BELFORT STRATEGY GUIDE By Evan Denbaum & Michael Mindes

By Evan Denbaum & Michael Mindes
Esteemed Master Architect,
We regret to inform you that we have received multiple complaints about the working
conditions in Belfort and overall dissatisfaction level of your loyal crew of elves and
dwarves. In fact, the gnomes are in a tizzy and even a few trolls have offered
suggestions for improvement, which is entirely unproductive.
As such, the Belfort Rules Lawyers’ Guild has hereby decreed that you are required to
read the following guide in its entirety and thereafter submit to five “voluntary” exams
before your work on the kingdom’s glorious new castle will be permitted to continue.
Remember, every moment you spend off the construction site gives your rival
supervisors a better chance to secure precious lumber, stone and metal … and
ultimately the Key to the City. So, study up and good luck, Master Architect!
Yours officially,
[official seal art]
Rudwig P. Horswimmons
Deputy Assistant to the Assistant Deputy
Dept. of OA & BND
Succeeding in Belfort is closely linked to you ability to recognize the opportunities
before you. There are opportunities in your opening hand of cards and the availability of
particular guilds. And most critically, there are plenty of chances to react to the choices
of your opponents in ways that advantage your game and disrupt theirs. As with most
rich strategy games, there’s a bit of a learning curve in recognizing the value of things
during your first play. This guide will help you get up to speed and offer more
experienced players some more strategies to consider.
When the game begins, you receive five Property cards and get to keep three to form
your starting hand. The initial card selection can set you on a strategic path right out of
the gate. And when you get those properties built, it’s satisfying to feel like your engine
is already well underway. So, which cards should you choose?
The answer is a bit different depending on whether you’re new to Belfort. Once you’ve
played a full game, it’s best to “let the cards speak to you.” Don’t force it. Don’t decide
before the slices of the game board are properly arranged which cards to build and
which strategy to execute. See what opportunities your opening hand presents and try
out that strategy. We promise you it’s possible to solidly win a game using many
different card strategies. So, don't be afraid to explore a new path. If you have two
Markets in your opening hand, try an income-generation/Trading Post strategy this time.
But if it’s your first game, focus on one of the following paths to help simplify your
Inn/Pub/Gardens strategy: Use these properties to recruit more workers and
make them more powerful. Then, outwork, out-action and out-resource your
opponents. If you can keep a starting hand of all or most of these types (in any
combination), you're set to execute a worker engine. If you build Inns, you’ll also
enjoy much more flexibility than your opponents in the area of recruitment.
Typically, you need to place a dwarf at the Recruiter’s Desk (and pay two hardearned coins) to recruit a new dwarf, or place an elf to recruit and elf. Inns allow
you to recruit elves with dwarves and vice versa—and no one can block you from
using your own Inn ability! Pubs and Gardens not only increase your workers’
resourcefulness, they provide a coin per turn, which gives you more options
Bank/income strategy: If you have a card-based way of generating coins, you’ll
free up your workers to perform other tasks and can more easily afford those
ability-unlocking gnomes. Banks can be a cornerstone of an income-driven engine
early on or even in the mid-game. As the game evolves, pay attention to Property
cards that generate a gold each round. You can use those in combination with the
Bank to generate a lot of income and flexibility. When building a Bank, it’s best if
you have the funds or means to place a gnome on it right away. It won’t do you
any good until a gnome unlocks its power!
Library strategy: To fully execute any strategy, you’ll need to get the necessary
cards. But paying for Property cards is a drag. Building a Library initially will ensure
you can cycle through cards to find the ones you want—with no cost in coinage!
Balanced strategy: Build a Pub or Gardens, followed next by a Bank. Build a
Library third, if possible, followed by an Inn. You’ll have a well-rounded engine that
relies on you making smart decisions that maximize your resources.
Tower Power (experienced players only): If there are two things you can count
on in Belfort, it’s paying a small fortune for gnomes and taxes. There’s nothing you
can do about the taxes, but Towers will save you money on gnomes and help you
activate Property card abilities faster. That makes the Tower a powerful earlygame property to build. You can also use Towers to deplete the limited gnome
supply, which will put a nice pinch on your opponents and force them to change
their plans. The Tower Power engine is a little trickier to execute well, so first-time
players are advised to stick with the strategies above instead.
Cards to avoid in your first game: Keeps, Gatehouses, Markets, Blacksmiths
and Towers are all powerful cards that can be used to great effect. But if you’re
new to Belfort, it’s best to test out other properties first.
A final note on starting Property cards: Don’t fret if your selections don’t work out as
well as you hoped; there are plenty of chances to recover and thrive during the course
of a game!
Belfort will force you to make decisions with limited resources and to change plans
when opponents deny you things you covet. So, if you have a tenuous grand plan that
will take multiple turns to execute, it’s almost sure to go awry. So, be flexible, be in the
moment and make the best decision you can right now.
Pay close attention to which worker types your opponents are recruiting. If someone
has gone dwarf-happy, focus on elves instead. Be flexible and react to the openings
opponents give you to maximize most-worker resource bonuses. Sure, you might not
need that much stone this round, but you’ll be thrilled you have that extra stone later.
Resources are tight and you have a lot of properties to build!
If you consistently get more resource bonuses, you’ll have a significant advantage over
the course of the game. And oftentimes, you can use the same line of thinking to win
the first-place scoring majority in two worker types. If you’re struggling to achieve a
dwarf or elf worker majority, there’s almost certainly an opening for gnome majority,
which often goes overlooked until actually resolving scoring at the end of a scoring
round. Play Towers to generate gnomes, or consider using the Recruiters’ Guild (if in
play) to obtain gnomes and gain a majority.
Speaking of gnomes, they’re going to run out! So, don’t wait too long to get yours.
There’s nothing sadder than a built property with a permanently vacant gnome plank.
Plus, the earlier you get out your gnomes, the more benefit you'll get from your
properties over the course of the game and the more likely you'll be to score for gnomes
in scoring rounds. As previously mentioned, Towers and the Recruiters' Guild are
powerful ways to recruit gnomes in a less expensive way than the usual three-coin
hiring process.
One of the quickest ways to fall behind in worker majorities is to allow a single player to
dominate the Recruiter's Desk. This is especially important in a three-player game,
when only one recruiting spot is available. Take advantage of recruiting when you have
openings, and the moment you recognize that a player in first position is focusing on the
Recruiter's Desk, you'll have to respond by placing in the King's Camp and taking that
ability away. If the Recruiters' Guild is in play, you'll have to be especially diligent. Now,
if you’re the one dominating the Recruiter’s Desk and Recruiters’ Guild, just be very
calm and quiet about it, or distract your opponents with idle chatter!
In most strategy games, you want to be first in turn order and will pay in some form for
the right to hold first position. In Belfort, going first does offer certain advantages, but
going last can be a powerful position as well. Take the following under consideration
before swapping positions using the King’s Camp:
The first player can place a worker on any plank, provided that player has the
needed coins or owns the guild. This is wonderful if you have your heart set on a
particular power, but you’re also more likely to pass first and place first in the
resource areas.
The last player may have limited placement options, but you’ll almost certainly be
in a position to examine the resource areas and place your workers in ways that
achieve bonuses.
The middle player(s) have a choice to make: jump into King’s Camp to “improve”
their position or take a passive approach. Many players find the middle positions
allow them to take a relaxed approach to turn order and focus their workers and
attention elsewhere. But you may have to use the King’s Camp in the late stages
to ensure you can make a crucial placement or deny an opponent a critical
In a four- or five-player game, you’ll also have to think about when to place a worker in
the King’s Camp. Go too soon or late, and the turn order crest you really wanted might
be unavailable. Try to play out the sequence of events in your head prior to making your
Guilds are the cornerstone of any good engine. After seeing which guilds are in play this
time, you’ll need to decide whether to fight to use particular guilds or to take a more
reactive posture. If your heart is set on using certain guilds, utilize the King’s Camp for
first turn position. Otherwise, keep your mind open, take what the game gives you and
make sure you keep coins in reserve so you can use multiple guilds when your
opponents run out of money. When you place a worker on a guild plank, think ahead to
what you need from the resource areas. If you need wood, don’t use an elf on a guild
When a first-time player buys a guild, they usually wonder if they should be using that
guild for free or using the guild as a source of passive income as others use it. Ask two
different players, and you’ll get two different answers … and to some degree the answer
varies from guild to guild and game to game. But as a general guideline, using a
powerful guild ability for free is better than waiting for someone else to pay you coins …
because there’s no guarantee another player will use the guild you’ve purchased! If you
want to attempt a passive-income strategy, then aim for a late turn-order position. Other
players will use the guilds you own ahead of you, and you’ll be more likely to get
resource area bonuses.
So, how do you determine which guild to purchase? Watch which guilds your opponents
immediately focus on using. (Better yet, if you’ve played with the same group before
and some of the same guilds are in play, use that intel to your advantage!) If you own a
guild your opponent favors, you’ll either force that player to rethink or you’ll get a steady
stream of coins as that player continues the same strategy. Be decisive and instinctual.
The longer you wait to purchase a guild, the less benefit you’ll get from that purchase.
If it is your first game, we’d actually recommend that you focus on building at least one
or two Property cards from your hand before worrying about purchasing guilds. It’s more
straightforward and just as sound strategically.
Recruiters' Guild: Ah, this guild is wildly popular, especially for new players. And why
not? Who doesn’t like cheap labor? Decide right away if you’re interested in owning this
guild because if you hesitate, someone else is sure to purchase it. If you do own it,
using it for free workers will trump the value of receiving coins from others’ use.
Watch like a hawk for a player attempting to monopolize this guild every round. You
cannot let this happen. If need be, use the King’s Camp to take first position and end
the guild domination. More to the point, if someone else uses the Recruiters’ Guild
before you, use the Recruiter’s Desk plank before they can. A Recruiters’
Guild/Recruiter’s Desk combo can be devastating if you’re on the receiving end.
When you use this guild, take the worker type that has been least recruited (for scoring
purposes later). And don’t forget that you can place an elf on the guild plank and still
take a dwarf or a gnome! The guild is more flexible than the Recruiter’s Desk that way
and less expensive. New players rarely consider recruiting gnomes with this guild
power, but doing so will save you a lot of money and take a lead in gnome majority
scoring. It's a great way to hire two gnomes in one turn!
Merchants' Guild: This guild isn’t immediately appealing to most new players since it
requires manipulating a lot of resources and requires some property planning. But
taking the Merchant's Guild in combination with loading up in the resource areas will
virtually guarantee you get one Property card into play, if not two. Remember, one
Trading Post visit actually allows you to buy once and sell once, so that “+3 Post visits”
creates a ton of flexibility.
Architects' Guild: This guild is wonderful for building property cards. Oftentimes you
can focus there when no one else is and gain an advantage. If you can purchase it (and
there's likely to be little competition there from newer players), you can work it all game
Librarians' Guild: Getting specific cards into your hand is the key to an efficient engine,
and this guild is one strong way to make that happen quickly. Say you want to focus on
recruiting and mastering workers. Use this guild to get Inn, Gardens and Pub cards.
You're off to a killer start, largely because of good use of this guild. Sure, it doesn’t
always work out as planned. But one thing is certain: Using the Librarians' Guild will
quickly refill a depleted hand of cards, and for less money!
Masons'/Miners'/Sawyers' Guilds: These guilds tend to be quite popular with new
players. Use the guild to load up on a particular resource, and then don’t place workers
in that resource area, in order to get bonuses elsewhere. For example, use the Masons’
Guild to get four stone, and then use all your dwarves for metal and money placement
bonuses. These guilds also allow elves to obtain stone and dwarves to obtain wood,
which is a nice bit of added flexibility. The strength of the Miners' Guild is the ability to
acquire metal with a single worker, freeing up multiple workers for use in places other
than the metal resource area. Try placing your extra workers in the coins resource area.
The additional money will serve you well in the long haul.
Bankers' Guild: Along with the Recruiters' Guild, this guild tends to be the most
immediately appealing to new players. But be warned, it's trickier than expected to use
well! If the Thieves' Guild is in play, think about using that guild first. But don’t give up on
this guild. When used effectively, it’s powerful! And if you own it, you’ll gain three coins
for free; other player will only net two coins. If it looks like this guild will be popular from
the outset, consider purchasing it right away and then staying away from using it
yourself. Just collect coins from other players all game long! If purchasing the guild
changes the dynamic and players seem to be staying away to deny you the income
source, then you'll need to use the guild yourself or else your investment will be for
Know your gaming group. Some groups thrive on interactive guilds like Thieves' and
Spies'. Others (especially new players) often would prefer to be able to build an engine
without interference—even though you can use Interactive guilds yourself to get
resources back. If your group isn’t looking to test the shadowy side of Belfort or needs
more time to acclimate, focus on using the Wizards' Guild, which offers some really
interesting strategic decision-making without being overtly cutthroat.
Wizards' Guild: In scoring rounds, the ability to swap property markers can make a
huge difference. Focus (obviously) on creating majorities, but often a swap can
guarantee second while simultaneously dropping an opponent into a point-sapping tie
with another player. In scoring rounds, get in this guild early! But you can also use it in
other rounds to manipulate the board in such ways that a single swap in a scoring round
won't be enough to overcome the "redistricting map" you've created over time. Don't
allow a single player to dominate this guild because you'll be in for a rude awakening
come scoring rounds, especially later in the game.
Spies' Guild: Would you rather purchase a known card for a gold to drive your engine
or hurt another player while gaining a card that may or may not be immediately helpful?
If you’re willing to be flexible and react to the cards you can take, this guild is terrifically
effective. It’s especially powerful if you can take an opponents' last Property card,
leaving the player with nothing to build that round. If you're not using this guild, make
sure you have more than one card in-hand if your heart is set on building this round.
Thieves' Guild: While less versatile in a three-player game, this guild is strong and
popular—and this guild becomes super-powered if you own it. (“Spend nothing and
steal two or three coins” is a lot better than “spend one coin and steal two.”) If you're not
using this guild, don’t count on hiring a gnome this turn unless you have at least five
coins. If you're late in turn order, your money might be gone before you can hire your
Bandits' Guild: While less versatile in a three-player game, this guild is a great way to
manipulate resources and build properties efficiently. What's most critical about this
guild is not what you can do with it, but what others can do with it. If you're counting on
having certain resources to build a particular property (or multiple properties), be careful
about allowing another player access to the Bandits' Guild. That player might steal from
you, putting you in a position where you don't have enough resources to execute your
Here are some tips for effective property marker placement on the game board districts:
Stay out of the fray, if possible. Place your markers where other player markers
aren’t. Easier said than done, right?
If there’s a guild early on that seems like it’ll be the least popular for some reason,
try placing in that district first. You’re less likely to have an opponent purchase that
guild and suddenly drive you into a point-depleting tie in marker majority.
Aim for second place in district majorities that already contain an opponent’s
marker. It's human nature to want to be first everywhere, but spending your marker
to take over first often won’t get you the most points! If you're tied for first in a
district, that’s worth three points. Moving up to sole possession of first in that
district will net you an additional two points. That’s not as good as second place
somewhere else, which is worth three points!
Early in the game, Keeps don’t seem very important. But they’re incredibly
powerful for achieving district majorities—and not just in the final few rounds. Try
building a Keep (or two) a few rounds earlier than what seems natural. You’ll get
first pick of where to place your double Keep markers, which is a huge advantage.
And that double placement has a psychological impact on your opponents, who
may give up on competing with you and place their property markers elsewhere. If
you wait too long to build Keeps, your marker placement options will be so limited
that it will hardly be worth the cost of the property. You also won’t get to take
advantage of the fact that Keeps provide a coin during the Collection phase.
Gatehouses are great in scoring rounds if you have the coins to hire a gnome and
place that second property marker. Try to have a marker stake in adjacent game
board districts when using the Gatehouse. In other words, after you place both
Gatehouse markers, you’ll ideally have a first-place majority in one district and at
least second-place in the adjoining Gatehouse district.
Don't forget about Walls! They don't require a card, which is helpful in the late
game when district majorities (and resources) are tight.
By now, you should be sensing a very clear theme: Some player act. Others react …
and those who pay the closest attention to their rivals’ styles and intentions often come
out on top!
Perhaps the most powerful and overlooked part of Belfort is reacting to the coin count of
your opponents. The instinct of most players is to use up funds hiring gnomes right
away and paying for things to “optimize” their game. But a constant shortage of gold is
not optimal at all … especially if your opponents make you regret that deficiency.
Watch what your opponents are doing, ideally from last or close to last in turn order. If
the players ahead of you spend all their gold on gnomes and planks, hold onto your
gold for next round. If two other players have no gold left and another player is down
to one gold, think about what you can do with five or more gold next round: You’re going
to dominate the Recruiter’s Desk. You’re going to get the guild(s) of your choice. You’re
going to have funds for placing on your own property planks. Your opponents won’t
know what hit them!
Lastly, hiring gnomes isn’t a given! Think about the cost-benefit ratio of hiring a gnome
in the mid- and late-game. You might be paying three coins and not coming close to
getting equal value back. Let your opponents make that mistake, while you preserve
your funds and wallop them next round.
Obviously, you’ll also want to ensure you have enough coins to cover your taxes every
time. But if someone tells you to try to earn fewer points in a round to remain in a lower
tax bracket, don’t buy that bill of goods! Make money. Score points. Win the game!
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