It all comes down to this. Years of study and certifications culminate in this moment. You've always known you were good. Now is your chance to prove it. Being an architect isn't easy, but you sure make it look that way. There's only room for one at the top and you know because you built that room.
In Blueprints, you play as one of up to four architects competing to win top prize and sit at the top of the architectural food chain. Everyone will build buildings from a common selection of materials. Upon completion, each building will be judged and prizes as well as awards will be handed out to the best buildings. Whoever has collected the most accolades after constructing three buildings will be the winner.
Flow of Play
To begin each game of Blueprints, you will be randomly assigned a blueprint. Imagine that. The blueprint will give the outline of the building you will construct, though aren't a beholden to it and can deviate if you think it will make for a better building. You are an architect, after all. It's nice to have some guided direction rather than an blank canvas, especially for beginners. You will receive a bonus for building to spec, but it isn't so beneficial that you will be a slave to your blueprint.
Once you've familiarized yourself with your plans it's time to start building. This is done by stacking dice and creating physical structures on top of your blueprint. Every turn you select a single die from a central collection of common materials and place it on your blueprint. There are only a few rules when constructing. Once you've placed a die, you can never move it. Also, when stacking dice, you must do so in ascending numerical order. You cannot place a lower numbered die on top of higher numbered one. This means that lower numbered material dice are generally more valuable earlier in the construction process.
Material die are also color coded according to the material they represent. Black is stone, clear is glass, orange is wood and green is recycled materials. Selecting the right materials for your building is key to winning prizes and awards.
Selecting your material die is the central decision to be made in Blueprints. And there are quite a few things to consider for such a simple action. Do you follow your blueprint to the letter or do you deviate? Will that wood die be there for you next time or do you take it now? Do you take the high point glass die early even though it might make it difficult to build later?
And though there are a lot of things to consider, Blueprints does involve rolling dice randomly chosen from a bag. This limits long term planning and rewards you for adapting to what's available in the moment. Blueprints is a game about thinking on your feet, taking decisive actions and being able to live with them.
You and Me and Him and Her
The nature of your material selection decision changes depending on the number of players at the table. In a two player game it isn't too difficult to remember what your opponent has chosen and get a general idea of what they are building behind their screen. Selecting die to deny your opponent becomes a critical consideration. Whereas in a three or four player game, it's much more difficult to remember what everyone is building and you are much more focused on your own construct. There are also more dice being selected between your turns, making any long term planning that much more difficult. The two player game is more confrontational and deliberate. Three and four player games are looser and more tactical.
And now the grand reveal
All construction is done behind a screen so no one will know exactly what you are building until it is complete. It's a nice moment of theatrics as you remove your screen and reveal your creation to the world and everyone compares their work. Many board games do construction well and Blueprints is one of them and it does so with flair. Having a dice building is a great representation of your planning and execution. The grand reveal is the flourish that makes Blueprints stand out.
After oohing and aahing (or laughing and pointing) over each other's buildings, it's time to compete for awards. This is where the types of materials you use come into play and where the theme really shines. You will be judged based on the materials in your building and how well you've utilized them. Recycled materials, for example, earn you increasingly more points the more you utilize them. Making an eco-friendly building entirely out of recycled materials will really wow the judges, but a building with only a few green materials isn't very impressive. Or take the stone. They score more points the higher they are placed in your building. Stone on the floor level is probably just some steps or even foundation. Pretty standard fare. But stone high up in the clouds could be engraved filigree or a gargoyle and it's quite an accomplishment to get heavy stone so high up.
Eye on the Prize
In addition to awards, there are prizes that will be given to the player who manages to attain certain architectural feats. There are four prizes to compete for and each of them require you to build your structure in a particular way. There is a prize for building a tower five dice high. This means you'll be eschewing your blueprint, but it might be worth it if it means winning a prize. Each prize is unique and it's possible to earn more than one if you make a really impressive building, but there is one prize that stands out. If you manage use every number on the material die (1-6) in your building you'll receive a prize. This has proven the most challenging challenge to accomplish but the prize itself isn't any more valuable than the others. Everything has to fall in line perfectly for you to achieve this and failing late in the process usually leaves you with a dud of a building. It's a minor quibble and the prize can effectively be ignored, but I would have liked to see this prize be worth more than the others making it a risky endeavor, but one that can pay off handsomely.
There's a lot to like about Blueprints. It's an attractive game with a nice tactile element. The rules are intuitive and are supported well by the theme. I really like that fact that it plays differently with two players than with three or four. Blueprints can serve two different needs and it does both well. It can be played quickly and by breaking down every turn into a single action there is little down time. All nice things. But what makes Blueprints a winner is the excitement that peppers the experience. Every so often, you'll need a very specific material to be drawn or a specific number to be rolled. Both moments are tense and can make or break you. It's genuinely exciting to see the exact color you need emerge from the bag in the palm of your opponent. It's equally crushing when it's not. These are the moments that memories are built on.