Bridge Troll is a new game by Alf Seegert and published by Z-Man Games. Our editor Jared took the time to review the game and now I’ve played it as well. Jared has put together a wonderful review of the game where I’ve added in a few points as commentary.
Bridge Troll is a great game. I can’t put it any plainer than that. Now, I may be slightly biased (I am friends with the game’s maker, Alf Seegert) but regardless it is a fun, easy to play game that has more than enough depth to stand up to long term use.
Ben: I can add as an unbiased player that I (and my play group) very much enjoyed the game. It’s simple enough to pick up in a few minutes yet the mechanics allow for a pretty decent depth of strategy once you get the hang of it.
Board Games are an interesting phenomenon, at least here in the US. It seems that many of us have a similar mentality towards board games as we do animation: Essentially it’s either something for kids alone or something extremely geeky. (I.E. American Otaku and anime fans) It’s a regrettable trend, especially since it affects the types of games we see sold. On the one hand you have the games for kids, certainly well made and fun… if you are a child. The other side is games like Risk, Descent, or one of the many based on video games.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy Risk (not that anyone will play with me anymore) and Descent, (for those not familiar with it, it is kind of like a board game version of the Dungeons and Dragons style setting, though greatly simplified) but both share two essential limitations. Both are very complicated to play with a large accumulation of rules, and both take a long time to set up/take down.
Bridge Troll handles both of these issues in a wonderful way, taking maybe two minutes to get out and set up, since the game consists of just the troll card for each player, a couple decks of cards representing the travelers, upgrades, etc., and the small cubes standing in for the boulders. In addition the game is nuanced with lots of room for deep strategy and serious tactical thought, yet isn’t bloated with unnecessary complications and excess rules. Basically it’s only as deep as your opponents make it. In other words, if you play with children the game works fine on a simpler level, but play it again with long time board game fans and you’ll have to put a lot more thought into each move you make.
Most of this depth comes from the ingenious bidding system, wherein your troll bids how many boulders they will use to ‘encourage’ the travelers to use his/her bridge that turn. The troll who bids the most (of a single color, except in one special case) picks a traveler first and so on, the number of travelers dependent on the type of weather, decided by a die roll. That’s straightforward enough. What allows for more possibilities is the fact that with some kinds of weather there will be more cards than players, and if there is a negative card (like the dragon) someone will have to take it, in some cases the very person who won the bidding. (I.E. if there was one more card than players, the first player to go gets two travelers that turn) If that was not enough, at the end of the turn the players go in reverse order, picking up the bid of whatever player they chose, so if a player uses all of their boulders to win a bid, the player who bid the least will end up with them all to use the following turn.
Ben: Elegant is a great word to describe the bidding system. It’s simple in design and execution and is also a great balancing system. The weather die allows for a bit of randomness to enter into the equation but the bidding is the heart of the game and allows for fairly quick play and a decent dose of strategy.
I do have one minor complaint about the game. There are a couple rules that were a tad unclear in the small rulebook. For example, a player can forgo bidding one round, enabling them to gather more boulders, as well as a few other actions. I failed to realize that there were certain actions, like turning in travelers stored for food and ransom + boulders to upgrade the worth, that are only available when not bidding.
It’s an especially minor issue because playing it without that rule didn’t unbalance the game play at all (since it made things easier for everyone equally) and it didn’t make it any less fun. Of course it always takes a couple times playing any game to get everything down just right anyway.
Ben: We had a chance to play three separate games (4 players). The first game was our learning experience and took about an hour. In part it took longer as we were digesting the rules. We were also digesting our supper. The next two games went a bit quicker (about 45 minutes each) and it was the consensus of the group that it was a fun game to kill an hour or two with. Easy enough for casual players and challenging enough for hardcore gamers.
We very much enjoyed the mechanics of the game, let’s talk a little about the look and feel of the game. Everything (dice, cards, counters) is solidly constructed and on opening the box that pleasant, new game smell was there. (Slightly tainted by Jared, who got to play it before me.) All of the components are built to last, as with other Z-man games I’ve played.
The artwork done by Ryan Laukat is done in a fresh, whimsical style reminiscent to me of some recently read graphic novels. I love the way the different trolls are drawn. The design of the game incorporates Ryan’s art in a way that enhances rather than distracts, which is always nice.
Alf informs me that the game has just arrived in the states and is getting prepped for shipping from Z-man games. Shipping should begin this week with Bridge Troll arriving in stores at some point next week. Big kudos to Alf for creating such a fun game! You can pre-order or purchase it right from Z-man’s site (link). Also check your local gaming shops starting next week.
[tags]board and card games, bridge troll[/tags]