I’m trying to get caught up on some of the Essen news, and I was given a chance to take a sneak peek at Bruxelles 1893, the upcoming release from Pearl Games. This was definitely high on my list of games to see because the previous Pearl Games releases have been my type of game: Troyes, Tournay, Ginkgopolis. All three remain in my game collection, which is no easy feat.
While I’ve been asked not to comprehensively outline the rules – I think I can describe the game so that you can get a feel for what it will be like. It does appear that Z-Man will be distributing this one domestically as well, so if you’re not headed to Essen, you should be able to find this one around here fairly soon.
- Designer: Etienne Espreman
- Publisher: Pearl Games / Z-Man
- Players: 2-5
- Ages: 10+
- Time: ??
- Main Mechanic: worker placement, auction, majority control, modular board
Bruxelles 1893 is a game that tries to capture the architectural development of the Art Nouveau neighborhoods in Brussels, Belgium. The game is played over 5 rounds, and the winner is the player with the most VP (duh). The action takes place on two separate boards: 1) the Brussels board and 2) the modular Art Nouveau board.
In the setup of the game, the 5 strips of the Art Nouveau board are randomly placed into the frame. Each strip has 5 action spaces on it, and together, the 5 strips make a 5×5 array of action spaces. At the bottom of each of the 5 columns, there is a space for a bonus card. At the start of each round, a Stock Exchange card is flipped up which has two sets of coordinates for two of the verticies of the Art Nouveau board. The start player has to choose one set of coordinates, and this marks the outside of the Art Nouveau board that will be used. Thus, depending on the random setup at the beginning of the game, which card is drawn from the deck and depending on which of the two coordinates are chosen, the actions available in any given round can change!
Once the useable area of the Art Nouveau board has been discovered, it’s time to take actions. Players can place their pawns on either the Art Nouveau board (of course , only on the available spaces) or the Brussels board.
Possibilities on the Art Nouveau board
- Workshop – draw a “work of art” tile from the supply (5 different possible colors)
- Sale – you sell a “work of art”. There is a 7×7 grid on the Brussels board which holds a 3×3 cursor. The 5 different art colors are on the cursor. Depending on how many previous works you have sold, you are able to move the cursor around the 7×7 grid. Wherever it stops, the row and column where the matching colored marker is found determines the VP and money for that particular sale.
- Recruit Public Figure – there is a display of 4 Public Figures on the board, if you take this action, you can choose one of these cards. Each card has an immediate action which is taken as soon as you recruit the card. Then you can either discard that card immediately OR you keep it near your board with the chance to possibly re-use it in a later round, though you will have to pay for this card at the end of the game.
- Collect Materials – you collect 2 material cubes – there are 3 types of materials (wood, stone, iron)
- Construction – you build a building tile on your board – they can cost 2, 3 or 4 building units. The actual cubes needed per unit are determined by a compass. This compass has 6 different spaces (wood, stone, iron, $3, blank and any wood/stone/iron) and two needles – thus there are always two different choices. You need to pay at least one unit of each type when building. The building is then placed on the Art Nouveau board on an empty space, and anytime someone chooses that space for the rest of the game, the player who owns the building on that space will get an extra action.
Any time you take an action on the Art Nouveau board, you add a bid (in cash) under your pawn. Each space can only be used once. At the end of the round, the player who bid the most cash in each column gets the bonus card that is displayed underneath.
Possibilities on the Brussels board
- Market – pick up 3 Joker material cubes
- Collect Money – each Stock Exchange card (used at the start of the round to delineate the spaces used on the Art Nouveau board) has a $ amount at the top – this is what you collect for this action
- Park – you may choose one of the 5 actions normally found on the Art Nouveau board WITHOUT adding a bid
- Grand Plaza – re-use Public Figure cards that you have previously collected and kept
- Pass – this takes you out of the current round. If you are the first to pass, you get a marker that helps choose start player for the next round. When you pass, you also collect $1 + $1 for each different color of Work of Art that you have
Once all players have passed, there is a bit of cleanup for the round.
- First, all the bonus cards on the Art Nouveau board are distributed.
- Then the new start player is chosen based on points scored from bonus cards collected and by the tile you get for passing first.
- Third, players use their Bonus cards. Players can either take an immediate action from the bonus card and then discard it OR they can take no action now and instead use the bonus card as an endgame VP bonus score. There are four slots for bonus cards on your personal board – these score VPs for: sets of $4, works of art, public figure cards, number of pawns.
- Fourth, VPs are awarded for each fully occupied intersection on the Art Nouveau board – VPs are given to the player who has the most pawns present out of the 4 at that intersection
- Finally, move pawns to the Courthouse in Brussels. Whichever player(s) have the most pawns on the Brussels board must move one pawn to the Courthouse space. These pawns are not placed in the next round.
This pattern is repeated for all 5 rounds. At the start of each round, the supply of Public Figure cards is replenished. A new Stock Market card is flipped over and the Art Nouveau board is apportioned again.
After the fifth round, there is some endgame scoring.
First, player must pay the cost for any Public Figure cards that they kept. If they cannot pay the cash cost, they lose 5VP per unpaid card
Then, you score points for your building tiles built, for your collected Bonus cards, for leftover material cubes, and for having the start player marker after the final round.
My thoughts on a read-through – I’m definitely interested in this sort of game. I do like worker placement games, because I am a big fan of tactical games. There is always an inherent competition for spaces and actions that I like. There is an added level of complexity in this one because some of the actions come with choices – you have to choose about keeping the Public Figure cards and you also need to choose how to use your Bonus cards. The artwork is very evocative of the target era, and you expect from Pearl Games, the art adds a lot to the overall theme and feeling of the game. This will definitely be one of the games I hope to get early in the week so I can play it!
The next Pearl Games game will be an auto-buy for reasons stated.
> It does appear that Z-Man will be distributing this one domestically as well, so if you’re not headed to Essen, you should be able to find this one around here fairly soon.
That’s what they said about Palaces of Carrara as well, which turned out to be a no-show at retail (allegedly was sold at GenCon or something). And Terra Mystica which shipped just enough for a fraction of pre-orders. Z-Man is becoming extremely unreliable, unfortunately.
You can also add Robinson Crusoe to that list.
I will add my own negative opinion of Zman. It’s gotten to the point that if I hear they are the North American publisher of a game I want, I’ll just order it from overseas. They are unreliable and very expensive.