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Subject: Bridges Made to the Highest Chinese Standards rss

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Matt Drake
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If my memory of geography serves, Shangri-La is somewhere in China. Maybe Tibet, but then, that's part of China now, thanks to the fact that the government of China is primarily composed of power-mad assholes. And when you look at the bridges available between the various mountain peaks in Shangri-La, you can see the superior Chinese construction. Because every time someone uses one of these bridges, they break. That's an even worse track record than the Army Corps of Engineers has with levees in New Orleans.

The neat thing about tonight's game (appropriately titled 'The Bridges of Shangri-La') is that it plays off this shoddy Chinese construction to create a very interesting and fun game. It's not often that art imitates life so well. Not only do we get to learn more about how pathetic a job the Chinese people did when they assembled all the bridges (apparently using wrapping paper and Elmer's glue), but we get to learn a historical lesson about ancient Kung-Fu masters.

Each player starts off with a handful of Kung-Fu masters, each with different specialized abilities. These abilities have absolutely no effect on the game whatsoever (which means that the guy who just looks at the stars all night is exactly equal to the dragon-taming bad-ass), but it does allow us to tell them apart. The dragontamer has a dragon on his counter, the rainmaker has a rain cloud, and the romantic idealist who spends all night looking at constellations has a little silk hankie (not really - it's stars). If there were more dragontamers and fewer stargazing pansies, maybe they could have beat up the Chinese invaders before the Dalai Lama had to go on permanent sabbatical.

Every turn, you can add a master in a village where you have one already, or you can train some students where you have masters, or you can send the students packing to another village. And because all of these bridges are essentially a long string of shoelaces tied together by some Chinese worker making 2 dollars a week and sleeping under his desk between his 16-hour shifts, every time someone uses one, it breaks. The students get across, and then BAM, the bridge is destroyed. Planned obsolesence keeps that impoverished Chinese assembly-line worker employed! Lucky him. Just four more months, and he'll be able to buy a roll of toilet paper.

This bridge-breaking thing is important, because once a bridge is down, it's gone, and the villages are permanently separated. So you have to time that trip really well, because it's the only one you're going to make. If you travel to a stronger town and they beat up all your students, they have to climb down the mountain and take up a career in goat-herding. That, or they have to go work in a factory where they make just enough money to buy a Big Mac, as long as they don't buy anything else all year.

This is a really clever, really tricky game. You have to time your moves carefully - make a new master when you shouldn't, and he might get kicked off the mountain before he gets a chance to train anyone. But add some students at the right time, and you might be able to ward off invading students (but not Chinese soldiers - they don't care how much Kung Fu you know. They have guns). Travel at the right time, and you could strand your opponent in a weak position. Travel at the wrong time, and you might as well just leave your students standing in the middle of the bridge when it breaks.

To be honest, I'm kind of surprised I hadn't heard a lot more about Bridges of Shangri-La before now. It seems like the kind of game that would get Reiner drones all frothy. Maybe since it's not from Reiner, it dropped under the radar, or maybe it just didn't make a big enough appearance early on. Whatever the case, this is a remarkably fun game. I really enjoyed it, and would definitely play it again.

What I would not do, however, is travel around Shangri-La without a parachute. Those Chinese-made bridges are seriously unstable.

Summary

Pros:
A few rules make a whole lot of game
Timing is critical - lots of tough decisions
Good mix of strategy and tactical positioning

Cons:
Pictures on the counters are a little bland
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John Farrell
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Colovini doesn't get a lot of love around here. I suspect that's because many of his games don't come with clues on how to play well. This one is ranked 371, that's pretty respectable.
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Brad Miller
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I think it's more because they are soooo mechanically dry. He certainly slaps a theme on them, sometimes very well, but even so, the dryness shines through.
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J C Lawrence
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I consider Bridges of Shangri-La one of the best 3-player games around (rating 8.5). It misses out on a coveted 9.0 or 9.5 rating simply because the decisions, while fascinatingly subtle, aren't as deep as I'd like. It also plays fairly well with 4 players, but 3 players is so much better I just don't bother with more.
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Nick Case
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I'm with JC, I thinks its a great game and a fabulous filler with some depth.

Seeing how Shangri-La is a fictional place in a novel, you may as well slag off Dwarven Bridge Architecture in Moria. I'm not sure why Chinese engineering gets the rough end of your judgement (apart from the tower block that fell over not so long ago), but the Great Wall has been around long enough hasn't it?
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J C Lawrence
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Big Bad Lex wrote:
I'm with JC, I thinks its a great game and a fabulous filler with some depth.


I wouldn't go so far as filler. At a good 75-90 minutes with attentive players it seems a little long for filler class.
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Maarten D. de Jong
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This game was insanely expensive when it first came out and the fact that it is a luckless abstract relegates it to a position well out of the upper levels which are nowadays mostly populated with snowball engines. It is one of Colovini's better titles, though.

A question for JC: you like the game very much as a 3-player title. The few times I played in that setup, I was mercilessly squeezed out of villages because the other players (inadvertedly) set their sights on me together. As far as I can tell, if that happens, you have no defenses whatsoever. How do you prevent this situation in your games, and if it happens, what do you do about it?
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Claudio
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cymric wrote:
This game was insanely expensive when it first came out and the fact that it is a luckless abstract relegates it to a position well out of the upper levels which are nowadays mostly populated with snowball engines. It is one of Colovini's better titles, though.

Its been on special in a bunch of places recently for $10-12 which should make it much more available. But who ever gets around to playing their cheap 'deals' when there are so many bright and shiny $60 games to play!

cymric wrote:
A question for JC: you like the game very much as a 3-player title. The few times I played in that setup, I was mercilessly squeezed out of villages because the other players (inadvertedly) set their sights on me together. As far as I can tell, if that happens, you have no defenses whatsoever. How do you prevent this situation in your games, and if it happens, what do you do about it?


I'm no clearclaw - and I've only played once but am dying to play more - but I think that if the other two people are relentlessly ganging up on you, they are missing opportunities. As the threat of a pilgramage grows, a potential future weakness of that city grows. It seems you can either try and take advantage of the potential pilgramage itself by joining it, scuttling it by mistiming and/or misdirecting it, or you can make the pilgramage unattractive to one of the other players by threatening the future weakness. I look forward to JC's post on the subtlety of managing incentives and creation of emergent alliances (assuming it hasn't been posted while I've been typing). Of course, it is all for naught if you aren't playing people that appreciate the dynamics of the game. I'm guessing that can make the game a bit fragile.
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J C Lawrence
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cymric wrote:
A question for JC: you like the game very much as a 3-player title. The few times I played in that setup, I was mercilessly squeezed out of villages because the other players (inadvertedly) set their sights on me together. As far as I can tell, if that happens, you have no defenses whatsoever. How do you prevent this situation in your games, and if it happens, what do you do about it?


The trite answer is to go where they are not, and to go where their tile shortages forbid them from competing. You should be able to build a strong if diffuse base in this way fairly quickly and in preparation for the late mid-game and end-game in which you can leverage your carefully hoarded tile-strengths against them. The key here is that that sort of focused assault also requires concentrated tile-exhaustion on their part(s).
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Frank Hamrick
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I have always loved this game. From the beginning I was caught with the great little bridges. I saw the game being played from across the room and thought, "Wow, what a neat looking game." When I finally got to play it I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I immediately felt it was one of the better games I had ever played.

Several years later, I still think the same thing. I never understood why it didn't get the love of other games. Probably because it can be a brain-burner and most prefer a lighter game. This one doesn't elicit laughter and banter. Rather it is played rather silently with people reminding each other to "watch out for so-and-so coming in this direction," etc.

But I do love the game and it is one of the few in my collection I would not sell.
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Big Bad Lex wrote:
Seeing how Shangri-La is a fictional place in a novel, you may as well slag off Dwarven Bridge Architecture in Moria.


By Durin's Beard, don't knock Dwarven building skills! Baruk Khazad, Khazad ai-Menu!
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Matt Drake
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Only at the Geek can you see people who get offended when you mock crappy Chinese manufacturing (seriously? You've never been to Wal-Mart?), but who don't even slow down to giggle at the guy who types in dwarf.

Well, only at the Geek and about seven thousand other nerd sites, but the point is still valid.
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Betty Dingus
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VixenTorGames wrote:
Only at the Geek can you see people who get offended when you mock crappy Chinese manufacturing (seriously? You've never been to Wal-Mart?), but who don't even slow down to giggle at the guy who types in dwarf.

Well, only at the Geek and about seven thousand other nerd sites, but the point is still valid.


Maybe you should move on to one of the other websites. Here on BGG we like knowledgeable, thoughtful writing, not just spouted opinions that need to be corrected by responses (that get more thumbs than your posts, by the way!).
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Dingus wrote:
Maybe you should move on to one of the other websites. Here on BGG we like knowledgeable, thoughtful writing, not just spouted opinions that need to be corrected by responses (that get more thumbs than your posts, by the way!).
Ma'am, I'm not sure what element of the BGG community you think you're speaking for but you certainly don't speak for me. Please don't say "we're offended" when what you mean is "I'm offended."

I find Matt's reviews to be whip-smart, informative, and entertaining. That takes real skill as a writer. His reviews are far more compelling to read than most of the reviews around here, and frequently more informative precisely because he's not afraid to be harshly critical. It is possible to be crassly opinionated, knowledgeable, and thoughtful all at the same time.
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Elstree wrote:
It is possible to be crassly opinionated, knowledgeable, and thoughtful all at the same time.


Please post links to examples.
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Whoa !! surprise

Keep up the good work, folks. That's what I like about BGG most: useless, time-consuming, witty, going-to-nowhere, passionate arguments.

In the end this is really what boardgaming is about. BGG could be about puzzles (or low-fat diets) that it wouldn't matter, as long as people remain the same.

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Friendless wrote:
Elstree wrote:
It is possible to be crassly opinionated, knowledgeable, and thoughtful all at the same time.


Please post links to examples.


I guess Matt's review would not satisfy your need, but have you seen anything like the Daily Show recently ?
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Matt Drake
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Friendless wrote:
Elstree wrote:
It is possible to be crassly opinionated, knowledgeable, and thoughtful all at the same time.


Please post links to examples.

Oh snap! That's hilarious!

I gave you a thumb for it.

EDIT: Just to clarify - this isn't a sarcasm post. I really did laugh when I read this comment. Most times when people get mad at me, they just shove another rod in their asses and try to sound superior and make me feel bad about myself. This was clever, sharp and witty, and whether it was meant to be mean or not, I absolutely loved it.
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Dingus wrote:
Maybe you should move on to one of the other websites. Here on BGG we like knowledgeable, thoughtful writing, not just spouted opinions that need to be corrected by responses (that get more thumbs than your posts, by the way!).


Maybe you should follow your own advice! I thought people were joking when you became Mr Drake's own private stalker but if you are so worked up about one review to go back and comment in ALL the reviews he has ever done...well for the sake of your own blood pressure maybe you need to move along. This compulsion of yours is unhealthy.



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Dingus wrote:
VixenTorGames wrote:
Only at the Geek can you see people who get offended when you mock crappy Chinese manufacturing (seriously? You've never been to Wal-Mart?), but who don't even slow down to giggle at the guy who types in dwarf.

Well, only at the Geek and about seven thousand other nerd sites, but the point is still valid.


Maybe you should move on to one of the other websites. Here on BGG we like knowledgeable, thoughtful writing, not just spouted opinions that need to be corrected by responses (that get more thumbs than your posts, by the way!).

I'm still looking in this thread for a corrected response that got more thumbs than his post.

Jim
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