Played a 2 player game of Smugglers last night. It was fun, and felt "light" overall. I think it would benefit from having more than 2 players. (I always wonder what differences will surface when you change the # of players...) Seems a bit early to do a review, but I wanted to share the game experience so others can get an idea of what to expect.
I like the components - the board is solid and the trucks and boats are great. The fact that you have crates of goods you can load on them is a nice visual bonus. Cards are large and sturdy. The money is fine although the colors are light pastels that could be confused - choose an ethical banker!
Euro disclaimer: Yes, there are dice in this game...they are used to determine starting player, starting location, vehicle movement and also in 2-player rolloffs to determine if a truck can be searched. So, there is dice infused luck in the game. I think it works fine within the theme - especially in a rolloff to see if your truck is searched - there is stress and uncertainty as you wait to see if you may lose a smuggled load, which makes sense.
Highest roll starts and I like the mechanic used to determine starting location (some cities are numbered - what you roll is where you place your truck). We both rolled numbers close to 7 on 2 dice and started close to each other on the middle of the eastern seaboard.
Each player starts the game with 5 Delivery Cards (similar to "Tickets" in Ticket to Ride). You have a pick up city and a drop off city as well as a dollar amount you will be paid on delivery. Of the 5 cards you keep 3 and discard the others. Your goal is to amass the largest bankroll by completing deliveries. When you arrive at a pick up city you add a crate to your truck and from the deck of cards labeled "Legal or Not" you decide if you want to take smuggled goods (worth a double payout) or legal cargo. Secretly place the card of your choice under the Delivery Card.
There are multiple steps a player takes each turn, and it feels a bit overburdened.
1. Move (truck or boat)
2. Option to dump a load (rarely used)
3. If possible (select ONE): Pick up cargo, Drop off cargo OR search an opponents truck
4. If you have cargo in Transit: Take a Transit card
5. Buy something (Boat, Turbo, Radar Gun, Double Trailer, Weigh Station)
Let me explain the items you can buy in step 5:
Weigh Station - placed on board. When crossing this space, forces your opponents to do a rolloff or reveal their cargo's legal/smuggled status. Each player gets 5 in a 2 player game, 4 with 3 players, 2 with 4 and 1 with 5. These don't really help you much, but act as deterrants to others.
Radar Gun - adds +1 to your rolls in rolloffs. Not mandatory, but helps your odds.
Double Trailer - allows 2 simultaneous loads per truck. Really helps you increase rate at which you gather cash.
Turbo - lets you roll 3 dice instead of 2 to move. Again increases rate you can complete deliveries
Boat - allows delivery to ports outside the contenintal 48 states. These routes have big payoffs.
I can't imagine a player winning the game without buying the addons. They are expensive - Boat $3000, Double Trailer $3000, Turbo $2000, Radar Gun $1000 and Weigh Stations $500 each. Total cost $11,500 in a 2 player game. Our game ended with the winner having $21,300, so it is a big investment to buy all addons. Nonetheless we did buy them all and were able to do it fairly early, so this option was more or less unavailable in the second half of the game - we had bought everything!
Step 4 Transit cards:
You take one each turn that you have cargo in transit (which is most of the time). They are "spice" for the game. All sorts of events and sabatoge your neighbor cards - Police checks, Blizzards, Road Closures, etc. They are very wordy cards and they often have limits to use (catch up mechanics). There is downtime while the player reads the card and then figures out if they can use it, keep it, MUST play it or should just discard.
Rolloffs, Truck Searches and Weigh Stations:
Any time you enter the same space as an opponent, you can conduct a search. When they enter a space with your weigh station the same thing happens. Both players roll 2 dice - if the inspecting player rolls higher they can bust a smuggling player. If the trucker ties or beats the investigating player they drive on unmolested. If the truck's load is legal, nothing happens either way, but a discovered smugger loses the cargo, the bank pays the finder $1000 and they get a red "I caught a smuggler" chip. NOTE: The smuggler is allowed to bribe the investigating player and have them call off the search. This is negotiated between the players.
Successful deliveries yield a payoff (doubled if smuggled). The player also receives chips to denote the delivery. A White chip for a legal delivery, a black on for illegal cargo. If the shipment went overseas a blue chip is received in addition to the black or white chip. The game ends when one player has completed 7 deliveries. (Black + White chips = 7) Bonus money is given at the end of the game for the 2 players having the highest number of chips in each color (Black, White, Blue and Red). The player with the most cash wins.
Buy Weigh Stations early to discourage opponents from trying to smuggle cargo. Buy addons as quickly as possible. Short routes with no enemy weigh stations in between are ideal for smuggling. Boat routes are high payoff, and sort of hard to get searched - another good candidate for smuggling.
Legal routes completed are better than smuggled cargo that gets taken - use the legal option frequently.
Overall: This is a fun game. The Transit cards are often negative, but they add flavor to things. Player turns are somewhat complex, and the payoff for a completed route is in cash and chips - I think we forgot to hand out the chips at least once in our game. Things can happen like a player rolls a 10, allowing them to reach their destination, but by going through an opponents weigh station. So the weigh station event has to be resolved before the delivery event. I would rate it a BGG 7, but given the 120 minute play time, it has a lot of strong competition from other good games just to get out on the table. Given the lightness of the game and the level of luck involved I can imagine a euro-purist with the meaty badge could rate this fairly low. The game fits the theme well, and the components are nice - I consider it a solid addition to my collection.