What do you get for your money?
You get 28 large cards, 52 cubes in four colours and the rules.
How do you play the game?
You sail from Lisbon to India, which is not discovered yet, and along the way you will trade goods, spread the Christian faith and build fortresses. With cubes.
Everything is a cube. Your ships, cubes. Your wealth, cubes. Your goods, cubes. You Victory points, cubes. Your buildings, cubes. Everything, cubes.
You start the game with a row of cards, Lisbon as the leftmost card and India as the rightmost face-down card. In between you find, from left to right, three face-up cards and eight face-down cards, the great unknown.
On every card there’s a bit of ocean, two of the six possible types of goods and two of the three possible types of buildings; a stronghold, a marketplace or a church.
Every player starts the game with one cube in Lisbon, one cube, a banker, on your wealth track and three scientist cubes. These scientists can be used to buy technologies. Your other eight cubes stay in the general supply.
On your turn you can do two of the following things. Firstly, you can place a new cube in Lisbon. Secondly, you can move your ships as many cards further along the line as your ship speed allows you to and then, if you want to, convert these ships into goods by putting them on the goods symbols on the card. Thirdly, you can buy faster ships. Fourthly, you can sell the goods for money. The more different goods, the more money and points you get. Fifthly, you can build a building by paying some money and move a ship from the sea to the buildings on the same card. And lastly, you can buy a technology with one of your three scientists. Not really lastly, because you can always return goods, ships, buildings, bankers and historians (cubes on the VP track) to Lisbon. Plus, you can always use the effect of your technologies.
Whenever you sell goods, you move your goods cubes back to Lisbon and you gain some wealth and possibly some points. However, to claim these points and this wealth, you have to be able to move a cube along or place a cube on your wealth and victory point track. These tracks only go up to a value of five coins and five VPs. So, the more points you get, the more cubes you have to put on that track. If you cannot, or don’t want to, place a cube on the track, you cannot claim the reward.
Buildings will give you points at the end of the game and, two of them, give you benefits during the game. When you own a Stronghold, you can start your move ships action there, or when you own a Marketplace, you can regard the marketplace as one specific good.
Whenever you sail onto a face-down card you get a point and must flip it over. When you are the brave explorer who discovers India you get two points and you’ll end the game. The game also ends when two players have no cubes left in the general supply.
Add up all the points from your VP track, your buildings and our technologies and then the one with the most points, wins the game.
The thing I really like about this game is the fact that your cubes are used for everything. When you trade goods your ships become goods, goods become ships, wealth and points, ships can turn into buildings and your wealth can be turned into ships again.
The key is to be as efficient as possible. Buildings are cubes that you can’t use again. Goods are cubes that you can’t use used until you sell them. So, although you’ll get more money and more points with more different goods, it will also take more time and effort to get these cubes in place.
You need to keep the engine running. If your engine stops because you scored some points or built a building and you have no cubes left in Lisbon to use, you’re not doing it right. Then you’ll probably have to waste some turns doing practically nothing before your engine starts running again.
This cube recycling is a pretty elegant mechanism.
OK, the rules. Although they aren’t that difficult and there aren’t a lot of moving parts, I’ve noticed that it takes about half a game to really get the idea of the game. It’s a game where you learn while you play.
However, it actually doesn’t matter if you just understand the game after a couple of turns, because the first turns aren’t that interesting. They are basically the same every game. The first players doesn’t have a lot of money so he sails and converts to goods and when the last player’s turn arrives there are no goods left so she can only do the other stuff. The game starts to get interesting when it opens up a bit and you have to choose the things you do yourself.
The four end game point Technologies are pretty important. They are a must, I think. And of course, in every game you, most of time, must do stuff other people aren’t doing. However, in this case you have to focus on at least one technology. If you realize another player is focussing on the same tech and he’s one step ahead of you, you’d better be switching to another. So there’s one strategy per player.
The end game condition are also interesting. They bring a lot of tension, but also a lot of AP, analysis paralysis. When the end of the game approaches, players will always start to calculate if, when they trigger the end, they can win or not. Every move can be a critical one. Will I settle for these points or do I push my luck and hope the game takes another round?
Therefore, the first turns will go quickly, because there’s simply nothing to do and the last ones will tend to take a little longer. I do think the playing time of an hour is fairly correct, depending on the player types of course.
You sail across the ocean and bring spices back to Lisbon for some gold. Along the way you try to spread the word of Christ and guard your trade routes by building strongholds. There’s certainly something there when look at it closely, but it doesn’t feel that way when you play the game. Then it just feels like cubes for points, nothing more.
The cards, or rather card, because they basically all look the same, looks fine. Nothing special.
Quality of the game parts:
The card quality is good and I also like the size. They could have easily made the game with regular sized cards, but this size gives it just a better appearance.
I really like this game. I just find the idea of recycling cubes and building an efficient engine very intriguing. It’s a small game, but it offers you many interesting decisions.
I do think that the replay value is not extremely high. Already I see some similar patterns emerge, despite me playing the game with different people.
But when you think of the price and the amount of components, it’s really a no brainer, especially for the ‘Euro games’ among us. You’ll get a lot of game out of it.
You cannot play it (officially) with two players, but when I’m with three or four I would never say no to this one.