Bonfire Board Game Review

Bonfire Board Game Review

Bonfire is a game that gives you options with a side of options.  It’s a game where you have to meticulously plan your turns well in advance, you have to consider not only what actions you need to take to realise your plan, you have to plan how you are going to get the actions in the first place.  There are lots of moving pieces, and although the theme is almost transparent, everything just seems to click and come together seamlessly.

Scoring points in Bonfire is straightforward, all you need is to get a Guardian to a lit Bonfire and the further away the Bonfire is from the Guardian’s starting location the more points it is worth.  The more Guardians you have, the more points you can score.  There are of course more ways to score some points, but the lion’s share is here.

Polyhedron Collider Bonfire Board Game Review - Player Board2

However, Guardians can only move along Bridges - which you’ll have to build.  They can only cross the Bridge to the Bonfire if the specific Portal Stone is in place.  Of course, the Bonfire has to also be lit and to do that you need to first collect and complete a Task.

On top of all of this, Bridges come with three different crystal colours attached to them, and if they can colour match the three different colour types of Bonfire Task you’ll of course get more points.

A lot is going on in this game, nothing is as simple or as straightforward as it seems to be.  But, Bonfire only seems complicated from the outside, if you have to break down and dissect all of the component pieces into how they work and score it’s like trying to turn a strawberry and banana smoothie back into a pile of strawberries and bananas.  So let’s not do that, let’s just enjoy the smoothie, shall we?

Polyhedron Collider Bonfire Board Game Review - Guadian Island

It really helps to have a big picture when you play Bonfire, you can’t just play and feel your way through it…well you can’t do that and score well.  Bonfire challenges you to look at the board and find a route through the islands, the challenge is about finding synergy between the Tasks so you know that completing this one furthers your completion of others.  In each turn, you are looking for the most economical way to progress as far as possible.   

This is the cornerstone of Bonfire and it permeates every turn and every action.  Even the action selection requires forethought.  You’ll select a Fate tile – a tile which depicts three of the several actions you can take and you’ll need to place this on your player board, its very placement is pivotal.  Having action symbols adjacent means you’ll get more of that action.  If you can get a couple to line up, even better.  Moreover, if on a future turn you can get another fate tile to sit adjacent to a previous pair you’ll get to triple that action.  All of this requires planning, but no, you’ll never get to pair everything up, and at some point, you just won’t want to, but doing it is essential.

Polyhedron Collider Bonfire Board Game Review - In Play

Each Fate tile only gives you three actions, and there are only seven Fate tiles in total, and you will need more than those twenty-one actions to play this game, but really, that’s the constraint you are working in.    Across X number of turns, you have twenty or so actions to score as many points as you can and there is no room for waste.

However, not only does this game make itself prone to analysis paralysis, it can be very hard to come back from a setback.  Should an opponent pip you to a Task you had your eye on it can cripple not only your plan but the entire flow of your game.  And this is all too easy.  The only upshot is that there is too much going on that your opponent most likely didn’t do it with any malice, it just also happened to be part of their plan.

Polyhedron Collider Bonfire Board Game Review - The Great Bonfire

Bonfire is also a faffy game, there are a lot of tokens; about a dozen for each of the seven actions, plus wooden resource tokens, all the Portal Stones (which are great and neat how they work) and that’s before you have each player’s set of tokens and chits.  All of this stuff cluttered around the board is…well, its clutter and one cannot help but feel that there may have been a more elegant way to represent all of this, that these pieces are all here because a game of this weight and type simply needs to have lots of little pieces.

Faff aside, however, Bonfire is a glorious game and it does a lot of things I like, there are lots of ways to accumulate points, and for the savvy player finding ways to gain a few here and a few there instead of chasing the tasks and the guardians is very rewarding. 

Polyhedron Collider Bonfire Board Game Review - High Council

Bonfire is a very mentally intense, very unforgiving game.  Before your first turn, you have to sit back and look at the options before you.  It’s like staring into the Matrix, you need to see your code, your path to victory.  You have to carefully consider how your Fate tiles are arranged, the configuration of Portal Stones at the Great Bonfire, and the Tasks available on the islands and then you have to figure out how you string all of these things together.
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