The recent mini guild expansion for Belfort had me pulling this off the shelf to take another look at this game from Tasty Minstrel Games.
Belfort is a game for 2 to 5 players where players are trying to build a city using a workforce of Elves, Dwarves, and Gnomes. The game plays best with 4 or 5 players although it is ok with 3 players.
The game is primarily a worker placement game with some good resource management and area control aspects thrown in. Each round of play is divided into two phases. The first phase is the worker placement phase. Players take turns sending their workforce out to work in the town’s buildings or in one of the guilds. There are five guilds that are randomly set at the beginning of the game. Each of these requires a gold coin to use but gives the player who places a worker on them the ability to use their special power in the next phase.
Players continue putting their workers in buildings following turn order until each player passes. When a player passes on their turn, their remaining work force is sent to gather resources. During the building use phase which worker you place in a building does not matter. But during the part of your turn where you send your remaining work force to gather resources it is important how you divvy them up.
Wood is only gathered by elves. Stone is only gathered by Dwarves. Iron requires a team of one elf and one dwarf to gather. Finally, anyone can gather gold coins doing odd jobs around town. The player who dedicates the most workers to gathering that type of resource gets a bonus so passing later in the round gives you more choices about what you can and can’t get.
Between the first and second phase, players get their resources and pay taxes. Taxes are levied by point total so the players with the most points have to pay more in taxes than anyone else.
In the second phase, players start building buildings in town. Players can only build on spaces that have not been built yet. It is important where you build because scoring is based on the player who has the most buildings in each section of town. This area control mechanic means you have to balance where you build with what you build. Each building unlocks special powers or worker upgrades. But sometimes the building you want to build won’t really help you score any points.
There are a lot of components for this game. Those looking to purchase it should be warned you will have to apply a lot of stickers to the wooden pieces that represent the workers. The artwork in this game though is phenomenal. The pieces are high quality and well made.
The game is low on player interaction. There are guilds you can play with designated with an “I” on the back that are supposed to increase player interaction but even these aren’t going to create a lot of interaction. The game can also tend to the long side if you have some player’s who suffer from analysis paralysis as there are a lot of choices to make each round.
The new guild expansion adds four more guilds to this game which may seem small, but the changing guilds guarantee a different game every time you sit down to play. If you buy this game new from Tasty Minstrel Games this mini expansion is included with the game. For those of us like myself who have owned it for awhile, you can head over to BoardGameGeek and pick up the expansion guilds for $5.
Overall, I highly recommend the game and have rarely had a bad play experience with it. The only thing I stress is to really sit down to your first game with 4 or 5 players for the best possible experience. I would also recommend sleeving the cards if you have time. These will see a lot of use in this game since you’re constantly handling them, playing them, shuffling through them in a vain hope of finding that one building that will score you points. Kudos to Tasty Minstrel Games for producing another great game.