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Reviews - Burrows
 
by Demian Katz


BurrowsBurrows
Published by Z-Man Games (2010)
Designed by Jeb Havens
Graphic design and rules editing by Joshua Cappel
Contents: 5 ranch boards, 12 wooden gophers, 80 burrow tiles, 24 schedule pages, bus track, cardboard tour bus stand-up.
2-5 players
$24.99


The market for tile-laying games is pretty saturated, but it's probably safe to say that this is the first one about tourists seeking out multi-colored gophers. The premise is that the gophers of Gopher Gulch each favor a particular root vegetable (radishes, carrots or turnips), and this has resulted in animals with distinctive coloration. Tourists come by the busload to see them, and the players are ranchers attempting to encourage the exotic gophers to take up residence. Through the course of the game, tour buses will come to visit, and players will earn "disappointment points" if their ranches lack the gophers the current group of tourists hope to see. In the end, the player with the least disappointing ranch is the winner.

Gameplay
Burrows has three different colors of gopher, and at the start of the game, each color contains one fewer gopher than there are players in the game. This ensures that there is always a disappointing ranch for any given color of gopher at any given time. Players each start with an assortment of gophers determined by their ranch boards. The small schedule page tiles are laid out face-up in a pattern so that players can see what types of gophers tourists will be seeking throughout the game. The burrow tiles are turned face-down, shuffled and stacked, and two random tiles are turned face-up. The tour bus stand-up is placed on the first space of its track.

Burrow tileThe burrow tiles are the most important part of the game. They are rectangular, exactly twice as wide as they are tall, and they picture various tunnels and vegetables. Vegetables mark the endpoints of tunnels. The tiles are designed in such a way that any even arrangement will result in properly connected tunnels, and players are allowed to lay them out however they like – even at 90-degree angles to one another. The important thing is that burrows are only valuable if they are closed off at both ends with the same vegetable. By building the longest such burrow, a player can capture a gopher from the player with the shortest burrow of the same type. However, a player can only capture a gopher from another player if he or she does not already have that color of gopher – this ensures that there is always exactly one ranch missing each color of gopher. If a longer tunnel is built on a ranch that already has the corresponding gopher type, that gopher simply moves up to the longer tunnel, and the rancher with the shortest occupied tunnel gets to keep his or her gopher.

At the start of any player's turn, there will be two face-up burrow tiles available. He or she turns a third tile face-up and then takes one of the three available tiles. The selected tile may either be played immediately or held in reserve for a future turn, though only one tile may be reserved at a time. Some tiles feature a bus icon; these tiles may not be reserved, and when they are played, they cause the tour bus to advance a space on its track. When the tour bus reaches the end of its track, it is reset and the next set of schedule pages are scored. Each schedule page shows a gopher color and a number of disappointment points. Each page is given to the player who does not have the pictured gopher color in his or her burrow. When no schedule pages remain to be scored, the game ends, and the player with the fewest disappointment points wins the game.

Presentation
Burrows is given a respectable presentation. The relatively small box is well packed with components – you get a lot of cardboard here, and there isn't much wasted space when it comes to storage. Although this doesn't look as nice as most of Z-Man's European imports, the simple and cartoony artwork gets the job done. My biggest complaint is simply that in certain light, it's a little hard to tell the orange and red components apart. Given that the game only has three colors, it would have been nice for them to be more easily distinguishable... but I understand that when your theme revolves around root vegetables, you have a limited palette available!

Conclusions
In the end, Burrows is a fairly typical tile-laying game. If you're familiar with the genre, you probably won't find anything here that you haven't seen elsewhere, and if you dislike this style of game, this one is unlikely to change your mind. However, the fact that it isn't especially innovative doesn't prevent it from being a decent game, and tile fans may still want to take a look. The game's defining characteristic is its aggressive and directly competitive nature. Some tile games (Carcassonne, for example) can be played in an almost cooperative spirit if the players so desire; not so here. Your goal is to steal gophers from other players, and there's no avoiding it. The game also moves very quickly – the bus track isn't very long, so scoring comes quickly and frequently, and the whole thing is over before you know it... unless you play against an opponent with analysis paralysis. There are a lot of choices every turn thanks to the three face-up tiles and the very flexible placement rules, and since the entire bus schedule is face-up throughout the game, there's a lot to think about and plan for. Of course, you can always introduce an egg timer if you are concerned about this.

Burrows is unlikely to win any awards or become a timeless favorite, but it's a nice variation on a popular theme. Also, gopher meeples! It's something of a niche product, but if it sounds appealing to you, it probably won't disappoint.

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