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Joe and Neil Essen 2016 Watchlist
Neil Christiansen
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1. Board Game: Airlines [Average Rating:4.54 Overall Rank:15670]
Neil Christiansen
United States
Mount Pleasant
Michigan
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2–4 Players
60 Min
Designer Elad Goldsteen
Publisher Golden Egg Games

In Airlines, players represent the new emerging airlines in the 1960s, trying to become the best airline in the world. In order to grow your airline, though, you must Found new Airports, Purchase new planes, Improve your existing planes, and Construct supporting buildings. The game uses an innovative ever-changing world of new Passengers and a fast-paced card system.
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2. Board Game: The Arrival [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:3542]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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In a time long forgotten, the cruel Fomori rule over Érin, the green island. They praise their king Balor, who reigns from his fortifications in the north with an iron fist. Old paths and ruins spread over the island's face, which will be called Ireland many generations from now. But new tribes arrive at the island striving for permanent presence. Who will control Érin's fate over the next centuries to come?

Each player in The Arrival represents a tribe leader who tries to gain predominance over the mythical island of Érin while pushing back the demon-like Fomori. But the players are facing a dilemma, for spreading too quickly means becoming more and more corrupt and strengthening the Fomori in their power...

Over 4-6 rounds, the players determine their resources by means of a unique game mechanism, which will be used later on profitably. During a first phase (Earning Phase), players draw four cards, each showing three sections of different resources. Two of these sections are gradually blocked by the player, thus leaving one section. The resources shown on this section are the ones the player gets. During this phase, they have to decide which section is the best one; while the upper section of the cards offers many resources, it also results in unwanted Corruption Points. The middle and the lower sections offer fewer resources, but also less Corruption.

After that, the Action Phase takes place and the players must use their resources wisely while having the choice from different kinds of actions in order to get Fame Points.

The game ends when a certain number of rounds have been played or somebody reaches the corruption limit.

The winner is either the one with the highest amount of Fame Points or the one with the fewest Corruption Points. This depends on the scene of the board at the end: Do the tribes (players) control more locations on Érin than the Fomori do — or is it the other way around?

2–4 Players
75–90 Min Playing Time
Age: 12+
Weight: 3.33 / 5
Designer: Martin Wallace
Artist: Robert Altbauer, John Ariosa, Rica Bunning
Publisher: Game's Up
 
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3. Board Game: Ave Roma [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:1651]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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Ave Roma is a worker placement game with some unique mechanisms. All workers have a value and all are common workers. At the beginning of a new turn you always start with five workers, but depending on your previous decisions you will always have different workers. In the first phase you have to send out your workers, and in the next one you have to collect them — but in most cases you get back different ones.

You have several ways to win the game. You can build buildings, support wars, convince patrons, obtain influence in territories, get money and resources, and so on. It's a complex game with several mechanisms and components.

2–5 Players
45–120 Min Playing Time
Age: 12+
Weight: 4.00 / 5
Designer: Attila Szőgyi
Artist: Gyula Pozsgay, Attila Szőgyi
Publisher: A-games (Board Game Publisher)
 
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4. Board Game: Cottage Garden [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:662]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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In Cottage Garden, you compete in the art of gardening and are working two beds with a variety of flowers. Whenever no unplanted box is visible on a bed, you have completed it, then you count your points and replace it with a fresh, unplanted bed. You gain points for all of the visible plant pots and planting bells.

In more detail, players select various polyomino tiles of flower beds from a central market grid, depending on the location of the "gardener", then place them on one of their two personal garden boards. Each board has several garden elements that are worth points when not planted over, and these are scored on two different tracks as soon as a garden has been finished. Crossing over a line on each track awards bonus tokens that can fill in empty spaces or give you a better selection of the flower bed tiles. Whenever a garden is finished, you receive a new one to complete. After the gardener completes her fifth lap around the market, the game enters its last round. The player with the most points from their completed gardens at the end of the game wins.

1–4 Players
45–60 Min Playing Time
Age: 8+
Weight: 2.00 / 5
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Artist: Andrea Boekhoff
Publisher: Edition Spielwiese
 
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5. Board Game: Crisis [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:1138]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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Axia — a land with a glorious past, a most uncertain present, and an even more unpredictable future. Populated by what has been described as a fervent and warm-blooded people, Axia is in crisis – economic, social, and political: the longest-running recession in its modern history, the highest inequality in years, and a political system teetering on the brink of collapse.

In more ways than one, Axia is fighting against itself. Old divisions of the past have given way to new ones, and this generation – along with the next ones – has the most to lose.

Will you, along with your fellow industrialists, do your part to help Axia? Will you sacrifice short-term gain in the present for a brighter future? Can you do that, and survive? Perhaps you can, and perhaps you can even thrive – and you will, if you see opportunity where others only see crisis!

CRISIS is a turn-based game for 1-5 players who assume the roles of businessmen, trying to rebuild their businesses and create value at a particularly challenging time. By skillfully placing their managers in a position to invest in companies, trade resources, and navigate the local bureaucracy and regulations, they can thrive and prosper in a time when others might struggle and decline.

1–5 Players
45–120 Min Playing Time
Age: 14+
Weight: 3.00 / 5
Designer: Pantelis Bouboulis, Sotirios Tsantilas
Artist: Anthony Cournoyer, Sami Laakso
Publisher: LudiCreations
 
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6. Board Game: A Feast for Odin [Average Rating:8.16 Overall Rank:30]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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Using the central board in A Feast for Odin, players have to hunt, gather basic materials, refine those materials, develop their production-buildings, build/buy ships, and raid settlements.

The resulting earnings are placed on the players' board in the best possible pattern to produce income and (later) victory points.

1–4 Players
100–120 Min Playing Time
Age: 12+
Weight: 3.57 / 5
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Artist: Dennis Lohausen
Publisher: Cranio Creations, Feuerland Spiele, White Goblin Games, Z-Man Games
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7. Board Game: Fields of Green [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:754]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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Fields of Green takes place in the second half of the 20th century. Players take the role of farm owners trying to expand their property and business. By adding fields, livestock and facilities, they build an economic engine that will bring them closer to victory.

Fields of Green, inspired by Among the Stars, is played over four rounds (years) during which players draft cards and add them to their ever-expanding farms. At the end of each year comes the harvest season when they must water their fields, feed their livestock, and pay maintenance costs in order to receive valuable resources that will allow them to further expand in the next year.

Through various means, player eventually convert their wealth to victory points, and the player who gathers the most by the end of the fourth year wins.

2–4 Players
30 Min Playing Time
Weight: 3.00 / 5
Designer: Vangelis Bagiartakis
Artist: Grzegorz Bobrowski, Gong Studios, Tomasz Jedruszek, Naomi Robinson
Publisher: Artipia Games, Stronghold Games
 
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8. Board Game: La Granja: No Siesta [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1259]
Neil Christiansen
United States
Mount Pleasant
Michigan
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Love the original why not spoil with a dice game? arrrh
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9. Board Game: Great Western Trail [Average Rating:8.29 Overall Rank:9]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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America in the 19th century: You are a rancher and repeatedly herd your cattle from Texas to Kansas City, where you send them off by train. This earns you money and victory points. Needless to say, each time you arrive in Kansas City, you want to have your most valuable cattle in tow. However, the "Great Western Trail" not only requires that you keep your herd in good shape, but also that you wisely use the various buildings along the trail. Also, it might be a good idea to hire capable staff: cowboys to improve your herd, craftsmen to build your very own buildings, or engineers for the important railroad line.

If you cleverly manage your herd and navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of Great Western Trail, you surely will gain the most victory points and win the game.

2–4 Players
75–150 Min Playing Time
Age: 12+
Weight: 3.00 / 5
Designer: Alexander Pfister
Artist: Andreas Resch
Publisher: eggertspiele, Pegasus Spiele, Stronghold Games
 
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10. Board Game: Guilds of London [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:1208]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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London: The biggest, most important and richest city in England in the late medieval and early modern periods.

The Guilds played a major role in the lives of London's citizens, controlling the way in which trade, manufacturing and business was conducted in the city. The members of the guilds were rich men, who were appointed to the most influential positions in the community and wielded immense civic power. The chief representative of the Guilds became the Lord Mayor of London, and the leading delegates of the Guilds became his Aldermen. Other members of the Guilds were the burghers of London. The Guilds ran the city and controlled its commerce; each had its own Hall and its own Coat of Arms. Representatives of the Guilds met at the Guildhall to discuss the great issues of the day.

In Guilds of London, you place your liverymen in strategic Guilds, building your power base, so that you can achieve the status of Master in many of them. You also have the opportunity to spread your power into the commercially valuable Ulster or Virginia plantations. Control of each Guild provides victory points and additional actions that you can exploit, so that you can control the future development of the city.

1–4 Players
45 Min Playing Time
Age: 10+
Weight: 3.00 / 5
Designer: Tony Boydell
Artist: Tony Boydell, Klemens Franz, Charlie Paull
Publisher: 2Tomatoes, Frosted Games, Surprised Stare Games Ltd, Tasty Minstrel Games
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11. Board Game: Jórvík [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:1592]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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For several decades during the Viking age, parts of England were occupied by the Norsemen. Under their influence, one of the larger cities turned into a flourishing center of trade and craftsmanship. The Vikings called the city and its surrounding kingdom "Jórvík", which is today known as the city of York.

In the game Jórvík, players assume the roles of Viking jarls. They gather prestige points by trading goods, holding big feasts, funding pillages, commissioning craftsmen and hiring soldiers to defend the city against recurring invasions. The player with the most prestige points wins.

The game is a re-design of Die Speicherstadt (2010). In this game, players acquire cards from a card display through a simple yet brilliant worker placement and bidding mechanism to build up their trading empires. Jórvík includes two versions: A base game that is equivalent to Die Speicherstadt, and an advanced game that equates to Die Speicherstadt including its expansion Kaispeicher.

2–5 Players
45–90 Min Playing Time
Age: 10+
Designer: Stefan Feld
Artist: Marc Margielsky
Publisher: eggertspiele, Pegasus Spiele, Stronghold Games, uplay.it
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12. Board Game: Key to the City: London [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:1468]
Neil Christiansen
United States
Mount Pleasant
Michigan
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In Key to the City – London, each player aims to develop their own London borough based around their home tile, using the large hexagonal location tiles. Each location tile gives victory points and may generate resources (skill tiles or connectors that connect two location tiles). Connectors and skill tiles can be used to upgrade location tiles for additional victory points and productivity.

The game is played over four eras, and in each era, new location tiles will be available for bidding. In both era 1 and 2, these tiles consist of six resource-generating tiles, plus some additional building tiles. In era 3, there will be only building tiles, which arrive already upgraded. In era 4, some of the Routemaster tiles become available.

On their turn, a player choses one of five actions. They may use one or more of their team of wooden workers ("keyples") to (1) bid for a location tile, (2) use a location tile to generate resources, or (3) upgrade a location. They may (4) pass, in which case they may play again in that era, or (5) cease playing in that era by setting off in their sailing barge along the Thames. The game finishes after the last river barge sets sail at the end of era 4, at which point the player with the most victory points wins.

Key to the City – London has similarities in structure to the award-winning 2012 R&D game Keyflower.
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13. Board Game: North American Railways [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:3472]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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In the card game North American Railways, 3-5 players build railroads in the United States. They become directors of up to five different companies and try to acquire a majority of shares. In the end, the player with the most cash wins.

North American Railways is mechanically simple but very tough to play well.

3–5 Players
45–90 Min Playing Time
Age: 12+
Designer: Peer Sylvester
Artist: Harald Lieske
Publisher: Spielworxx
 
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14. Board Game: The Oracle of Delphi [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:521]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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For once, Zeus, Greek god of thunder and sky, is in high spirits. Hence, he decides to offer a generous gift to a worthy mortal and invite him, or her, to his realm, to Olympus. To determine a sufficient candidate, Zeus hosts a competition for his entertainment. Twelve legendary tasks are imposed upon the fearless participants: to erect graceful statues, to raise awe-inspiring sanctuaries, to offer capacious offerings, and to slay the most fearsome monsters. The first participant to master all the posed assignments wins the favor of the father of the gods himself.

Indubitably, you will not pass up this golden opportunity, so you clear your ship and rally your crew to follow on the trails of legendary Odysseus through the dangerous waters of the Aegean. But how could you find the righteous path onward? There is but one who can help you. Visit the mysterious oracle of Delphi and let her answers guide your ways.

In Stefan Feld's new game The Oracle of Delphi, the player's ships travel across a large variable game board of hexagonal tiles showing islands and the surrounding waters. Each player aims to reach certain islands to perform the twelve tasks given by Zeus: e.g., to collect offerings of different colors and to deliver them to corresponding temples, or to slay monsters of a specific type (and color), all of which can be discovered on the islands.

In order to execute these color-dependent actions, you are given three colored dice each turn, the so-called "oracle dice". Rolling the dice (at the start of the turn) is equivalent to consulting the oracle, whereas the results represent her answers. The answers determine which actions you will be able to take, but you will always have three actions per turn. However, a slight divergence from your fate is often possible.

In addition to the oracle, you can request support from the gods and you can acquire favor tokens, companions, and other special abilities that will help you win the race against other competitors.

Differently equipped ships and the variable set-up of the game board will offer new challenging and interesting strategic and tactical decisions with every new game of The Oracle of Delphi that you play.

2–4 Players
70–100 Min Playing Time
Age: 12+
Weight: 3.00 / 5
Designer: Stefan Feld
Artist: Dennis Lohausen
Publisher: Fullcap Games, Hall Games, Pegasus Spiele, Tasty Minstrel Games
 
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15. Board Game: Order of the Gilded Compass [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:2413]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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Order of the Gilded Compass is a dice assignment game for 2-5 players. In this game, each player takes on the role of a treasure hunter seeking invitation to join the most prestigious of archaeological secret societies. Players scour the globe to unearth fantastic and valuable artifacts. By assigning their archaeologist dice to the right locations at the right time, players acquire treasure maps and specialists to follow them, dive for sunken treasure, acquire rare finds at the auction house, and even enlist the help of the Illuminati. The player who has the most treasure at the end of the game earns an invitation to The Order of the Gilded Compass and wins.

Order of the Gilded Compass uses a variable set-up in order to create fresh and interesting game play experiences. Each game has five locations in play to which players may assign their dice for various kinds of treasures and bonuses, and the game includes nine different buildings to allow for many unique combinations.

2–5 Players
30–60 Min Playing Time
Age: 10+
Designer: Jeffrey D. Allers, Bernd Eisenstein
Artist: Mackenzie Brewer, Vicente Sivera Catalá, Vincent Catala, Felipe Gaona, Grace Liu
Publisher: Grey Fox Games
 
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16. Board Game: Pax Renaissance [Average Rating:8.09 Overall Rank:556]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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As a Renaissance banker, you will finance kings or republics, sponsor voyages of discovery, join secret cabals, or unleash jihads and inquisitions. Your choices determine whether Europe is elevated into the bright modern era or remains festering in dark feudalism.

In Pax Renaissance, you have two actions each turn. As in other Pax games, you can acquire cards in a market, sell them out of the game, or play them into your tableau. You can also stimulate the economy by running trade fairs and trading voyages for Oriental goods. A map of Europe with trade routes from Portugal to Crimea is included, and discovering new trade routes can radically alter the importance and wealth of empires, ten of which are in the game.

Four victories determine the future course of Western Society: Will it be towards imperialism, trade globalization, religious totalitarianism, or enlightened art and science?

2–4 Players
60–120 Min Playing Time
Age: 12+
Designer: Phil Eklund, Matt Eklund
Artist: N/A
Publisher: Sierra Madre Games
 
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17. Board Game: Railroad Revolution [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:692]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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Ambition and a thirst for wealth have driven humanity to strive for ever greater progress. In America, during the 19th century, battles were waged between huge railway corporations that sought to connect state to state and coast with coast… making themselves filthy rich in the process. Railroad Revolution drops you straight into the middle of these tempestuous years; a time that changed America forever.

In Railroad Revolution, you will manage your own railroad company, ruthlessly competing to be the most powerful railroad tycoon across all America. You will build railroads, establish stations in your connected cities, expand the network of telegraph lines, and chase your objectives, increasing the value of your company with every action you take.

You start with mainly a team of non-specialized workers, but during the game you can hire additional ones with specific skill sets. The cost or effect of an action is determined by the type of worker that does it. To complete your company objectives, you will have to remove some of your workers from your active pool, promoting them to managerial positions.

You must carefully assign each of your workers to perform the right action at the right time in order to exploit their specializations in the best way. You need to decide which ones to promote and which are instead still needed to take actions, as your priorities will change from turn to turn.

Railroad Revolution is a fast paced game with relatively simple rules, and it provides you with interesting and challenging decisions. Having a good strategy and finding the correct timing to implement it, is the key to winning the game.

2–4 Players
45–90 Min Playing Time
Age: 12+
Designer: Marco Canetta, Stefania Niccolini
Artist: Mariano Iannelli
Publisher: What's Your Game?
 
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18. Board Game: Solarius Mission [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:2089]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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In the distant future, the home planet is overpopulated and riots loom. The only solution seems to be to advance into space and to settle planets. Several technically advanced nations emphatically try to put this into practice. Under the name of Solarius Mission they begin a project to explore other planets, build space stations and conduct interplanetary trade. Who is able to use the technical means available and to fulfill the vital Solarius Mission?

With their space ship, the players explore far away planets, develop new technologies with their tech dice, and send settlers into space. They try to prevent space contamination. Solarius Mission is a very eclectic game – it is important to think ahead and to optimize the personal strategy. Who acts especially prudent, who will win in the end?

Solarius Misson is a tactical and strategic civilization game in a pulp science-fiction setting, with a dice-draft, dice manipulation, and resource-management mechanism. It can best be described as a mid-weight euro-style game.

2–4 Players
60–150 Min Playing Time
Age: 12+
Designer: Michael Keller (II), Andreas "ode." Odendahl
Artist: Harald Lieske
Publisher: Spielworxx
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19. Board Game: West of Africa [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:5213]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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In the late Middle Ages, the Canary Islands had faded into obscurity from a European point of view. There was neither gold nor silver, and the islands did not play a role as a trading post because the north-south trade of that time went through the Sahara.

In 1312, the Genoese merchant and seafarer Lancelotto Malocello effectively "rediscovered" the Canary Islands. During the 15th century, the archipelago was conquered by the Spanish. Spanish masters pushed agriculture, cultivating sugar cane, wine and grain, which quickly gave the islands a certain economic value and importance.

In West of Africa, the players cultivate goods, try to sell them profitably, and build settlements. Each player has their own deck of cards. Each turn the players select cards from their decks to conduct successful actions, always keeping the actions of the other players in mind.

2–5 Players
60–90 Min Playing Time
Age: 10+
Weight: 2.64 / 5
Designer: Martin Schlegel
Artist: Harald Lieske
Publisher: ADC Blackfire Entertainment GmbH
 
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20. Board Game: Yokohama [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:92]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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Once Yokohama was just a fishing village, but now at the beginning of the Meiji era it's becoming a harbor open to foreign countries and one of the leading trade cities of Japan. As a result, many Japanese products such as copper and raw silk are collected in Yokohama for export to other countries. At the same time, the city is starting to incorporate foreign technology and culture, with even the streets becoming more modernized. In the shadow of this development was the presence of many Yokohama merchants.

In YOKOHAMA, each player is a merchant in the Meiji period, trying to gain fame from a successful business, and to do so they need to build a store, broaden their sales channels, learn a variety of techniques, and (of course) respond to trade orders from abroad.

2–4 Players
90 Min Playing Time
Age: 12+
Weight: 3.50 / 5
Designer: Hisashi Hayashi
Artist: Adam P. McIver, Ryo Nyamo
Publisher: OKAZU Brand, Tasty Minstrel Games
 
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