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Subject: Cargo Noir - A Detailed Review rss

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Mr T.
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May 2018 be all you dreamed it would be and be all that you dreamed...
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This review continues my series of detailed reviews that attempt to be part review, part resource for anyone not totally familiar with the game. For this reason I expect readers to skip to the sections that are of most interest.

Image Courtesy of W Eric Martin

Summary

Game Type - Euro Game
Play Time: 60-80 minutes
Number of Players: 3-5 (Best 4-5 Players)
Mechanics - Worker Placement, Bidding, Set Collection
Difficulty - Moderate (Can be learned in 30-40 minutes and takes 2-3 plays to get to grips with good play)
Components - Excellent
Release - 2011

Designer -

Serge Laget (Ad Astra, Castle, Mare Nostrum, Mundus Novus, Mystery Express, Mystery of the Abbey, Senji, Shadows over Camelot, Wicked Witches Way)

Overview and Theme

It's late and decent folk find themselves in bed in these wee hours...but not you. No, you frequent dingy bars near the docks wearing your tattered beige trench coat with a pocket full of hundred dollar bills, hoping to grease the palm of the shiftiest looking dock worker in the joint. You're into Cargo...the more illicit the better, someone threw the word Noir into your job description...but you have no idea what it is doing here. Welcome...to Cargo Noir!

Ok I'm being a little cheeky with my intro, but I do so to bring to light the enigma in a box that is Cargo Noir from Days of Wonder. Essentially it is an auction game that uses the thematic facade of Noir and smuggling. But it wasn't always that way. Serge Laget, the designer, originally had the premise of trading in the Mediterranean as the theme for the game, before DoW pitched the idea that would finally be used. Of course this isn't the first time a company has changed a game's theme before production...I just thought it was worth the history lesson.

For me the term Noir is really a poor word to use as it conjures up so many images for people that are anything but what the game actually portrays. This can only lead to the risk of false assumptions and eventual let-down for some gamers who buy the game. But like anything if one does their research then such disappointments can be avoided. Should this review form a part of someone's research it would make me only too happy. That is not to say that I have already pre-judged the game...rather, I would like people to know exactly what the game is...and isn't.

What we have here is a game targeted at the family market given its relative simplicity to learn, eye catching visuals and the target market of the company in general. But is its play as simple as it appears? Is this really for the family market or is it actually a little deeper than that? Is this game really for gamers but too many dismiss it too early perhaps?

I "found" this box at the wharf recently...turns out there is a game inside. Help me open it and see if we have a beauty here or a stinker...ninja

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The Components

Days of Wonder have become synonymous with high quality components and Cargo Noir is no exception. Feast your eyes on these lovely bits...

d10-1 Board(s) – Rather than having one central board as in so many of their productions, here a series of flat boards are used. A mid-sized square board represents the city of Macao. It is split in half by the turn track with the top portion representing the Black Market and the bottom part representing the Macao Casino.

The game then offers another 7 boards in three varying sizes, which represent various ports around the world. These are placed around the central board.

All of the boards offer excellent thickness and high quality artwork. The colours used are vibrant but in relation to game features they simply offer a number of boxes in which to place cargo/goods.

All of the boards are double-sided and some of them offer no boxes on the reverse side if they are not used for some player counts.

The central board can show some warping but it is as simple a fix as giving it a little flex the other way. The boards make for an engaging visual.


Image Courtesy of cnidius


The image below shows the set-up for a full 5-player game, with all ports in play.


Image Courtesy of Steve56


d10-2 Ships – The cute factor that DoW loves so much comes in the form of the ships. There are 5 in each colour and their cuteness comes from the fact that they are more caricature than a real representation of a cargo vessel.

I'm no expert but I think they are made out of a hardened rubber or a softer plastic (similar to the ships in Pirate's Cove). Whatever they are made from they are pleasant to touch and hold.


Image Courtesy of thornatron


d10-3 Player Boards - Each player must use a player board. Each board (well they are more template really) features 2/3rds artwork with cargo box overlays. The bottom third features a table that outlines the income earned for selling goods in one of two ways and also a summary of the turn sequence.

Each template represents a player's Crime Orgnanisation and these are themed with various cultures from around the world and given names to match. The reverse side features a full artwork for the gang and are quite a stunning to look at. I was not surprised to see the artist as Miguel Coimbra of 7 Wonders and The Adventurers fame.

The only thing letting this component down is the thickness of the templates...but I guess thick boards would have added to the cost unnecessarily.


Image Courtesy of W Eric Martin


d10-4 Contraband (Goods) Tiles – These are nice and thick though and each good offers up a visual that is clear to see and its associated name. These are the perfect size to fit onto the various boards, without being too hard to see.


Image Courtesy of cnidius


d10-5 Victory Cards – The cards are also well illustrated and functionally well designed as each card lists the price in the top left and the VPs it is worth in the top right. Only two of the Smuggler's Edge Cards need text and this is clearly written at the bottom. The rest of the cards are dedicated to the artwork.


Image Courtesy of W Eric Martin


d10-6 Money – This is money done right as each coin is solid plastic and embossed with some features. One side depicts an anchor to add to the theme along with the words Cargo Noir...just in case you develop Alhzemiers mid game and the other side features an image of the quaint ships and dollar signs. For some reason the boat depicted comes across as being somewhat 'Beatles-esque'. I'll get off the juice in 2014...I promise! laugh

The beige-gold colouring of the coins makes it clear what they are too. In terms of weight, they are much lighter than the nice heft of quality poker chips but we can't have everything I guess.


Image Courtesy of Gravicapa


d10-7 Start Player Token – Whilst rather unnecessary, the game comes with a Stone Age styled start player token (which are all the rage these days) in the form of a cargo ship called the Primus...I'm sure this is a reference to something I'm not aware of that ties in with the theme.

Of course Primus may simply be a reference to the fact that the start player is first to act. whistle


Image Courtesy of thornatron


d10-8 Cloth Tile Bag – Cargo Noir also comes with a lovely cloth bag for storing and drawing the goods tiles from. I have seen some comments that suggest the bag's stitching tears easily but I have had no such problems and like the added touch of the anchor and Cargo Noir transfer on the front.


Image Courtesy of MyParadox


d10-9 Rules - The rules are a typical glossy DoW affair, with the set-up at the start of the booklet. There is almost no thematic background provided within the rules, which I find a little odd but perhaps if they were targeting the family market they didn't want to delve into the seedy undertones of the criminal scene too much.

The rules are written pretty well and there are little nods and jokes strewn throughout for those that prepared to look.

There's not much to state but the obvious really...Cargo Noir is worth every penny from a quality components point of view. They (DoW) sure know how to produce lovely looking games.

One thing worth mentioning is that the tray insert, whilst pretty good, actually doesn't have enough room to hold all of the Goods Tiles. This requires them to be partially stored in the tile bag but that doesn't really fit in the box without forcing the lid to sit ajar. The best way to solve this is to pop the excess tiles under the tray but that is anything but ideal.


Image Courtesy of Steve56


Set-up

The Board set-up is dependent on the number of players but thankfully the rulebook offers up some simple images that can be followed to identify which boards are in play and those that need to be flipped over and serve no purpose.

Each player then takes 3 ships in a colour of their choice and 7 coins. The additional 2 boats in a player's colour are left in a central supply and can be taken later in the game.

The cards are separated into two types. The three types of Smuggler's Edge cards are placed in three piles ready for purchase. Then the Victory Point Cards (spoils of crime I call them) are placed in distinct piles in a horizontal row according to their numerical value (lowest on the left to highest value on the right).

Each player takes the player board that matches their colour and the various central boards (ports and black market) are filled with Goods Tokens, drawn randomly from the tile bag. A start player is determined and given the Start Player Token and the game is ready to go.

The Play

Whilst the theme of the game may suggest smuggling, in actual fact the game play is all about bribing port officials to gain access to cargo in order to store the stolen goods in your warehouse. From there the goods can be exchanged for income, which in turn can be used to expand your operation or to purchase the trappings of a criminal life (read victory points).

Cargo Noir plays out as follows -

Every player must carry out 3 phases within their turn. Due to the flow of play though each player will start their first turn in Phase 3, so that is where I'll start.

d10-1 Send Ships to Destinations –

Image Courtesy of clockworkd
Here the active player must allocate their available ships to the destinations of the board. Doing so essentially acts as the worker placement aspect of the game.

Thematically of course this is a little off as surely to bribe ports or go the casino you would need people and not ships...but it fits the theme of the game I guess well enough. It's also worth noting that the ships are rather cute...probably more so than any 'meeple figure' would have been.

Outer Destinations (Ports) - All of these locations serve one purpose, to acquire goods. When a player sends a ship to a port they must sit it atop a pile of coins. The amount under your ship represents the bribe that a player is willing to make. A single player can only have 1 ship present in a port at a time.

If they send a ship to a port that already has another ship and bid there, the active player must make a bid higher than the highest bid already present.

Macao's Black Market - Macao consists of two areas and the Black Market is the first. Here a total of 8 goods can be seen. For each ship sent to this location the active player can exchange one good from their warehouse for one of the Black Market goods or they can simply draw a random good from the draw pile.

Macao's Casino - The bottom half of the Macao board represents the famous casino. For every ship sent here the active player collects two coins from the bank. This can be a 'mandatory' move at times, especially if a player has won a pricey bidding war or is anticipating one.

d10-2 Resolve Ship Actions – From the second turn onwards this is the first phase of a player's turn. Here a player must check the various boards to see how their various allocations have fared.

Success - Successful bribes are ones where a player has a ship/bid at a location and it has not been bettered. In this case the player takes back their ship, returns the coins that were bid to the bank and then takes the goods they have acquired from the port and places them in their warehouse.

The port is then refilled with tiles from the draw bag.

Failure - Bids that have been beaten result in a player taking back their ship and the coins they had bid. This sounds like an ok result as you don't lose any cash, but it must be remembered that you have lost the chance to acquire cargo and more importantly you have lost time. The turns slip by rather quickly in Cargo Noir and missing out on cargo can be very painful indeed.

The other resolutions are of course to take coins from the Casino, to trade goods in the Macao Black Market or to draw a random tiles(s) from the draw bag...as outlined above in point one.

d10-3 Sell Goods - In this, phase two of a player's turn, they can look to sell off the goods in their warehouse to earn cash to either expand their 'operation' or to acquire the trappings of a criminal lifestyle.

There are two ways to sell goods; either to sell unique goods or to sell goods of the same type. It is this action that creates the need for set collection within the game and careful consideration of which ports to go after based on the goods they have on offer.

Each player's board displays a small table which outlines the income that can be earned by selling in each way. Selling goods of the same type will always earn more than selling goods of different types but it is of course harder to collect goods of the same type...especially when there are only 9 different good types available (plus a few Wild tiles).

Selling off goods from a player's warehouse does not actually earn any physical currency, instead the value earned can then be spent on acquiring cards. There are two distinct types :-

mb Smuggler's Edge Cards - In all there are 3 types of these cards and each one expands a player's operation and allows them a power of some kind. These are worth relatively few victory points but a player is unlikely to win without at least one or two of these cards in their possession. A single player cannot have more than two of any one type of Smuggler's Edge Card. At the full 5-player count, it is possible for a player to miss out on a type of Smuggler's Edge Card entirely. cry

The Cargo Ship allows a player to add another ship to their player board. In a worker placement game, the value of this option is pretty clear.

The Warehouse Card slips nicely under the left or right edge of the player boards and offers up 2 more slots in which to store goods. This can afford a player more time in collecting a larger set of cargo and therefore the ability to go after higher value trade-ins, which is where the game can be won.

The Syndicate Cards allow a player to earn 2 coins whenever they have a bid beaten at a port. Although this should be clarified to state that a player earns 2 coins in compensation for one bid that is beaten by another player. Should a player purchase two Syndicate Cards, they can earn 2 compensations should 2 bids be beaten.

Thematically I guess this represents receiving a kick-back of some sort. In game terms it allows a player a small insurance policy for being outbid and allows them a new strategic option...post smaller bids in numerous ports and allows receive something. In a game that features 'take that' play, this is a handy one indeed. But of course to be implemented well a player may need more than 3 ships, which feeds back into the Cargo Ship Cards above.

Syndicate Cards are certainly goals for the early game and are used to build momentum in the middle to later stages of the game. In some ways this does a nice job of representing a new crime organisation starting out...it has to build and grow before it can become dominant. whistle

But the game poses the players a nice dilemma too. Acquire too may Syndicate Cards and you may have wasted some valuable cargo that was needed towards a set to acquire a high-valued. It's an interesting balancing act. meeple

mb Victory Cards - The rather non-thematically labelled Victory Cards are the aim of the game as it is these that will determine victory. They are arranged at the start of the game so they can all be seen. The lower valued ones are worth a 1-1 conversion, so a Yacht that costs 20 in goods value is worth 20 VPs. But if a player can sell off a set of goods worth 36 or more, then they will access more lucrative cards that have a better than 1-1 ratio. For example the 36 cost Showbiz card is worth 40 VPs whilst the top end Principality costs 81 but is worth 90 VPs.

The point to note about these better than 1-1 cost vs VPs cards though is that they are finite and in most cases unique, so once they are acquired they are no longer available to the other players, so there is something of a race going on to acquire them.

As a side point, the game refers to this phase as Trading Cargo for Victory Points, which I feel is rather non-thematic again as a criminal organisation would surely sell their goods to invest in their developments or to buy their 'play things'.

Before this phase is over a player must make sure that they still have room for all of their unsold goods. If a player has acquired goods that exceeds their warehouse capacity they will need to either sell them off or discard them. This gives the Warehouse Card, with its extra storage capacity, real value.

Oh and for the record, this phase may seem quite involved but in reality it is quite straight forward. The longest part of the phase is in working out which selling pattern (unique vs goods of same type and in what combination you choose to sell them) will yield the best return and then what cards to buy and which strategy to pursue.

d10-4 Send Ships to Destinations –

Image Courtesy of ronster0
The final phase of a player's turn is to send their ships out. I have already covered this in point one so I won't repeat it, I simply included it here again for completions sake. If I confused anyone...

Phase 1 - Resolve Ship Actions
Phase 2 - Sell/Trade Goods (and acquire cards)
Phase 3 - Send Ships Out (Game starts in this phase)


d10-5 Progressing Turns and Game End - When the play returns to the start player, they advance the Turn Marker. There will be 10 turns in a 4/5 Player game and 11 turns at the lower player count.

At the end of the last player's turn it is time to see which crime syndicate performed best. The players simply add up all the VPs on the cards they have acquired and the highest score wins. In the event of a tie, the player that acquired the highest valued card wins the game, so there is an incentive to aim for the highest card possible.

It should be noted too that in the final Trade/Sell phase a player has, they can add 1 point to their total earnings value for each coin they have. So if a player was 4 points short of earning the 49 cost 'Cronies Card', they could add 4 coins to the value of goods they traded to access it. This makes careful use of cash important and adds value to the Syndicate Card that earns 2 coins on a single beaten bid.

So that essentially outlines the play of Cargo Noir. Play takes around the 60-70 minute mark for 4-players, more or less obviously for higher and lower player counts.

I unfortunately did not get a chance to play this with only 2-players but could not see it being that fun with two. In a game that requires bidding, playing with two would be quite cut-throat I think and less fun because of the reduced player interaction. I enjoyed the game with 4-players but I think it is at its best with the full 5.

The Highs and Lows of Cargo Noir

mb So what's to Like? mb

d10-1 Tight Mechanics - Cargo Noir is a well-built Euro and everything has its place. The 3 types of Smuggler's Edge Cards all serve an important purpose and allow the players to pursue different avenues to victory. The bidding works well and the options offered by the two parts of Macao are important to the overall play of the game.

What is perhaps not appreciated about Cargo Noir is that the game flows in cycles of cash generation, cargo acquisition and cashing in to buy cards. Timing is key with Cargo Noir and sometimes it is better to make a smaller bid on a 1 or 2 Cargo port than it is to be drawn into a 3-4 cargo port and get beat to the bid by someone else, which sets you back in relation to time. In a 10-11 turn game...time is so important.

That then leads to another realisation...it is often better to bid in such a way that it discourages the opposition from entering the port in the first place. Sure this might cost an extra coin or two but the faster a player can get that cargo the better. This design element really makes the most of bidding as a mechanic and deserves to be appreciated.

d10-2 Decisions that Matter - A good Euro is one where decisions count and that is certainly the case here. A player can rarely afford to pursue cargo that is of little value to them as they will be punished for wasting their coin (by not having enough for bids that matter) or by seeing their warehouse fill up with almost worthless goods. Likewise the players cannot choose to pursue their own goals and fail to pay attention to the competition. At times strategic blocking will be crucial.

I find this type of design to be a trait I particularly associate with French designers and they can have a penchant for the 'take that' style of games. Perhaps I am overstating this because my main experience with French designers is Laget and Faidutti who have used this style of play many times.

d10-3 Limited Resources - Like any good Euro a player cannot pursue every option, there just isn't the income and the time to do so. The players need to target the ports that offer the best goods for their current situation as there won't be enough gold to make winning bids everywhere. But time is the real killer in Cargo Noir. Whilst losing a bid may not seem like the end of the world, in key situations it certainly can be, because not earning goods for another round is just eating up the time remaining to earn the points needed to acquire those Victory Point cards.

Cargo Noir plays out in a series of cycles, where you have to build up cargo in order to cash it in for a decent amount of points to buy cards. Lose too many important bids and in the blink of an eye 2-3 turns may have passed and then you may find that there isn't enough time to cash in and build up another suitable set of cargo to earn the big points. wow

d10-4 Great Timeframe - For what is on offer, a 60-70 minute game is just about spot on and I could even see an experienced group get it done in 50 minutes. Cargo Noir doesn't overstay its welcome and this is a good thing indeed.

d10-5 Stunning Visuals - It never hurts when a game looks great and has some top quality components to boot. Cargo Noir scores at the highest level on almost every point. The ships look charming and are nice to hold, the coins are coins done right and the visual appeal and art direction of the game is quite captivating and gives a player something to do if downtime results when another player thinks carefully about their bids and weighs up what they need versus blocking what others need.

mb Left a Bad Taste in my Mouth... mb

d10-1 Thematically Unsatisfying -

Image Courtesy of LanaDove
The first thing I have to say is that as a fan of games that let me assume a role or take actions that put me 'in' the game, Cargo Noir is a big let-down. We have all this cool art and are meant to be the heads of a criminal organisation but I don't feel any of that in the actions I can take and the mechanics at play.

Even the central concept of bribing port officials rather than simply stealing the contraband seems a little off and then we just rather un-thematically sell it on for stuff.

In short I don't feel like I'm a syndicate head...I actually feel like I am playing a Euro, and whilst that can be its own reward, there is nothing super innovative or new here to make Cargo Noir stand out from the pack.

d10-2 'Take That' in Nature - Now this may not be a negative in some gamer's minds but it ('Take That' game-play) is something that I tend to avoid rather than seek out. To do well in Cargo Noir the players will need to make blocking moves by out-bidding the competition, even if the reward is a cargo they don't particularly need. This is then compounded by the fact that it is quite clear when someone is going after a certain goods strategy. This can lead to bidding wars where players look for payback at a later date...and I've always found that to lead to negative play.

But like I say this may not be your mileage and it may even appeal to some.

d10-3 Is that It? - Because the game can zip along and end just as you feel you are getting your little syndicate going, one can be left with a sense of 'oh...that's it?!' The number of turns doesn't allow a player to amass 10-15 Victory Point Cards, instead they are likely to finish with 2-3, unless they pursue cheaper cost cards in which case they may have 5-6 (I'm not counting Smuggler's Edge Cards in these counts).

In Cargo Noir there is really only 4-5 things that need doing as you play and the game relies more on the successful execution and repetition of these actions to create the play. For those that like the point salad scoring options of Feld designs circa 2010-2014 or the worker placement alternatives that offer up 8-15 locations all with different abilities, Cargo Noir may feel a little 'underwhelming' in terms of what you can do.

d10-4 Sense of Achievement and the Fun Factor? - For me these are probably the two biggest issues that Cargo Noir had for me.

When the game is done and we are tallying scores I like to ask myself too questions; 'What did I achieve within the game?' and 'Did I have fun doing it?'.

The answer to both of these questions has been 'little' and 'no'. In a game like Village I can look back (even in defeat) and be happy that I got a few dudes into the chronicle or I traveled my backside off or I dominated the council. In Summoner Wars I can pull off cool combos that saw me take down that bad-ass Champion and in a game like Saint Petersburg I can execute an aristocrat strategy, leveraging bonuses from a worker card I acquired to reduce their cost. In Cargo Noir I look back and see that I made some bids, used my Syndicate to leverage some extra cash on occasions and acquired some cards. For me there is no major sense of achievement.

Then there is the fun factor, which I guess the above has some impact on. Cargo Noir is well designed but it is a tight and edgy affair. There is more time spent carefully identifying your target ports and calculating what you need in goods to earn the points needed to buy a particular Victory Card than there is in simply enjoying the experience.

Perhaps I am just outlining what I do and don't enjoy in my games...but I simply have to state that I can derive much more pleasure from a gaming experience with other titles.

d10-5 A Confusing Message - This is more an anecdote than anything but as I alluded to in my opening section, Cargo Noir seems a little confused as to what it wants to be and who it is for and this has no doubt lead to many feelings of being 'let-down' for buyers of the game (if the BGG forums are anything to go by).

Everything from the artwork and production values through to the choice of Days of Wonder as the publisher screams 'family game'. But the reality is that this is very much a gamer's game, a tight affair in relation to the play and no doubt too rules 'intricate' (as opposed to rules 'intensive') for the average family to manage. From memory this may have been the first DoW game that I can recall that made use of a really slick looking video to promote it and got people's expectations up.

The combination of these things has resulted in the average perspective on Cargo Noir generally sitting in the 'negative'.

The Final Word

Image Courtesy of rogerramjet3361


When all is said and done Cargo Noir is undoubtedly a well-designed game but for me at least it is not a compelling one. It doesn't leave me with my heart racing and it doesn't fill me with the desire to return and play it again real soon. It is simply well done for what it is but in the end it is a largely forgettable experience and one that does not have me reaching for it over other games on my shelves. I can't help but feel 'meh' about it for all the reasons I have already outlined.

In many ways I think Cargo Noir represents the middle phase of Days of Wonder's history as a company...close, serviceable, decent to good depending on your preferences...but ultimately not great. In an age where we have so much choice (look at us complain ) I'm afraid that the 'decent to good' really aren't quite good enough in an industry where more games than ever before are being released.

I have seen the arguments too, from some, that Cargo Noir is a 'gamer's game' masquerading in a family game shell. And for that reason it has hit the wrong target market, but if given a chance a really good game is waiting to be discovered.

I have no problem with this analysis and think it is spot on. But for me the play is not compelling enough to entice me to play it 5-10 times to really push the engine within. I can recognise the potential of the game but for me it doesn't give enough back to warrant the investment of my limited time. And here is the real kicker...it didn't set my gaming group's 'inner-gamer' on fire either...and that is the ultimate nail in the coffin for anyone who wants each gaming get-together to be an enjoyable and memorable experience.

But I enjoyed exploring the game for what it had to offer.

Till next we meet may you frequent the shadiest of ports and grease the palms of Mr. Joe 'Middle Port' Management with ease...

Review Links

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Queen's Necklace

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Steffen Eichenberg
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I do not read long reviews. I tend to write long reviews, but i hate reading them. Your review has been the exception. So well structured, so perfectly presented meaningful information. Kudos!
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Thomas Staudt
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Great, comprehensive review.

Thanks for the great effort. Especially for a game that is not a favorite of yours.
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Dustin Schwartz
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That was a great read. I purchased this game not very long into my trip down the board gaming rabbit-hole. It has never felt very satisfying for me (though I'm not sure it's for the reasons you find it unsatisfying), but for some reason my family members are constantly calling for it to hit the table.

I've witnessed a handful of moments where the "take that" blocking elements have led to hurt feelings, but I suppose that's only par for the course with auction games, particularly turn-delimited ones.

It seems that the best or most innovative element of Cargo Noir is that it allows players to place multiple bids at a time. I've not played the whole gamut of auction games, but it certainly doesn't crop up in most titles.
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Drew Gormley
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Not sure that I've ever read such a well written review. Thank you for adding this to the Geek!
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Mr T.
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May 2018 be all you dreamed it would be and be all that you dreamed...
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Thanks for the feedback folks. I took particular care with this one as I like to cover the Days of Wonder games well.
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Patrick C.
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This game lives or dies on whether or not there's tension as players compete for goods. Lacking that, it's mediocre. But if your group has it it can be fun and tense. Not a favorite, but I'm keeping it. Plus my gf likes it a lot so I have no choice!
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Mike
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I don't particularly agree with the final conclusion of the review, but it was extremely well written. Thanks for writing it!

I believe the target audience for the game is entry level gamers. The mechanics of the game have been done before, but everything is distilled down to the bare essentials. It makes it so that the game is easily taught and understood, but hides a little depth that can be discovered after a few plays. For most of the BGG crowd it doesn't offer enough meat to satisfy. For the Barnes and Noble crowd, something like this would be right in their sweet spot.

The game is actually very tense and calculating, which I think is fun. Towards the end game, seeing what your opponents need is just as important as your own needs. I find the last few turns get awfully cutthroat...with lots of tension. We usually want to set it up again right after we finish. There is just something fun about picking up a stack of coins and plopping it down to intimidate anyone else from bidding in an area.

For me, Cargo Noir is on the same level as something like Survive, Pirate's Cove or Isla Dorada. Entry/Family level games that have quite a mean streak to them. The only real difference is that Cargo Noir is strictly a Euro game. So to me it fits in with Days of Wonder's lineup rather nicely.

I think the game is underrated and most people were put off by just how simple the game was. Also, people get really bent out of shape because the theme is pasted on. It's not like this is the first Euro game to ever be guilty of this, so I don't understand the uproar. It's probably because DoW made the game looks SO darn good lol.
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Jeffrey L.
United States
Western Burbs of Beantown
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Nice review, thanks.

I still enjoy playing this, and it looks fantastic on the table.
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Drew Gormley
United States
Northborough
Massachusetts
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I'm a lover of all things heavyweight strategy!
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BonesJackson wrote:
For most of the BGG crowd it doesn't offer enough meat to satisfy. For the Barnes and Noble crowd, something like this would be right in their sweet spot.


While I disliked the game after one play, I think you need to be careful about making vast, grandiose comments like the one above. It wasn't meaty enough for me because I'd like to play nothing lighter than, say, Shipyard, Vinhos, Madeira, or Trajan. I wouldn't say that "most of the BGG crowd" is in that boat. In fact, there are many people on the Geek that only game once a month and prefer, when they do game, to play much lighter fair (aka Cargo Noir esque games).
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Roger Brown
United States
Sebastopol
California
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My biggest criticism of Cargo Noir is the scoring system. On the surface it seems neat to have the 2 options of sets of different cargo or a bunch of the same, but I've found that all too often, especially at the end, players end up doing exotic math scenarios to see how to group their cargo to get the most points. It seems to be a drag on a game that otherwise moves smoothly.
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Yours Truly,
United States
Raleigh
North Carolina
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There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
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FreedomGunfire wrote:


It seems that the best or most innovative element of Cargo Noir is that it allows players to place multiple bids at a time. I've not played the whole gamut of auction games, but it certainly doesn't crop up in most titles.


If you like that kind of thing, check out Nefertiti. IIRC, there are multiple auctions open at a time. Although in each turn you may only add one new bid to the board, you have four "servants" that can be in multiple auctions simultaneously. Really exceptional auction game.
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