Let’s talk about what I thought of the game. Like any game, it has highs and lows. As I mentioned earlier, the quality of the cards and the various Transport mats and player boards leaves a lot to be desired. They are very thin and incredibly flimsy. It is no great stretch of the imagination to envision what they will probably look like after ten or twenty plays … worn out and fading. I certainly hope that future editions of the game utilize better materials during the manufacturing process (thicker card stock, linen finish, thicker mats, etc.).
Another negative that hit me right out of the box was a lack of plastic storage bags. I dislike having loose tokens and chits hanging around in my game boxes and it’s unfortunate when a game manufacturer neglects to include any kind of storage solution with their game. Fortunately for me, I had a lot of extra baggies laying around so I was able to address this problem rather easily, but not everyone has that sort of thing lying around, and they shouldn’t have to. It should just be standard to have a few baggies included.
Last but not least, while I like the artwork in the game (Mirco Paganessi has done a very good job at bringing the Rhein river valley to life), there’s just not enough of it. There’s a lot of negative space in this game and it practically glares at you from the illustration on the back of the box. If I’d come across this game in my local game shop, I probably would have discounted it out of hand due to its lack of visual appeal.
And that would have been a shame because it’s actually a really good game.
Rhein: River Trade is a game all about tough choices and it can be very difficult to get ahead if you plan poorly. When the game begins, you’ll most likely find yourself face to face with a lot of Order cards that you have no hope of fulfilling within the first couple of turns. This means that your total capital is going to be depleted for some time before you ever see a return on your investment. This can be particularly frustrating if your opponents are actively working to make it impossible for you to fulfill your Orders in time. So you’re forced to either take a gamble right out of the gates or to patiently wait for a better opportunity to come along.
Here’s an example of the kind of decision making you might encounter during a typical play. Let’s assume that one of your opponents has grabbed up an Order card to deliver goods to London that has a very large payout of 25 capital. If they were to take the airplane, they could conceivably make it to London in two turns provided nobody throws a wrench into their plans. So now it’s your turn to draft an Order card. There are a couple of decent ones out there, but none with a payout like the one that your opponent grabbed.
At this point, do you grab an Order card for yourself and focus on improving your own lot or do you divert your resources towards hampering your opponent’s effort? It is entirely possible that you could pointlessly load your own cargo onto the planes without a Reservation token (or get the other players to team up with you) in an effort to keep the planes grounded and deny your opponent the 25 capital. But, it’s also possible that you’d strike a gentleman’s agreement, load your cargo onto the plane, and then have your opponents welch on their part of the bargain. Decisions and calculations like these abound. Everything in this game requires a delicate assessment of risk versus reward.
It is this rich decision making, scheming, and calculating that keeps me playing. The negatives that I pointed out are mild annoyances at best and the outstanding quality of the game play definitely trumps them. Rhein: River Trade is an excellent game. If you’re considering taking a chance on it, then I highly recommend you take the plunge. You won’t be sorry you did.
For my full review in which I go into more depth about the components and gameplay, you can check it out here: http://www.meeplemountain.com/reviews/rhein-river-trade-revi...