Bristol 1350 is live on Kickstarter until June 25. If you are looking for a Bristol 1350 preview, you are in the right place! Read on to discover my thoughts and experiences with the game.

If I’m going down, I’m taking you with me!

There is something weirdly satisfying about this phrase. Odds are you’ve heard it said before. If you’re like me, then you heard it many a time after saving the Lylat System from the schemes of Andross. Or perhaps you heard it from the mouth of Chandler on an episode of Friends. It is certainly a common phrase, although I’ve found that enforcing the phrase is even more satiating than hearing it.

Enter Bristol 1350…. In this delightful romp of deduction and deception, a few players secretly start with the Black Death. Meanwhile, everyone else is eager to escape the doomed town of Bristol and evade the clutches of this dreaded disease. While three apple carts are racing to the finish line, only the first cart of fully healthy passengers will be crowned victorious. As those select few passengers who start with the plague are doomed to fail from the very beginning, they instead seek to take down everyone with them. Misery loves company, after all; and that company can be a riot.

A Two-Year Journey

My first experience with what is now Bristol 1350 was nearly two years ago. I was an eager-eyed aspiring designer in Columbus, Ohio, and I had the opportunity to meet the family behind Facade Games. They graciously took the time to playtest some of my first designs, and I got the chance to try their latest prototype. Their game involved a clever chariot race around a colosseum track. Players were invested in specific colors winning the race; they competed and collaborated to help further their own objectives, but there was always the possibility of a secret traitor lurking among their own team…. It was engaging, it was fun, and I never saw this game again.

Over the past two years, I’ve learned that the Hancocks are not afraid to completely destroy and reassemble their projects. At first, I couldn’t believe that Travis was so consistently comfortable with taking a hammer to the very thing that was going to pay the bills and feed his family. Every few months I got the chance to try the latest version of the fourth game in the Dark Cities Series, and each version was always wildly different from the last. The only thing that stayed consistent through all the versions was the core racing mechanism of the game and the Facade Games’ special ingredient of deceptive deduction.

The Sweet Spot

When the later sequential versions suddenly stopped transforming so dramatically, I knew that this game was finding its sweet spot. Of course, I also knew that fact when my criticisms were progressively erased into oblivion and replaced entirely by complements.

I’ve had the fortune of playing a near final version of Bristol 1350 with as few as 4 players and as many as 9. The best compliment I can give is that this game of social deduction with a hidden traitor mechanism is incredibly engaging within that entire player range. At 4 players, Bristol is methodical and piercing; at 9 players, it remains zippy yet becomes bombastic. I’m certainly intrigued to see how the dynamics change at 1-3 players with automated “ghost” pawns.

Fun Across the Spectrum

Those who are falling prey to the black death gleefully seek to fan the flames of transmission, while those who remain unscathed must stay alert and agile to suspicious passengers. In many sessions, some infected players shamelessly embrace their symptoms and wear them as a badge of pride through their words and actions. These obvious villains serve as the decoys while their cursed comrades sneak their way into the trusted company of the healthy humans. Meanwhile, these healthy individuals must form shaky alliances and remain vigilant as they seek to be among the first to escape Bristol unmarked.

The options on your turn include re-rolling to hopefully speed up your cart and slow down others, abandoning your cart for a better prospect, or acquiring a Remedy card to have a powerful influence on the game when used wisely.

I’ve found myself having a blast on both ends of this infectious spectrum. As an infected passenger, I love the thrill of spreading my symptoms to my fellow cart riders (while wielding plausible deniability), forcing cart mingles by rolling rats, or stealthing my diseased self onto a cart that crosses the finish line to ensure the doom of my fellow passengers.

Likewise, the tension of navigating and escaping Bristol healthy and unharmed is a roller coaster of a journey. The key is to unite with persons who seem least suspicious, form a shaky alliance, and work together to keep your cart clean of the plague and ahead of the pack. Bristol contains that right balance of incentives and clues to give both sides a chance of deducing secret diagnoses and attaining objectives.

The hauntingly gorgeous rulebook cover of Bristol 1350

A Bright Future for a Dark Game

Even when the maturing Bristol prototype was still a jumble of cheap paper and plastic, my fellow playtesters and I were having a fantastic time together. Seeing the final result of Facade Game’s vision, beautiful production and all, is tantalizing frosting on a cake that I was already hungry for. As social distancing eventually evaporates and groups of any size can finally gather together once more, Bristol 1350 will frequently hit our table and have us eager to retread its infectious fun.

This unsolicited preview was written by a fan of Bristol 1350 and a friend of the Hancock family. Amid the coincidental timing of their historical Black Death game project launching in a COVID-19 world, the Hancocks plan to donate $3,000 from their own pockets to Action Against Hunger. This preview is written as a kudos to their great game and generous hearts. You can check out the Kickstarter page for Bristol 1350 by clicking HERE.

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