Finding a decent game that is strictly for two players can be a tricky task indeed. I swear blind that Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small is a sure thing, but sometimes you want to do something on a grander scale than simply constructing a farm. Perhaps you fancy taking the reigns of a civilisation and seeing if you can destroy those who rise before you, all in twenty minutes? Now you’ll get to do precisely that in a new game called Bronze from Spiral Galaxy.
Originally based on a PC game designed to be played solitaire, it’s now been transferred to the tabletop where you’ll vie against a single human opponent to see if you can dominate the map. With each player randomly allocated a civilisation from a selection of six, Bronze is a quick playing engine building affair with a fair dash of tile placement and area control – you start off with no money so will need to get resources to hand as quickly as you can; thankfully as you expand across the field of play you’ll gain access to more and more. As your access to resources expands, so do the opportunities to build bigger and better creations; however, you can get stuck quite quickly as each of the seven building types are limited. Leave it too long and your opponent could well steal the lot, leaving you high and dry.
Of course, you may not have to worry about this too much – with each player in control of a different civilisation, they could also have access to other buildings or even be able to pay less for those you can purchase. This asymmetric play adds some extra value to the package as a whole – after all, there are plenty of combinations to experiment with, and with four base maps included the options open up even further. Rules are also included to design your own maps, so the variety is almost infinite.
Actual gameplay is very straightforward – even newbie gamers will be able to grasp the whole thing within a game or so. With only three options to choose from on each turn, Bronze is simplicity itself. You can either expand your territory with a Farm, expand with a Building, or convert a Farm into a Building, but the trick to winning is all down to timing; get the right building on the board at the right time and you could steal the win. The game ends when one player can perform one of these actions, victory points are totalled up and your winner is declared.
In the games I’ve played I have found that there’s often a tipping point, a moment you can see precisely where the game turned in one player’s favour; some may consider this a bad thing, but in a game that plays so quickly, it’s hard to be entirely down on it. In fact, it’s actually suggested in the rules that you set aside enough time to play twice, switching civilisations after the first game and combining the points after both plays to see who wins.
It’s been interesting spending time with Bronze. Early plays didn’t really grab me; it wasn’t until I got a few games under my belt that I realised the depth that was in there. Of course, as it plays so speedily we’re not exactly talking Twilight Imperium here, but it offers a higher level of complexity than you may initially expect, and while it may not entirely take the place of Agricola: ACBAS as my two-player game of choice, it’ll certainly be hitting the table regularly when I’m looking for a head-to-head blast.
Thanks to the folks at Spiral Galaxy Games for letting me have some time with the only prototype that’s out there! If you’re interested in Bronze, you can get involved with the current Kickstarter campaign where a copy will set you back £30 – it ends on February 28th 2013 though, so be quick!