Great games, or games that sell, often get expansions. You get more of something good. In Concordia Salsa you get salt, you get special powers and you get more maps. Is it any good?
A month ago I reviewed Concordia, a game from Mac Gerdts. This is a fantastic game and if you want to know why, you can check out the review. Concordia Salsa is an expansion and it contains three new elements: a two-sided map, salt and the forum.
On one side of the map you can see Byzantium with its ten provinces and twenty-nine cities (including Byzantium itself) and on the other side you see a map of Hispania with nine provinces and twenty-four cities (including Saguntum).
Salt is a new recourse. It’s a wild card, you can use it for as any other good. You can, however, not sell for money. To build a house in a salt city, you need a tool, a wine token and 5 sestertii and these cities count for Jupiter (non-brick cities), Saturnus (provinces) and for one of your Minerva (specialists) cards. So, if you have the brick and tool specialist, you have to choose what your salt cities count for. Brick or tools?
The forum allows you to get special abilities. You start the game with a forum tile that gives you an ability throughout the game. And every time you use your tribune card you can buy one more tribune tile. The more cards are in you discard pile, the more choice you have when choosing your forum tile. There are abilities you can use throughout the game, like an extra storage room or your first brick is free when you buy brick, and there are abilities that you can only use once, like take the bonus good from an active province.
The basic Concordia map has twelve provinces and thirty-one cities (including Rome) and the Italy map has twenty-six cities in eleven provinces. So, the two new maps both have fewer provinces and the Hispania map also has fewer cities than the two maps from the base game.
Is this a reason to buy the expansion? No, the different maps are cool, they are tighter than the base game ones, but it’s not a big change.
What about the salt? You now have salt cities, which immediately means that there are fewer cities that produce other types of goods. This is not a problem, because salt can be used as any good. So, having a house in a salt city gives you much more options, but building a salt city is quite expensive. It will probably be worth it at the end of the game considering its multifunctional use when counting points. So, is salt a reason to run to the stores for this expansion? No, I will explain later why not.
The last new thing is the forum. You can get special powers, in fact you will get multiple special powers during the game. When you have more cards in your discard pile you have more choice when taking a forum tile. This, however doesn’t mean anything, because the tile on the ‘ten cards in your discard pile’ spot doesn’t have to be better than the tile on the ‘four cards’ spot. It only means that if you really want the tile on the ten card spot, you have to wait more turns before you can get it. Will it be worth it? Well, it’s impossible to know beforehand.
Both salt and these forum cards make the game less about managing your resources, it makes Concordia less predictable. For some people this might be good news, for me it isn’t. I normally like special powers in games, but in this game I only like it for variation of gameplay.
I like the base game much more, and will use the expansion only once in a while. The game is less tight with the addition of salt and in lesser extent with the addition of the forum tiles. With these salty wild cards you can just do more, or more easily change your plans. If you first tought about building in a cloth city, by using salt as cloth, and you, for some reason can not when your turn comes up, you can easily turn your salt in to wine and build your house in a wine city.
The forum tiles also make you able to do more, or more easily, because they just make things easier, cheaper, better. That’s a fun idea, but I felt that these powers just flew into my lap. You don’t have to work for it and, at least in the games I’ve played, the distribution of these tiles between player felt a bit random. What I mean by that is that, except from the first tile, you can’t build your strategy around them. You just have a power, use it two, three times during the game, you get another power, maybe you can use it more, maybe not, and that’s it. I sometimes even forgot about the powers I’ve had, because I was to focussed on the basic mechanisms, the meeples on the board and the cards in my hand.
The come becomes more unpredictable, less tactical, which was something I liked in the base game.
So, I only think this expansion is worth it if you really, really like Concordia and, more importantly, have played the game a lot and think the game increasingly feels the same.
Concordia is one of the best games in my collection, I like it a lot, but I think Concordia Salsa doesn’t make the game better or more fun for me. It does the opposite. This means that it turns a great game into a good one, but the good mainly comes from the mechanisms from the base game.
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