Known for its beautifully colored houses, Burano is a captivating island. The lace produced on the island has been held in high regard since the Middle Ages. And of course, it wouldn’t really be an island without a healthy fishing economy. So what are you going to do when you live on the beautiful, canal filled Burano and your family needs jobs? Obviously, you’re going to send them off to work in the lace shops and to be fishermen. At least that’s how it works out in the board game Burano.
First and foremost, Burano is a good looking game. The game comes with a lot of components and they are all top notch. And colorful too. It really wouldn’t be Burano without vibrant color. Seriously though, there is a lot in the box. There’s the main game board, main island overlay, 120 large wooden cubes (20 in each color), merchant ships, cardboard coins, dock houses, lace workshop tiles, an action board, roof tiles, action color markers, individual player boards, schedule ring pieces, time wheels, worker tokens, wooden fishing boats, and loads of different cards. At first, the sheer amount of content in the box might be a little overwhelming, but the rulebook does a fantastic job of breaking down the setup phase and detailing where everything goes and how it is used.
One of the main things you’re going to be doing in the game of Burano is using the different colored cubes to build a cube pyramid. Equally important is selecting which cube(s) you’ll take from your pyramid to use on your turn. The cube pyramid represents a clever mechanic where only “free cubes”, that is cubes that aren’t covered at all by other cubes, can be used. This makes choosing which cubes go where when constructing your pyramid very important. It also means you have to pay close attention to which cubes are free and what colors will become available after removing your selected cube.
In addition to building houses/roofs, which is the main action in Burano, you’ll also compete in two mini-games in order to gain victory points. The two mini-games are fishing and lace making. You’ll want to focus on at least one of these areas, as both fishing and lace making provide victory points. Both offer a decent amount of victory points for controlling the majority in each area, but they each offer unique methods of gaining victory points as well. For example, when fishing you’ll gain 1 – 3 fish cards. These cards can later be traded with merchant ships for 2 – 20 victory points depending on the different types of fish cards you trade.
Cube colors are important in Burano because each color corresponds to a specific action. The color associated with each action is randomly determined at the start of each round. This is just one of the many ways Burano keeps players on their toes. For example, during the first round placing a blue cube might allow you to take a fishing action, while in the second round the fishing action might be associated with the color pink.
Each player also has a schedule ring, which is kind of like a clock, but not really. Your workers are kept on individual spaces of the schedule ring. Each time a worker is removed, something on the schedule ring is revealed, which could provide you with victory point or perhaps coins. Colors are also associated with the spaces, which determines where you may place your workers.
While fishing and lace making are important aspects of Burano, the main aspect of the game is placing your cubes to make houses and place roofs. Every player gets three roof tiles, which you’ll have a chance to replenish each round. The roof tiles are random, so you don’t know exactly what you are getting, but each will have two colors on it. The colors could be the same or different. The roof tile must be placed on top of the listed colors (unless you have a special ability stating otherwise). Placing a roof tile does a few different things for you. First, you either gain two victory points or you gain a building card. More on building cards in a moment, but they offer some substantial abilities. The second thing a roof tile does for you is score points based on its type. You can score points for your progress in fishing, lace working, how many fountains you uncovered on your schedule ring, or just a straight number of points. Buildings can be three stories high, with a roof tile able to be placed when each story is built.
Building cards can only be obtained by placing a roof tile. The power/ability on each building card varies wildly. For instance, one building card increasing the number of victory points you gain each time you place a roof tile. Another allows you to ignore one of the colors on each roof tile you place (this is pretty powerful). Another simply adds nine victory points to your final score. Another allows you to move your fishing boat two spaces instead of one. There really isn’t a bad building card. Obviously, if you aren’t focusing on lace making then you won’t really benefit from building cards that focus on lace making, but usually there are several building cards available to choose from so you can pick one that best suits you and your current situation.
Components & Storage
The components are all top notch. The wooden cubes are much larger than you’ll find in most other board games. The game board and overlay are beautifully illustrated. All the individualized player pieces are nice and the overall amount of “stuff” in the box really makes you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. Storage is okay. It is basically just one big box without any dividers or anything, but the game does come with plenty of baggies so everything can be sorted.
Color is a major part of Burano. I’m not color blind, and I haven’t played the game with anyone that is color blind, so I’m unsure if the game is color blind friendly. If you are color blind, you may want to look at the cubes, roof tiles, and lace working tiles before buying.
I don’t want to be the person that complains about a board game being sexist, but Burano stipulates in the rules that your women workers must go to the lace factories while the men must be the fishers. Mechanically, there is absolutely no reason that you can’t place a woman token on a fishing island and a man token at a lace factory. The rule seems very arbitrary, controlling, and doesn’t affect gameplay.
I enjoyed playing Burano. There is quite a lot going on, but not so much that I felt overwhelmed. You definitely have to think about things in advance, from which colors you’ll need to managing your coin supply. Burano is a fun game and it looks great on the table top, which never hurts. When you can chain together a nice combo of actions it feels good. Everything you do feels like it is purposeful and has meaning and it doesn’t take long to start seeing how everything works together. Overall, Burano gets a passing grade and I think it deserves a space on your gaming shelf.