Game Buzz: Belfort

We seem to be hitting major release season for board games.  With Origins last weekend, GenCon at the beginning of August, and Essen coming in October, the publishers all seem to be cranking out their new products for the year.  Or, at least, the rules are hitting the internet, allowing me to do my research.  However, it presents me with a dilemma – I was waffling between 11 different games to cover in this post.  Finally, I asked my wife, and she picked this one.  So here we go.

Belfort - image by BGG user Surya

Belfort is a board game coming out in August from Tasty Minstrel Games, publishers of Homesteaders, Terra Prime, the upcoming JAB: Realtime Boxing, and the also-upcoming Eminent Domain.  The game was designed by Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim, who call themselves The Bamboozle Brothers.  They were also responsible for TMG’s earlier release this year, the party game Train of Thought.  Belfort is much more of a strategy game, lasting around 1.5-2 hours and designed for 2-5 players aged 13 and up.  It’s an area control/worker placement game where you are deploying elves, dwarves, and gnomes to build up the city of Belfort.  You score points for influence in the five districts of the city, as well as among the three races.  The winner is awarded the Key to the City.

Board Piece - image by BGG user jtemple

The board for this game comes in five triangular pieces that will be put together to form a pentagon-shaped board.  The order of the boards is set by the score track that goes around the edge, so you have to make sure that 10 is followed by 11.  This means that, even though it is in pieces, the board will still look the same way every time.  Other boards included are the calendar board (to keep track of the seasons, as well as to hold stockpiles of gnomes and cards), the collection board (to organize resources), and player boards for everyone.  There are five turn order crests, and a calendar marker so you can keep track of the month.  You get 50 property cards representing the ten properties you can build during a game – pub, gardens, tower, inn, blacksmith, bank, market, gatehouse, library, and keep.  Each has a cost, an income, and a benefit.  There are resource markers (30 wooden logs, 30 stone blocks, 20 metal bricks, and 46 gold coins), as well as 6 multiplier chips that will help you keep track of what you have should resources run short (resources are infinite).  You also get 12 guild tiles, five of which will be used in a game.  There are three types of guilds – basic, resource, and interactive.  There are 35 dwarf tokens (square) and 35 elf tokens (round), 7 per player, as well as 22 gnome tokens (pentagon).  Players begin the game with 7 Dwarves and 7 Elves (though you’ll only be playing with three of each at first), as well as 12 property markers (houses) and a scoring marker (a disc).  They also begin with one wood, one stone, one metal, five gold, a hand of five property cards (of which you’ll keep three), and a randomly distributed turn order crest.

At the beginning, you’ll be selecting five guilds to play with in the game.  Beginners should randomly choose three resource guilds (sawyers, miners, bankers, or masons) and two basic guilds (merchants, librarians, architects, or recruiters).  For a normal game, use one resource, two basic, and two interactive guilds (thieves, bandits, wizards, or spies).  For the advanced game, you can select the five randomly from all guilds, or decide as a group which guilds to use.

There are seven rounds in a game of Belfort.  Each round has five phases – Calendar, Placement, Collection, Actions, and Scoring.

CALENDAR: In every round except the first, you’ll move the calendar marker to the next month.  In the first round, you’ll be starting on the first month of Spring.

PLACEMENT: Players take turns placing Elves or Dwarves on planks.  These are spaces marked with wood, as well as circles and squares to indicate that only Elves or Dwarves can be used here.  In turn order (as indicated by the turn order crests), you can either place a worker on an unoccupied plank or pass.  Here are your choices:

  • Recruiter’s Desk – It costs two gold to place here.  Elves will recruit new elves, Dwarves will recruit new dwarves.
  • King’s Camp – By placing in the lowest available  plank here, you’ll be able to take a better turn order crest.
  • Guilds – If you own the guild, it’s free.  If no one owns it, you pay one gold to the supply.  If someone else owns it, you pay one gold to them.
  • Property Cards – You can only place on Property cards you have already built.  Some have costs shown.  Some need to be unlocked by gnomes.
  • Pass – If you pass, you place all remaining Dwarves and Elves in the resource areas.  You won’t be placing anything else for the rest of the phase.

COLLECTION: After everyone has passed, you move to the Collection phase.  Collection will be done in a specific order:

  1. From the Forest, each Elf collects one wood.
  2. From the Quarry, each Dwarf collects one stone.
  3. From the Mine, each Elf and Dwarf pair collects one metal.
  4. From the Gold Mine, each Elf or Dwarf collects one gold.
  5. From the Recruiter’s Desk, each Elf recruits one Elf and each Dwarf recruits one Dwarf from the player’s supply.  If you haven’t got anything left, this action is waited.
  6. For the King’s Camp, in placement order, you may swap turn order crests with another player (except with players who have already swapped).
  7. For Income and Taxes, you collect one gold for each coin on built Property cards.  Then, you must pay taxes based on your position on the scoring track.  If you can’t pay, you lose points.
ACTION: The player with Turn Crest #1 completes all actions they want to/can.  Then #2, and on until all players have gone.  Your options:
  • Build Properties – Build any Property card in your hand by paying the resources.  You’ll then place a property marker on one of the unclaimed spaces of that type on the board.  Planks on that card are now available for Placement.
  • Build Walls – Pay three wood and three stone and place a property marker on an unclaimed wall space.
  • Build Guilds – Pay the cost of an unclaimed guild and place a property marker on its space.
  • Activate Workers – Workers placed on property cards or guilds can be activated to take the benefit.
  • Visit the Trading Post – Once per turn, you can use the trading post to sell one good and/or to buy one good.
  • Hire a Gnome – Once per turn, you can spend three gold to get a gnome.  This gnome can be used to unlock spaces on your Property cards.
  • Buy a Property Card – As the LAST ACTION of your turn, you can spend one gold to buy a new Property card for your hand.  This can either be one from the draw pile or the draw pool.

SCORING: Scoring takes place after the third, fifth, and seventh rounds.  First, score each district individually, giving five points to the player with the most markers in each district.  Second place gets three, and third place receives one.  Tied players receive the points of the next rank down.  Next, determine worker majority.  Count Elves, Dwarves, and Gnomes separately, awarding three points to the player with the most of each.  One point goes to second place.  After the seventh round, the game is over with the player that has the most points scoring the victory (and the key to the city).

At first glance, this seems like a very standard worker placement/resource management game.  The fantasy theme is kind of cute, but probably not necessary.  The game doesn’t seem like it’s going to add anything new to the genre.  However, at the same time, I’m still wanting to try it out.  Particularly, I want to see how the buildings and guilds work together.  That’s the fun of playing a game like this – exploring different strategies and getting to know how everything works.  The addition of an extra lock on Property cards adds a different dimension to the strategy.  I like the look of the pentagon board, I just hope it won’t be susceptible to shifting since it’s in five pieces.  I also think the key to the city is a worthless component – you don’t need it at all, especially since the winner only gets to keep it if they own the game.  Anyway, those issues aside, I look forward to trying it out.  Thanks for reading!
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2 comments

    • Thanks for the link…very interesting to see the process behind the game. I’ll definitely be putting up a review when/if I get a chance to play. Thanks for dropping by!

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