Age of Discovery is a 2-4 player game about sending ships on various expeditions and trade voyages. The goal is to earn the most VP's. This is primarily achieved by sending ships on exploration expeditions. Ships cost money, so earning money is obviously an important aspect of the game as well. Money is earned by sending ships on Trade Voyages. So the big decision here is to determine whether your purchased ships get sent out for VP's or for money. As with many eurogames, you have to decide when to focus on money and when to focus on VP's
How Do I Get Ships??
The ships are in the form of small cards. 2 rows of 5 ships are laid out. The bottom row of 5 is called the Purchase Row. Any of these ships can be bought. When a ship is purchased, the one above it in the top row, called the Filling Row drops down to replace it. Then a ship is drawn from the left-most face-down deck of ship cards to fill the empty space in the Filling Row. Note this may trigger a scoring round (see below).
What Important Features Do The Ships Possess?
1. Color (blue, green, red, yellow, white). This determines which Trade Voyages each ship can go undertake. The color of the ship has to match the color of the Trade route card.
2. Transport Value (1-3). Each Trade Voyage card (called Trade Contracts) has a total transport value that has to be met (and not exceeded). For example a blue Trade card with a transport value of 5 can be undertaken with a blue 2 and a blue 3 ship. Each Expedition card has a similar Transportation Value that cannot be exceeded.
3. Cost. This is the price of acquiring the ship.
How Can My Ships Score VP's?
Ships serve 2 purposes. First you can send them on 1 of 12 exploration expeditions. These are in the form of large cards which are laid out at the beginning of the game. These cards contain information regarding 3 things:
1. Color. If the Ship color matches the color of the expediditon card, then the players get more VP's. Any color ship can be played onto an expedition as the first ship played. However, subsequent ships played must always match the color of the first ship.
2. Transport Value. This number does not have to be met (unlike Trade Contracts), but this number cannot be exceeded. Therefore if 1,1,2,3 value ships are going on an expedition with a total Transport Value of 7, no more ships may be added to this expedition.
3. VP amounts. Each ship present on that expedition scores the appropriate VP amount during 1 of the 2 scorings. Example: 2/3 5/6 would be interpreted as First scoring: 2 VP's if the ships do not match the color of the Expedition Card, 3 VP's if they do. Second scoring: 5 VPs for non-matching colors, 6 VPs if the colors match.
Note that ships played on Expedition Cards stay there for the remainder of the game, thus players will not get these ships back.
How Do My Ships Earn Money?
The second function of purchased ships is to send them on Trade Voyages. To do so, a player plays a Trade Contract card along with the required ships from his hand. There are 4 bits of information on the Trade Contract cards:
1. Color. Ships have to match colors with the Trade Contract Card.
2. Transport Value: The required transport value of the ship(s) that has to be met (and cannot be exceeded).
3. Payout. There are 3 values (i.e. 9,11,14) place a cube on the value you want.
4. Duration of Trade boxes. Place another cube in the box that corresponds to the payout amount. The further to the right, the higher the payout and consequently the longer the duration it will take to earn the income. Slide the duration box cube one over to the left at the beginning of your turn. When the cube slides off the last (i.e. left-most) box, you then earn the allotted payout. Hence, if you want the maximum amount, you have to put your cube in the far right duration box. Therefore it will take 3 turns to earn the allotted amount.
So Trade Voyages earn money, but there is a delayed effect. Longer payouts take more turns to collect. When you are awarded the payout, the Trade Contract card is removed from the game and you get all your ships back (hurray!).
One other very important aspect regarding the Trade Voyages is that the more you complete (you keep a record of this on the VP track) the more VP's you will earn for your secret Special Mission VP's (see below).
So How Do I get to Perform All these Wonderful Actions?
Each player gets a turn. Play proceeds clockwise. There are really no game rounds; play just keeps going around and around until the second scoring, which at that point, the game soon ends. A player can perform 2 Actions on his turn. The following actions are:
1. Take 2 Coins. Take 2 coins from the bank
2. Accept a Trade Contract. The Trade Contract (trade voyages) deck is face down, though at the beginning of the game 4 are revealed face-up. As an action, a player can spend one coin to take either one of the 4 face-up trade cards or draw a face-down card. If a face-up card is selected, then a new one is replaced. The player starts the game with 2 in his hand and can never have more than 4 in his hand.
3. Send Ships on Expeditions and/or Trade Voyages. As described above, as a single action, a player can play as many ships out of his hand for both expeditions and voyages. Each ship played costs 1 coin whether it is played on an expedition or a trade voyage (the flagship (see below) costs 2 coins).
4. Buy Ships. As outlined above, a player can buy as many ships as he wants or can afford from the Purchase Row. After each purchase, a new ship is replaced on the Purchase Row from the Filling Row.
Note that even though a player may take 2 actions, he may NOT take the same action twice.
How Does Scoring Occur?
At the beginning of the game, 5 face-down ship card piles are created (containing 6,6,6,7,7 cards respectively) A scoring card is shuffled in the 3rd and 5th piles. So when cards drawn to replace the Filling Row, they are drawn from the left-most pile. Therefore when the 3rd (and 5th) piles are reached, scoring will eventually occur. When a scoring card is drawn, that player completes his turn, then everyone gets a final turn (including the drawing player) before the scoring occurs. In the first scoring players get the allotted VP's per ship in each Expeditions. Remember, ship colors that match those of the Expedition are worth more VP's. When the second scoring card is drawn from the 5th pile, the exact same scoring occurs. In addition, Special Mission VP's are scored (see below), and each player gets 1 VP per each ship in his hand and on incomplete Trade Voyages. The winner is the player with the most VP's ties going to the player with the most ships not sent on expeditions.
What Is This Secret Special Mission?
At the beginning of the game each player is secretly given a Special Mission card. There are 4 of them:
1. A player gets extra VP's for each Expedition in which he has at least 1 ship (player cubes are placed on expedition ships to keep track of whose ship belongs to who).
2. A player gets extra VP's for each Expedition in which he has at half of the ships.
3. A player gets extra VP's for each Expedition in which he has the majority of ships.
4. A player gets extra VP's for each Expedition in which he has the all of the ships.
Now the interseting thing is the number of VP's awarded is based upon the number of Trade Voyages Completed. Remember, players keep track of this on a special track below the VP track. The more Trade Voyages Completed, the more valuable your special mission becomes.
Is That It? Or Is There More?
2 more brief concepts:
1. Each player is randomly given a flagship at the beginning of the game. It is 2 colors rather than 1 and can be of any transport value between 1 and 3. The only down side is that is costs 2 rather than 1 coin to play.
2. Each player is given a certain number of Action Cards of which there are 2 different kind:
a) Wild Ship card: Play this along with any ship to change its color.
b) Reservation: Play this (does not count as an action) anytime during your turn to reserve a Ship or Trade contract, so no one else can take it. Place an ID cube on the card being reserved.
The number of cards you get is determined by the number of players. When a card is used, it is taken out of the game.
My Overall Impressions:
Theme: 8 I always have enjoyed old-timey sailing-themed games like Hansa etc.
Mechanics: 8 Though the same old formula of balancing money for VP's applies, the mechanics are very fresh and clever.
Rule Book: 10 No ambiguity. Good examples and illustrations are present.
Strategy: 8.5 Some luck, but overall a lot of planning is required to fare well.
Asthetics/components: 8 There is no board. The ship and Trade Voyage cards are that nice tough grainy material. The Expetdition cards and VP track are both a little thin but stable. Despite not having a big lavish board, this is a very ornate game when all laid out.
Overall Impression: 8 So far, I really like this game. After having played scores of new games in the past few years, it takes more to become impressed with the new games. Even with potentially good games, I find myself saying "yeah, been there, done that". However, to me, despite the fact this is a classic tug of war between money and VP's, the mechanics are fresh and quite clever. This also scales most excellently with any number of players (2-4), which of course does mean this plays well with 2. Furthermore, no rule changes or dummy players are necessary for 2-player games. The last review compares this game to St. Petersburg. As a huge fan of that game, I can honestly say that aside from both being good games, there is really not that much in common otherwise. Yes, in both games you acqure cards from a row of cards and yes, you struggle between Money and VP's, but that is about it. I would consider this light to medium weight eurogame though with its fair share of tough decisions.
Good review. Having played it this week, I was really surprised at how much space the game takes up. It does look very nice and its an organizers dream, getting all the different cards and things into neat little rows. we had a strange moment where one player did little for a good while then cashed in on 2 huge trade contracts and got like 26$ where he was able to buy a ton of ships and almost end the game. Howvere, he was later to the expedition race and had a hard time fufilling his special mission.Playing to you mission early seems key. I ahd to gain majority of ships and I stupidly played on high pay out expeditions that filled up without me being in the lead, instead of small expeditions I could have dominated.