Bloom Town sat on my table for a month before I even glanced in its direction. On the one hand, that’s the peril of sending me an unsolicited review copy. On the other, it’s entirely my fault I hadn’t looked closer. If I’d realized it was designed by Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen, the creative team behind 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis, I wouldn’t have been nearly so truant.
Now that I’ve played it, the short version is that Bloom Town features no brinkmanship, military buildup, or threat of nuclear annihilation. The longer version is more complicated.
Not much more complicated, though.
In fact, Bloom Town is counting on not coming across as complicated, let alone convoluted, intricate, or even involved. Although some circles regard “filler” as a dirty word, on the same level as “family game” or “license tie-in,” Bloom Town wears the term like a badge of pride. Need a break in between longer fare? Waiting for that one friend named Geoff who’s always late? Bloom Town wants to be your solution. The basic premise can be summed up in a single breath. Here’s your grid, here are two tiles. On your turn, place a tile and earn some points. Draw a replacement from the stack that matches the icon of the spot you covered. Easy.
Even the scoring for each building is swiftly internalized. Offices like sharing rows and columns with their own kind, shaded like tidy Excel spreadsheets. Subway stations are similar but diagonal. Houses like being near as many different things as possible, parks prefer more parks, and stores announce which two buildings they like with a splash of color on their rooftop. If anything, the hardest part is squinting down at the ornaments on top of the stores.
There are two wrinkles. First, green spaces. Whenever you cover one of these with a tile, you either double the points from whatever building you just placed or take an extra turn. Both options are considerable in their own way, either letting you rush another building onto the table or walk away with a significant increase in score. Meanwhile, shuffled into the tile stacks are a few scoring tokens, two for each building. When the second tile for any given building is drawn, you re-score all of that building on everyone’s board. This is probably the game’s trickiest detail to impress upon newcomers. Doubly so because not every building re-scores the same way it scores when placed. But it’s also a clever way to prevent everyone from wagering on a single type of building and nothing else. The game ends when a certain number of tiles have been depleted, meaning you might never see a particular building pay out twice. Far better, then, to spread around the love.
At any given time, all these variables generate a pleasant, low-key friction. The tile you’re placing could set up a scoring option later, cash in for loads of points, take advantage of an open green space, or focus on what you’ll gain from the tile offer — or all of the above. The turnover in the tile offer is brisk enough that you can expect the occasional stutter in tempo as players reevaluate their options afresh every turn, but for the most part it moves at a steady clip.
Honestly, there isn’t much else to say about this one. If anything, it seems to blitz its conclusion a little too speedily. Some of the joy of building a city is beholding your creation, in particular in the later stages when every extra placement matters. Here, there’s nothing wrong with any of its individual concepts. But the endgame approaches with such languor as stacks turn up empty, giving it more the sound of a wheeze than a clap.
Still, Bloom Town is a hard game for finding fault. It’s fast, thinkier than its size warrants, and creates charming little frankentowns that are every bit as unnatural as those in Sprawlopolis. Very good… for a filler. And I mean that sincerely.
A complimentary copy was provided.