This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Time: 20-40 Minutes
Game Type: Race and Deception
Gamer Type: Casual
Facade Games is back with another installment of its dark cities series. This time, we are looking at the city of Bristol England in 1350. For those of you looking at history, this is the era of the plague and in Bristol 1350, players are trying to get get out of town in a plague-free cart. In this game of strategy and deception, you will push, lie, and even change teams to ensure that you are on the cart that escapes Bristol without the plague.
One of the reasons I love Facade Games is because they start with a story and then find mechanics that work well with that story. Rather than trying to build a port of some famous series, they delve into history and build a game around historical events. This makes the game fun and challenging. Like most “Dark Cities” games, this game starts out with a dark premise, the plague. Do not worry, if you are new to Facade, the winning conditions tend to be much brighter – in this case, you survive. The historical aspect of the game really makes it fun, but also brings a learning element to the game that is absent in many games. This earns Bristol 1350 an 8.5 out of 10 for the story.
Normally, I start with card art or board art to discuss a game’s art score. However, with Bristol, I want to start with the Boxart. In Bristol 1350, you have another of the beautiful book-style boxes that the Dark Cities games are known for. The Dark Cities games look amazing on your shelf because they look like books. Moving beyond the box, this game does have strong artwork. The minis are meeples that fit almost perfectly into the small carts. The board itself is tapestry style, which fits with the period. Among the most amazing features of the game are the game’s cards. These cards have the dark ages style artwork that could come from a museum. Overall, Facade does not disappoint with an amazing artistic offering, 9 of 10 for artwork.
Bristol 1350 brings some strong mechanics to the table. First of all, I want to note that none of the Dark Cities games are similar in play (other than they accommodate a large group). Each game in the series is unique, not just a modification of previous games. This is the first “Race” game of the series. In Bristol 1350, you are working to get your cart across the line with no plague victims in the cart. To do this, you have to contend against the randomized (cards and dice) and other players. Players can push and shove in the carts (or jump ship), while they can also play cards that change the environment. The dice dictate the movement of the carts, but also dictate when there are spreading events. Compared to the other Dark Cities games, this one is a little more complex; however, it is still playable by all players. 6 of 10.
How do you get out of a plague-ridden city? By any means necessary. While this game is billed as a cooperative game, the “teams” are changeable and will change pretty often. You may want to jump out of your cart if you think someone has the Black Death, or you may want to push someone out who is weighing down the team. Rush does not make a strong showing in this game, mainly because your movement is based on the whims of the die (don’t worry wargamers, this isn’t full randomization). Offense and defense are both good strategies to build your cart up with people you “know” are safe from the plague. Engine building is a little difficult, as the cards are random, but you can “jump” your opponents when you get close to the end. While running more of the “Diplomacy” strategy than the classic race game strategy, Bristol 1350 still has a strong showing of 7.5 of 10 for strategy.
There are not a lot of Black Death games out there. Disease games happen from time to time, but the Plague tends to be taboo. Facade Games took on this historical topic with the class and dignity that has made the Dark Cities series so successful. Additionally, the game has mechanics that are new for race games. Most of the time, race games have you look at your team as a constant; Bristol 1350 does not. Bristol 1350 allows the teams to be ever-changing, to make a more complex strategy. Cool topic and cool approach lead to a strong score of 8 for novelty.
So does Bristol 1350 survive, or does it succumb to the darkness from which it came? With a score of 39 of 50, Bristol 1350 survives the plague and should be a staple to show you how to beat the boredom of the current social distancing requirements. For those solo gamers out there, it also has a natural solo mode, so you do not have to worry about creating new rules to play by yourself. Overall, this is a great game to keep on your shelf. With playability of up to 9 people, this is a great party game and the short time-stamp allows you to play even when you’re pressed for time. Definitely, this is something you should add to your collection.