Brides & Bribes by SpaceBalloon Games,
Reviewed by Jason Elliott from PaladinElliott Productions
What are the recommendations for this game?
Number of players: 3-5 Players
Time of game: 60-90 minutes (this can vary due to players learning the game)
Age recommendation: 12 and up
The back story:
This game transports you back to 16th Century Genoa, Italy (during the Renaissance), where families seek greater importance by arranging influential marriages, gaining influence, collecting wealth, and hiring workers. You will lead your family (choosing from Malabita, Granara, Foglietta, Carretto, and Oliva) and attempt to gain dowries and influence from ladies in waiting across the Cities' boroughs. You will pay attention to delegations (loyal members of your family) that need to be sent out across the Cities' boroughs, while at the same time competing with other players doing the same thing. If you do get a bride, you will need to safeguard against your betrothed being poisoned or assassinated! You will need to convince a lord of borough that you wield enough influence, and then convince the bride of your wealth, to secure your place in history. Use everything you have and acquire to its fullest, and don't be afraid to undermine other players attempts at being the most influential family in Genoa!
What comes in the game? (this was based off of my print and play copy)
1 Rule Book
1 Game Round Book
1 Game Board (the city will be divided into five boroughs, denoted by colors red, blue, green, yellow, and black)
5 player residence boards (following the same colors denoted in the five boroughs)
24 workshop cards (these are the businesses you will need) and are broken into Apothecaries, Hospitals, Taverns, Jewelers, Notaries, and Tailor Shops (4 of each)
32 object cards (item cards) and are made up of 8 poisons, 7 antidotes, 5 wines, 4 rings, 4 Doge's Edicts, and 4 Luxury suits
69 Character tiles that are made up of 5 Lords, 7 First Brides, 7 Second Brides, 20 Loyal Characters, and
30 Common Characters (these Common Characters will be divided into groups of six characters for each of the five boroughs)
55 Workers (meeples) that are 11 of each in the colors of the five boroughs
16 Coaches (these are what the delegations travel in) 3 of each of the five colors, and the 16th is a white coach to designate the first player token
15 Influence Tokens
42 Ducato Coins
10 Player Markers, where 5 of them would be cylinders (one of each color) to mark the Doge's Favor and
5 of them (one of each color) mark your influence on the influence track
What is the end game objective? What am I striving for?
You will want to be the one with the highest influence if the game goes all six rounds. Otherwise you will want to be the one to reach the game winning influence first (this will vary based on the number of players). You will need obtain workers, who build your buildings and grant you additional items and support commons folk to help you gain influence, money and abilities. These items and common folk can help sway the marriage attempt, or thwart other player's attempts! You will need to capture influence wherever you can to get you to the victory threshold (20 influence points if there are 4 or 5 players, 25 influence points if there are 3 players, or otherwise whoever is highest at the end of the 6th round).
Remember these are the following ways to collect your influence (victory) points to win:
-have a successful arranged marriage to a first wife (make sure you pay attention to bonuses)
-have a successful arranged marriage to a second wife (make sure you pay attention to bonuses)
-collect influence from a borough
-gain influence due to workers building a workshop
-every 5 Ducato you have at the end is worth 1 influence
How do I set the game up? Where is that leading me to?
You will need to make sure you get acquainted with locations on the board, and your families' board. You will first have the boroughs, Village (yellow), Fortress (red), Citadel (blue), Market (green),and the Port (black). You must remember that no matter what, the Port must be used in every game. You also have the Influence scoring track just below the Village, the Doge's Favor track just above the Port, and the Distant Colonies (Ships sailing to and from the Port).
Then you will look at the breakdown of the Borough (I will be speaking in terms of looking at a borough), with the Lord symbol at the top left (going left to right), the First Bride's bonus Influence, the Second Bride's bonus Influence, the symbol of the Borough. Moving down slightly and going from left to right again, The Lord placement area, then the First Bride area, the Second Bride area, the Workers Placement area, the Influence token area, the Ducato token area, and the area to place the stack of 6 Commons, and then below is where you will place your Carriages with your Delegations.
You will want to pay attention to Prestige values (to convince Lords to allow the marriage- Shield values), and Charm values (to convince the Bride to accept the marriage-Gem values). You will need to meet or exceed these values. You will be able to add to your attempted values through Common Characters, Items, and sacrificing Influence and/or Coins at a 1 to 1 ratio (whatever you are short). Then the other players who have sent Delegations to that same Borough will be allowed to attempt to break the marriage by influencing the values, poisoning, and assassination. You will be allowed to try to prevent, and respond to these threats, depending on who and what you have sent with the Delegation, versus who and what the opponents Delegations have brought with them.
If your marriage is successful then you reap the bonuses, and dowry. If you don't then you still get to respond again last in the turn order for that Borough. So, you may have been thwarted, but you are not entirely knocked out. If your marriage is a success you will have married off one of your loyal family, and will no longer be able to use that Character for the rest of the game (or until the marriage is dissolved through an assassination or poisoning), so always think about what will be your best move for the most Influence points.
Now that you have considered these things you can study the setup proper.
Have the game out, make the sure someone is playing black, as the Port. The other players may choose any of the other Boroughs. Place on each Borough in play one of its color workers, one Ducato, and one Influence token. Then you will want to sort the Common Characters by borough, shuffle each borough's deck so that the order is random, and place them face down in the appropriate borough. Then flip the top one up as it will be common knowledge (throughout the game, the top one will always be common knowledge).
Special Note: At the Port Borough (Black) the top Common Character to start the game will be an Assassin. This is only to start the game!
You will assign at random a Lord (1 Lord for each player and then add a Prestige Value 3 Lord into the shuffle) to each in play Borough. Then shuffle the Brides that have Charm values of 8, 9, and 10 and draw at random one for each in play First Bride position. Then shuffle the Brides that have Charm values of 5, 6, and 7 and draw at random one for each in play Second Bride position.
You will place your cylinder marker at zero on the Influence track. You will place your player disc marker at random on the Doge's favor track. Get your piles of Influence tokens, all five colors of workers, and Ducato coins close to the board. Get your Workshop cards separated into their stacks by the board with the lowest Influence value at the bottom of the stack and then the highest at the top (so the first person to build that Workshop gets the most influence and so on), and below them, separate the Items cards into their respective stacks.
Here is the details on those Workshops:
Apothecary, makes Poison, you spend 1 Green Worker, 1 Yellow Worker, and 1 Black Worker to build the Workshop. You spend 1 coin there to make a poison (gain that card). This is important to poison another player's potential bride.
Hospital, makes Antidote, you spend 1 Green Worker, 1 Yellow Worker, 1 Red Worker, and 1 Blue Worker to build it. You spend 1 coin there to make an Antidote (gain that card). This is important to heal from being poisoned.
Jewelry, makes Ring, you spend 1 Green Worker, 1 Red Worker, and 1 Blue Worker to build it. You spend 1 coin there to make a Ring (gain that card). This is important to raise your Charm.
Notary, makes Doge's Edict, you spend 1 Green Worker, 1 Yellow Worker, 1 Black Worker, and 1 Red Worker to build it. You spend 1 coin there to gain 1 Edict (gain that card). This is important to act first in a given Borough's order of resolution.
Tailor's Shop, makes Luxury Suit, you spend 1 Blue Worker, 1 Red Worker, and 1 Black Worker to build it. You spend 1 coin there to gain 1 Luxury Suit (gain that card). This is important to raise your Prestige.
Tavern, makes Wine, you spend 1 Yellow Worker, 1 Red Worker, and 1 Black Worker to build it. You spend 1 coin there to gain 1 Wine (gain that card). This is important to take a worker from the Borough it is in, in addition to whatever action you are performing.
Finally, you will make sure you have your residence board, all four of your loyal family Character cards, the 3 Coaches of your color, 2 Ducato coins, and 1 Worker of your choice (any color) to start with. This is for all players.
Now follow these special instructions concerning the order of tokens on the Doge's Favor track:
If 3 players, give 1 additional Ducato to player 2, and the White Coach Starting token to player 3
If 4 players, give 1 additional Ducato to player 3 and the White Coach Starting token to player 4
If 5 players, give 1 additional Ducato to players 3 and 4, and the White Coach Starting token to player 5.
The Sequence of play:
In each round you will go through:
Placing your Carriages and Delegations (you will be able to supplement these Delegations)
Choose from this list twice during your action, and then the next player does the same, and continues on until all players have declared pass:
1. Send a Delegation to a Borough (to attempt marriage, to claim Ducatos, to claim Influence, to claim Workers, to hire a Common Character, and whatever your special actions are (to poison someone else, to assassinate someone else, to gain more money, to gain more money through a specific action, to gain additional workers to a specific action, etc.)
2. Send a Delegation to the Distant Ships (to trade a worker that you have for a different color one, or to spend money to hire more workers)
3. Reinforce a Delegation (bring in additional help through Loyal Family Cards, Common Character Cards, or Item cards)
4. Go to the Doge and ask for favor (to change the order in which borough Turn Orders will play and resolve)
5. Declare Pass ( you have ran out of Characters/Carriages to act with, or determined better to stop)
Resolving all players who are using Distant Ships
Resolving each Borough (one at a time) -make sure you follow the correct order. This is also dictated by who marries the First Bride, then the Second Bride, and finally the Highest Guide Prestige Value (the Guide is the one who you have designated the Lead Character for the Carriage, and/or the one to marry.
End of the Round (this is a phase)-Each player will receive 1 Ducato per Worker they have on their family board, each player must pay 1 coin for each Common Character they have, if they can't or choose not to, then the Common Character leaves the game permanently. Each player can pay one Ducato per used item from their plays for the round coming to an end, otherwise this chance is lost. Now each player can build a Workshop (only one, and you are allowed only one of each type to own). Then check for the Victory conditions being met. If the conditions have not been met, then the game continues.
Cleanup (what you will need to do after the End of the Round, and before starting the new Round)- You discard any Common Characters that were not claimed (that were face up in the borough). Turn over the next Common Character card for each stack. Make sure to add one Worker, and one Influence to each Borough in play (so yes there could be a stack of either or both building up in a Borough if it wasn't claimed). Pass the White Coach to the player on the left. Make sure you have taken back your cards, and Carriages that were used. Leave Characters that have been married on the board.
Now you are ready to start again!
Are there any variations for this game?
I did not see any additional plans for expansions or variations of play at this time.
Some game results:
Our games have been riveting to say the least. My wife has personally taken to this game. Possibly due to the very first game being a victory for her (she ended up with 26 Influence points in a 3 player game). You can't solely fixate yourself on Workshops alone, as that will only gain you, at most, 19 Influence points (and only if you are the first to build each type). You have to risk and go after those important marriages!
That being said, there are a lot of ways to mess with other players both directly and indirectly. You can poison, you can assassinate, you can perform an action within a Borough that they wanted to do, thus that player losing out on it for that turn, and manipulate through Bluffing. With the Carriages having cards played face down, and not revealed until the moment of truth, you will have to make the best decisions that you can, and just let it ride.
You have a game here that brings Strategy and Tactics head on with Chance and Bluffing. You will always be able to do something, but is it the right something, or the something that you really wanted to do? You will find this game to be a race from start to finish, as you want to make decisions that allow you to strike first during opportunities. You don't want to be late to whatever it was you needed in a given Borough!
Options and choices are all around you, ready to take, yet once the other players get into the mix, you have to consider who will get to act first. Will you be able to bring down their attempts at the big marriages, or will they be able to bring down yours? Will you have the right Workshops in place for key items? Will you have enough Ducatos to pay your Common Characters? Will you have the right workers at the end of a phase to build the Workshop that you need? Does that other player have the card that you didn't account for in your marriage attempt?
Take all of this into account when you sit down to play Brides & Bribes, a game where every decision counts, and bluffing is just as good as actually having.
Thank you so much for reading this report on Brides & Bribes: A Game of Cunning, Intrigue and Deception from SpaceBalloon Games!
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RET. SSG Jason L. Elliott (PaladinElliott)
Instant back for me. This game looks amazing! Hope we get all the stretch and social goals!
We will try our best to get all stretch goals!
it would be amazing to produce that nice renaissance meeple....
Flavio De Leonardis
The game looks really interesting! Hope will hit all the goals! By the way I noticed one thing: the player aid is on the back of the player board... this could be not so practical since stuff are placed on it. So if I want to check it, I've to take everything off and then back again on? If it's so, you should consider a card maybe with a reference guide!
We are doing our best to make the game a reality!
About the players aid thanks for you insight, we want to make it doble sided with:
Side A. normal art for experienced player.
Side B normal art in the background and players aid printed on top of it.
Brides & Bribes use simple mechanics that are easy to remember after you have played the first game.
We will improve the game symbology to make it even more clear!
Flavio De Leonardis
Oh, ok now I can see it! Reading the rulebook wasn't clear! It seamed that a player aid (reference sheet) would be put on the back of the player boards!