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Subject: The BEST Economic-theme Game rss

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Drew Spencer
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In this review, I hope to explain to you why this really is a nearly perfect game for its type. Just a warning: this review is likely to be as long as the rule book. Let's tuck in.

Overview
The players are playing either business tycoons owning several stages of production or (more likely) playing several businesses simultaneously. Players produce goods cheaply, which are then sold to other players for profit, who put them on their warehouse spots, where they sell them to other players' visiting ships (again, at a nice profit), who then send them to the island to be auctioned off for, you guessed it, profit. Finally people are buying these containers will get you money at the end of the game depending on what goods are worth the most to you.

As you might have gathered, the game is all about money. Except during the auction, you can set your prices, but will have to compete with your opponents' prices. If you like games about producing, trading, and selling, Container has it all.

Game Components
The components seem to be a serious point of contention for a number of geeks. They consist of one central island, one island for each player, little gray "warehouses," little colored wooden "factories," lots of colored rectangular wood "containers," the cards (money, value, and loan cards) and one ship in each color. The oddity of these bits is my only complaint about the game.

First of all, the colors are very strange choices. You can play as yellow, red, white, light blue, or dark blue. The colors on the islands don't seem to match the ships exactly, but you can get pretty close. Then the containers and factories include white and black (fine choices) but also orange, brown, and tan, which all look pretty close to each other. I don't know what whoever came up with this color scheme was thinking, to the extent that I wonder if they might have been color-blind themselves. Green is conspicuously absent from this game in everything but the five-value money cards.

Then there are the ships. Each player takes one ship in their color. These ships are made of some creepy, chalky plastic material, possibly extraterrestrial in nature, which feels brittle, though I have not yet tested how much it takes to break one.

Other than that the components are fine. I like the factories and the warehouses and the artwork on the boards. Everything is easy to work with and looks right for the theme.

Set-up

Each player takes chooses one of the available colors (see above). They take the ship and board for that color. They get one warehouse, then they randomly take one of the factories and one value card. Which factory they take tends to not matter very much in the long run. The value card, however, will determine their priorities for which containers to bid on during the auctions. Basically one of the colors will be worth 10 each, one worth 6, one worth 4, one worth 2, and then there will be one which is worth 5 unless the player managed to get at least one of each color, in which case it is also worth 10. The factory and warehouse are placed on the player's board, but the value card is obviously kept secret. Also each player will start with some seed money.

Game Play

Oh the possibilities. Each turn you have two actions to spend. One action can do any of the following:

1. Produce goods. Each factory produces up to one good. You can only store two goods per factory at once. This costs $1, payed to the player to your right, who is your union boss for some reason.
2. Build a new factory. They get more expensive the more you build.
3. Buy goods from other players' storage. Always at whatever price the producer has set. Here you can only store one container per warehouse you own.
4. Buy a new warehouse. Again, they'll get more expensive the more you get, but not as steeply as the factories.
5. Move your ship one space, meaning from port to open sea or from open sea to any port except your own. If you move into an opponent's port you may immediately buy containers to put on your ship at whatever prices they've set, and if you move into the central island you immediately begin an auction for whatever is on your ship.

The auction mechanic is really very clever. If you start an auction, everyone secretly lays down their bid and reveals simultaneously. If you accept the highest bid, you receive that bid, and that bid is also matched from the bank. If you refuse the highest bid, you must pay that bid to the bank and you get the containers yourself. This is rare, but it does mean that if there's something you need and no one bids particularly high, you have a means of getting it yourself.

Incidentally, the fact that the highest bid is matched is one of this game's two really genius rules. It guarantees a positive sum game, where money is constantly flowing into the system, spurring more production and activity.

End Game Scoring
Again, this game is all about money. If you don't do anything the whole game, your final score will probably be the $20 you started with, plus a dollar here and there for the player to your left producing.

Generally, however, the bulk of your money will come from the containers on your section of the central island which you won during the auction. The first thing you do though, is just remove all of whichever color container you have the most of. This is the second of this game's two genius rules. This one makes sure you have to keep a close eye on the balance between the various container types you are collecting. After you've removed those containers, you trade in all your containers for their value, depending on which value card you took at the beginning of the game. Add that money to whatever you have on hand and then receive a pittance for containers still in your warehouses or on your ships, and you've got your final score.

Evaluation

After one play I rated this game a 9. After the second play I changed it to 10, and reduced my rating of Power Grid to a 9, since it had just been supplanted as the perfect economic/strategy game for a medium number of players. This is the first of three games that had me really thinking about what I would do differently if I played again (the other two being Mao and Go, both extremely different from Container and each other).

This game gives you a hands-on role in every aspect of production, from paying off the union boss to being the happy recipient of government subsidies for contributing to the economic well-being of whatever the central island is eventually going to be.

Everyone will be doing everything a little bit, but to what extent you do each level of production will change each game. If you're producing a lot, you can expect to move a lot of goods quickly (up to eight per turn) but for very little money; if you sell goods to ships, you'll sell slightly less (up to five per turn) but for slightly more. Moving your ship around a lot and auctioning goods will get you the most money, but it takes about four times as many actions to do it. In practice you'll find yourself striking a delicate balance between two or more of these roles, all while trying to stay competitive in the auctions. This kind of flexibility is one of the game's best strong points.

So if you like strategy and economics, give Container a try, and you might agree that it is the perfect game of its type.
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Bob Rademaker
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Nice review-

I am eager to try this game, as I won a copy in the most recent Dallas Games Marathon raffle. I have absorbed the rulebook and have played a 3 player game solo just to see how it all works. Now I just need to get it to the table with some friends.
 
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Eric Williams
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Thanks for the review. I too am yet to experience this game and I like economic games. I tend towards heavy games being a war gamer and Container sounds a tad light to me. My economic "10" is Brass, with Indonesia running a close second. Container sounds like my cup of tea but may not have the weight and grit of my current faves.
 
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Surya is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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banyan wrote:
These ships are made of some creepy, chalky plastic material, possibly extraterrestrial in nature, which feels brittle, though I have not yet tested how much it takes to break one.

I saw Torben from Valley games throw one on the ground from over 3 feet high, and it was completely in tact, so I guess you shouldn't worry too much.

banyan wrote:
So if you like strategy and economics, give Container a try, and you might agree that it is the perfect game of its type.

That's exactly the way I feel about this game. The fact that it's all in the players hands, with no random elements except for the setup, makes this game so open and realistic.
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Shane Beck
Australia
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How well does this game scale with 2, 3, 4, or 5 players??
 
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Surya is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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It scales strangely: it's hard with 3, easier with 5. I think I like it best with 5
 
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Tim Seitz
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Glen Allen
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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Shane Beck wrote:
How well does this game scale with 2, 3, 4, or 5 players??


Not 2-player. That would be funny.
3-player is not so fun. 4 or 5 is much better.
 
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J C Lawrence
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Shane Beck wrote:
How well does this game scale with 2, 3, 4, or 5 players??


2 players are not supported.

3 players is supported but nearly broken -- too much of the game has passed by the time you have enough information to figure the investments.

4 and 5 players are just fine. I prefer 4 to 5 players, finding 5 a little too chaotic for my taste.
 
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Blake Lipman
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I like this game very much too. It is VERY unforgiving though. Do not overextend yourself(ie. take out loans you can't repay immediately or in short order). Also, always try to accept the high bid for the auction (even if you feel it is a bit low) otherwise money rushes out of the game and you (and most of the other players if they are playing similarly) will fall into a cashflow death spiral. We found that one or two poor players can actually hurt the other players as cash will become dear. This game is not for the faint of heart. One of the trickier economic games I've played.
 
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Drew Spencer
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Oh I completely forgot to mention the loans! The first game I played I was primarily the producer and did not need to take out a single loan. The second game I was the main supplier and had two loans out for most of the game, and over time the interest payments did a number on me, but I still had a pretty good showing at the end.

During the auctions, there's a sort of race to the top. You auction something and a bunch of money comes in from outside, then you have more money to win later auctions, bringing in yet more money from outside, and before too long every single player is quite wealthy. As long as you don't stagnate and players continue to produce and supply resources, you shouldn't find yourself mired too badly after a while, because you just have to sail around and pick up resources and auction them off to get out of debt. The fact that you can't take out a third loan probably helps.
 
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John Di Ponio
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$ to 5 players is best for this game. Oh what fun!!! The review was pretty right on!
 
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Kevin Dusik
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I have only read the rules on-line once - and that was some while ago, but they were poorly written with a number of grammatical errors. It turned me off the game. Too bad, too, 'cuz it sounds like a great game. Maybe I will give the rules another go.
 
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steve templeton
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i agree with your comments - excellent economic game with completely player driven market prices

excellent review i found myself nodding my head the whole way down the review thinking 'yup - thats what i thought too!'
 
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