Designer: Marco Pozzi
Artist: Alan D’Amico e Paolo Vallerga
Publisher: Placentia Games and Post Scriptum
Time: 90-120 minutes
Times played: 3
Today I’ll start a series of Essen previews of games I was able to play (or just know something more than usual). Most are games from Italian’s designers but I’ll wrote something also games from other designers. When possible I’ll insert into the article some notes from the designers. I hope you will enjoy the reading.
France, second half of the XIX Century: The Commission des Phares has announced the construction of new lighthouses around Bretagne, to provide safe passage for the ships.
Players are builders trying to make the best to build and equip the lighthouses. They have to get resources , equipments and engineers and use they workers in markets, harbors and lighthouses.
The game boards display the Bretagne with the sites of 15 lighthouses, 9 harbors and the cities of Brest, Quimper, Lorient and Pontivy.
There is also places for construction tiles and the score track. The game is completed by the Weather cards (you will discover that building a lighthouse in the sea during a storm is not so easy), the Barge cards, used to gather resources in the beginning of each round, and the Quimper cards, governing the supplies in Quimper.
To build lighthouses you need resources (wood, stone, sand and bricks) and engineers. Money are useful for the purchases (are the fuel of trades) and, of courses, workers, that establish how many actions you can actually do. It is great how all this “resources” interact.
The game is played in 5 rounds or until all the 15 lighthouses are built. It is a 2-4 player game and in the 2-3 player set-up some of the lighthouses are already finished hopefully showing a good play-testing with the full range of possibility. Where the lighthouses are located will change from game to game (but there is an historical set-up) and also only 9 of 12 harbors are used: everything is well planned to guarantee many different set-ups and, hopefully, different solutions. Every round has five phases: set-up, acquire resources, actions, evaluations and end-of round.
The set-up will guarantee a fixed amount of resources and engineers in Brest, random construction tiles and a random amount of resources in Quimper. Finally you will know the Weather in this round and in the next one: we know forecast is a difficult matter and it was worst in the XIX century.
In the acquire resources phase players will fill their barges with resources from Quimper. There are 4 different Bardge cards offering different storing possibilities and different amount of engineers. The bardge cards regulate the turn order: choosing the right barge is the first important decision in your turn. Workers placed on harbors in the previous rounds will offer extra resources/cards.
[Liga] How much do you think is important, for a good strategy in Bretagne, choose the right Barge card ?
[Stefano Groppi] I think that it is important: the wrong decision could avoid you to have the necessary advantage to gain the few points that could let you win. But it is not the only important decision.
[Liga] So going first in the turn is really an advantage ?
[Stefano Groppi] Sure, especially on the last turn. But it is also important to finish a lighthouse and this is not always possible on the first move…
[Marco Pozzi] It depends … the weather in the turn, the quantity of resource in Quimper, the build levels in the lighthouse … every single situation must be correctly evaluated before decide to be the first in the turn. Sure, be the first has the advantage to choice what resource “leave” to the other players … but the other “role” has another type of advantage!
The core of the game is the action phase where you will use workers to make actions. Workers are your fuel because you need workers to visit the markets and is better to have workers in building lighthouses (actually sometimes could be interesting to build without workers but it is quite uncommon). You will start with 8 and you can get more: you will not recover workers from harbors and uncompleted lighthouses so you really need to plan wisely or you will have rounds without many possibilities.
When is your turn you can make an action: visit market, build or pass and the game will go on until all players have passed. Passing first will guarantee the possibility to choose first the barge the next round. At the end of the round you can store just 3 resources of one kind so you need to use resources and engineers at best and try to convert in money what you don’t use.
You can visit a market using a worker (both using two workers). Both markets will offer resources: Brest also engineers and Lorient equipments cards and workers.
Every Lighthouse is made of 3 to 4 floors. To build a floor you need to acquire, using resources, a construction tile and build it on a lighthouse, using resources and engineers (from 1 to 3 according to the Weather and the specific lighthouse chosen).
[Liga] How much do you think the Weather (which cards and in which order) will influence the game ?
[Marco Pozzi] There are 6 weather cards, but only 5 are used in every game … and the weather card not used is “secret” for all the player, sometimes until the last card in revealed … so, your strategy ,must be conditioned by the card order !
[Stefano Groppi] Yes, if, i.e., you have not the tempest in the game it will change your opportunity to finish all the lighthouses. In the same way, if you have not the third fair weather in the game it could be much more difficult to finish and you have to consider it in your strategy, at least in the one of the turn.
Different players can work on the same lighthouses and actually it is a strategic choice to rush for completing one alone or cooperate. You can place on the lighthouse as many workers as the resources used. Having workers on a finished lighthouse will give you the possibility to score point being the one with most workers and playing equipment cards. So, actually, spending few resources is not always the best choice.
When all the player pass the completed lighthouses will be evaluated and you can use your workers there to play equipment cards (one workers used for each card played) than the lighthouse will be scored and finally the player have the possibility to move one worker from the completed lighthouse to a neighbor harbor. A worker in a harbor is blocked there but will offer you a fixed income (resources, cards or workers) that can improve when the third lighthouse will be built.
I want just recall where the workers are used because is, for me, the core of the game: one worker to visit the markets (Brest and Lorient) getting/changing money/cards/resources/engineers; one worker in an harbor (blocked there) to get extra income each round; on a lighthouse to score points during the building (remove an used worker will give you 2 points) or in the evaluation of a completed lighthouse (one worker to play an equipment card, the majority to score extra point than one worker moved in an harbor). 8 workers are not too much but getting more is costly.
[Liga] How many months has been the game tested ? Hoa many tester involved ?
[Marco Pozzi] In the last 2 years, I’ve done more then 20 ‘solo’ game to test and balance the single component and rules of the game, trying very different solutions, and almost 30 game in 2-3-4 players with my friend and other players in the game convention in Nort Italy. I think that more or less 20 different player have done a game to Bretagne. Post Scriptum and Placentia Games also made several playtest.
[Liga] Are the 3 resources (apart wood) equivalent ? I see they will appear with the same frequencies in Quimper and are equally used in the Lighthouses. I have not checked all the construction tiles.
[Stefano Groppi] Yes. We tried to balance all the resources in a 4 players game.
In an average game how many points are usually get from building lighthouses and how many from the cards ? Do you think is it possible to win without using the cards ?
[Liga] How much the different set-ups of harbors and lighthouses really will change the game strategies ?
[Stefano Groppi] Strategies can change due to the available lighthouses, resources and harbors. Maybe It can not change your global strategy, but surely your tactics.
[Liga] During the development have you needed to change important things to balance the game ?
[Marco Pozzi] The duration of the game was a problem, so it has reduced the number of players from 5 to 4 important changes have been made on the improvement card management, testing a multitude of solutions also, very importantly, the player round was divided in the market and build phases, to reduce the download time of the individual player, and it was added the harbor and related bonus
[Liga] Why this theme ? Which kind of historical research have you done and how much “history” influenced the design ?
[Marco Pozzi] Lighthouse were very attractive for me, and Bretagne had to be a destination for a holiday … so when the holiday is skipped, the information I had gathered became the basis for the game
Wikipedia has been very useful to retrieve initial information and history of the various lighthouses, then some interesting book found in a public library were used to retrieve some particular informations.
As the history has affected? Very much … one example: the division of the lighthouse in the “Hell” “Purgatory” and “Paradise” category has solved a big problem that was presented in the first prototype of the game. And then also the Improvement cards have been inspired by those who were the real lighthouse equipment of the time.
I really liked the sessions played. The game offer a lot of decision, starting from the selection of the barge, going through the resources supply down to the decision about how many workers let on uncompleted lighthouse. The game seems to be developed with the idea to make it as much different as possible from game to game. You have to use wisely your workers and it seems that the economic system (how resources, workers, engineers and cards are traded) and the scoring system (lighthouses, cards) are both well designed. Of course it is a deep game and I need more sessions to be really sure about it but finished every session I have had the desire to play it again trying something different and it is already a very good result nowadays. I think this game could be in the target for gamers looking games “a-la-Feld” where you need to optimize resources and actions, with different road to score and a lot of combos to considerate. It’s a game where it is important to have just 1 coins more or just having 1 resources left can ruin your plans. It is a game you will fight point by point. It is not a filler but deep into the heavy ones. The themes is there: of course it is sketched but it is there … building an Inferno lighthouse is something really difficult. For me, at the moment, a thumb up!