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Century: Spice Road

Century: Spice Road

Emerson Matsuuchi-Designer

Fernanda Suárez-Artist

Plan B Games-Publisher

What originally was going to be Caravans from Plaid Hat Games, became Century: Spice Road from Plan B Games and it grew into what will become at least a trilogy of games. Does the first one kick off with a bang or limp in with a whimper? Let’s take a look and find out!

In Century: Spice Road the players are leaders of a caravan travelling the famed Silk Road to deliver spices in an attempt to be the best merchant.

To do this is really simple, well, at least the rules are simple, as there are only four things that you can do on a turn and you can do only one of those four each turn.

  1. Establish a Trade Route– aka, take a Market Card. Alright, so the Market Cards, there are 6 of them available on a players turn and they cost based on their location from left to right, so the leftmost Market Card is free to take and the right most Market Card will cost you 5 spices from your caravan to pick up. You pay that by placing one Spice on each Market card to the left of the one that you want to purchase. These market cards are the fuel for your engine that you are trying to build, they will allow you to collect more spices or they will allow you to trade combinations of spices for other spices. You are establishing a trade route to gain your resources. When you buy a Market Card, it goes straight to your hand and is available to use on your next turn.
  2. Make a Trade or Harvest Spices– This is playing a card from your hand. You have three types of cards, one type simply allows you to collect the specified spices on said card. The other type allows you to trade specified types of spices for different specified spices and the third allows you to upgrade spices from one to another. You see the spices have a heirarchy, they go from Tumeric, to Saffron, to Cardamom, to Cinnamon, or as people are wont to do, Yellow to Red to Green to Brown. You play a card from your hand, you take the specified action and leave the card on the table in front of you. 
  3. Rest– This is the action that allows you to bring all of your played cards back into your hand in order to allow you to use them again.
  4. Fulfill a Demand– This is what you are ultimately trying to do, fulfill the demands. There will be 5 Demand Cards out and each card will have different spices that need to be delivered and each card will have a victory point value on it. The far left Demand Card will also start with Gold attached to it, which is worth 3 victory points at the end of the game and the second most left card will have Silver attached, that is worth 1 victory point at the end of the game. The number of Gold and Silver is equal to two times the number of players. When a player fulfills a demand, they simply discard the correct spices and take the card and gold or silver if they fulfill the corresponding Demand Card. Ultimately, the Demand Cards are the end game trigger, when someone collects their 5th Demand Card(in 3-5 player games), or their 6th(in the 2 player game), the round finishes and whomever has the most Victory Points is ultimately the winner.

That’s all you gotta do in order to be the best Spice Merchant, you just have to remember and figure out how to best use your one action per turn to build your Spice Empire.

Let’s start with a couple negatives, first up, does this look color blind friendly to you? To me they are fine, I have zero color blindness issues, but I’ve heard from folks that these are a bit problematic if you are on the Color Blind Spectrum.

And the second negative being that they are just cubes, just different colored cubes. Now, mind you, I realize this is just a component nitpick as I don’t know that anyone would produce a game like this without  just using cubes, BUT even Splendor(shudder) used Poker Chips as a draw.

That’s it, that’s all I can think of to say negatively about the game as it is really a great little engine builder. The fact that you play your cards and have to actually take the time to refresh them, makes all the difference in the world vs that other game that I mentioned just above. You are building an engine here, not one that just works in spite of what you do, it works because you help it work, you play the cards and you have to decide when to refresh those cards, they don’t just sit there and let you reap the benefits the entire game. You have some decisions to make.

You also will know, immediately, that some cards are more valuable than others, and yes, that can be a bit of a crap shoot when they come out from the deck and into the Trade Market, but somebody ahead of you is really going to have to want that card to pay that cost, so it’s not always going to be gone when your time rolls around, that Trade Market and the way you pay for it, ala Firenze, is really a nice touch and helps even that luck of the draw out a bit.

Two players to five players, Century: Spice Road keeps you on your toes and really doesn’t give you the opportunity to relax, some may like that, some may not, but it is a game that moves at the correct pace for this type of game. I won’t say that the game moves fast, as I never want to say that fast is a selling point, but the game moves at a brisk pace that doesn’t ever make you feel like it has overstayed it’s welcome.

The art is warm and inviting, Fernanda Suárez, who previously worked on Ashes and Dead of Winter  has done a beautiful job  illustrating and gives the game a genuine feel that is warm and welcoming.

I have the playmat to go with the game and while it is completely superfluous, it really is a nice touch. You are going to be moving cards along a row quite a bit, and we all know that sliding cards along tables, especially without sleeves, can cause wear on said cards, the playmat prevents that, plus it gives you specific spots to place your cards, coins and spices. The insert works perfectly with the bowls holding the spices, just sit the rule book on top of the bowls and they don’t spill. I will rarely praise a game simply because they did an insert right, but Plan B Games definitely did the insert right.

Now, this isn’t going to the centerpiece of your game collection, Century: Spice Road simply isn’t that game, but what it is going to be is a really good 30-45 minute Gateway level engine building game that really inspires it’s players to search out and explore for the combinations that will work best each game. Sometimes those combinations work, sometimes they don’t, but you know what, it’s only a quick setup and another play away from trying it again.