11 May 2020
You wait all this time for a bus, and then a 20th edition comes along
To most gamers the name Splotter Spellen may mean nothing. It’s a boutique games company from the Netherlands, with a reputation for brain-burning games, 22 years of history and 25 published titles, many of them long out of print. But it’s also responsible for Food Chain Magnate, currently the 27th-highest rated game on BoardGameGeek, and that’s brought a bunch of new fans to their table.
Bus is one of those earlier Splotter titles. Originally from 1999, this is a 20th-anniversary release, with new graphics (thankfully – Splotter games are notorious for their idiosyncratic art) but unchanged rules.
It’s a game about building and running rival bus companies in a rapidly expanding town whose population rotate between their homes, their offices and the numerous pubs. Also there’s a time machine which can pause that cycle but if overused will blow up and end the game. Oh yes.
The game itself is sort-of worker placement, as you build up your routes in a sort-of Catan-like way but with more double-deckers. Each player only gets twenty actions in the whole game, and you only score points by actually transporting passengers on your buses, and that sounds like it should be a recipe for a few minutes of untaxing fun. The map’s not complex. There are very few rules exceptions. How hard can this be?
You read the rules, and almost every paragraph has something to make you go, ‘Oh that’s clever – a little fiddly, but clever.’ And then you get the required three to five players round a table and start, and in a couple of turns your brain is on fire, and will stay that way for a couple of hours. This is a game that takes no prisoners. It demands concentration, and rewards it.
It’s not for everyone, particularly not at that price, but if brain-burners are your thing then Bus will take you where you want to go.
Designer: Jeroen Doumen, Joris Wiersinga
Artist: Daan van Paridon, Thijs van Paridon
Time: 2 hours
This review originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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