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, 4 July 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Walking in Burano

Game: Walking in Burano

Publisher: Emperor S4

Designer: Wei-Min Ling

Year: 2018

Emperor S4 are building a reputation for elegant small box card games. The two-player game Hanamikoji is perhaps the most well known amongst the crop of recent releases. What's great about this Asian publisher is that they're made enough of a name for themselves that they're starting to build partnerships with North American publishers for wider distribution. A number of their games were localised by Deep Water Games, and now Walking in Burano is coming out from AEG.

Walking in Burano takes its inspiration from the island of Burano, near Venice, known for its brightly colored fishermen's houses. In this 1-4 tableau building game, each player will create a street of five houses by building up each of the three storeys with cards. Looks are important, so houses should be matching in colour and should also be built to match the whims of locals and tourists.

Each turn, the central supply will be filled with ground floor cards, middles and roof cards. On your turn, you can select one column and take cards either working your way down from the top, or up from the bottom. You can take all three cards, but if you take less then you'll get one coin per card you don't take. Coins are used to build cards into your tableau in the next phase - the first card you build costs one, the second costs another two and a third build costs another two coins. You need to build stable structures, from the ground up, but you have two cards representing scaffolding to help you along the way.

When you complete a structure you choose a tourist or local card to assign to that building. Tourists like your house to have a theme - for example lots of plants or lots of cats. Locals are more concerned with the street as a whole - rewarding you for lots of chimneys, or equally spaced street lamps. Tourists and locals provide you with end game points. The other way to retain end game points is to keep hold of your four, three point bonus tokens. However, it may be more worthwhile to spend these to break the rules and build a house with levels that don't match in colour, or build two same coloured houses next to each other. When one player has completed their five houses, then the game ends and you calculate final scoring.

Walking in Burano is in many ways a set collection game, but it adds layers that don't add huge complexity, but do add interest to seasoned gamers. In terms of the set collection, it's your choice what sets you choose to build and sometimes it's a race to complete houses to attract your favourite locals, who are often worth a little bit more than the tourists if you can max out their point scoring potential. The way that you take cards into hand is a draft, but it's not as simple as an open draft from the central supply - the way you take cards from top to bottom or bottom to top, makes it more difficult to get only the cards you want. It's also impacted by how you want to balance your money. It might be a turn where the central supply is just perfect for you, but you need to earn some money to play cards, else you'll exceed your three card hand limit.

I also really like the 3 point bonus tiles that allow you to make tough decisions and ruin the matching house aesthetic that you have going on. I find that this is especially apparent at the end of the game. Since each tourist or local can only be matched with a complete building, the 10+ points that each is worth is well worth the sacrifice of the bonus tile to keep yourself in the end game scoring. Not finishing your five houses is a very hard position to win from.

There's no one thing that really draws me to play Walking in Burano, but the combination of interesting elements means that when we do play it, it's a really satisfying experience. Honestly the true stand out part of this game is how it looks. The houses are full of charm and the colours are a lovely palette that really reflects the setting. The coins have a metallic finish too and you get a little cat standee! After a few games though, I still feel like there's room for me to improve and get higher points scoring out of the cards if I just get the right balance of patience for the right cards and identification of the high point scoring opportunities. There's only a relatively small pool of scoring cards, but that still provides a bunch of different ways to plan your street and play a different game each time.

Walking in Burano succeeds at turning a simple concept into a nuanced experience. The number of little rules might mean that it's not perfect to introduce to everyone but it is a very accessible and nice looking game, that I really enjoy and want to explore some more and become better at. For the Yellow Meeple, Walking in Burano is a 7.5/10.

Walking in Burano was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £22.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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