Friday, March 17, 2017

Quick Review - Bridges to Nowhere - Kickstarter Preview

Bridges to Nowhere
Designer: John Olson
Publisher: Doomsday Robots
2p | 10-30m | 7+
Quick Review - Bridges to Nowhere - Kickstarter Preview

Bridges to Nowhere...  For some reason the name reminds me of this scene from The Blues Brothers. (Warning, there's a bit of language because it's, well, the Blues Brothers.)  In Bridges to Nowhere this is the exact situation you're trying to avoid, but chances are you'll occasionally have a bridge or two that ends just as suddenly.  If you're lucky though, you'll be able to build a majestic double, or even triple decker bridge and score yourself a ton of points, without having to flip a vehicle end over end to avoid political extremists.

Bridges to Nowhere is a small, quick playing drafting card game for two players.  It'll be available on Kickstarter in April.

Bridges to Nowhere came to me to review via the Everything Board Games Network!  Check the page out for more awesome reviews!

In Bridges to Nowhere two players are each competing to build the highest scoring bridge they can.  Each player will start with a set of pillar cards, which will be used to support the bridge cards that will be drafted from six available cards per round.  There are three types of bridges (suspension, truss, and cable) that can be built attached to their corresponding pillars.  Each card also has a number on it that denotes the bridge's elevation, and two symbols on it (fish, birds, or boats).  Over the course of four rounds each player will draft twelve of the bridge cards that will be used to construct as high scoring bridges possible.
Getting ready to draft some bridge parts!
A quick game lasts only one full playthrough, but a longer game can be played until one player wins two games.  For the longer games, there are also contract cards.  These give bonuses if certain objectives are reached to fulfill the contracts.  The winner of each playthrough keeps the contract card from that playthrough to keep score.  Play until one player earns two (or any predetermined number) contract cards.

That's the game in a nutshell, but let's take a closer look.  There is a lot more strategy in Bridges to Nowhere than you might think at first glance.

Each of the four rounds contains two phase, a drafting phase and a building phase.  The drafting phase starts with drawing six of the 24 bridge cards and laying them out in a row between the players.  Then, taking turns, each player chooses one of the bridge cards until both players have selected three cards.  Then the building phase begins.
The prototype art is great.  The production art will be even better!
The building phase is where things get a little tricky.  The first round is pretty simple, but as the game progresses the way your bridges are taking shape will really influence what bridge cards you choose in each drafting phase.  This is because there are specific rules that must be followed when building.  They're not too difficult to remember, but they add enough complexity that the game gets pretty thinky by the end.
  1. Bridge parts must be connected to other bridge parts or pillars of the same type of bridge.
  2. Bridge parts must all connect to the initial pillar through other bridge parts and other pillars.
  3. Bridge parts cannot be placed next to another bridge part with the same elevation (number) value.
  4. The entire span of a bridge may only ascend once and/or descend once (based on the elevation numbers).  This is probably the trickiest rule to pay attention to.  So you can place a sequence like 1, 2, 5, 3 or 3, 2, 1, 3, 5 or even 2, 3, 5.  But placing 1, 2, 5, 1, 3 would be illegal because the numbers increase, decrease, then increase again.
As you play your bridges will take shape.
But there is more you must consider, too.  Each bridge part has two symbols on it; fish, bird, and boat.  If you place two cards so that they have the same symbols adjacent you'll score bony points.  You can also discard any bridge parts you can't or don't want to play.  This may happen in the last round, or occasionally earlier if you have a certain strategy or drafted something useless for you just to prevent your opponent from using it.

But wait, there's more!  It is also possible to build a double, or even triple decker bridge!  While building a bridge you can add more pillars on top of the base pillars.  The catch is that you must complete the bridge below before you can complete the higher bridge, but if you manage to do this the rewards are great.  Any second tier bridge will score double points, and the elusive third tier will score triple points!

After each build phase a new drafting phase will begin with the opposite player choosing first.  After four rounds all 24 bridge parts will be drafted and the final building phase will commence.  Once a bridge part is placed it cannot be moved or removed, so this last round can be pretty cutthroat.  Then scoring commences.
Games result in some pretty complex bridges and combinations of cards.
Incomplete bridges score nothing.  Each bridge card will score the points indicated on the card.  Second and third level cards will score a second time, and third level cards will score a third time.  Then every instance of two adjacent symbols will earn five more points.  Finally, if playing with the contract cards, any bonuses from those are added.  The winner is the player with the most points and most valuable bridges!

Final Thoughts:
I'll be honest, the first two times I played Bridges to Nowhere I had the rules completely messed up.  The rules are clear for the most part, I was just unusually obtuse for some reason.  In addition to having missed some of the building restrictions, I was playing the game with only three rounds!  I'm not sure why I thought there were only three rounds, but that's how I played.  Despite all the mistakes though, I still enjoyed the game.  It was simple, fast, yet had a little depth.  It seemed a little easy though, and somewhat unbalanced.  I was still planning on a favorable review, though.
There are several problems with this layout: 1) Both the first and third levels ascend and descend multiple times,
2) The pillars on the left shouldn't have been added until that second level was complete, and 3) We stopped playing
after this, but there should have been one more round of drafting and building in the game.  We still had fun!
Then I started writing and reviewed the rules before I related them here, and found that I had not one, not two, but four things wrong!  So I set the review aside for a bit and played properly a few times.  And you know what?  The game got even better!  (It's amazing what playing by the proper rules can do.)

Bridges to Nowhere is really quite an amazing little game.  For such a small game it really packs a lot of thought, depth, and strategy in it.  The first round seems mind numbingly simple and will likely throw you off your guard if you're not careful.  Every single decision you make, even in that first round, has important ramifications throughout the rest of the game.  The cards are balanced between their values, symbols, and bridge types in such a way that every draft phase gets more complex.
That long span has too many ascending and descending numbers, but it's not a bad layout after three rounds.
There is a lot to think about here.  From deciding which bridge types to build, to what symbols to try to match, to whether you should get the one point card you can use or the three point card you can't, just to block your opponent.  Games only take ten minutes or so and offer a lot of strategy in those few minutes.

The artwork is great, even in the prototype I have, and the new artwork is even better.  Bridges to Nowhere is a great, take anywhere game that couples will love playing.  It's a great filler when you're just waiting for the last couple people to come out to game night.  It would be a great game to take to a restaurant while waiting for food.  It's also a great family game that even younger players can play.  My seven year old son loved playing!  This is definitely something to check out on Kickstarter.
It's quick, and thoughtful fun for the whole family!
Bridges to Nowhere will be available on Kickstarter in April.  Be sure to check it out when it's available!

Preliminary Rating: 8/10

This review is of a prototype game.  Components and rules are not final and are subject to change.

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing.  Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

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