Dale Yu: Essen Preview of Bloom Town

Bloom Town

  • Designers: Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pederson
  • Publisher: Sidekick Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times played, 2 with preview copy provided by Sidekick Games

This time of year is the most exciting time to be a board gamer.  If you’re reading this blog, you’re likely anticipating the upcoming SPIEL fair in Essen.   Sure, not many of us get to actually go, but many new games will soon be released at said fair, and those games will quickly make it back to your game table to be played.  This time is also busy for my mailman, as there are plenty of games that we get a chance to preview – in part so that pieces like this can be written so that everyone can learn more about those games prior to the fair!

I had never heard of Sidekick Games when I got an email from them –  so I quickly did some research online. From their website: “Sidekick Games is a new publishing label founded by Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen who have worked together on games such as Spiel des Jahres nominee Shaky Manor, Flamme Rouge, and most recently Copenhagen. We specialize in making family friendly, highly accessible games.”  I was instantly excited to learn more about their new game as the three games listed in this description has all been positively received here.  Lucky for me, I didn’t have to wait long as Bloom Town was actually hurtling towards me in the mail when I got the initial email.

In Bloom Town, players are each vying to be the mayor of Bloom Town, and they will win the mayorship (as well as the game) if they come up with the best plan for the city by placing the offices, subways, parks, homes and shops in the best arrangement.  Each player gets a double sided personal town board, and all players should agree to use the same side. Each player is dealt 2 tiles from the deck and given a bonus token. If they get a special community tile (i.e. not one of the 5 types of buildings), it is replaced with a building tile.   There is a Town Square board where 5 stacks of tiles will be placed (there are 5 different icons here, which are also found on the player’s town board), the top tile of each is flipped over and placed face up to create a 5-tile market.

Play is taken in clockwise turns until the end game condition is met, at which point there is a final end-game scoring round.  Each turn has three phases, which are all completed before the next player takes his turn.

A] Build – choose one of the 2 tiles from your hand and play it onto any empty square on your Town.   Note the icon printed on your board on the space where you played the tile. If you place your tile on a Blooming Square (covered in green foliage), you can choose one of two bonus actions – either score double points for the tile played there OR take another turn right after finishing this turn.

B] Score Points – Score points for the building that you just played. Scoring is different based on the type of building that you played

·         Offices (blue) – score 1 point for the tile played, and 1 point for each contiguous office in the row and column

·         Subways (yellow) – score 1 point for the tile played, and 1 point for each diagonally contiguous subway on the board – can be in any direction

·         Parks (green) – score 1/3/4 points if this is 1st/2nd/3rd tile played to a orthogonally contiguous group of parks.  No points scored for the 4th or higher tile played to a group.  You can have more than one group.

·         Homes (red) – score one point for the tile and the one point for each unique building type which is orthogonally adjacent

·         Shops (purple) – score one point for the tile, then look at the two colors seen on the top of the shop – score 1 point for each orthogonally adjacent tile which matches one of those two colors

C] Take a New Building Tile – from the market, take the face up tile which is underneath the icon that you just covered up on your board.  Then refresh the market by flipping up a tile from the adjacent supply pile. As soon as you flip up tiles, your turn is over. If you flip up a Community tile (there are 2 tiles for each of the 5 building types) – set it aside and draw another tile.  If you flip up the second tile of a type, you trigger a community re-scoring (again different based on type) – all players will score for that type of building.

·         Offices (blue) – score 2 points per blue tile on your board

·         Subways (yellow) – score 2 points per yellow tile on your board

·         Parks (green) – score 2 points per green tile on your board

·         Homes (red) – score all homes as in regular scoring

·         Shops (purple) – score all shops as in regular scoring

*] Use your Bonus Token – at any point in the game on your turn, you can turn in your bonus token for a one-time special action.  You can either score double for the tile you played that round OR take another turn immediately after this one (the same as playing on a Blooming square).  You can also choose to trigger a Community re-Scoring – choose one of the five types of buildings and everyone scores that type of building.

The game ends whenever two of the five stacks are depleted from the supply.  Play continues until the end of the round, and all players have had the same number of turns.  Then, there is a bit of endgame scoring. Each player looks at the two tiles they have left in their hand, and chooses one type of building from those tiles, and re-scores that type of building on his board.  Each player will choose their own type to rescore. The player with the most points wins. Ties are broken by the player who is further towards the end in player order.

My thoughts on the game

Bloom Town pretty much delivers on what it advertises – a nice light tile laying, sort of city management game.  The basic rules are pretty easy to digest, and I would think that most folks should be playing within 5 minutes of getting it setup.  Thus far, the only great strategy I’ve figured out is to not try to collect blue, yellow or green tiles if your RHO has started to do so – Because, you’ll never be able to get the tiles that you want.

Using the blooming squares at the right time is key to overall success; there are times when you just want to double your score – but oftentimes, I’ve found that I want to take a second turn in a row mostly to be able to choose a second tile from the market that I want.  There is an interesting dynamic in having your tile choice be dictated by your placement earlier in the turn. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in your scoring this turn in order to pick up the tile that you really want/need.

I ended up making copies of the back page of the rulebook so that everyone can have a reference on how to score the different tiles.  The trickiest part is the rescoring rules. I do kind of wish that the rescoring rules (or maybe both regular and rescoring) were printed on the main board.  There appears to even be space for them on board areas where you place the community tiles when drawn. After 3 or 4 games, I now remember easily which tiles score 2vp per tile and which are rescored as usual; but for a newbie, it would be nice to make it easier to remember these differences.

Component wise, the shrinkwrapped box comes with the top of the box not quite flush with the bottom.  The unpunched boards sit on top of the box insert – and they are taller than space left in the box. Once punched, everything fits nicely though with the playerboards and rules being flush with the top.  The artwork is great, but I wish that the tiles were maybe a bit more distinct.

reb/blue at top not as obvious as yellow/green below

We had a few times where we weren’t quite sure what we were looking at – or it was difficult to see across the table to know for sure what someone else had going on.  I would have liked each tile to maybe have a colored border or icon so that it was clear to see the identity of the tile. Also, a few of the shops (especially red/blue) are maybe a bit more subtle than I’d like. We constantly had issues with the red houses as they all look different, and as we were trying to learn the game, they were often confusing.

these are all the same. most of the other colors are very similar, these not so much

The game plays quickly, likely settling in the 20-30 minute range.  As I mentioned earlier, the game is quick to learn, and I’ve found that newbies often want to play again right after the first game.  At the risk of spoiling your exploration of the game, you may want to know that you’ll likely only play 13-16 tiles to your board before the end condition is met – thus, don’t plan on filling everything in.  In all of my games so far, we’ve had at least one person try to cram everything in – in order to save room for later tiles – only to be surprised when the game ends with only half their board full. (Additionally, concentrating all your tiles on just one column actually may hasten then end of the game!)    After my initial plays, Bloom Town looks to be a nice gateway game, and given their domestic distribution approach of being a Walmart-exclusive, this is probably the right level of game for the market they’re shooting for. I will also be watching with a very interested eye if games and deals such as this open up Walmart as another viable distribution avenue for games in the US.

Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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