Bravo! (aka Noch mal so gut)
- Designers: Inka and Markus Brand
- Publisher: Stronghold / Schmidt
- Players: 1-6
- Ages: 8+
- Time: 20-30 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by Stronghold Games
Noch mal (the original) was one of the first roll and write games that really caught my eye – the colorful scoring sheets and the custom dice made it an instant hit around here. Since that time, there have been expansions and extensions to the game – and Bravo! Is in that line. Originally called “Noch mal so gut”, this new version adds a bit more complexity onto the original game.
Again, each player gets their own scoring sheet, with blocks of different colors dispersed through the 7×15 grid. There are also a number of stars and special die icons scattered amongst the grid. The seven dice in the game are placed on the table – the six used in Noch mal (3 black d6 and 3 dice with colored Xs on them), as well as the tan special die.
For the first three turns – the game goes like this: The active player rolls all 7 dice and then chooses one of three options: 1) pass, 2) select a combination of black die and colored X die – and then checks off exactly the number of directly adjacent boxes in the specified color, or 3) chooses the special die and does whatever action is shown on that die. Then, all the non-active players look at the dice roll and have the same three options. The dice then pass to the next player around the board who is the next active player. Note that when you take the special die, you must cross out a circled special die icon at the bottom of your sheet. You start with one circled die, and you can gain more circles by filling in spaces with the special die icon in them. If you do not have a circled special die available, you cannot choose the special die as your action.
From the fourth turn and onwards, the same options are available to the players with one important change. The active player still chooses first, and one he takes his action, he removes the dice used for his action from the pool. The non-active players must choose their actions from the remaining dice on the table.
As with Noch mal, you must start your marks from the center column of the board, and any subsequent marks must either start in that central column or be orthogonally adjacent to a previously made mark. And, when you mark off squares, they must be the exact number shown on the die, and they must always be in a single block of color. Each of the black dice has a “?” in the place of the 6 face – if used, the ? can be any number from 1 to 5. The colored dice likewise have the 5 colors and a black X. The black X is wild for any of the other five colors. Each time you use a joker die though, you must cross off one of the exclamation point icons on your sheet.
The special die has five different icons – each with an action associated with it:
- Bomb – mark off any part of a 2×2 grid anywhere on your sheet. It does not have to be adjacent to any previously marked space. (Though the spaces marked off by the bomb can be used as the basis of later adjacent checkmarks). The area can span different color blocks.
- Heart (twice) – circle the topmost available heart icon on the sheet (numbered from 1-5). Whenever you score a column – i.e. the column is fully checked off – you score the usual score PLUS whatever your current highest circle is in the heart column.
- Stars – check off up to two stars on your sheet – but they must be in the central column or adjacent to other previously checked spaces
- Three in a row – Check off three boxes in a row (specifically a row, and NOT in a column). These three do not have to be adjacent to each other, but each must be adjacent to spaces already checked off
- Color block – check off all the unmarked spaces in a single color block. One space in the block must be adjacent to a previously checked space (or in the central column). Note this is the only way in the game that you can mark off a six-space block in a single turn.
So, turns will be played with the active player getting first choice and sequestering the dice that he used. Then, the non-active players make their choices based on the dice left. Once everyone has made their choice for the round, all players now announce if they have completed a column or a row – that is, every space in said column or row is marked off. For the columns, the player(s) who first score a column circle the larger number (as well as writing in their current heart column score) and any players who score this column later take the smaller number. For the rows, all players will get the 5 points for the row, but only the player(s) to finish first will get the bonus action (die, bomb or heart). In the rare event that a row and column are finished at the same time, the rows are scored before the columns.
Finally, the first player(s) to mark off all the boxes of a color score 5 points. Anyone else finishing that color will get 3 points. The game ends on the turn when at least one player has completed two colors. NOw, you score down the right side of your sheet, scoring for:
- Color completion bonuses
- Points scored for completed rows and columns
- Heart bonuses for your columns
- +1 point per unused exclamation icon
- +2 points per unused circled special die icon
- -2 points for each uncrossed star
The player with the most points wins, ties being broken in favor of the player with the most exclamation point icons remaining.
My thoughts on the game
Bravo! Is a more complex version of the base game (Encore!) – both of them are really great roll-and-writes, and I could play either whenever asked. As far as personal preference, it would probably just come down to the group I was playing with or what sort of game experience I was looking for. The original game is more elegant and quicker to teach; you can probably get started in about 3 minutes even with complete newbies. Bravo! Is going to take a little longer to get started, and there are definitely more rules to teach/remember.
The special die gives players a lot more to think about. The actions are definitely very useful when used at the right time – but you also have to make a point of obtaining the ability to use the special die as well. This gives you one or two more things when you’re deciding which dice combinations to take and which spaces to fill in.
The heart bonus at first seems like it could be a huge boon – but after a few plays, I don’t know if it is an overwhelming advantage. Getting extra points with each column fill feels like it would definitely pay off in the end, but if you spend too much time getting hearts, you might end up losing the race to finish a column first, thus giving back some of the point advantage… As it stands now, I look at this tactically – if I can get an early lead in the hearts, it might be worth it – otherwise, it does seem to even out over the long haul as other players catch up.
The bomb, star, and three-in-a-row special actions give you a lot of clever ways to leave a few empty spaces in your grid as you fill it out – knowing that a well timed special die can nicely fill in the gaps. However, it does take a lot more planning to leave yourself with the right spaces free, and this does tend to slow the game down (at least when compared to the base game).
I’d say that my games of Bravo! tend to take twice as long as my Encore games; but there are definitely more complex decisions that need to be made. Which brings me back to the original point that I really like both games, and the choice of which to play just boils down to whether you want a nice easy game or something chewier and more complex.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y
- Not for me…