Publisher: Puzzling Pixel Games
Designer: Ronald Halliday
Artist: Ronald Halliday, Michael T Schroeder
Release date: 2020
1 – 6 Players
30 + mins
Favouritefoe score 9/10
*Roll and Write * Strategic * Superior Solo Mode * Real World Map * Network Building * Stroll & Write * Dice Drafting * Relaxing * Challenging * Historical
Do you own games which are also other things? I don’t mean cardboard door-stops or box lid snack receptacles. I mean games that have real-life utility. No? Well, I didn’t either until I got my hands on Seven Bridges!
For this game is a “stroll and write” with a very unique feature. Designed by Ronald Halliday, real life and rolled dice meld together. Because here, your sheet is a bona fide map of Kӧnigsberg of old! If Google Maps had been invented then, you could have walked your way around the Prussian/German city (now Kaliningrad) without a dropped pin or post-code.
Exploring using your trusty pencil and dice, by channelling your inner Anneka Rice, you will be aiming to score points whilst you are there. How? By visiting as many features as possible via its famous seven bridges.
So, with top marks already for geographical and historical accuracy, Seven Bridges gets my practical-gamer vote. But why else is this wonder-puzzle pleasing me so much? Let’s take a stroll together and find out.
Set up in Seconds!
Firstly, Seven Bridges is a 30 second set up. Score! Each player just needs a sheet and a pencil. The only other things you need to do are place the 6 route dice on the table, and decide who is going to be first player.
The starting square is chosen by rolling dice in order to give a map quadrant, row and a column number. Then, the first player rolls all 6 dice and the game is afoot!
Trotting around the Town!
Played over five rounds, you want to be visiting as many buildings, landmarks, trees, and, of course, bridges as possible. But your moves are prescribed by the actions on the dice. Plus you only get to use the dice that you draft on your turn.
Bear in mind that what scores at end-game is determined by how many bridges you have visited over the preceding 5 rounds. Therefore, if you visit 6 bridge, you will score your highest six scoring conditions (out of seven). If you only visited 4, however, you only get to score the top four. Ouchie!
So, on your turn, you roll and pick the dice you want to draw on your map. The adjacency rule is strong in this one, however, my puzzling padawan. So remember that you can only link up to previously drawn connection points.
Each dice face will show one of a number of different straight roads, cross-roads, half roads, and bends. You cannot go over previously drawn roads. Plus, if you cannot draw the action in its entirely (save for the 2/3 straight road options), then you cannot use it. Having said that, however, you won’t lose the chance to mark your sheet that turn because you can “downgrade” the action to a lower value one. After all, even a half road is better than no road at all!
Lots of Lovely Landmarks!
If you draw a line past a landmark (indicated by a letter on the map), you will get points on the Landmark track and gain a bonus action. Bonuses are split into extra dice which you will draw immediately, and reserved powers (including access to footpaths or a re-roll action) for triggering later in the game.
Bridges to Everywhere!
Likewise, if you cross over a bridge, you get points on the bridge track (although no boosting bonuses). “But what if I visit all seven bridges in a nice neat loopy-de-loop? What super-duper rolly-writey, combotastic, bonus bonanza will I get?”, I hear you cry! Well, dear friends, therein lies the logical lunacy of this game. None. Because you can’t.
Don’t get itchy, but you are playing a game where it is mathematically impossible to achieve its title! You cannot walk around the two halves of historic Kӧnigsberg crossing each of the seven bridges only once. Wait, what???
It’s true! And I am not just saying it because I can’t do it. This prickly puzzle is based on a fact, thanks to a very smart man called Leonhard Euler. Indeed, over 300 years ago, his Kӧnigsberg conundrum formed the basis of graph theory! (I’m not ashamed, I had to look it up too!).
Mind Melting Mathematics!
Now, you can dash around the map, criss-crossing over the bridges. You will need to grab every available bonus action if you are in with a chance of doing so, but you didn’t really expect to get enough dice to do everything you ever wanted, did you?!
And that is the crunch showing itself. In Seven Bridges, you always have to consider what you are giving up. If you’re spreading yourself thinly across the map, is that going to mess up your loop? With a closed circuit being one of the scoring conditions (90 degree bends multiplied by the number of bridges crossed within it), it can be a points-payday! But if you’re hitting the loop hard, will you miss out on trees, buildings, and those lovely landmarks which get you those beautiful bonus actions? You also have to factor in your opponents’ plans. And I NEVER miss an opportunity to hate-draft my husband, even if it messes up my own game!
Trade Off Town!
As you have probably realised, Seven Bridges is all about tricky trade-offs. Deciding what to do for the best when you can’t do everything. This doesn’t mean there isn’t potential for game-changing combos. Because these are most definitely possible, and taste so sweet when they happen! A drafted dice could trigger a landmark which leads to a bonus action that could get you over a bridge, walking amongst the trees, or even past another landmark…….you get the idea. And I love that. And for this reason, I find Seven Bridges very crunchy, very thinky, but, strangely, also very calming!
Part of my Seven Bridges based serenity could be down to the components. The game setting is very thematic – the map looks like it is textbook ready, the colours are understated, and the dice and pencils are simple, wooden affairs. It feels almost hygge (if a board game can ever be classified as such). And no doubt about it; my mind feels like it is strolling around Prussian/Germanic Kӧnigsberg when playing it.
I would say that the double sided sheets are a nice size and a great quality, although the map can become a little tricky to read as you colour in more and more of the roads and features as you pass them. You are also going to want to upgrade the included eraser to something a little more robust if you write-regret-erase-write-regret-erase as I tend to do! But those are minor points in what is most definitely a next-level roll and write, and I really like the turn track which helps us to know whose turn it is, even if game play is interrupted.
There is also an absolutely brilliant solo mode where you face-off against Euler himself. And you have been warned; Euler basically scores almost everything you don’t, which is incredibly intense! Personally, I love games where the single player variant is more than beat-your-own-score, the AI’s moves are pre-set, and it is easy to operate. Having to think for myself is hard enough in this game, so not having to do it for him as well is brilliant. Plus, knowing that the difficulty level increases from 1 – 9 (based on where your starting line is), keeps me coming back for more!
No doubt, I think Seven Bridges is superb. Mainly because, for me, it does several things that very few games achieve.
Firstly, it is simultaneously tense and relaxing. I may stop along a route, my mind reeling as I try to figure out how best to boost my scores. But, I feel like Seven Bridges gives me permission to do that. It lets me stop and take in the imaginary view of Kӧnigsberg whilst I am puzzling things out.
Secondly, Seven Bridges is a game which is ahead of the curve in terms of integrating theme into the game play of a genre renown for less successful efforts in this respect. Granted, it isn’t a whizz-pop-colour-drop type game, but it plays and feels like a stroll around historical Prussia.
Finally, through a combination of strategy and luck, winning Seven Bridges often comes down to the wire. Runaway leads have been rare in our games, and this maintains the tension and hope throughout. And I think that is in part because you can mess with your opponents, either through some sneaky drafting, or clever bonus use. Furthermore, because set up and tear down takes seconds, I can be playing almost as soon as I take the box off my shelf. And that is always a winning combination for me.
If you are looking for a top-tier roll and write game that will make your brain burn as it is dipped in warm honey, Seven Bridges could be up your street too!