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Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Bridge Too Far

Today we returned to the exquisite Goose the Market off of Delaware St. in downtown Indy.  As before, we sat in the Enoteca section of their establishment and enjoyed our wine and cheese surrounded by a veritable smorgasbord of fine wines and other beverages!  Claire enjoyed her Piedra Negrarosado and I had the Poggio Anima Lilith.  Both went very well with our cheese plate and we look forward to returning again.  In this abstract, 2 player tactical, territory building game we visit Venice, Italy to place and connect islands together by building bridges across the water. 
The board is presented on a 10x10 grid for the players to put down tiles which represent their islands.  These islands are differentiated between two different shades of colors, one plain and one dark red.  To begin the game, the older player places down two of the light island tiles, and then the other player decides if he or she will play with the light or dark island tiles.  The player who ends up choosing the dark island squares, places two dark island squares on any 2 empty spaces on the board.  The rules for placing tiles is that the active player either places 2 island squares on any 2 empty spaces on the board (the two island squares may touch each other) or 1 bridge on 2 of his island squares.  When it comes to islands and sandbanks, a grouping of 4 island squares of the same color connected to each other, touching at least along one side is called an island.  An island must be exactly 4 island squares, never more or less.  A grouping of 1, 2, or 3 island squares of the same color is called a sand bank.  An island may not touch (even diagonally) an island or sand bank of the same color.  Sand banks may touch diagonally and they can be connected to make an island as long as the result does not touch an island of the same color and is not larger than 4 squares.  A bridge connects  2 squares of the same color.  The space spanned by the bridge must be unoccupied and each square may only hold 1 bridge.  Neither player may place a bridge over a square, regardless of its color.  No square may be placed beneath a bridge and a bridge will block 2 spaces at most.  The game ends if a player using the light squares cannot place 2 squares and cannot or chooses not to build a bridge.  At that point, the other opponent may take 1 more turn and then the game ends.  If the player using dark squares cannot place 2 squares and cannot or chooses not to place a bridge, the game ends immediately.  To score and determine the winner, each player scores his islands.  A solitary island that is not connected by a bridge to any other islands or sand banks, scores 1 point.
One of the unique things about this game, is even though the cover art leads you to believe that the game carries a more cross-cultural, artistic setting it's actually a very abstract, tactical game.  Ponte del Diavolo is also not as straight forward as you would think.  Regardless of how straight forward the rules may seem, there is a lot of room for tactical planning and strategic placement, which can drastically branch out and alter the game in a moments notice.  Another interesting fact about this game is that 'Ponte del Diavolo' translates to 'Bridge of the Devil' which I found slightly disconcerting, but also very interesting!  I feel the designer of the game does not just create an abstract strategy game about connecting bridges to islands and then give it a name like that without a deeper meaning behind it.  That really makes me want to do more research into the designer and the game to possibly learn more about its genesis.  I think this is a good little game if you're looking to expand on your abstract library.  Claire and I do not have a lot of abstract games in our collection as we prefer games with more theme, but that certainly does not mean it's a dull game.  We enjoy it and the game has really grown on us over time.  The more we play it, the more we tend to enjoy it.  As of this posting we have played it about 10 times, so we have not brought this game to the table very much, but definitely enough times to get a good feel for it and write an informative review.  I can see this game going in either direction when it comes to popularity among gamers.  You need to have a better appreciation for abstract games if you're going to become more engaged in this one.  Ponte del Diavolo is definitely the most interesting abstract game I've ever come across and I think we'll be holding onto this one for a long time.

Ponte del Diavolo
Overall Meeple Rating: 6/10

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