the main board and form piles of the resources tokens nearby. Now, place the calendar board in a convenient location, placing the calendar marker next to the first month of spring on the calendar track. Shuffle and place the building cards on the space provided for them - deal five to each player from which they can select three, and also place three cards from the deck face-up alongside the edge of the calendar board. To complete the setup of the calendar board, place 9/14/18/22 for a 2/3/4/5 player game in the Gnomes for Hire area. Finally, grab turn order crests equal to the number of players and distribute them randomly to each player - these should be placed face-up on the shield symbol on the player boards.
Complete four player setup
You are now ready to play! There are a few different rules for setting up the two-player game, but you can consult the rulebook for these adjustments.
Flow of Play
As we noted in our brief discussion of the calendar board, the game will proceed over the course of seven rounds and each of those rounds is comprised of five phase, although the final scoring phase only happens in rounds three, five and seven. Let’s say a few words about each of those phases.
The turn order summary on the player board
1. Calendar Phase
In this phase of the game all you need to do is to move the calendar marker ahead to the next month on the calendar track. If it’s the first round of the game, simply place the calendar marker on the first open space in the calendar track. Wow...look at that, you’re already one-quarter of the way through the round. Sheesh that was easy!
The seasonal calendar for game rounds
Oh, and one more thing. Did you notice how the calendar track has been divided into three seasons? And, did you notice that there are little symbols associated with each of those seasons? Well we’ve gotten word that those seasons and symbols might just possibly, perhaps, maybe, hypothetically speaking, play a role in the theoretically possible but not yet finalized (or even publisher approved) Belfort expansion! Yep, that’s right you heard it here first folks! We haven’t even shown you how to play this game and already we’re talkin’ about an expansion!
2. Placement Phase
Before we talk about the various locations that you can deploy your workers to, we need to say a word about the plank symbols which can be found on the building cards, as well as on the main board and the collection board. The plank symbols show either the outline of a circle, or of a square, or of a circle inside a square. Sometimes there will also be a gold coin at the centre of a plank. These are the spaces in which you can place your workers in order to receive the benefit which that particular location provides. If a plank has only a circular outline, then only an elf can be placed there; if there is only a square outline then only a dwarf could be placed there; and if there is an outline of square with a circle inside (as is most often the case) then either a dwarf or an elf can be placed there. If there is a gold coin in the plank, then you must pay one gold at the time you place your worker in order to be able to occupy that position. In turn order, then, beginning with the player who has the #1 turn order crest and proceeding to the person with the #2 crest and so on, players will take turns placing one worker at a time on an available plank – a worker placement style mechanic that will be familiar to most gamers. This process will continue until all players have passed – but more on that below.
So, now that you know what the planks are, where can you send your workers to? Well there are a number of options, including:
There are plank symbols located beside each guild on the board and you may place one of your worker tokens on that plank in order to receive the benefit of that guild during the action phase. There is a fee of one to place a worker in a plank associate with a guild and:
(i) if nobody owns it, the fee is paid to the supply.
(ii) if the placing player owns it, there is no fee.
(iii) if a different player owns it, the fee is paid to the owner of that guild.
An industrious Dwarf getting metal from the Miners' Guild
• Recruiters Desk
The number of spaces available at the recruiter’s desk will be determined by the number of players in the game. To place a worker here, you must be able to pay two gold to the supply at the time of placement. The result of placing a worker in the recruiter’s desk is that during the collection phase, you will be able to take one worker token (of the same type as you placed in the guild) from your stock and to add it to your general supply for use in future turns.
The Recruiter's Desk
• King’s Camp
You may place a worker in the lowest unoccupied plank in the King’s camp. The result of occupying a space here is that during the collection phase you will be able to switch (or retain your own) turn order crest with another player. As an aside, this can be a powerful move to make, because (a) once you have stolen a crest from someone, the crest that you have taken cannot be stolen from you for the remainder of the turn; and (b) you could have the opportunity to change the order of the action phase – and that can be very advantageous.
Purple and Red are competing at the King's Camp
• Property Cards
You may place one of your workers in a plank on a property card which you have built. Some planks show a Gold fee. If so, then that fee is paid to the supply. Some planks are protected by a Gnome Lock, which means that they are only available for placement if a Gnome has been placed earlier to unlock it.
A Gnome lock at a Market
• Resource Collection
If there are no open planks remaining, or if you are unable or unwilling to place one of your workers on a remaining plank, you may then choose to pass. Once you have declared your intention to pass, all of your remaining workers must be dispatched to the resource collecting locations on the player board. Consider it like collecting wood in the forest of Stone Age – there’s lots of room for everyone to work! But there are restrictions: only elves may be placed in the forest; only dwarves may be placed in the quarry; you must send a pair(s) of one dwarf plus one elf to the mine; any number of elves and/or dwarves may be sent to the gold mine.
When every player has passed and allocated all of their workers to the resources areas of the collection board the placement phase has been completed.
3. Collection Phase
Moving through this phase involves resolving the collection board. The collection board is resolved from left to right and from top to bottom. As each area is resolved workers are collected and returned to their owners.
Different parts of the Collection board
1. Forest: You will collect one wood for each elf you have placed in the forest and two wood for each master elf that you have placed here. The player with the most elves in the forest (master elves only count as one worker for the purpose of determining this majority) receives an additional unit of wood.
2. Quarry: You will collect one stone for each dwarf you have placed in the quarry and two stone for each master dwarf that you have placed here. The player with the most dwarves in the quarry (master dwarves only count as one worker for the purpose of determining this majority) receives an additional unit of stone.
3. Mine: You will receive one unit of metal for each team of one elf and one dwarf which you place in the mine. If you placed one master dwarf token and one master elf token you would receive two metal. If you placed one master dwarf token and two regular elf tokens you would receive two metal. The same would be true if the type of tokens was reversed. Here too, the player who placed the majority of pairs of tokens would receive a bonus of one metal token. Again, master craftsmen do not count toward the determining of majorities.
4. Gold Mine: You will receive one gold coin for each elf and/or dwarf token placed in the gold mine. The player who placed the greatest number of worker tokens (both elf and dwarf tokens) will receive an additional gold coin. Again, master craftsmen only count as one worker when determining the majority.
5. Recruiter’s Desk: Players retrieve the worker token that they placed, as well as one additional and identical worker token (from their general stock of tokens and of the same type as the token that they had placed) and add them to their personal supply.
6. King’s Camp: In placement order, each player who placed a worker in this location may swap turn order crests with another player. Each crest can only be claimed once per round and to indicate this crests that have been acquired in this fashion are placed upside down in the shield space on a player’s player board. When all the tokens in the King’s Camp have been resolved, all of the turn order crests should be turned over so that their coloured side is face-up.
7. Income & Taxes: The concluding (and tremendously important aspect) of the collection phase is the payment of income and collection of taxes – as indicated by the seventh and final area on the collection board.
Income: During this part of the collection phase, you will first receive one gold coin for each building you’ve constructed that shows an income coin in the upper right hand corner.
Taxes: Following that, you’ll be required to pay your taxes. The amount of tax you have to pay is determined by the location of your scoring marker on the scoring track. Each space on the scoring track falls beneath a set number of gold coins depicted just above it on the main board. For every coin that you can’t pay you are required to pay in VP. So if you can’t pay two gold of your assessed taxes, then you will have to move back two spaces on the VP track. You may not, however, opt to lose VP rather than to pay gold; every coin that you are able to pay, must be paid and only the outstanding balance can be made up in VP!
It can be very easy to overlook the income/taxes portion of the collection phase. It is, however, of tremendous importance to the overall function and flow of the game – so you’ll have to train yourself not to forget it! So don’t forget to get the money due to you. And always, ALWAYS, remember to pay your taxes!
Always, ALWAYS, remember to pay your taxes!
4. Action Phase
During this phase, beginning with the player who has the #1 turn order crest and proceeding to the player with the #2 crest and so on, each player now takes all of the actions available to them. Players can elect to do any or all of their possible actions in any order, any number of times, unless otherwise specified. So what actions are available to you? Well, here they are:
• Build a Property Card
You may build a property card from your hand by paying the required resources to the stock. You may build more than one property card on a turn if you have the resources to do so. It is critical to remember that once you have built a property you must immediately place one of your property markers on the board in one of the unclaimed property symbols of that type. Forgetting to do this can cause real problems later on because those following you in turn order will be making decisions about where to place their property markers based on the current situation with regards to majority. We’ve ruled that the first time you forget to place your marker during your action phase, the player to your right gets to place your marker for you in any legal position that they choose; the second time you forget, the player to your right gets to place your token, and the player to your left gets to give you a kidney shot!
Building a property card lets you place a property marker on the board
• Build a Guild or Wall
Guilds and walls do not require you to have a property card in hand in order to build them. You simply pay the required resources (guilds cost two each of wood, stone and metal; walls cost three each of wood and stone) and then place one of your property markers in an open guild or wall space. The guilds and walls that you do build count towards the determination of majorities in that district, so it’s a good way to add property markers to the board without needing cards.
Red has purchased the Recruiter's Guild
• Activate Previously Placed Workers
You may activate any workers which you have placed on planks during the placement phase. You may activate these workers in any order, but you must activate all of them by the end of your turn.
Yellow uses the Pub to get a Master Craftsman dwarf
• Hire a Gnome
One per turn you may pay three gold coins to the supply in order to take one gnome from the supply and place it on an unoccupied gnome lock on one of your property cards. You must have an open location in which to place said gnome or you may not hire him. The number of gnomes in the supply is limited and when they’re gone they’re gone!
Gnomes for hire!
• Visit Crazy Ord’s
Once per turn you may visit the trading post where you can undertake one buy and/or one sell action in any order. The prices for both buying and selling are indicated in the trading post section of the calendar board.
The Trading Post
• Purchase a Property Card
As the final action on your turn, you may pay one gold to the supply and purchase one property card from either the face up draw pool, or from the top of the draw deck. The purchased card is added to your hand. After buying from the draw pool, you must immediately turn another card face up from the deck to replace it. Finally you may only have five cards in your hand at the end of your turn and any additional cards must be discarded to the face up discard pile.
A hand of cards
5. Scoring Phase
Scoring only occurs at the end of rounds three, five and seven – but when it does here’s how it works:
District majority scoring
Begin by scoring each individual district of the city. As an aside, it’s very helpful to slide out each wedge of the board when you score that particular district (another handy design feature that serves to smooth out game play). The player with the most Property markers in a district (including those on buildings, walls, and guilds) receives five points. The player with the second-most receives three points. And, in games with 4 or 5 players, the player with the third-most receives one point. If several players have the same number of property markers and tie for a position, then those players all receive the points normally awarded to the next rank down; all other positions below are also bumped to the next rank down.
Majority scoring at game-end in a well-built District
Worker majority scoring
Now you need to move on to score points for the worker majority. Determine which player holds the majority for elves, dwarves and gnomes separately. The player with the most workers of each type will receive three points, while the player with the second-most will get one point. If several players tie for the same number of worker tokens of a given type, then each of those players receives the points that would normally be awarded to the next rank down; all other positions below are also bumped to the next rank down. Remember, master elves and dwarves only count as one worker when determining majorities.
End of Game
The game ends after the completion of the scoring phase at the end of the seventh round.
The end of the building season
At this point the player with the most points (that will be you of course!) wins the game and receives the key to the city. If there is a tie, then the tied player with the most resources (Wood, Stone, Metal and Gold) wins; metal counts as two resources for tiebreak purposes. If there is still a tie, then the tied players share the victory.
Game over: end of a four player game
What do we think?
A Fine Balance: When you’ve completed your first game of Belfort, one of the things that will really strike you as you reflect back on the game is just how finely balanced a game it is. This first impression only gets stronger with repeated play. Everything about this game just comes together to form something that proves to be so much more than the sum of its parts. The placement, collection, and action phases flow naturally from one another, and are well-integrated in a logical way. Decisions about worker placement are of key importance and it can sometimes be hard to decide where to focus your efforts - because while the guilds are powerful and often require early placement, the majority bonuses through strength of numbers in the resources regions shouldn't be underestimated either. Even decisions about which building to construct need to be undertaken with care, because while the unique advantages of each building are not huge, they can all help steer the game in your favour in small but important ways. One building is great early on, another can solidify your midgame, and yet another can give you that final end game punch. Within the action phase, the order in which you choose to resolve your available actions can have a major impact on the productivity of your turn. Good decisions can pay off in spades as your little engine gets humming, but be warned that poor decisions can trickle down to haunt you in later rounds. Timing is also a critical issue, as is turn order. When do you build that gate-house? And what’s the right time to seize control of the turn order track, and at what point do you want to secure the last place in turn order so that you have the advantage of knowing where others have built their properties before you build yours, especially in a scoring round? These kinds of interesting decisions are clearly the result of considerable design skill fused together with a massive amount of play-testing, both of which have been injected with a healthy dose of love.
Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy: One of Belfort’s real strengths is how easy it is to learn to play it. The rules are so clear and well written that getting up and running is a quick and straightforward process. Further, the real depth of this game is found in the choices you have to make and not in the rules themselves. Add the fact that the game components have been designed in a way that really helps to guide the flow of play (specifically the player boards) and you’ve got a game that can be played by families and serious gamers alike. We've played this with children as young as 11 and 12 who just loved the game. Yet despite the somewhat cutesy theme and family-friendly rule-set, a deeper euro game is lurking below the surface, and true gamers will enjoy exploring its depths and meeting its challenges both in terms of tactics and strategy.
Not Your Average Worker Placement Game: It’s somewhat unfortunate that Belfort is being billed by some as a worker placement game, because the heart of the game is area control. So if you are considering getting this because you’re a big fan of `traditional’ worker placement games, you could be setting yourself up for a disappointment. It does have worker placement elements, but these do fall somewhat to the background in view of the more important majority control mechanic that drives the game. Even when placing your workers, while there is some competition for the guilds and some spaces, often you’ll be placing the majority of your workers to collect resources, where space is unlimited – thus much of the tension present in many other worker placement games isn’t felt in the same way here. To quote from one of the designers, Sen (here): "At it's core, Belfort is an area majority game that relies on worker placement to create the things you use to fight for majority ... both Jay and I like El Grande a lot .” It’s important to calibrate your expectations correctly, otherwise there’s a risk of being underwhelmed, especially if you’re not a fan of the area control mechanic. On the other hand, those who love area majority control games but don’t typically enjoy worker placement games, may well find themselves just loving Belfort.
Death and Taxes: One of the cleverest characteristics of the game is the fine balance that exists between income and taxes. You really need to keep an eye on the type of buildings that you choose to build and to correlate them to your current and future location on the scoring track. If you build a whole whack of buildings, but they don’t produce any income – or you haven’t managed to acquire some other form of cash flow – you can find yourself in real trouble when the tax man cometh. On the other hand, sometimes it’s worth it to take the hit in VP when you can’t pay your taxes, because in the long run you’ll gain more than you lose by expanding your building empire. This also serves as a wonderful way of keeping games close, because getting too far ahead, too early can be a real problem down the line. The inclusion of this mechanic in the game really serves to tighten up game play and offers genuine tactical and strategic challenge for skilled players. It’s been very well thought out and it really brings some significant depth to the game.
A Wall Around My Heart: Don’t forget about the possibility of building walls! If you can build a few well timed walls – walls that can be built without metal and without requiring a card in hand, and which can make use of resources that couldn’t otherwise be used – then you can place those walls in key locations to sneak out a few points that your opponents thought that they had all locked up! Sure Walls aren’t as flashy as that Keep in your hand, but sometimes they get the job done when nothing else can!
The Gang’s All Here: So what’s the optimal number of players to play this game with? Well, it’s worth noting that Belfort plays relatively well with any combination of two through five players.
With 2: One positive is that Belfort works well enough with two players, despite the necessary adjustments to normal game-play that are needed to make this work. Sure, it’s a bit fiddly – and you have to remember to place and move the tokens that block the guilds – but it works and it works well. Many gamers have reported just loving Belfort as a two player game, and it's always a real positive when a game like this can be enjoyed when it's only your significant other or a friend that's around.
With 5: What about with five players? To be sure, it’s a little slower with five, and you maybe be battling to finish a game in under two-and-a-half or even three hours, especially if you’re new to the game, so that’s a distinct disadvantage of playing with a full set of players. But the upside is that you are creating maximum competition for the locations on the board. In particular the five player experience requires you need to be far more careful about the buildings that you attempt to build.
With 3-4: So that leaves three and four players. The three player game moves along promptly and it evens out the competition for control of the various districts. But the sweet spot for the game is probably with four players, because this strikes the right balance between competition for space and down-time between turns.
Ultimately it’s an enjoyable game with any number of players, but it shines brightest with four.
Is That BGG’s Ernie I See? Yes, if you look carefully you really will find the BGG mascot on the district board artwork somewhere. In fact, there’s a whole lot of inside jokes to be found, including the wood/sheep/brick/ore/wheat of Settlers of Catan, multiple references to the publisher Tasty Minstrel Games and their other games like Terra Prime, and much more! And that brings us to another real strength of Belfort: the artwork and components. You’ll not quickly tire of the detail and humor that Josh Cappel has successfully brought to life. It’s a superlative effort that really helps make the game experience all the more enjoyable, and we can't say enough good things about the artwork.
The End is Nigh! Admit it - when you read the rules and realized that in Belfort elves and dwarves were going to be working together you were pretty sure the end of days had come! Elves and dwarves...working side by side...in the mines...to get metal?!? But wait...remain calm...stop stocking canned goods on your basement shelves and loading shells into your twelve-gauge! Because there have been some great elf-dwarf duos in the past, not the least of which is the dynamic duo of Legolas and Gimli. Sure Legolas had the height and good looks, but Gimli’s stout heart and sense of humour brought an awful lot to the table too! And let’s not forget about Bruenor and Drizzt - now there’s a relationship no one saw coming! There might be some jealously on Bruenor’s part – Drzzzt got the height, exotic good looks, and even immortalization in a board game - but that hasn’t stopped them from teaming up to kick some some orcish heiny, slay the odd giant, or just generally thwarting evil wherever it might be found. So no worries, friends and neighbours, the theme of Belfort doesn’t contain evidence of the end of time - your elves and dwarves can comfortably work safely side by side, generating you metal and gold and pointing you towards conquest and victory. Trolls, however, are another story...! But seriously, the theme is one of the big selling points of this game. We’ve seen a lot of euro-games revolving around Mediterranean shipping and trading, and we’ve seen a lot of fantasy games in the dungeon quest style genre. Belfort offers us something new by giving us a worker placement and area control style euro with a fantasy theme, and the theme really does fit together with the mechanics nicely. Some boys we introduced the game too especially appreciated the theme, and we can only agree with them that it's well done. Bravo!
Made With Love: One thing that can safely be said about Belfort is that it is a highly polished product, and that is very clearly a labour in which an enormous amount of love, time, and effort has been invested. Everything is uber-impressive, and clearly shows evidence of careful play-testing and balance. No effort appears to have been spared to make it the absolute best that it could be. Years of work and commitment have gone into shaping this game - and it really shows! The artwork is second to none. The rulebook is spectacular. The meshing together of the mechanics is sound. The theme is well-integrated and fresh for a euro. You just need to read the rulebook to see all the little small touches which prove Belfort is a labour of love for everyone involved, from the designers to the artist to the publisher and more. We gamers get to benefit from all of this, because the result is an outstanding game with very little to complain about. If you do find yourself disliking the game, it’s simply going to be a matter of personal taste, not because of any shortcomings on the part of those who produced Belfort.
What Expansion?! Belfort certainly doesn’t feel incomplete at any level, and Sen-Foong Lim and Jay Cormier have worked very well as a game design team to produce a terrific game. Rumour has it that these guys have a whole slew of new projects in the works, including an expansion. So this dynamic duo appears to have a very bright future ahead of them, and it’s one that we can all look forward to, especially if you’re looking to see Belfort travel in interesting new directions.
Is that Back Bacon I Smell?: As we know, BGGers LOVE bacon. And what country in the world loves bacon more than any other nation on earth? That’s right, Canada! Belfort certainly has bacon written all of it, because for the most part it’s been created by a group of bacon loving boys from the Great White North. Designers Sen and Jay along with artist Josh Cappel are all Canucks, and it is wonderful to see the Canadian game design world taking flight in such spectacular fashion. The good news is that these guys aren’t the only ones. As members of the Game Artisans of Canada, they are part of a group of designers from across the country that is starting to produce several top notch designs, of which Belfort is merely one.
A winning player's buildings at game end
What do others think?
Belfort is currently enjoying a very high average rating of 7.60, a testament to the fact that it has been very well received by gamers. It has received praise for its components, its theme, its fresh blend of mechanics, its fun factor, and its strategic depth. Here's what some of the enthusiasts have to say about the game:
"Beautiful board and components. Very good design on board. " - Paul Smith
"Solid combination of worker placement and area control mechanics." - Marc Buchanan
"One of the two best 2-player meaty, thematic, worker placement games that is fun and the only one that also has area control." - Jimmy Okolica
"A simple, beautiful worker placement. There is a lot of replay in this little box and a ton of sexy components." - Wesley Kinslow
"Fun game. Fun art. Puts together a host of familiar euro mechanics, but in such a way that is stronger than the sum of its parts. Definitely recommended. " - David Siskin
"Great game. A much deeper game hides behind a pretty face. Worker placement, area majority, and resource management at it's finest." - Gustav Åkerfelt
"This game is as good as it looks! The worker placement is stone age easy and the area control leads to some cut throat interactive gaming." - Zack Stackurski
"A nice mix of worker placement and resource management." - Andrew Mason
"Game of the Year 2011?" - Joel Eddy
"This is simple game that at the front seems like a family game, but it has quite a lot of strategy and agonizing decisions. Excellent components." - Paul Nomikos
"Such a fun game. A great blend of worker placement and area majority. It all seems to fit together well to create a fun yet challenging experience." - Mike Jones
"Wow! Worker placement, Area Management, and Variable Phase Order in a wonderful integration without being dry dry dry. Fun! Fresh! Addicting!" - Peter Elsenheimer
"A great worker acquisition + worker placement + area majority game, and one of very few games I've playtested that left me aching to play again." - Matt Musselman
Scoring at the end of Spring
Belfort is a remarkable game in many ways. From a production perspective it’s one of the best games in the business. It’s also one of those games where the rules are eminently accessible, and yet they provide real depth by requiring larger strategic as well as important tactical decisions, and so in terms of game play you’ll find it to be a tight Eurogame filled with tough decisions. As an added bonus there’s considerable replayability as a result of the variation in guild placement and building cards. And despite being a euro, the theme feels fresh yet doesn’t feel pasted on. As a result, the whole feels greater than the sum of its parts. While the mechanics are nothing really ground-breaking as such, it offers a blend of worker-placement, area control, resource management, and fantasy theme that definitely feels new, and certainly shows evidence of being very highly polished in every respect, down to the very last details.
So if you want to own a game that’s both an aesthetic triumph and pleasure to play, then do yourself a favour and get your hands on a copy of Belfort!
Credits: This review is a collaborative effort between EndersGame and jtemple.
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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- Sky Zero(skyzero)United States
- That could be THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE review I've ever seen for a game. Excellent work and should leave folks with no doubt as to whether or not this game is for them. For me...it's a home run!
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skyzero wrote:That could be THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE review I've ever seen for a game. Excellent work and should leave folks with no doubt as to whether or not this game is for them. For me...it's a home run!
Thanks for the kind feedback. If you like comprehensive reviews, I think you'll find quite a few more like this one on my list here:
Ender's Reviews: Comprehensive Pictorial Overviews
And don't forget to head the l-o-n-g way back to the top of this thread to give it a thumbs up if you think it deserves it!
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- Jason FordhamUnited States
If I had not already known I was getting this (and I got this) from the very first announcements, your review (as usual) would have sealed the deal.
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- Aaron(Magrot)United States
- You are definitely one of the greats Ender.
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- Drinky DrinkyUnited States
IndianaMr. Cat. Hold on I think I know my next move, just give me another minute....NO!!!!!!!
Awesome review Ender.
I'm always glad you do these reviews so we can see the ins and outs of the game to see if it fits our play style.
Also when I got to the bottom of the review it was an hour later. Don't know if it was because it took me an hour or a crossed a timezone =)
I greatly enjoyed the Elves and Dwarves commentary.
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- Doug BassUnited States
Enders, you should compile your reviews into a hardcover coffee table book. Seriously. Awesome job!
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- ◄ əpıʌɐp ►Italy
I just bought this game yesterday.Spoiler (click to reveal)If only you had posted this awesome review a couple of days ago, I could have read it before buying it.
And I could have ran faster to the shop to buy it...
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- Scotty PruittUnited States
- Well done.
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- Simon Webster(WrenHong)United Kingdom
- Terrible pun, awesome review!
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- Joe(jheaney)United States
- Love it. Great review of a great game.
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- Daryl AndrewsCanada
dougbass68 wrote:Enders, you should compile your reviews into a hardcover coffee table book. Seriously. Awesome job!
I would buy that book!!!
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- Miika K.(-mIDE-)Finland
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- Arthur Rutyna(Neo_1)United States
Is this a review or a thesis paper?
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- Klure Junior(klurejr)United States
CaliforniaMy Dog Abi
Well written, well done.
Probably the best review I have seen for a Board Game.
I already own and love the game, but I read your entire review anyway. Thanks!
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- William CrispinUnited States
- The danger is that Ender may have engaged in magic realism where reading the review is a more enjoyable and immersive experience than actually playing the game.
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- Douglas CatchpoleAustralia
New South Wales
wwscrispin wrote:The danger is that Ender may have engaged in magic realism where reading the review is a more enjoyable and immersive experience than actually playing the game.
And takes the same amount of time to read.
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- Josh CappelCanada
- We all knew this review was coming, but we had no idea it would be this epic. What a fantastic read. You've really done the game a great honour and I have to extend my gratitude for all of the praise. Thanks so much; reviews like these (and readers' reactions to them) let us know that we're getting something right!
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- Sergey NikolenkoRussia
Great review. Minor nitpick, though:Quote:Take it from us folks, Belfort has one of the most beautiful and unique boards that you’re ever going to find. Let’s start with the unique part. Why? Because, this is a board that you’re going to have to build. That’s right, you’ve got to put the board together – thematic isn’t it? The board is actually comprised of five individual wedges, each of which represents a district in the city of Belfort.
Notre Dame had this long ago, and they actually did it in a more elegant way – the shape of the pieces was such that they could be assembled in different ways for different player counts.
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- Sen-Foong LimCanada
- Many, many thanks to Ender and Jtemple for their tireless work! Great pictures with excellent prose - job well done. It's very interesting to see the game through another person's eyes. I also really appreciate the "meta-analysis" you've done by collecting the criticisms and quotes from around the web. You are both gentlemen AND scholars!
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- Antti Autio(aautio)Finland
HelsinkiGina, Escher gang leader (Necromunda). Don't mess with her or she'll kick your ass.. actually, she's gonna do it anyway!
- An outstanding review, as always. I wasn't initially very interested when I first heard of this game, but after reading reviews (especially this one!) the art and humour won me over and I went and bought the game. It looks amazing, the rules are solid and very well written.. this promises to be a lot of fun to play. Can't wait to try it out.
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- E M(Eerly)Norway
- Stellar review.
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- Jesus A. Perez(jsper)Spain
I love your Comprehensive Pictorial Overviews.
Thank you so much!
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- Your reviews are simply fantastic! Ok, comprehensive too. Another great looking game added to our growing wish list. You've already caused me to buy a few games. Our family thanks you - my pocket book, that's another story
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- MAURICIO FLORES(mdeflo)Australia
- Great review. Nice to see the fact that it really varies with 5 players.
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