Sysop of "Big Bang Burger Bar" Forum (www.bigbangburgerbar.co.uk)
Organiser of "Raiders of the Game Cupboard" (www.raidersofthegamecupboard.co.uk)
Components All of the components are of a high quality, the artwork is superb. Everything is very colourful and there is a lot of cardboard with a novel reuse of some components to aid in scoring at the end of the game.
Playability The rules are not overly complicated and are layed out in well with plenty of examples. Read on their own they make sense but as with most games reading and playing the first round helps the understanding of the subtleties.
The main board represents areas of the world, rather than just a map they have gone for a more stylised representation which works really well with the theme. Showing trade routes, and cities as well as shipping tracks.
The aim of the game is to build your empire improving in various aspects of Culture, Finance, Industry & Political. These build towards your Glory points at the end of the game with the winner being the one with the most Glory at the end.
Played over seven rounds, marked cleverly by the fact the players have to build a building each round. These buildings can provide improvements to the four aspects mentioned above, or actions you can use later in the round. Your level of culture determines how much population growth you have and these are used to activate buildings and explore the world.
Players start in Europe & The Mediterranean and through their actions spread out to other areas of the world. As players occupy and ship they collect Trade tokens, completing trade routes also wins a player trade tokens. These tokens increase your Culture, Finance, Politics and Industry tracks which then give you various benefits during the game and provide Glory Points for the final scoring. Also amongst the Trade Tokens are blue tokens which can be discarded to take additional actions.
Each region has a stack of cards which provide a variety of rewards, the top card of most of the Decks is a Governor card which is gained by having the most pieces on the shipping track for that region when it is completed. Once a shipping track is complete the regions is OPEN meaning players can occupy cities, or draw cards as long as they have enough pieces in the area to match the cost of the card. These cards again, like the trade tokens increase your Culture, Finance, Politics and Industry tracks.
In the starting area you have two stacks, one of which is a slavery deck, this rewards the players in the normal way buthas a down side. If the players ever have to discard a slavery card it is kept face down as it counts as negative glory for final scoring. Also the other desk has an abolition of slavery card which when taken means all players with slavery cards have to discard them. This can be quite a useful tactic as not only will those players have glory taken away but when they lose the cards they also have to lose the track rewards they received as well.
This is a really good game, not overly complex but does require careful observation of other players actions as they will have an impact on what you will do on your turn. As this is only played over seven rounds you find the action ramps up in the final rounds as players have amassed extra actions and population.
In conclusion this is a worthy addition to my collection and will see a lot of play, the random setup will mean that no two games will be alike.
What do you think about the notion of having all trade tokens placed face down at the beginning? This would certainly add unpredictability to the progress of the status tracks.
Not a good idea. It would remove a lot of the strategy, and make things too random. There's a fair bit of maneuvering for getting the token you want (to let you keep that extra card, or to let you occupy a city with your last token, or whatever), and situations where you have to choose between getting the token you want and going into the region you want. Face-up is much better than face-down would be.