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, 10 February 2021

The Game Shelf Previews:- Buru

Game: Buru

Publisher: Crafty Games

Designer: Stephen Selego, Alex Flagg, Taran Lewis Kratz

Year: 2021



Buru is the next game coming to Kickstarter from Crafty Games, who recently funded with Dollars to Donuts - a tile laying game we enjoyed quite a bit. Buru is a game for 1-4 players that combines a clever bidding mechanism with engine building and resource management in a wonderfully colourful setting. That setting is 14th Century Indonesia, where you will play as nobles exploring a new island, trading and paying respects to the gods. 

Buru is coming to Kickstarter in early 2021.

Gameplay

Buru takes place over the course of five rounds. In each round, two bonus tiles will be placed on their relevant areas, giving rewards to the player who wins in that area, before the round begins with the first player. Each player has five double-sided workers, with faces on one side and numbered 1-5 on the reverse. In player order each player will place one worker face down in one of the four different locations. This will repeat until each player has placed four workers, you may place more than one worker in the same location if you wish. Once four workers have been placed the remaining fifth worker will be sent fishing, gaining that player a number of fish based on the number of that worker.

Then locations will activated in order, when a location is activated all workers on that location are flipped over. The player with the highest sum of their worker's numbers in a location will win the location (first player marker winning ties), gaining the favour of the related god and giving them first pick for that locations action. The forest generates resources, with the first player getting first pick over which resource card to take. The Shore is the next location. Here players can gain new villagers by spending fish, with the first player getting more chances to buy villagers and a chance to refresh the market. These villagers have a variety of different actions, but generally help you gain resources or points when activated. However villagers do need to be activated, which is done at the next location, The Village. The winner of the village will be able to activate up to three of their villagers, gaining the related bonuses. With each subsequent player getting fewer activations.


Finally the sacred lake is activated, this location doesn't have a related god, but instead offers one point to the winner. Here players can make offerings to the three gods of the island, as well as recruit elders, the winner is able to make more offerings and recruit an elder, while later players will get fewer offerings and/or won't be able to recruit an elder. Elders are free to recruit and offer an end game scoring opportunity, such as having enough of a certain type of villager or having a lot of brick left over. When you make an offering to a god you must spend the requested resources in order to gain a god card which is worth a number of points at the end of the game. In addition the player who currently has the favour of that go will earn one bonus point every time the related god is offered a tribute. At the end of round five, any points from elders and god cards are added to your score to determine the winner.


Amy’s Final Thoughts
 
Buru is a game that constantly has you trying to predict your opponent, or simply decide what is important to yourself, at any one time. Do you spread your workers in order to activate all four locations? Or do you condense your workers in order to guarantee first pick where it really counts? How many fish do you need this round, can you afford to use your five, a near guaranteed win, to go fishing, or are you best using it to dominate a location? The great thing about Buru is the answer to these questions changes constantly. Some rounds the resources available at the forest will all be good/bad and so it barely matters who wins and you'll get something. But other rounds there can be a single good card, in which case you either have to win, or not try at all. On top of this the two random bonuses each round, and which gods you plan to give tribute to can really change your choices. Don't underestimate the power of gaining a bonus point for every time your opponent gives tribute!

There's a lot of player interaction, and the game is hugely dynamic, Buru is not a game that you can approach with a set game plan and expect to enact that flawlessly. But it also feels incredibly rewarding when things go well, everything can simply fall into place. The fish you catch lets you get the villager you wanted from the shore, which lets you make the resources you need at the village to worship the god you won the favour of at the lake. Conversely when things go wrong your plan is slowed, but not entirely thwarted. You might not get the villager you wanted, but you can still get one, and you may only get two activation of those villagers instead of three. Which means you don't have enough stuff to worship this round, but you still have stuff, and there's always next round. So perhaps you instead get the first player marker so you win those crucial ties, or get and elder and see about getting those bonus points? Even when you fail you can still achieve something which goes a long way to making the game fun.

While this keeps frustration during game at a minimum, it can lead to a surprise result at the end of the game when you realise that all those minor losses you endured added up. Never is this more true than when you lose a location because you tied with the player who has the first player marker. These ties are extremely painful as you've ended up losing without the other player having to commit their stronger workers to defeat you. Which in turn means it's more likely to happen later. Taking the first player marker comes at a cost of not gaining any elders and only being able to worship once that round, but it can be the difference between winning and losing. 

Overall Buru is a great game that encourages you to play differently each time you play. For a blind bidding style game it worked fantastically at two players. We were treated to a pair of mini expansions along with this preview copy which further enhance the replay-ability by adding new gods to worship. Both were definite enhancements to the game which only further expended your options as you play.  Each expansion also came with one of the game's huge meeples, which ensure you always know who has the favour of which god! I greatly enjoyed my time with Buru and strongly recommend you check it out when it hits Kickstarter later this year!

  
Fi’s Final Thoughts

Bidding mechanisms in games are often a turn-off for me. Not only is it rare to find a game that successfully manages bidding with two players, but I also don't enjoy trying to out-think my opponents in the way that bidding tries to force you to do. Buru is completely successful on both counts though! When you place a token at a location, you always get a chance to take an action, it's just the power of that action that is affected. Sometimes you might not even want the strongest version of the action and that can definitely influence how you bid, spending one of your weaker tokens at that location. Most of the time I feel quite in control of my success, although a bad run of draws can be a bit of a downer. In multi-player games I'm sure it's a little more chaotic!


This core mechanism of bidding feeds a game that is mainly about resource management, with a little engine building thrown in. As you add different villagers to your tableau it's fun to identify fun combinations as well as get those little boosts to your resource pool. Having cards that trigger activation of other cards and give you points might feel really great during the game and give you a big in-game lead, but if you're not collecting resources and devoting them to the one or multiple gods in each round, then you're in for a big surprise at end game scoring. I always feel like there's something constructive I can do on my turn, but sometimes it's just not enough if another player has got a great engine going.

Buru manages to pull off two of the more subtle elements that make me really enjoy a game. Firstly, every move is important, positive and feels like I've made a contribution to my overall strategy - I'm hardly ever compromising or having a wasted turn. Secondly, I'm never unsure of the next target I'm working towards. Whether it's working towards my end game objective cards, or building up resources to have an efficient turn when I worship the gods, there's always something on the horizon that I want to do next, guiding me through the game.

Buru is not only a very satisfying game to play, it looks like it's going to be a beautiful one, that should find an audience with both gamers and families, looking for a quick playing, but thinky game with lots of non-aggressive player interaction.

You Might Like...
  • The balance on in-game and end-game points often makes the final winner really hard to predict during the game.
  • It's a nice surprise that a game with a bidding mechanic works extremely well for two players.
  • The expansion content includes many nice additions that don't overcomplicate the game and blend in seamlessly.
You Might Not Like...
  • Losing ties on multiple occasions can really grind you down
  • It's sometimes pretty hard to see exactly where you went wrong when you lose by a considerable margin.

The Verdict
Buru is a very satisfying game to play. The combination of simple wooden tokens as your playing pieces, along with the impressive chunky meeples gives the game quite a classic feel, and the bidding gameplay echoes that simplicity and elegance. There are a number of paths to victory that are fun to explore, and the addition of expansion content adds even more variety to each game. Buru is a pretty light euro game, but one that should satisfy both gamers and a family audience.


Buru was a prototype copy kindly provided to us by Crafty Games for an unpaid preview. It will be coming to Kickstarter in Q1 2021.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for your kind words, Fiona! We really appreciate the review!

    ReplyDelete
  2. We encourage you to repost this over on BGG. Here's the game page...

    https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/316312/buru

    Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  3. And for those who read this and would like more information, here are the other places you can go...

    burugame.com

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/buruboardgame

    https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgameexpansion/329675/buru-ambelau

    Thanks for your support!

    ReplyDelete