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Review: Century: Spice Road:: Century: Spice Road – A bland take on the spice trade.

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« on: October 11, 2017, 10:00:07 PM »

Review: Century: Spice Road:: Century: Spice Road – A bland take on the spice trade.

by ThisShitSucks




Century: Spice Road reminds me that designers usually do a good job of connecting to their game,™s theme, and hiding their mathematics. Century: Spice Road does the opposite. It jumps out and punches you in the face with its pasted-on theme and mathematical efficiency. The value of each victory point card has been precisely and transparently balanced; when you sit down you know immediately that turmeric is valued at 1 victory point, saffron at 2, cardamom 3, and cinnamon 4.

Efficiency is the key to winning.  Is acquiring that merchant card worth the opportunity cost of not producing and possibly claiming an objective card?  Most of the game is spent looking at your cards trying to determine the best order in which to play them.  While positioning and planning when to claim a Point card does come into play, it,™s often an afterthought and the gameplay is quintessentially "multiplayer solitaire."

Century: Spice Road integrates its theme through use of art, rather than mechanical connection.   Each card has unique artwork showing people either harvesting or trading spices.  Unfortunately, these cards are inconsistent and art may not correspond to the actions of the card.  For example, a card with women harvesting crocus fields provides four turmeric, rather than any saffron.  So, while the artwork is excellent, it evokes ,this is a game of spices, rather than providing connection to the specific action.

I typically do not mind hit-you-in-the-face mathematics.  I have an advanced degree in mathematics.  Resource management and card-driven engine building games are among my favorites.  However, if designers are going to be math-forward, they need to carefully balance each card.  Several of the merchant cards are inconsistent: two cards may have the same requirements but one provides extra turmeric than the other.  Presumably, the designers thought that because market prices adjust automatically then these costs self-balance.  However, it should not be up to the players to balance a designer,™s inconsistency and indecision.  The inconsistent valuation is very off-putting in a game of mathematical efficiency.

The Century games from Plan B Games are a planned series of board games that will explore the history and significance of each century.  Unfortunately, Century: Spice Road does little to connect its mechanics and gameplay to its theme.  The four spices could be any commodities; the game artwork provides a spicy theme, but the official rules always refer to cubes, not spices: cube upgrades, cube limits, and so on.  You are not trading in spices; you are trading in generic cubes.  Plan B Games has spent too much time preparing this game system for its other Century titles, which has resulted in a complete disconnection between mechanics and theme. 

Ultimately, this game is forgettable.  Century: Spice Road provides nothing that cannot be found in better games elsewhere.  Better interaction between players can be found in thematic games, and more interesting games of efficiency can be found in euro games.  For a game about spices, this lacks any of its own flavor.


Source: Review: Century: Spice Road:: Century: Spice Road – A bland take on the spice trade.

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