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Subject: Roads and Boats, complete with an unoriginal review name. rss

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Nick Swanson
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In Roads and Boats, you build Roads and Boats and build a form of economic empire in the hopes of earning the most victory points through the production of gold, coins, and stock certificates. However, there are a number of interesting quirks that make the game a bit more interesting that that.

With that, into the review!

Off we go-

Does it set up well?

Er... Minimally. Roads and Boats does not come with a board, so much as it comes with 1200 cardboard chits. Now, this is useful for replayability, because you're not using a board so much as a swarm of hexes covered by a roll of plastic or a piece of plexiglass. The downside is, initially, you'll need a full box of plastic bags to keep everything seperate. The wise person would pick up a bead organizer from their local craft store before cracking open the box- and then you'll need more baggies inside to hold hexes, wooden pieces, and other things. Not to mention, that bags are included as part of the game- but not to hold pieces, but to hold the contents of the various mines, something I absolutely despise and try to replace with just putting a face down stack of chits on the board. Also, the stickers to put on pieces are horribly poor, and my friend (who bought the game for me for my birthday for an extreme number of $$s) had issues for a moment trying to determine why there was no 6 or 9. But, once you get to the start of the game, however, the setup becomes less laborous- either you lay out the hexes as you like at the start of the game, or set up a scenario from the book provided, place your headquarters, deal out the starting materials, and off you go. And as irritating as initial setup is, you only have to do it once.



Is it pretty?

I liked it. Everything has a bit of a cartoony style, but it's nice and evenly applied and fits well. I remember snickering the first time I saw a hex with a little sheep pen on it. While that was rather pointless, it adds a sense of style without making the game complex. The chits for factories and items are identifyable, but I'd like a little more color variety- maybe dark brown for timber, light brown for lumber, dark red for clay, medium red for bricks, so there's a visual connection, but at the same time, it works very well the way it is. All your vehicles are nice wooden pieces too. And I love my wooden pieces.



Is it unique?

I love my computer transport games. And, this is as close as you'll get to that on a board game. The uniqueness comes from the fact that you don't own factories or items- once they're there, they do their thing automatically, and anyone can use them. On top of that, any resources sitting around the board can be picked up by anyone, which might result in an early resource raid (a real jerk move, but without it, the game would fall flat on it's onedimensionality. That's a word.) Add on that you get more donkeys and geese by leaving two (and only two, no voyeurs) in an empty grass hex and letting them reproduce naturally still gives me a not-so-clean amusement and causes a few jokes.



Is it interesting?

I think so. you have a variety of options during the game- do I research trucks, or bigger mines? Do I want to use this river instead of building roads? Then I'll need a rowboat factory. Will my opponent cooperate to build a Paper Mill, here, or will I have to waste another hex in my rear areas to put one, when I'd rather use that for a stock exchange later? Do I need any more geese, or can I build on this hex? Do I buy wonder bricks, and try to hurry along the end of the game? All questions I asked myself in the first game I ever played.



Is it stimulating?

Well... It can be. The core to the game is one player is going to want it to devolve into a gold producing race, because they have more gold. The rest don't. But, it's not exactly like you can team up, because you all need different things at the same time, and that's the one failing I think the game has- in the end, it's all about the gold + fuel = coins + paper = stock certificates chain, because out of the whole game, that's where victory points come. Well, that and the wonder, which is a seperate piece to the side of the gameboard which slowly gets blocks added to it (one a turn, plus you can buy them). If you buy blocks, whoever has more gets a majority of the ten victory points available for that row. Either way, it's small cookies compared to stocks, which are 120vps apiece. If it becomes a gold producing race, there's no point to the second half of the game, because the leader will always end up winning.



Is it deep?

In every game, you're looking to make the same moves, but in a different order. If this were the magical game of my dreams, you'd be dealing in a wider range of end goods, say... you could build a cow pasture, butcher them, deliver the meat to a city for vps, and get vps for supplying things, but that would be the single most mindnumbing amount of bookkeeping, it's just my love of computer transport games coming through. It's plenty deep for what it is, and any more and you'd risk drowning people.



Is it balanced?

You pick your own starting location. So, if it seems unbalanced, you probably should have chosen a better one! Hehheh, it's not that simple, but starting location is a lot, and you need to spend a minute looking and deciding a suitable one. But, every side is the same, so as long as you're not red (because red is a jinx), it's nicely balanced.



Is it playable?

There's never been a game where we've had to look at the rules less to determine in-game issues. everything comes on a little cheat card in front of you- how things move, what produces what, what you need to build things. Once you know the game, you can easily teach someone.



Is it replayable?

Really, there's an infinite number of maps to play on. So, the question is, does doing the same thing every time get kinda boring? Well... yes, but only a little. Like I said before, every situation requires you to adjust your order, and there's always some ill-concieved idea to resource raid your opponent. Give yourself a little break between games (Which, warning, can be a bit long), and you'll keep coming back.



Is it fun?

Yes, yes, yes. Complex, but light enough you could drink during it. Just don't spill on the table, for the love of your own personal deity. Not a game for everyone, particularly the cash-strapped, but if you like stacks of resources, this is for you.



The Score

= 9 out of 10.

I really really like Roads and Boats. That much is apparent- I haven't been as brutal towards it as I should have been. But, I don't have the heart to do it to this one. I'm just a really big fan, and I'd probably run off and play it today if someone wanted.

The Recommendation

It's really expensive to buy blind, but if you have people who will play it with you and enjoy this kind of game, it's very worth it. Just get some containers with a bunch of little dividers to keep everything straight, it takes probably 15-20 minutes off the play time. No joke whatsoever. That many bags is a killer.

Anyway. A very fun game, and I'm happy to have it in my collection.

P.S.: There's no 6 or 9 on the numbers for mines, because if you turn them around, you have 9 and 6. Instead of using lines to designate the bottom, they skipped them, and used 19 and 20 instead. Clever, but still resulted in a bit of confusion.
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Rick Mathews
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Casarix wrote:
. . . that's the one failing I think the game has- in the end, it's all about the gold + fuel = coins + paper = stock certificates chain, because out of the whole game, that's where victory points come.

Great review, and well balanced. Your statement quoted above is true, but as you infer, each map presents its own challenges to building the necessary infrastructure, even if that infrastructure looks pretty much the same from game to game. The ultimate fix for this "sameness", of course, is to obtain the &Cetera expansion--if you can find it. It adds art production and "art shows" as an alternate victory path, which changes the entire game for anyone choosing to pursue that path. The expansion also contains many other options that provide a lot of variety, "rounding out" Roads and Boats, in my opinion.

Another strength of the game is as a solitaire platform, using either the published puzzles or those of one's own devising.

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I purchased a copy of &cetera recently from Boards & Bits. They may still have copies. Now if I could just find a reasonably priced copy of antiquity.
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Darrell Hanning
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Quote:
Really, there's an infinite number of maps to play on. So, the question is, does doing the same thing every time get kinda boring? Well... yes, but only a little.


It is that (to me) uninterrupted, mind-numbing procedural nature of the game that keeps me from wanting to play it more than once a year or so. This is where Splotter's Antiquity is more interesting to me, having more confrontation for geography and multiple paths to victory.
 
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Sterling Babcock
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Casarix wrote:
. . . that's the one failing I think the game has- in the end, it's all about the gold + fuel = coins + paper = stock certificates chain, because out of the whole game, that's where victory points come.
True enough, but consider the player that builds 2 or 3 woodcutters around a sawmill and plows everything into the wonder. Add a clay pit and stone mason, and they can push the wonder timer to end the game before the gold diggers get to coins or stock!

DarrellKH wrote:
Quote:
Really, there's an infinite number of maps to play on. So, the question is, does doing the same thing every time get kinda boring? Well... yes, but only a little.


It is that (to me) uninterrupted, mind-numbing procedural nature of the game that keeps me from wanting to play it more than once a year or so. This is where Splotter's Antiquity is more interesting to me, having more confrontation for geography and multiple paths to victory.
Interesting. And I feel the opposite. Antiquity for me seems to involve only 1 or 2 paths to winning and has a sameness to me. For Roads and Boats, each game I am striving to find that one efficiency that gets my engine going faster and more efficient!

I also love the single player game of R&B. But then again, I treat it as a puzzle, with planning each turn on paper. "Oh, you wanted a board there in turn 9? Well back on turn 5 a donkey could have dropped it there on it's way to X. But that means that ..."
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Eric Flood
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Antiquity, by default, should have at least 10 "paths." One for each Patron Saint, plus combos therein. Many involve doing similar patterns in the fields, but the cities will differ vastly.
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