(2013 - Z-Man Games)
The drafting mechanic in board games is certainly nothing groundbreaking at today’s table. Games such as Ticket to Ride, Dominion, and 7 Wonders have ingrained themselves into the community whilst popularizing the card drafting mechanic. As with anything in the industry, it’s neat to watch how mechanics develop, how they are elaborated upon and borrowed in unique and various ways by designers over the years. It’s one aspect of board game history that I enjoy the most.
It wasn’t long ago that Stefan Feld began to design games that used dice in action-oriented ways as opposed to simply for movement or values. 2012’s big hit, Seasons (designed by Regis Bonnessee) took this idea and combined it with the drafting mechanic, normally confined to card games, and brought forth a wonderful unique experience. Up and coming designer, Yves Tourigny integrates this dice-drafting idea into his new game entitled Blueprints, using different types of dice as various building materials, where players attempt to build structures out of these dice, and will score differently depending on their placement.
- Blueprints Scoring Track w/ Scoring Markers
- Dice representing Wood (orange), Stone (black), Recycled Materials (green), and Glass (clear)
- Blueprint cards
- Prize cards
- Gold, Silver, and Bronze Award cards
- Player Screens
- Cloth Bag
In Blueprints, players take the role of architects completing different design projects while competing amongst themselves for various industry prizes based on their work. At the beginning of each Round, players will receive a blueprint that lays out the design and plans for a particular building. Using available materials made of wood, stone, glass, and recycled materials (all in the form of dice) players will attempt to construct a building based of their blueprint.
Completing an exact replica of the building will score an architect bonus points, though players can also score points when branching away from the plan and being more creative with their construction. In this way, players can earn prizes for the tallest building, for using almost all of the same type of materials, for the most geometrically creative (building includes all dice values of 1 - 6), or even for the most structurally intact building (using 4 or more dice of the same value). The placement of materials is also essential, as dice will score differently according to where they are placed.
Points are scored according to how well the architect did with constructing their building. At the end of each Round, Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awards are handed out depending on which architects scored the most points for that Round. At the end of the third Round, players will add points from their Awards and the Prizes they‘ve collected. The architect with the most Victory Points is declared the winner.
Before the game can begin, players must choose a player color and corresponding player screen. The player screen will provide an area for players to secretly construct their buildings so that their opponents won’t have knowledge of their plans. Each player screen provides a breakdown of how each material scores at the end of a Round depending on its placement (I’ll cover how each scores a bit later).
There are 8 dice of each type of material that can be used in the construction of buildings; Wood (orange), Stone (black), Recycled Materials (green), and Glass (clear). All of these dice are placed into the Cloth Bag, which will be used to draw materials into a community supply throughout the Round.
A Scoring marker for each player is placed next to the Scoring Track. This will be used to determine which players will obtain the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awards at the end of each Round. Before the beginning of each Round, a dice is randomly drawn from the bag and placed on the #1 demand space of the scoring track. Then another dice is randomly drawn and placed on the #2 demand space. If the 2nd dice drawn is the same color as the 1st, it is placed back in the bag and another dice is drawn until it is a different material than the 1st. These dice will help break ties when resolving Awards and Prizes.
Prize cards are separated into the 4 different types and placed near the side of the play area. The Gold, Silver, and Bronze Award cards are also placed here. Note that in a 4 player game, all Award card types are used. In a 3 player game, only Gold and Silver Award cards are used. And in a 2 player game, only the Silver Award cards are used.
Finally, all of the Blueprint cards are shuffled and each player receives one of these Blueprints, placing it secretly behind their player screen. Each Blueprint card references areas that can not be built upon (scratched out areas) and areas that can be built upon (numbered areas). After all players have received their Blueprint, Round 1 can begin. At the end of the setup, the game should look something like this:
A game of Blueprints consist of three Rounds. Each Round being split up into 3 main phases; the Supply Phase, the Construction Phase, and the Reward Phase.
Supply Phase - During the initial phase of the game, materials are added to a community supply for players to collect from on their turn. A number of dice are randomly drawn from the bag, and rolled for their values. The number of dice added to this supply is dependent on the number of players in the game:
- In a 4-player game, 7 dice are added to the supply.
- In a 3-player game, 9 dice are added to the supply.
- In a 2-player game, 8 dice are added to the supply.
Construction Phase - Once the required amount of dice have been added to the supply, players can start to use them for their buildings. On a player’s turn, he can choose 1 dice and place it on his Blueprint card. Remember that dice may not be placed in any space on the Blueprint card that is scratched out. These spaces are off-limits. However, numbered spaces on the card can be built on, and reference how many dice need to be placed on the space in order to complete the Blueprint as designed.
For instance, looking at Player A’s Blueprint card above, the building’s design calls for 1 dice in the top right corner, as well as another dice on the space below it. The middle-leftmost space calls for 3 dice stacked on top of each other, and a final dice on the bottom left corner. Although the player does not have to necessarily stick to the Blueprint, these are the only four spaces of the card in which he could place his materials. The scratched out spaces at the top left and bottom right are off limits for this card.
When placing a material onto a Blueprint space, there are a few restrictions that will apply. Any valued Die can be placed onto an empty Blueprint space. However, any Dice that is placed on top of it must either be of equal or greater value than the Dice below it. This is important when deciding which valued Die to pull from the supply during your turn.
Player A has previously placed a 4 valued Glass dice, and a 2 valued Wood dice onto his Blueprint. On his next turn he decides to take a 3 valued Glass dice from the supply. He would be allowed to place this material on any available empty space of the Blueprint card (except for the scratched out spaces), as well as on top of the Wood material. However, he could not place it on top of the other Glass material, because its value is higher than the Glass dice he is placing.
After a player has chosen a dice from the supply and placed it on their Blueprint card behind their screen, they will then draw another dice from the bag, roll it for its value, and place it into the supply. The only variation to this is in a 2-player game, where on a player’s turn, he will select a dice, place it onto his Blueprint card, then choose another dice from the supply and discard a dice from the round. He will then draw 2 new dice from the bag and roll them for their value. Play continues until all players have placed their final 6th dice onto their Blueprint.
Reward Phase - After construction is complete, players will reveal their building from behind their screens and total up their points to gain potential awards as well as special prizes depending on how their designs were built. Gold (3 points), Silver (2 points), and Bronze (1 point) Awards are handed out to players depending on the total amount of points their building is worth at the end of a particular Round. These building points are kept track of on the Blueprints Scoring track.
- The player that gains the most points according to their building receives the Gold Award
- The player that gains the 2nd most points receives the Silver Award
- The player that gains the 3rd most points receives the Bronze Award
- The last place player receives no Award for this Round.
As mentioned before, in a 3-player game, only the Gold and Silver Awards are used for 1st and 2nd place, while in a 2-player game, only the Silver Awards is used for 1st place.
Let’s take a brief look at how these points are scored and totaled. Each type of dice (material) is scored in a specialized and unique way:
Wood materials are scored individually, and are based off of materials that are directly adjacent to the die’s facings. For every facing of the Wood dice that is directly touching another dice, that particular Wood dice will score 2 points.
Taking a look at the above example, there are two Wood materials used for this completed building. The Wood dice in the lower middle portion has 3 facings that are directly adjacent to other dice. The other Wood dice on the 2nd floor of the building has 1 facings that is directly adjacent to another dice. Therefore, this buildings would score a total of 8 points (6 + 2) for its Wood materials.
Stone materials are scored individually, and are based on how high the material is located on the building itself. Since there are only 6 dice used for each building, the tallest any building can be is 6 floors.
- If a Stone material is used on the 1st floor, it is worth 2 points.
- If a Stone material is used on the 2nd floor, it is worth 3 points.
- If a Stone material is used on the 3rd floor, it is worth 5 points.
- If a Stone material is used on the 4th, 5th, or 6th floor, it is worth 8 points.
The following building contains two Stone dice. One of the dice is located on the 2nd floor, while the other Stone dice is located on the 3rd floor. Therefore, this building would score 8 total points (3 + 5) for its Stone materials.
Recycled materials are scored as one unit, and are solely based on the total number of Recycled dice that make up a building.
- Having 1 Recycled material is worth 2 points.
- Having 2 Recycled materials is worth 5 points.
- Having 3 Recycled materials is worth 10 points.
- Having 4 Recycled materials is worth 15 points.
- Having 5 Recycled materials is worth 20 points.
- Having 6 Recycled materials is worth 30 points.
The next player has constructed the following building with 3 Recycled material dice. Since these are scored as a single unit and not individually, the building would score 10 total points for its Recycled materials.
Finally, Glass materials are scored individually, and are based on the actual face value of the dice itself. These individual values are totaled for the awarded amount.
For example, the following building contains three Glass materials with values of 6, 3, and 4. Therefore, this building would score 13 total points for its Glass materials.
After all types of materials have been scored and totaled on the Scoring Track, the Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards are handed out, based on which place on the track they have finished. Included in this total is a 6 point bonus if any player was able to build an exact replica of the design on the Blueprint card they were given. After earning Awards, players can also win Prizes based on their constructions.
There are 4 different types of Prizes, all of which are worth 2 points each. Only 1 type of each Prize is awarded to players each Round if they have met certain criteria. Although a player is able to win multiple prizes during a single Round. If there is a tie amongst players when resolving Awards and Prizes, players will reference the demand spaces on the Scoring track. Amongst the tied players, the one with the most materials in their building that match the type of material in the #1 demand tile will break the tie in their favor. If still tied, the #2 demand space is referenced.
- The Skyscraper prize is awarded to the player that has built the tallest building.
- The Materials prize is awarded to the player that has at least 5 or more of the same material in their building.
The Structural Integrity prize is awarded to the player that has at least 4 or more dice that have the same face value.
- The Geometer’s prize is awarded to the player that has all face values of 1-6 represented on their building.
After Awards and Prizes have been distributed and gathered, the Scoring Track is reset for the next Round. Players return all dice to the bag and receive new Blueprint cards. The first 2 dice are drawn from the bag for the demand spaces, and the a new Round begins with the Supply Phase. After the end of 3 Rounds, players will total the amount of points found on the Award and Prize cards they’ve collected. The architect with the highest number of points wins the game.
For many, Blueprints will fill the role of a great filler. It is simple to teach, easy for new gamers to learn, and plays in under 30 minutes. A great filler however, is one that evokes these characteristics in addition to including some depth and strategy. At first glance, it would be easy to pay attention solely to your own blueprint and focus on how to earn the most points. Do you take the 6 bonus points for completing a structure to exact design, or are there ways in which you can gain more points by being creative?
This would be a neat game in of itself if that was all there was, however, the real strategy here is trying to figure out what your opponent is planning by focusing on what types of dice they are collecting. Scores tend to be quite tight every Round, ranging on average from 25-30 (at least in the games I’ve played), so it is quite valuable to try to figure out what your opponents are doing. If you can snag a dice that you know they need, it could very well put you in front and gain you the Gold Award. Since the only point scored at the end of the game are from earned Award and Prize cards, games will be very close, and going to tiebreakers is not uncommon. The addition of Prizes is a clever supplement and good design decision. Players will need to balance between scoring overall points for an Award and attempting to gain a Prize, with the goal of gaining both during a Round. May times however, players will be forced to choose between which direction they want to go. It might not sound too hard, but with the use of only 6 dice per Round, each decision can be critical.
With its simplicity and quick play, Blueprints doesn’t pretend to be something its not. While it may not be the main focus of a game night, it fits the mold of a filler game quite well. It is quick to set up, has a good foundation of strategy mixed with tough decision-making, and is one that fans of the drafting mechanic should find interesting.
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