In Brussels, Belgium, from 1890 to 1910, a new style of decorative art was started by architects Victor Horta and Henry van de Velde called art nouveau. In the board game Bruxelles 1893 by Z-Man Games, up to five players compete as famous architects in the capital city of Belgium by organizing a team of assistant workers to create architectural works in the art nouveau style in order to score victory points. The person with the most victory points by game end wins.
At first glance, the artwork and graphic design beg for attention and add to the theme and atmosphere. The visuals transport players back to the turn of the 20th century when the natural form and structure of art nouveau was sweeping Europe. The game box, board, cards, rulebook and tiles were all designed to fit this exciting period of time.
Players have five rounds to choose from a list of possible game actions to develop a strategy. Actions are sometimes limited to one player only, so whoever comes first gets served first. Player order can be very strategic. Players who miss out on an action must wait another turn.
Difficult decisions always abound. Should a player build a level on his own personal home, gain influence in the royal palace or city hall, build a better reputation as an architect, seek the help of public figures, create art or sell art?
Money is another aspect to the game that players must manage. Some actions cost money while some are free. Placing workers to perform the right actions at the right time is very satisfying. A player can lose his or her workers during play, so be sure not to draw too much attention.
A unique thing about Bruxelles 1893 is the board. Every round a card is drawn representing the stock market. The card determines what spaces will be available on the board. Those spaces are the available actions for the round. Players can actually own those action spaces and get rewards when an opponent uses them.
Another interesting aspect is public figure cards. These cards grant special favors throughout the game but count against you at the end of the game by subtracting points.
Bruxelles 1893 is a solid game that fans of euro-style board games will enjoy. It combines a basket of game mechanics that function well together and stay true to the theme.