Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday, 9 August 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Brothers

Game: Brothers

Publisher: Ankama

Designer: Christophe Boelinger

Year: 2018



Brothers is a small family weight game from Ankama games, for 2-players or for 4-playrs playing as teams. Ankama games are a publisher we hadn’t come across until the UK Games Expo this year. Their most notable game is Krosmaster Arena – a game that looks colourful and amazing, but miniature games are typically not something that interests us.

At the UK Games Expo, Ankama were showing three upcoming titles, with Brothers appearing to be the smallest and simplest of the three. As a two-player game, and with tetris-looking tiles, we decided to take a look at Brothers.

Gameplay

Gameplay in Brothers in incredibly fast and simple, to start a game the players will make a map. This is done by taking turns choosing and laying out the map tiles. You can make as weird a shape as you like, so long as all of the map is connected along at least 1 flat edge. After this players will take turns laying down their plots. One player will be building enclosures for rabbit-like creatures while the other will place enclosures for sheep-style animals. The key difference being that rabbits enclosures are a line while sheep enclosures are L shaped.

Over time the placement of existing enclosures will prevent the placement of more, once both players cannot play any more tiles the round ends. At which point the sheep player will gain 2 points for each sheep tile they haven't placed, and the rabbit player will gain 1 point for each rabbit tile they had left. Players will then empty the board of tiles and play a second time, swapping the type of animal they are farming but leaving the map how it was. At the end of the second round the player with the most points loses.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

I will admit to being pessimistic upon first learning Brothers, surely such a simple spacial game couldn't be that hard to master? Well I was wrong. While the rules are simple there is a lot going on in Brothers, the map creation that starts the game has a huge impact on how the game is played. A big open space makes for a fairly laid back start to the game as blocking moves aren't really available until later. But if you create a more labyrinthine map then from the very first tile you are carving out your own space. Fortunately either way you will be playing both sides, so if you make a map that is particularly bunny-friendly then no-one gets a true advantage.

The secret to the game does seem to be spotting those places where placing 1 tile guarantees you a second place later on. Failing that a salt the earth strategy can work well, leaving gaps of only 2 squares (both shapes are made up of 3 squares) so that no-one can use the land. As such there is intense player interaction, each move blocks certain avenues and can have knock on effects as the available lands get smaller and smaller. The second game of the pair is often more intense as the strategies you used on the first game are often thrown straight back in your face.

The art is wonderfully colourful and cute, but there are only a couple of different images between all of the tiles which is a little disappointing. being that the gameplay is so lightning focused on the spatial puzzle you will often find that 1 player will consistently win purely based on how well their brain can process shapes. Brothers is a great filler game that I'd happily play with almost anyone. Like many filler games it does lack the longer term appeal, but it's got enough tactics in each play to keep me interested.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

For me, Brothers has been a lesson in ‘never judge a game by its rulebook’. This is a not a bad rule book- it’s just a super short one. I learnt the game in 2 minutes, taught Amy in a further one minute and we both rolled our eyes and questioned if this was really going to be ‘a game’ at all. In our first game, we made a really neat map, tessellating all of the field tiles and had a pretty boring game of placing our tiles on the board. But, in the next game we made a crazy shaped field and suddenly a game was born.

Brothers is a game of spatial reasoning where you need to place pieces in a land grab to ensure you’ve secured some field space for later and that your opponent’s pieces can’t fit in those gaps. The game is an interesting mix of this strategy and some blocking at the right moments to make sure your opponent is hindered. The use of two rounds in each game with the same map, but swapping between the ‘sheep’ tiles and the ‘bunny’ tiles, really makes the game fair and the point values of the two different tie types seems well balanced in terms of their difficulty to place on the board.

I appreciate just how simple Brothers is, but how the game has something more going on than you first realise. Unfortunately, I’ve also realised that it’s not a game for me. The game makes me feel stupid when I play with Amy – she spots all of the great opportunities on the board that I just don’t seem to be able to see. When we swap tiles after the first round – this gives me the perfect opportunity to have the same chances as she did, but find that I just can’t do as well. I think that the spatial logic is something that Amy will always be better at and is the same reason why she finds it easier to play games like Memoir 44, where positioning is everything.

Brothers is a well-produced, easy to teach game that would make a nice cafĂ© game or filler, but just isn’t for me.


You Might Like...
  • Brothers has simple gameplay that makes it accessible to all.
  • The game is very fair with minimal luck.
  • The game has cute artwork and good component quality.

You Might Not Like...
  • We’ve found that the game can be quite antagonistic as you block each other.
  • With the same opponent you often have the same winner as the game uses one basic skill.
  • The gameplay may get quite repetitive with the same strategies in every game.

The Verdict
5.5/10 Brothers was a pleasant surprise for the first few plays, with a simple rule set that still causes some interesting decisions and creates a strong spatial puzzle. However, for us, it’s a game with a foregone conclusion and the lack of variety means it is unlikely to have any staying power.

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