Belfort is a worker placement / area control strategy game from Tasty Minstrel Games. It’s a Euro game that seems to try to do too much and none of it particularly well. Belfort ends up dragging and never being as fun as it should be, especially for the amount of time we spent playing the game.
Appearance: Belfort uses a cartoony theme with fantasy dwarves, elves and gnome’s and a robust colour palette. Unfortunately, some of the colour palette options aren’t very good (example – the violet pieces fade right into the Keep); while the board itself doesn’t have a lot of contrast to make it easy to find items. In addition, the game comes with all its pieces unstickered so you’ll find yourself spending a good 10 minutes before playing placing stickers on your pieces. Also, the pieces used are all plastic instead of the normal wood which makes the pieces slippery and annoying to play with.
Rules / Ease of Learning: Belfort plays in two parts – the worker placement first portion and the second area control / actions portion. In the worker placement stage, players may place their elf or dwarf workers in the resource areas, guilds, recruitment center or flags for position. After that, they collect their various resources; with players with a majority in the resource centers gaining an extra resource. During the area control phase, players must acquire property cards to play them to gain control of these properties. By gaining control of these properties, players can score points during the scoring phase of the game.
Overall, there aren’t a large number of rules to learn and none of the rules are particularly complex. You could probably teach the game in about 10 minutes to a group of experienced gamers.
Gameplay: Outside of the actual appearance of the game, this is the other location Belfort falls short. By being both a worker placement and area control game and by splitting each portion up significantly; the game has a tendency to drag. The entire game is played sequentially instead of in parallel and players have to evaluate their decisions constantly based on the actions of the other players. In addition, as the game progresses each turn takes longer and longer as the number of decisions / placements players can make grows exponentially.
In the start, players only have 6 workers and can only likely build one building a turn. By the end game, it’s easy to have 10 – 12 workers to place (with only 1 figure placeable a turn) and be building 2 – 3 buildings. Each building must be carefully reviewed for placement to gain the most points, while ensuring it gives you the necessary income for scoring.
In the end, the game just drags; since each turn takes a while and players are left waiting. Perhaps the game would have been better with the worker placement / area control portions better integrated.
Conclusion: By now, you can guess I’m not a fan. I find Belfort to be a below average Euro. If I want a worker placement game, I’ll play Stone Age. For an area control game, Revolution just does it better. And if I want a heavy Euro; Ora & Labora is faster and much more fun.