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Subject: A game in search of gameplay rss

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Released in 1934, Cargoes does not want for beautiful components. A simulation of inter-war trade, it accommodates 1-4 players, each using metal ship-shaped pieces of one of four different colors. The game is played on an attractive world map with all ports of call clearly labeled (though, tellingly enough, neither Japan, Germany nor the Soviet Union have any goods for sale...).

The game is designed to teach very young children geography, and it does so quite well. All players start with 10 "consignment cards" out of the forty included. Each represents a certain commodity such as radios or make-up or flatirons. A d6 is included and each player rolls in turn, moving their ship along their selected route and exchanging consignment cards for the native trade goods when and if they land on a trading port. When the ships return to their home port (be it San Francisco, New York, London, or Shanghai) the value of the trade goods picked up is totalled and the unsold consignments deducted. This is the final score, the highest winning, of course. A full game may take all of ten minutes.

It's pretty much a race game. The player has no choices save for which route he/she will take, and each one is guaranteed by the authors to have the exact same chances for success. In my opinion, this hobbles the game for anyone over the age of seven. On the other hand, the components are so attractive that they fairly scream for a good set of rules. Without changing too much, I would suggest something more be done with the consignment cards. At the very least, one might limit the starting number to four or five. Thus, a player has to decide whether to take an unattractive trade or potentially risk missing any better ones later on in the journey through unlucky die rolls. Alternately, a whole new trading system could be developed. Perhaps players could even trade with each other.

If we come up with anything, we'll be sure to post it under variants.
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Having now played this game a zillion times with my 3 year old, I'm revising my opinion. This game is great for teaching kids to read and where places are in the world. Backed with a proper, 30s/40s soundtrack, and Cargoes is a trip back in time, to days when tramp steamers plied the waves (but avoided those nasty Fascists and Commies).

Enjoy it for what it is, an educational game for children, and an atmospheric window into the past. It beats the heck out of Chutes and Ladders.
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