Gareth Davies
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A box big enough to build a fort out of arrived in the post today. Contained within the cardboard catacomb were two new games, Belfort and new Red Raven release Empires of the Void, which I will write about a little later.

Firstly I thought I’d give you my first impressions of Belfort by Tasty Minstrel Games (TMG). I have been looking to acquire a copy of Belfort since watching a review on The Dice Tower and seeing pictures of the game’s striking artwork on BoardGameGeek. However, Belfort went out of print shortly after making it on to my wishlist. Reading more about the game (it’s a mixture or worker placement and area control, with elves and dwarves) served only to make me more determined to track down a copy. A few days ago I even came close to buying a copy from the States until I spotted it listed on the excellent GamesLore, which (at the time) also appeared to be the only store in the UK with copies of Empires of the Void. What follows is not meant to be a review of the game or to go into great detail about the rules. I haven’t played it yet. Instead I wanted to show you a few pictures of the components which come with the game and give you my initial impressions.


Josh Cappel’s stylish artwork makes Belfort stand out from the competition

The back of the box boasts that Belfort contains “heaps of awesome components”. It’s quite a claim but is it true? When you take a look inside you’ll notice some of those components will take a bit of time to prepare. Stickers need to be applied to each set of wooden cubes for the five players to represent their dwarves and elves, while the gnomes (who will eventually go on to work in the buildings you construct) also have to be readied in the same way. This took me about half an hour but I think the end result looks better (and more importantly, clearer) than each player having plastic figures for each of the different types of workers.


Dwarves and elves (plus their ‘master’ versions); money; resource tokens including metal, rock and wood; gnomes and the key to the city which is given to the winning player

Three of the games four resources (wood, metal and rock) are also represented by nice looking wooden pieces. The fourth (Gold) is depicted by cardboard coins decorated with a symbol representing the five districts which form the pentagon that is Belfort city. All these tokens are fairly standard for a decently produced board game. It’s the board, player aids and rulebook really shine.


This is not a real clipboard, but it sure looks nice

The game comes with a separate board section designed to look like a clipboard. Like the rest of the game, the function of each section is not only clear to see but its packed full of character, with designers Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim providing players with easy reference to the rules while also maintaining the spirit of their game. The clipboard shows the turn track, marking when each of the game’s three scoring rounds will occur, how many gnomes are available to hire, includes a section for the guilds (special tiles which can be randomised at the beginning of the game, several of which feature player interaction) and ‘Crazy Ord’s Trading Post’ which can be used to trade the various resources you will collect while building the city.

The player aids are also well presented and include a lot of useful information such as the cost of each building and how the scoring rounds work. Not only is the art fantastic throughout but the card stock is thick and sturdy.


The player aids are well presented and helpful

The board which depicts Belfort continues the high standard of component quality. The board is divided into five sections which, when put together, form a pentagon. The shape and sectioned layout isn’t just a gimmick but will play a central part of the area control and scoring element of the games. At three points during the game players will be scored on how many buildings they have in each of the five districts of the city. The player with the most property markers in an area scores five points and the player with the second most receives three. In games with four or five players the person in third most gets one point. In case of a tie each tied player receives the points normally awarded to the rank below (if two people finish joint second they get one point each and the player in third is bumped off the scoring chart for that region completely). Players also gain points for having the most dwarves, elves or gnomes.

Again Josh Cappel’s artwork is fantastic. If you look closely you can see the hustle and bustle of the city, with tiny characters visiting the pub, shopping at the market or sitting on benches outside the Inn. It genuinely is one of the most striking looking boards I’ve ever seen.


The pentagon shaped board looks great


A closer look at one of the districts of Belfort

Stellar presentation is also evident throughout the game’s 18 page rulebook, from the letter explaining the overview of the game (from Rudwig P. Horniswimmons, Deputy Assistant to the Assistant Deputy at the wonderfully named Department of Official Apologies and Bad News Delivery) to the glossary of buildings and guilds. Having not played the game I can’t judge whether the clearly written rules translate to a smooth gaming experience but they certainly make what appears a complicated game at first glance seem fairly straightforward. Just like the player aids, the rulebook gives a good picture of what you are meant to do while capturing the character and theme of the game. It evokes Vlaada Chvatil and games like Dungeon Lords or Space Alert, though his rules are funnier yet harder to follow.

Well presented rules and clear iconography mean that Belfort should be easy to pick up, particularly for players familiar with other worker placement or area control games. Each player is competing for the King’s favour by constructing more of Belfort than his or her rivals. You start off with a small number of elves and dwarves (workers) who you will pack off to various different spots on the board to either collect resources, curry Royal favour (change the player order), hire more workers or use buildings, etc. When you have enough resources to construct one of the buildings in your hand then you place one of your markers on any section of the board corresponding to that type of property. This then leads to the area control aspect of Belfort. But the more points you get, the more you’re taxed meaning the game is as much about pacing as knowing when and where to construct an Inn, Library or Blacksmith. Players will also be hiring gnomes to work in their buildings, unlocking one-off or reoccurring bonuses.


There are ten different types of buildings in the game

Belfort is the second TMG title I own. The first, Eminent Domain, also features high levels of presentation and a clearly laid out rulebook. Belfort surpasses those impressive standards. Not only is Josh Cappel’s art bright, colourful and full of character but it contributes to, rather than hinders, intuitive and easy to understand board tiles, player aids and rulebook. The only other Euro game which compares in terms of the quality of the components is the excellent Lords of Waterdeep. Hopefully Belfort plays as good as it looks. If it does, then we’re on to a winner.

Belfort is designed by Jay Cormier & Sen-Foong Lim and published by Tasty Minstrel Games. It’s for 2-5 players, takes 120 minutes and is a city-building and fantasy game of worker placement and area control.

Article originally posted on http://rookandrolluk.wordpress.com
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Mark O'Reilly
United Kingdom
Chester
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Great un boxing review!. I also contemplated ordering this game from USA,
but gave it 3 weeks to appear in UK online stores before swallowing the
hefty postage cost.
I have wanted this game for almost a year, it should of arrived
today from grim tree games, but unfortunately it was a no-show.
Hopefully my copy arrives tomorrow :-)
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Jeff A
Canada
Edmonton
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Just want to mention to anyone looking at Belfort that there are currently 2 copies of Belfort available on The Spiel Kickstarter as rewards. You could get it cheaper in stores but this way you could support The Speil podcast and get a copy of Belfort.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1602645836/the-spiel-sea...
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Peter Schott
United States
Roanoke
Texas
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Definitely some great components. Only thing I wish I'd paid more attention to up front was that the normal stickers only go on one side. Started off double-sticking for some reason and had to peel some of those off to re-stick.

Of course, once we actually played the game, it went pretty well. It took a round to get the general hang of it and the strategy doesn't really click until after the first scoring round. By that time you realize the importance of majorities in areas, workers, and gnomes. That also starts to be the time that people pay attention to turn order and when they get to choose what to do.

I got my copy after TMG had their restocking sale - well worth it to me.
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John Herrera
United States
Highland
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Excellent game and was a pleasant surprise when I first played it, a friend in our group introduced us to this game and I immediately wanted to own it. It is now in my hands and I must have played it five or six times the day it arrived.
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Keith Sagers
United States
Gainsville
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Nice unboxing. Don't worry, the game play is as great.
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Mark O'Reilly
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....still waiting for my copy from grim tree games....tomorrow will be a week from ordering & paying. not good shake
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Mark O'Reilly
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Great un boxing review!. I also contemplated ordering this game from USA,
but gave it 3 weeks to appear in UK online stores before swallowing the
hefty postage cost.
I have wanted this game for almost a year, it should of arrived
today from grim tree games, but unfortunately it was a no-show.
Hopefully my copy arrives tomorrow :-)
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Tim Tan
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I personally find TMG games to be the de facto standard in how games should be produced. Great modern artwork that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional with key gaming info printed on the components such that minimal reference to the rule book is necessary.

Speaking of the rule book, they are all written concisely with very clear steps on how to play the game without being overwrought with non-essential banter..(I'm looking at you vlaada!).

I currently own Belfort, Homesteaders and Jab which have all been pleasant gaming experiences. The term that i think perfectly describes TMG games is "modern elegance". If this is considered "Ground Floor" (another game i'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of) for them, the only way they can go is up from here.

Kudos to michael and team!
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Mark Collins
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biffta wrote:
....still waiting for my copy from grim tree games....tomorrow will be a week from ordering & paying. not good shake


Hey Mark, sent you a mail, hope you have your copy now. We had to order it in from the supplier which increased the delivery time. We have also sent you 5% off your next order to help make up for the misunderstanding.
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