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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.

Dungeon Raiders Review


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What kind of game comes in a small box with 110 cards and 50 life tokens? Well, if that box comes from homoludicus and Passport Game Studios, your getting into a game of dungeon delving like you have never tried before, Phil Walker Harding’s Dungeon Raiders. 

Dungeon Raiders is a game for 3-5 players, although there are alternate solo and 2 player rules that I did not get a chance to try before this review, in which the players are taking a trip through five levels of a dungeon looking for fame and fortune. The person who comes out of the dungeon alive with the most treasure is the ultimate winner. The players each take the role of a different Adventurer, either an Explorer, a Warrior, a Knight, a Thief or a Wizard.

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The lineup of heroes in Dungeon Raiders

The game is played over 5 rounds, or rather 5 levels of the dungeon. Each level will contain five rooms that could contain either a Monster, a Trap, Treasure or a Vault. At the beginning of a level the five cards are dealt into a row, some of these rooms will be visible, some will be hidden.

A level laid out with everything revealed for photo, not every room is going to be able to be seen at the beginning of the round.
A level laid out with everything revealed for photo, not every room is going to be able to be seen at the beginning of the round.

In order to maneuver through the dungeon the Adventurers have to have ways to combat what’s hidden away, well that’s done via card play. Each Adventurer at the start of the game is going to have in front of them a hand of power cards numbering from 1-5 and possibly an extra item card or two that add extra “abilities” to the heroes. They also start with an amount of treasure and health as depicted on their starting hero card.

Everything set up for the Wizard and ready to go.
Everything set up for the Wizard and ready to go.

The Adventurers step into the first room and if the card is upside down they reveal what they are going to face. The power cards in the players hands are their “weapons” so to speak. If the heroes reveal a monster, they need to play power cards equaling or greater than the health of the monster as noted on the card, using only the power cards in their hands. The revealing of the player’s power cards is done simultaneously, with each person placing their card face down in front of them until everyone is ready to reveal. When they reveal their Power Cards, they compare the total value of their cards to the monster card where there will be three different numbers, those are the health numbers based on the number of players in the game. If they defeat the monster by having combined power cards equal to or higher than the monster’s health, they move on to the next room, but if they don’t the player who played the lowest power card takes the damage noted on the monster card before proceeding to the next room. If the room card revealed is a vault, the players all pick a power card to play and they receive the treasure based on what power card they played. If the room card is a treasure room, the players all select a power card and play it, the highest card wins the biggest treasure available in the room, if there is a tie, the players all split the treasure rounding down, the next highest card played would get the smaller of the two treasures if there is a second one in the room. Lastly the heroes could reveal a Trap room, these rooms all have varying effects, but they all could be bad for at least one person based on the Power Cards played. For example, if there is a Magnet trap, the player with the most treasure at that time would lose 1, 2 or 3 treasure if the highest power card played is a 3, 4 or 5 respectively. If there is a tie for the most treasure, all Adventurers that are tied lose that amount of treasure. The important thing to know about these power cards is that you can only use them once per level, at the end of the level you refresh your hand with power cards that were previously played.

To help these Adventurers out, there are Item Cards that they can add to their hand to use as they move throughout the dungeon, once these Item Cards are used, they are gone from the player’s hand and back into the item stack. If for some reason, players are receiving an Item Card and there are not enough to go to everyone, no Adventurer receives the Item Card.

Items available to the delving heroes. Each card has a specific use to use at a specific time.
Items available to the delving heroes. Each card has a specific use to use at a specific time.

The game continues on through the five levels, the final card flipped on the fifth level is going to be one final boss. These bosses are stronger than the other monsters and they also have variable powers that take effect and may change the way that the Adventurers approach the fight.

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These are the 11 boss monsters, the Golem has powers that render swords useless, also if the Golem is not defeated the player who played the Highest power card is going to take damage equal the number on that power card.

 

After the heroes have finished the fifth level of the dungeon and dispatched with the final boss monster, the dungeon is complete and the game is over. The surviving heroes check their lives and in a twist, the player with the lowest health left is eliminated, their wounds are too grievous to overcome and they collapse. If there are multiple heroes tied for the least amount of health, they all are eliminated. However, if all heroes are at the same health they all survive, count up the treasure and the player with the highest amount of treasure wins the game.

Dungeon Raiders is a small box game that offers some of that big box feel in 20-30 minutes of play time. In most of the games we’ve played the scores have been tight and the choices of what to do have been interesting and even sometimes a bit tense. There are decision points in just about every level of the dungeon, made all the more agonizing by the fact that some of the rooms are unknown, unless of course you use that Torch card to see ahead and know what’s coming. But do you help the other Adventurers prepare or do you keep all that information to yourself? Do you play that Crystal Ball to see what the other Adventurers are going to use against the monster and try to purposefully tank it so someone takes a bit of damage? The game can be pretty cutthroat, in a good lighthearted way. The elimination of the player or players with the least amount of health at the end of the game, which worked wonderfully in High Society and probably a few other games, adds a bit of a twist to the end game, it gives you something else to watch out for and makes choosing treasure over health in the vaults a little more agonizing at times.

Components wise, the cards do seem a bit fragile. After a handful of plays ours are starting to chip a bit around the edges, now, I don’t think this will ever affect game play in any way, but it should be noted and if folks want to keep their cards in pristine condition they should look into sleeving the cards. Also the health markers seemed to not have been cut away cleanly as there was plastic flashing around the edges of some, once again, no big deal game play wise, just something to note for those who expect everything to be perfect in the box when it arrives. This also could just be an isolated issue as I have not heard from anyone else who had the same component issues.

Dungeon Raiders is available now from Passport Game Studios in North America for a MSRP of $19.99. Online stores seem to be in re-stocking mode, and Passport Game Studios has assured me that it will be in stock again soon. At the time of this review on 4/15/2015, it is available through Amazon.

In our minds Dungeon Raiders is well worth that price if you like the fantasy theme and shorter play time games or if you just need a fun filler to throw on the table on game day that has quite a bit of interactivity among the players and offers a lot of fun in a small box.

This is really how small box games should be, a lot of fun and a lot of game in a little box.

Review copy provided by Passport Game Studios