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Subject: A Brief Look at Die Burgen von Burgund rss

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Geeky McGeekface
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After five games, my rating for this title continues to teeter a bit. It’s definitely a good game, but my only concern is that it plays a little slower than I would like. My suspicion is that if I can get a group of players together who are experienced with the design, this problem will go away and I’ll be left with a quick moving, enjoyable game. I also haven’t tried using the advanced player mats yet and most reports are that they improve the experience. Taking those two factors together, I’m very bullish on this game, even though that’s partially based on its potential rather than what I’ve experienced to date.

Let me address a couple of concerns I've seen bandied about. I haven’t really seen a problem with distinguishing between the light green and yellow tiles in any copy of the game I’ve played with. They are perhaps a bit closer in hue than I would prefer, but I’ve always been able to tell them apart. Many players also complain that the game doesn't work with fewer than four players, because of the potential unfairness of only using a subset of all the tiles. That hasn't been a problem for us, as we just reveal the tiles that won’t be chosen that game prior to beginning play. That way, all the players know from the start which scoring combinations will be in full force and which will be compromised. So far, that’s worked fine.

My complaint about the components has to do with the Building tiles. The graphics used on them give no real clue about their function. Explaining the ability of each on the player mats is a nice touch, but wouldn’t it have been even better if those graphics had been on the tiles themselves, rather than the uninspiring (and sometimes hard to distinguish) pictures of the buildings? I realize that Alea was trying to enhance the game’s theme, but this title was never going to have a strong theme anyway. Meanwhile, having to constantly check the mats slows down the game for experienced players and provides yet another hurdle for those playing for the first time. It’s not a critical error, but something I wish would have handled differently (and maybe Rio Grande will do something about this when they come up with their own version of the design).

I've also heard a couple of people wonder if the game lasts too many turns, so that the last round is anticlimatic and provides little to do. In my games I’ve only seen one player who didn’t have more than enough to do during the last round and that was clearly a case of that player not being aggressive enough. Given my own experiences, combined with the trust I have in designer Feld and developer Brueck, I am completely confident that Burgen is pitched at just the right length.

There’s one other thing I’d like to mention and that is a comparison with Macao. Many gamers have mentioned these two games in the same breath and it’s not surprising: both are Alea big-boxers, both are by Feld, and both use dice in innovative ways. But I find the dice mechanic in Macao to be much more elegant than the one used in Burgen. Literally everyone who learns Macao is immediately struck by the clever way the dice are used: the die value equals both number of cubes and time to arrival, so that you can address immediate concerns, but have to deal with a small number of cubes, or wait a while, but get a bumper crop when they do arrive. It’s just a very nice system and the height of elegance. This mechanic used in Burgen, on the other hand, is effective but anything but elegant. Essentially, Feld decided to come up with a game where there would be multiple ways of using every die and then just forced the issue. Tiles are arbitrarily assigned to numbered areas, the player mats are a hodgepodge of numbered hexes, and goods each have a designer-assigned number for no particular reason except to make the game work. I’m not saying a good deal of thought didn’t go into the design, just that it feels like a brute force approach as compared to the sleekness of the central mechanic in Macao. And while an elegant approach doesn’t necessarily make a game play better, I do feel that it’s a plus, particularly for more experienced gamers. Beautiful components are a delight to the eye and a beautiful mechanic is equally pleasing to the mind. It represents an edge for Macao for me, although I enjoy both games quite a bit.
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Lee Fisher
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Nice write up (though I can't remember if this was published before?).

Rio Grande isn't doing this one though.
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Geeky McGeekface
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It's based on my comments on the review we ran on the Opinionated Gamers website, Lee.

And you're right, since that review was posted, RGG announced that they wouldn't be carrying this. I neglected to make that change, so thanks for pointing it out.
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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I found it slow and too repetitive. My friends love it though, so clearly it's just me.
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Geeky McGeekface
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It's time for baseball, people! Pitchers and catchers report soon and the national pastime is with us again!
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As a follow-up, my recent games have indeed moved much more quickly, even with 4 players. Plus, using the advanced player maps have made the game more interesting, just as others had reported. The result is that this has become one of my favorite games of the year and one I'm always happy to play, as long as everyone plays relatively fast.
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