As a creative individual, I always like to create all sorts of things out of nothing. Making something pretty out of nothing just makes me happy. This works the same for me in board games. That’s why Brick & Mortar fits right up my ally. Starting with only one small store and little money, you can grow this into the best business in town with the right choices. Let’s see what stores we can make business with.
How to play.
Place the board in the center of the table to start the setup. Place all cubes (ideally sorted by color) and money near the board. Place the month marker on January and the final month marker on October or September according to the amount of players. The investment marker goes on 45 or 35 points. Then place the phase marker on the ‘building’ phase of the board. Separate the starting stores from the regular store cards and shuffle the store cards and market cards. place four store cards faceup and one more cards faceup on top of the deck. Then give each player a player board, bidding dial and screen in their color as well as 15 dollar, five market cards and four store cards. Lastly each player places their point token on the ’10’ space on the point track and you are ready to play.
There is a lot going on in this game and with seven phases there is enough explaining to do. Let me break it down for you. The goal of the game is to have the most points at the end of the game. The game will end once you reach the final month, or when a player reaches the white investment token on 45 of 35 points. The first player starts it’s turn with the building phase. In January, the building phase starts differently then in the other months. Choose a card from your hand and pass the remaining cards clockwise. Repeat this process until all players have three cards. The remaining cards are discarded. Then choose one of your cards to build as a store and place it on the leftmost space on your player board. Fill that store with the maximum capacity of resources (five apples is five green cubes for example) on the top shelf. In a normal building phase, you may build one store from your hand by paying it’s price (found in the upper right corner), or you may bid on a public store from the faceup store cards. If you have the highest bid, pay the price to the bank and open the store on the first open space on your player board. If you have no spaces left, you can choose to close an existing store. To do this, discard that card and all the supplies left on that store. Slide all store cards on space to the right and add your new store. Some store cards give points when being closed. If you earn points, update your marker on the point track immediately. You can close as many stores as you want during your build phase, but you can only buy/build one store each building phase. After each auction, slide remaining cards to the left and place a new card. If no one has bid on a public store this round, discard all store cards and place four new ones.
Once all players have had a build phase, move on to the marketing phase. Here all players must play two market cards from their hand. Choose two cards to play in secret and reveal them simultaneously once ever player has chosen. If you choose to play a market card face up, it will add all the resources listed on the card to the supply market. These will be the products you are able to buy in the next phases for your stores. If you play a market card facedown, all listed resources will be the products you can sell. If a market card shows two apples and three electronic recourses for example, and you see you have them on a shelf in your store. You might want to play that card facedown so you can sell your stock in a later phase. If you could use some more resources however, play the card faceup so you can buy them in the next phase. Once all market cards are revealed, place all facedown cards on the demand cards space on the board and place the faceup market cards where every player can see them. Then refill your hand up to five market cards again. Some store cards provide bonuses that happen before the market cards are revealed. If you have more stores open, your player board might also provide you some bonuses. Always keep your stores in mind.
In the market phase, supply all resources to the market that are listed on the face up market cards. You are now able to stock your stores with resources. Start from left to right and see if there is any competition. If you are the only one who needs a resource, or there is enough of that resource for everyone, there is no competition and you pay the minimum prices indicated on the market board. If there are more people interested in the same resource however and there is not enough for every player, you will bid for the price of that resource. All interested players secretly chooses a price on their bidding dial, quantity doesn’t matter in this phase. Then reveal the price simultaneously. The player with the highest bid, may buy any amount of that resource first, the player with the second highest bid may go next and so on until there is no resource left. This process is repeated for every resource. Stocking is always optional and even with a winning bid, you never have to buy resources. After the supply phase, comes the sale phase. Reveal all market cards that were played face down in the advertisement phase to see what resources are demanded. Every image on a card represents a place for a resource cube in the matching color. Each player can sell their stock. If there is enough room to sell for a certain resource, because there are more images on the cards then items in stock for example, players may sell that resource for the maximum price. If more players want to sell the same resource and there isn’t enough space, you have to bid. Place your bid secretly on the bidding dial and also show the quantity you want to sell. Then simultaneously reveal every bid. The player with the lowest bid may sell their stock first for the quantity they have revealed, not more. The player with the second lowest bid, may go second and so on. If there are no more places left for resource cubes, any player that hasn’t sold their resources yet, looses a quantity of resources equal to the amount on the bidding dial. If the third player still had two apples to sell, but there is only one space left, he will sell that one apple for the price on his bidding dial, the other will be lost an has to be discarded.
After buying and selling your stock, you have to maintain your inventory in the inventory phase. Your inventory will expire or turn to old overtime. In this phase, age all your resources by moving everything in your stores one shelf down. If your inventory would fall to the ground, discard your resources. All players can do this simultaneously. Once the inventory phase is done, you need to pay for your stores in the utilities phase. All stores have a cost that needs to be paid to keep them open. The location they stand on a may also cost money. Count all the expenses together and pay the cost to the bank. If you can’t pay the utilities, players have to take debts tokens. They provide you two dollars per token, but will cost you minus points at the end of the game. If you notice you can’t pay your utilities, you can always choose to close a store in the build phase later. Lastly is the investment phase. Here you can buy or sell points. If you are in need of money, you can sell points for three dollars each, no matter how many you sell. Always update your marker on the point track if you buy or sell points. If you buy points, it’s cheaper to buy a couple instead of a lot. One point costs four dollars and the maximum of ten points will cost you 106 dollars. Since the game ends when a player reaches the white investment token at 45 or 35 points, and you win when you have the most points, it’s important to find the right balance at buying and selling points. It often can be a good idea to buy points often, but for a small amount. After all the phases are done, move the month marker one month forward and start over with the build phase.
The game ends when the set amount of points is reached by a player. Players still take one more turn each before final scoring. If you finish the month with the final month marker, the game is immediately over. To calculate your scoring, add the points from your stores to the point track and substract any indicated points for empty spots on your player board. Lastly substract points from any debts tokens. Be aware of your store bonuses through the entire game since it not only can give you points, but also more money and possibilities. The player with the most points at the end of the game, wins.
Playthrough of the game.
With one tiny store we started our business, hoping to expand it to something better. With so many phases, it took us a couple of rounds to know what to do and a couple of games to develop some strategy. In our third game, we knew the rules and what opportunities to look for in the game. With two players, we both tried to get different kind of stores in de beginning so we could buy and sell inventory as much as we wanted. This worked until we both saw a public jewelry store that gave you points every time there were no jewelry placed on the market before the market phase. It also gave you two jewelry to any of your stores and two to the market. Not only was this a great way to maybe score some passive points, you also got the second most expensive item two times each round. Since I had save up some money, I won the bid and could place the store. From this point on, the bidding chaos on everything started and became worse once we gathered more stores. We both tried to make the most of every situation, waiting for the best time to bid, drop out, sell or not sell. But with having the jewelry store and some other stores with a good combo, I had gathered more points then Tomasz at the end of the game and won the game.
The economic system of Brick and Mortar has a very clever design that works even for two players. Sure, there would be more interaction in the bidding and selling process if there were more people since there would be more kind of stores involved, but we also like the game with two people only. The game has a learning curve, but even though there are a lot of phases, there are also a lot of reminders placed everywhere which makes the game a little easier to learn. Every player receives their own card with the minimum and maximum prices and rarity of products and cards on it. This could help in the decision making of investing in new stores and products. Since most of the game is also played simultaneously, there is almost no downtime in between. The one thing we don’t quite like is the length of one game. Even with two players, the game often takes more then 1,5 hours. We did notice it gets shorter with every game we play so it’s possible it will eventually get shorter if we improve even more. However, we would like it more if the game would end sooner. After a while, you just realize when starting another round that it really takes a lot of time. The almost zero downtime and constantly engaging with your opponents make up for a lot though.
Brick & Mortar is a strategic market manipulation game where you will have to maintain your own stores in order to be successful. With quite a big rulebook and a lot of phases to go trough each round, there is a lot to learn and even harder to master. The combo’s you can make with each store will be unique in every game, giving you a different strategy to work with every time. The best part about this game is that almost everything is played simultaneously which means there is almost no downtime for other players. The most important element to master in this game is timing. Bid, buy or sell at the wrong time and you will lose a lot of money. Since money will buy you the points you need to win the game, you will want to learn this fast. The game is can be a little long in our opinion, but the gameplay is smooth and the quality of the components are great. We overall don’t like many economic games, but this for us is definitely a keeper.