I received Oltremare from Funagain December 20th and have now played it twice. This is the new release from Mind the Move games, by Emanuele Ornella. They did Fantasy Pub last year.
Oltremare is a small game with the box barely 15x15x4 cm. The board is similarly small, and you almost want a magnifier to see the harbor markers. The rules are 8 small pages compressed onto a single two-sided sheet. The first thing you do is go to BoardGameGeek and download the rules because then they are in color.
The goal is to make money (Ducati) that is scored four ways:
Prestige points - gained by trading with other players and scored twice. Once in the middle when the "Venice" card is drawn (and prestige is reset to zero) and once at the end. Winner gets 6 points, second 3 points, third 1 point.
Harbor markers - whoever visits the most harbors. Again 6 - 3 - 1 points
Pirates - Minus 1 point for each card in your pirate stack representing goods stolen by pirates.
Goods - the most points, see below
A good card is used for four different things. Face down its in the pirate stack and is worth -1 at the end. Look at the cards below. The three areas are:
Action icons - the four blue circles on the left. They may be filled with (top to bottom) Ducati, Pirate, Goods market, Sailing
Maritime Power and Trade - at the top right and bottom. These, on the top card of you goods stack, affect your turn. The Venetian Lion icons (top) show how many cards you can keep in your hand and the Cargo Load icons (bottom) show how many cards you have to play from your hand. Maritime varies from 3-6, and Load from 1-4. On a card, the Maritime + Load always adds up to seven.
Good - in the center is the good information. On the left,
On the Oltremare cards image, we see a wood card. The number above the picture is 18, meaning there are 18 wood cards in the game. Below is the payoff. For 1 / 2 / 3 / 4+ wood cards you get 1 / 3 / 6 / 9 Ducati.
There are seven different goods:
Good Score Rareness
Spice 0/4 8
Silk 0/3/8 10
Silver 0/3/7/12 12
Sugar 1/3/6/11 14
Wine 1/3/6/10 16
Wood 1/3/6/9 18
Corn 1/3/5/8/12 20
Scoring the goods stack
As you progress you will get cards onto a stack of goods. This stack cannot be rearranged or looked at, but the top card is face up and affects each turn. At the end of the game you go through your goods stack, separating runs of goods of the same type.You score each run using the value on the card.
If I had a good stack of: 3 wood, 2 spices (the jar above), 1 cloth, and 5 wine (barrel) this would score:
3 wood = 6 (values 1/3/6/9)
2 spices = 4 (values 0/4)
1 cloth = 0 (values 0/3/8)
5 wine = 10 (values 1/3/6/10)
Note that I had more wine than necessary and probably should have saved the extra wine for later.
Place harbor markers face-down on the board (there should be a few left over).
Each player gets: 4 goods cards, 11 ducati (marked on the outside track on the board)
For each player, draw cards from the goods deck until you find one with a city name. That player starts his ship in that city, and the goods card becomes the top (starting) card in his goods deck. After you do this, reshuffle the whole goods deck and place the "Venice" card in the middle of the deck.
Note that your starting goods card will have 6 maritime power, and 1 load, so everyone will play only one card the first turn.
Again, goto BoardGameGeek and download the handy turn summary. The four turn phases are:
Maritime Power - Look at the top cargo card. If you have more cards than the number of Lion icons, discard them to the pirate stack (face down)
Trade - you can buy goods cards, for 3 ducati each, from with draw deck or your pirate stack. Obviously the pirate stack first. You can trade cards and/or ducati with other players. Trades are one at a time, so you could buy a card, trade, some, buy another card, trade more. You can buy up to 4 cards a turn.
Main Phase - You must play as many cards from your hand as there are Load icons on the top cargo card (1-4). If you don't have enough, you have to buy more in the Trade phase. Then you look, in order, at the 4 action icons:
* Ducati - total the number of Ducati icons on the cards played. For 1 / 2 / 3+ icons you score 1 / 3 / 6 ducati on the scoring track.
* Pirates - total these (like ducati) and get 0 / 1 / 3 / 6 for 0-3+ pirates
* Market - total and get 0-6 cargo cards in your hand
* Sailing - Total the Sailing icons and sail that number of spaces on the board. See below
Cargo - Put the goods cards played this turn onto the cargo deck face up (so you can only see the top card). Hopefully you remembered what is near the top so you can create the best runs of goods. Remember that runs greater then the highest payoff for that type waste the extra cards.
As you move your ship (cube) around the map you will hopefully pick up the face-down Harbor markers. When you pick a marker, it goes in front of you, face up. Then you turn over the previous marker (so you have at most one face-up marker). If the harbor you move to doesn't have a marker, then you still turn your current marker face down (losing its bonus).
Markers score points at the end, and a face-up marker gives you a bonus.
* Compass - move your ship/cube to any harbor an take its marker.
* Fight the pirates - ignore pirate icons on played cards.
* On favourable terms - in the trade phase buy card cheaper. 1st card is 1, 2nd card 2, 3rd card 3, 4th card 4.
* Local authority - Get ducati at the start of the turn equal to your maritime power (top of the cargo card) minus 3.
* Big Deal - Add one to the number of ducati icons on the played goods cards
* Plain Sailing - Gain 1 ducati for each Sailing Ship icon on the played goods cards
When a player draws the last goods card, they finish their turn and everyone scores: Prestige, Harbor markers, and goods deck all modify the player's ducati total.
I've only played this twice, so that's what my opinion is worth. You have to do a good job of trading to make sets that score well. But the crucial skill is hand control.
Basically the important way to win is to get the most cards onto your goods deck. (Of course they have to be sets.) To do this you have to keep cards flowing through your hand.
If you have no cards you cannot trade, and have to buy cards next turn. I think its a smart move to always buy enough that you have one card ready to trade, and to give you options next turn.
If all your cards are 6/1 (6 Maritime/1 Load) then you're only playing one card a turn. This slows you down tremendously. This is another occasion when I would buy another card, trying to get a card with more loads.
So the tricky cards are those with 1 Load (can't play lots of cards) and with 4 Loads. The 4 Load card hurts because it also has only 3 Maritime, meaning you must discard down to 3 cards and you have to play 4. This gets you lots of card play, but if you can't replace the cards you may not gain much. A good time to play this is if you have the "On favourable terms" marker up.
Also, when you have the "On favourable terms" marker, you should buy up your pirate cards so they don't hurt you later. At 1 for 1 the worst thing is throwing the card away and no gain. And it might give you better options.
I really love the novel playing options, and the tension between playing lots of cards (but depleting your hand) and saving cards for a later time. It takes about an hour once you understand the options. This is probably the most fun on any of the new games I've played this month!
The downside is the size (and the price). The harbor markers are so small a sneeze can destroy an entire game. Plus this cost about $38 from Funagain. That seems quite a lot for a game this small, although I hear rumors this was cheaper at Essen. Still the cards are pretty and the mechanisms work well together.