Bastille (2018) Review
The French Revolution is a period rich in events of the History of France. Yet, quite surprisingly, this is a subject that has not been too emphasized in the board game realm. Worse, the majority of the games dealing with this period come from foreign authors. A lack of interest or imagination for it ? Not enough good mechanisms to approach the best of this atmosphere? A lack of interest in this period? A difficulty to treat this event playfully? I admit that when I saw that the theme of the game Bastille was about this period, neither one nor two my curiosity was peaked.
Bastille therefore offers to dive a few weeks before the events of the capture of the famous French prison (and the shift from a society led by royalists to a society led by the bourgeoisie). Each player embodies a revolutionary faction that is preparing for this famous day. But for that, you will need support, weapons, money, recognition of the land. Bastille is a game released in 2018 by Christoph Behre published by Queen Games. The arts are by David Cochard. He shows us that he can have a fairly wide range of art styles.
The game's turns are played in two stages.
At first, each player has four influences tiles. Everyone will play their tiles on the different places available. Each location can only accommodate a certain number of tiles on the locations indicated above. Once the spaces are filled, no one can no longer settle in this area. Each slot can only receive one tile. As soon as all the players have played their tiles, you’ll move on to the second phase.
The second phase corresponds to the resolution of the actions. This is done in the order of the spaces. Then, depending on the power of the tiles influences present and in case of a tie, it’s the leftmost tile, the players will perform the actions indicated on the different places. Queen Game takes the opportunity to make you travel through a revolutionary Paris.
You’ll start with the Bank of Paris. This allows you to make money based on the power of your played influence tile. The first player to resolve the action receives the right to become the first player.
Continue with the Notre Dame de Paris. This area helps to improve a tiles influence for the players. The tile played on it is replaced by a tile of higher level. This action is essential and knowing how to use it at the right time without spending too much time can tip the game. The bonus for the highest token is a victory point.
Heading this time Versailles. Here, at each turn will appear tiles offering two possible bonuses to the players who have settled there. The first player will choose first, the second will take what is left. Each bonus varies depending on the tile revealed.
To infiltrate the capital, nothing better than to prepare for an invasion from below. The "visit" continues therefore through a forced passage of the Catacombs. There are only two slots available. The first player to perform the action will put two henchmen in a bag, the second will put only one. These goons occupy a special place in the game and will be used during the scoring. Neglecting them can make you lose the game.
Place Louis (named after the french "good king") is a zone of perpetual conflict between the various factions. It is here that you will recruit influential characters found in the form of cards. The characters are divided into three groups: peasants, soldiers and nobles. Each card has different characteristics but also a purchase cost which is more or less important. To recover a card, you have to pay for it in gold. This value is lowered depending on the influence tile played. Example: You play a tile worth 3 to buy a soldier with a gold cost of 7. You will then pay only 4 gold to acquire him.
In addition to the number of flags, diamonds, crowns and victory points, the characters have a weapon box. If it is white, the character is already armed. If the box is red, you must acquire a corresponding weapon before the end of the game at the risk of losing points. There are also monks who will serve as a joker in the composition of groups. The choice of characters is important especially to best resolve the objectives on mission cards. Recovering the right cards before others can quickly becoming crucial.
To finish the visit of the Paris of the time, we propose to you come to the main location and recover weapons within the Bastille itself. Capital building but mostly symbolic, this royal prison is full of ways to arm your faction. But the places are expensive. The first to resolve the action will move their marker the same number of its influence tile plus a bonus space. The second will advance only the amount of the influence expended. The further a player is on the track, the more victory points they will score. Giving them the priority on the choice of weapons available. Apart from the last player (who will collect only one), the others will win two weapons among those visible. The positioning on the track of the Bastille is very important. Neglecting can cost you the game.
But that's not all. There remains a last place to visit. Center of power after the king, the States General where the wealthiest members of the three orders of the Kingdom gather. This place allows players to collect mission cards. These objectives resolved at the end of the game will more or less guide you during the game, especially in the choice of recruitment of character cards. Fulfilling its objectives brings you a lot of non-negligible points. But it's not so easy. Each mission is in duplicate. Thus, the competition will be even more enraged between the players, especially in the choice of buying characters.
At the end of a turn, players check who has the most flags. These are present on the character cards. The player with the most number of flags will win the end-of-round bonus. The second player with the most flag wins the second prize. Without changing the course of the game, the flags are absolutely not to neglect. If you let a player recover all the bonuses alone, it will give them a significant advantage. Always be careful not to get too far behind.
The game is played over eight rounds. Half way through the game, so at the end of the fourth round, you’ll proceed to a first scoring round according to the characters and their icons on your possession. Five henchmen will also be taken from the bag. The player, whose color matches, has the right to choose a bonus from those still available. Players also collect weapons based on their position on the Bastille track. A second count will take place at the end of the game, ie at the end of the eighth round.
To be honest, I was really pleasantly surprised by this game. Mixed between the game of influence and placement of workers, Bastille is a surprising game that hits the mark. When you read the rules, you have the impression of being faced with a basic game. And yet, once inside, one quickly realizes the constant tension. Every decision is important and the timing to achieve it is paramount.
It is necessary to know how to moderate each action, without necessarily arriving too late, because speed is a key notion in the game. For example, Notre Dame is an important zone in order to increase the value of your tokens of influence. But if you perform this action too often, you will only waste time. You need to know how to juggle the need to increase your capacity for action without unnecessarily losing action in other places on the board. Having the biggest is not always the best way to win.
As you can see, a lot of actions are needed. But of course, you can not do everything. You will try to balance your choices to achieve as close a possible to a perfect route.
The choice of your recruitment is one of the most important mechanisms of the game. Guided by your mission cards but also the desire not to distance themselves from the flags, not to mention the fact of winning victory points, the choice of cards will be done drastically. Choosing first becomes the important thing, but it will not be so easy. Places will quickly become expensive. Do not forget to equip your characters well. Getting into the Revolution without being armed can be very costly. Indeed, you will lose points based on the number of unarmed characters you have at the end of the game. And the negative amount increases very quickly.
Bastille is not a game that invents or reinvents its style of play. However, it works particularly well. The game has easy-to-understand rules that read very quickly. Once read, do not go back. The iconography is extremely clear. Everything is indicated on the board precisely and efficiently. Everything is fluid and the rounds are linked precisely.
The game manages to create a special atmosphere, a constant tension between the players but also between themselves. The choice of actions seems simple but is rather complex in the sense that everything is important. Players must not leave large margins for others, try to respect your initial plan while adapting constantly to the evolution of the game. The interaction is ubiquitous. At any time, a place where one thought to be immune in the choice of its action can switch following the choice of an adversary having a stronger value of influence.
One can regret finally, as often in this type of game, the absence of a strong theme. The illustrations, and the way the game unfolds, try to get as close as possible to this period and get us into it. Unfortunately, we are still a bit too close to the German style gameplay. However, this does not spoil the fun. This is thanks to a dynamic and steady pace from the beginning to the end of the game. The number of players also limits the possibility of the release but for the more adventurous, a variant two players exist on Boardgamegeek.
Bastille offers a non complicated game at the level of rules but with a hidden depth that is strongly pleasant. There are several ways to score points, several ways to play, ensuring strong replayability. The game does not seem to script and varies a lot from one game to another depending on the situation. It mixes well known mechanisms while managing to keep the players in suspense. More than a nice surprise, a real success for its category that I can only advise you.
Technical note 9/10
Everything is legible and everything is clearly indicated on the board making everything extremely fluid. The rules are short but well written. The material without being exceptional, fulfills its role well. However, we regret the lack of plastic bags or efficient storage in the box.
My score BGG 8/10
(Very good, enjoy playing and suggest it)
A very nice surprise. A game that despite a classic coating offers constant tension. The interaction is ubiquitous. The game manages to provide an effective mix of mechanisms while remaining fluid and simple. A family / family+ game more than deserved to benefit from more exposure. We can regret the fact that the theme passes a little in the background despite an obvious willingness and high level illustrations.
Combined Rating 8.5 / 10
And now it's up to you to play.