Glass Road is a tight, thinking game that’s quick to learn and quick to play.
The game celebrates the centuries-old tradition of glass and crystal making in the Bavarian Forest area of southeast Germany. It’s named after the real-life ‘Glass route’, which connects dozens of villages involved in making, selling, and showcasing glass.
In Glass Road, you start with your own small area of the Bavarian Forest, your player board. It’s covered in tree tiles, a quarry, and a pond. It has two empty spaces ready for you to build on. During the game, you’ll redevelop your patch of forest to create a well-oiled artisanal machine.
It’ll be more of a hamlet than a sprawling glass-making empire You will need to choose your actions wisely to build a few buildings that synergise well with each other, and with the landscape you create. Synergy will earn you end-game points based on the unique scoring conditions of your buildings and hopefully win you the game.
It shines as a celebration of an industry made up of diverse artisans and small businesses, working hard at their craft. When I play this game, I don’t feel like I’m a glass-making artisan. It’s satisfying to make your area of the forest thrive and end up with a little points engine in just a handful of turns.
How Does It Play?
Glass Road is short, with plenty of player interaction. You have 4 rounds, with 3 turns per round, to optimise your actions and outwit your opponents. Become the most successful glass-maker.
Players each have an identical deck of 15 specialist cards, each card gives you two possible actions. For example, the 'slash-and-burn farmer' lets you remove a tree tile, to gain coal and/or food.
At the start of each round, players choose five cards from their deck as their hand for the round, keeping them secret.
At the start of each turn, all players choose the card they’ll play on that turn and put it face down in front of them. On your turn, you flip your card.
You only get to choose one action from the card. Anyone else with the same card also gets to play it during your turn and choose one action from it. This is a bonus action, it doesn’t count as one of their three turns.
Some actions have a cost – you can only do an action if you can pay, whether on your turn or someone else’s.
During other players turns, if they flip a card that you have left in your hand, you get to play yours and take one of the actions from it. Each round you can get up to two bonus actions this way and that plays a part in your choice of which 5 cards to bring to the round.
The card play is excellent and makes for lots of interaction. You have to balance choosing the actions you need, with one-upping your opponents and keeping one step ahead.
Buildings Are Key
All your end-game points come from your buildings. Buildings are how you’ll win or lose. The building display is visible to all players throughout the game but to buy one you need to take a buying action from a card.
You’ll need to pay attention to the buildings available to buy and create a strategy around a few that might work well together. You need to be able to adapt your strategy too in case someone buys that building you’ve been saving up for.
At the end of the game, you’ll have a nifty little hamlet, and you’ll add up all the points from your buildings. If you have the most points you win!
Unique Resource Management
You manage your resources using two wheels. Glasswork and brickworks.
If, for example, you gain two coals, you move the coal marker two spaces further around the wheel and if you lose two, you move the marker back two spaces.
The wheels are also production houses, they’ll automatically produce a higher value resource as soon as you have at least one of every resource needed. When this happens, you gain one glass or brick and lose one of every other resource on the wheel.
The wheels make this system intuitive and create a nice puzzle that fits well with the rest of the game.
Art And Components
The player boards, tree tiles, and landscape tiles are gorgeous. The artwork brings the Bavarian Forest setting to life. This really carries the theme, along with the character art on the cards, which is vibrant and fun while fitting with the traditional feel of the game.
The resource wheels have moving parts, you have to put them together when you get the game. But once assembled they feel strong and sturdy.
The resource markers are 40 coloured discs that you’ll have to apply stickers to. I find it easier to understand the detailed pictures on stickers than I would abstract shapes.
The building tiles are practical. They contain a lot of icons, which work well but when you put a “building” in your forest, it doesn’t look like a building at all, just a block of text. I’d prefer them to look more like a building and blend into my scene.
The cards are of average quality, there isn’t any shuffling in this game so they won’t suffer wear and tear.
The iconography on all the tiles and cards is clear and easy to read and remember after one read-through of the rules.
Learning The Game
It took us 30 mins to learn how to play Glass Road, including the first set-up, without having anyone to teach us.
The game is astonishingly short, shorter than I expected. So short, at first I thought we must have been playing it wrong. We mainly play at 2 players, and it takes us 45 mins at most. Including set-up and tear-down, both of which are also extremely quick.
There’s very little downtime in this game. You'll be making most of the difficult choices during the simultaneous card selection, so everyone's thinking at the same time. Turns in the round go quickly, as people put their plan in motion. You’re also engaged on other people’s turns as you wait to see if you’ve snagged a bonus action.
It’s amazing how much depth this game has, while also being so speedy.
Glass Road At Two Players
The game works really well with two players. The dynamics are different, you have to work harder to get bonus actions. But there’s less pressure to rush for a building, but everything scales well.
My partner and I love Glass Road as a quick-but-thinking game to play on a work night.
This game is very replayable, thanks to the high number of building tiles. There’ll be a different group of buildings available at the start of each game. You probably won’t get through more than half the tiles in a single game.
Final Thoughts On Glass Road
I struggle to think of any negatives for this game. I will say though that if you like games where you chain huge combos, rake in points every round and score, this game may not be for you. The combos are small, and our scores are usually all below 20.
I really like this game though, and it hits the table a lot more than bigger sprawling games. There’s a great combination of mechanics and interesting decisions spaces and the short playing time is the icing on the cake.