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Subject: Are you taking the P*ss? rss

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Matt
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That's my perp! Futsie, all right - crazy as a coot! He's got to be stopped!
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I’ll start this review with a little self indulgence as it happens to my 50th, but this is not all; in a few days I will earn my five years veteran badge, and, most significantly, I am only a couple of competition loses away from claiming a "I've entered over 100 BGG Contests and all I got was this lousy Microbadge” microbadge.

If I have learnt anything over the past five years it is that choosing board games is often like ordering pizza. You look at the menu, get carried away and go for a whole bunch of toppings. Then, with mouth watering and belly grumbling you wait with your nose pressed against the window for your customised delicacy to arrive. At long last it is in your hands, you tear open the box, sink you teeth into a slice and you taste buds are assailed by a host of contrasting flavours. This is wonderful, you think, congratulating yourself on your culinary creativity. However, after another couple of bites your overwhelmed taste buds start begging for mercy, your tortured belly groans in revolt – and you begin wistfully eying up your dining partner’s Margherita.

According to Lonely Planet “Brussels is a city of fine food, café culture, Art Nouveau architecture and the surreal. If ever a city could claim split personality, it’s Brussels. French versus Flemish, historic versus hip, bizarre versus boring” .

According to Pearl Games “Bruxelles 1893 is a worker placement game with elements of bidding and majority control. Each player is an architect of the late 19th century and is trying to achieve through various actions, an architectural work in the Art Nouveau style”

But, of course, neither can we forget chocolates, sprouts and the Manneken Pis. You know, the small bronze statue of a peeing boy, who even makes a guest appearance in the game in the guise of the start player token. There are numerous legends concerning the statue. Some say it is inspired by an infant Duke Godfrey III of Leuven who peed on his enemies from a suspended basket. Others say it is a boy named Julianske who spied enemies of the city preparing explosive charges and urinated on the burning fuse, thus saved the city. Another legend tells of a young boy who was awoken by a fire and was able to put it out with his urine, preventing the king's castle from burning down.

So, back to the game, let’s have a look at the multitude of toppings in a bit more detail. The main Art Nouveau gameboard is a modular grid on which players place workers and pay bids in order to take the related action. These actions involve buying and selling paintings, hiring patrons, acquiring building materials and constructing buildings. At the end of the round the player who bid the most coins in each column of the grid gets the benefits of a corresponding bonus card. But that is not all, the grid is also split into a series of two-squares-by-two squares sub-grids and players earn bonus points if they have the majority of their workers in each of these smaller areas. So, in this one small part of the game alone, we have worker placement, auctions and area control.

On occasion, the statue is hooked up to a keg of beer. Glasses of beer are then given out to people passing by.

Players can build houses in the grid by using materials that they have acquired as long as they match those that are currently indicated by a compass dial. These requirements change as each building is constructed. This means that you will have to plan ahead, looking at what your opponents can build and when in order to ensure that you have the correct materials at the correct time. These buildings not only score points but give the owner a Caylus-style bonus whenever an opponent places a worker in a space already containing another players building.

The statue is dressed in costume several times each week, according to a published schedule. His wardrobe consists of several hundred different costumes

Another example of how one simple action has a multitude of knock-on effects is how the sections of the grid available each turn will depend upon a randomly drawn card which gives the starting player the opportunity to choose from a set of two sets of coordinates which establishes which section of the grid will be active. So the starting player will maybe have the opportunity to limit the available actions, isolate opponents’ buildings and have some say with regards to which cards will be auctioned.

We should also mention the neat mechanism for selling paintings on the art market. There's a square on a grid that can be shifted a number of spots depending on how many different types of art you have. Where the colour of the art piece you're selling ends up on the square determines its value in coins and VPs.

But just as you head begins spinning there is yet more. You can enlist the help of various patrons (as these are real people it would have been nice to have some biographical information about these guys). These patrons give you the ability to use their special actions (such as rescuing workers from protracted court cases), either as a one time use or you can keep them permanently, but you have to pay them off at the end of the game.

If that wasn't enough, instead of placing workers on the main Art Nouveau board you can place them on the Brussels board. Placing workers here does not cost money, but on the flip shade lots of shady shenanigans go on here so there is a chance that your workers will get tied up in lengthy court cases and you will be unable to use them on future turns. The type of actions that you can perform here include using the stock exchange to make money, visiting the Grand Plaza to make use of a patrons special action, getting hold of some cheap building materials and using one of the five previously discussed Art Nouveau board actions.

Although the Manneken Pis in Brussels is the best-known, others exist. There is an ongoing dispute over which Manneken Pis is the oldest - the one in Brussels or the one in Geraardsbergen

Bruxelles 1893, is a very accomplished design from first time game designer Etienne Espreman. On the face of it his intention of throwing in everything apart form the kitchen sink may have backfired horribly, but because the individual parts are so well intertwined he manages to pull it all together with some style. Just trying to write this review highlights how difficult it is to give a clear breakdown of the game as everything is interrelated and in explaining one aspect it is inevitable that you will get side-tracked into having to explain something else. This means that learning and explaining the game is quite difficult, although once you have a basic understanding of the mechanics you will realise that the game is not as complex or confusing as initial impressions suggest.

One very positive point is that the game plays very nicely with two, and in under an hour. The board scales in size depending on the number of players, also in a two player game each player will get to place a neutral worker, thus blocking two spaces. All in all an elegant and painless way of tightening things when playing with two.

Since 1987, the Manneken has had a female equivalent, Jeanneke Pis

There are however a few problems, the tiny paintings, compass segments and barely readable iconography on the player boards makes for a game that feels just a bit too fiddly. Also there is just so much going on that at the end of the game you are often left wondering just what you did well and how you could have done better.

Bruxelles reminds me in many ways of Pearl Games previous release Troyes. It shares the wonderfully distinctive artwork of Alexandre Roche and both games have a rather chaotic and disjointed feel that shouldn’t end up being even half as enjoyable as it actually is. The mechanics make sense thematically and, in theory at least, there are many paths to victory (although I need a lot more plays before I can comment on issues of balance)

Overall, a terrific game with some bold design decisions, it could probably benefit from being a little more streamlined, as it lacks that clean classic feel - more a solid eight than a timeless ten.

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Mark O'Reilly
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Brilliantly written review Matt! - love the pizza references.

I wonder how many other games have the mannekin pis in them?

I only know of 7 Wonders, first as a promo wonder board and card and later an updated version in the wonder pack.

Are there any other games that take the pis?
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Nathan Clegg
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Futsie wrote:
Since 1987, the Manneken has had a female equivalent, Jeanneke Pis
What, no love for the Zinneke Pis?
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Is that a Golden Shower?
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Lutz Pietschker
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moramis wrote:
What, no love for the Zinneke Pis?

Sure:

In place since 1998, that's probably why it makes no appearance in the game.
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Wade Broadhead
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Really nice review style and enjoyed the read, thank you. I really disliked this game at BGG.Con and your minor issues were major ones to us, and have no desire to even retry the game, but I'm glad someone can give it "8" love.
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Stephane Bassiaux
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As a resident of Brussels, I absolutely love your review

And since I'm a friend of the designer, I'll definitely tell Etienne to read it
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Stephane Bassiaux
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PunTheHun wrote:
moramis wrote:
What, no love for the Zinneke Pis?

Sure:

In place since 1998, that's probably why it makes no appearance in the game.


And this one is not that far from where I live.
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Mark Gerrits
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Pearl Games briefly looked into having a little metal Manneken Pis statuette (like you can buy in many tourist shops) as the first player marker.
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Matt
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Thanks for the comments.

I have promised to take my wife to Brussels someday, maybe I will treat her to a statuette
 
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Stephane Bassiaux
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You'll find thousands of them in the souvenir shops
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Lutz Pietschker
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Wraith75 wrote:
You'll find thousands of them in the souvenir shops

Probably millions. In any conceivable size, colour and material.
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Stephane Bassiaux
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A sample sample : https://www.google.be/search?q=manneken+pis+souvenir&client=...
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I suspect there are more statuettes than actual Belgians
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Stephane Bassiaux
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enoon wrote:
I suspect there are more statuettes than actual Belgians


Hey, easy one there, there's only 11 million of us
 
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Wraith75 wrote:
enoon wrote:
I suspect there are more statuettes than actual Belgians


Hey, easy one there, there's only 11 million of us


Talking statuettes or Belgians?
 
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Stephane Bassiaux
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Hmmm, do I sound like a talking statuette ?

Anyway, Manneken Pis has always been silent.
 
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Lutz Pietschker
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Wraith75 wrote:
Do I sound like a talking statuette?

How would I know? I never met one. devil
 
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