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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Wednesday, 8 January 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Bloom Town

Game: Bloom Town

Publisher: Sidekick Games

Designer:  Asger Harding Granerud, Daniel Skjold Pedersen

Year: 2019

Bloom Town comes from the pairing of designers  Asger Harding GranerudDaniel Skjold Pedersen - two names that are becoming synonymous with some great gateway games. Perhaps their most popular so far has been the racing game Flamme Rouge, but with Copenhagen, Deep Blue and Bloom Town all released in 2019 - they're really making a name for themselves. Bloom Town is their first game that's been published by their own board game publishing company, Sidekick Games.

It's a quick 20-30 minute game that we managed to try for the first time at Essen 2019. As a fast game, at least four games were being played simultaneously at their booth and it was easy to play a full game with a very short rules explanation. Bloom Town is a tile-laying and city building game for 1-4 players, that has you building up neighbourhoods of offices, houses, shops, subway stations and parks in the name of earning points.


Gameplay

Bloom Town tasks players with creating a productive and pleasant new town by laying tiles in a 5x5 grid. Each player will have 2 tiles in their hand at any moment in time. On their turn they will place one of those two tiles anywhere on the board and score the tile according to its building type. They then take a new tile from the section of the market that matches the symbol on the space they placed their tile onto. The market is then refilled and it's the next player's turn.


Each building type scores differently: Offices score for being in large vertical/horizontal lines, Houses want to be surrounded by different buildings, Subway stations score for being in diagonal lines, Parks want to be in clumps and Shops want to be surrounded by two specific building types depending on the products they sell. Building your town efficiently will let you get highly rewarding buildings, but there's also a chance to re-score every building type ones per game. Each building type has 2 tiles hidden in the 5 market stacks that lets it score a second time. When both of these tiles have been revealed everyone gains points for the relevant building again.

There are also green blooming squares on the board. These are the nicest plots in town and reward you suitably. When you build on one of these tiles you have a choice: you can either score the tile you placed twice or you can take a second turn immediately. In addition each player has a 1 use token that can be used at any time to for the same thing, or to replace one of the two needed re-scoring tiles should you want to make a building type score early. The game will end once three of the market stacks have run dry at which point each player chooses one of the two building tiles lest in their hand and re-scores all buildings of the associated type before final scores are revealed and a winner crowned.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Bloom Town isn't the first game that tasks you to build a city in a square grid and I doubt it will be the last. What is quite unusual is that you shouldn't expect to have a complete city by the end of the game. You are lucky if you fill much more than half the spaces on your board. This means that you don't get that moment where you are desperately hoping for the perfect tile to fill your last space and maximise your score. However the way the buildings all score uniquely means that you instead get this multiple times. Particularly when you are placing a well placed house or shop and getting the full points, on  a bloom space to double it. You still get that feeling, it's just not reserved for the endgame!


There isn't anything mold-breaking in this game, but while the mechanics might not be new they are perfectly combined. Most of the buildings score based on the quantity of them which you have to encourage you to focus on a specific strategy. But a few others reward you be being erratic in your placements to balance that out. the open market means that you can see what buildings are available based on where you build, which means you may have to choose between placing your current building in the best space, or building it in a sub-optimal location in order to get the tile you want for next turn. Meanwhile you are always on the clock waiting for those re-score tiles to appear. Once the second scoring has passed for a particular building type those buildings are more or less worth half as many points, so even a dedicated strategy might need to bend with the changing board situation.

If I do have a grumble it's the art style. They have gone for a coloured in sketch style which actually looks pretty nice when you look closely at the buildings. But since the area around the buildings, and the surrounding town board, is a stark white, what you end up with is a mostly white board that with careful time and planning you can change into... a slightly less white board. The game is called Bloom Town, give me some colour, on the board, on the tiles, somewhere! Aside from that it's a very good, simple, game.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

Bloom Town is a simple game. It has very clear rules that can be taught in just a couple of minutes, so long as you leave the scoring reference sheet on the table. In principal you're selecting tiles and placing them to try and make the most points, but since the placement of tiles and selection of your next tile are so interlinked, you're actually trying to weave together a chain and create a series of moves - something that reminds me a lot of the game Reef - another game that I love. Perhaps on a first play, newer players might not realise the need to plan so far in advance and visualise their future moves and use of space on the grid, but when they do, there's hopefully a delightful 'A-Ha' moment.

Bloom Town is perhaps most easy to compare to Quadropolis - a 2016 release from Days of Wonder. For me, Bloom Town is a simpler game, that I'd introduce someone to before Quadropolis, or play when I had less time available. In both games you're trying to play out a town to gain optimal points, but the drafting and tile selection mechanism in Bloom Town is far simpler and less restrictive. I've sometimes been torn on a decision, but never completely stuck for a good option or an interesting way to alter my strategy.

Bloom Town has just enough to engage me as a gamer. It's certainly in the territory of a filler game, but it's definitely one we intend to come back to again and again. The decisions you make about how to use your blooming spaces to best effect, as well as the specialisation you do in order to get a good end game score, just give it a little bit extra, over what could've been a more simple and ultimately boring game. Bloom Town is elegant and really quite the perfect design and I'd highly recommend it.


You Might Like...
  • The way that tile placement and tile drafting have been combined is really elegant and gives satisfying decisions.
  • The scoring really ramps up in a fun way over the course of the game.
  • 'Take a tile, place a tile, score points' is wonderfully simple to teach.
You Might Not Like...
  • The art style is very charming, but quite stark, with a lot of white space.
  • Bloom Town doesn't break the mold, but it does what it does very well.

The Verdict
8/10 Bloom Town is a really solid, entry level city building game. It's simpler and cleaner than similar games, like Quadropolis, but the drafting and tile placement is a very elegant and distinct mechanism. Bloom Town feels like a staple gateway game, that we'd be very happy to keep revisiting and using to introduce people to board games. With a short play time of just 20-30 minutes too, it has a really strong, classic feel that I hope gets it some attention among other introductory titles.


Bloom Town was a review copy kindly provided to us by Sidekick Games.

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