Century Spice Road
Game Designed by: Emerson Matsuuchi
Artistry created by: Fernanda Suarez
Published by: Plan B Games, Abacusspiele, Asmodee, Broadway Toys LTD, Mandoo Games, Devir, Cube Factory of Ideas, and Piatnik
Reviewed by: Jason Elliott of PaladinElliott Productions
Review Editor: Stephanie Elliott of PaladinElliott Productions
Number of Players: 2 to 5 Spice Merchants (we have played 2, 3, and 4 player games so far)
Time of Play: 30 – 45 Minutes
Age recommended: 8 and up
The year of its release: 2017
The story so far: You come into this game as a Spice Merchant. You are leading your Caravan across the Mediterranean Sea, heading east, and trying to accumulate more wealth than the other players do. This will come in the form of four different cubes representing four different spices (yellow=Turmeric, red=Saffron, green=Cardamom, and brown= Cinnamon). You will need to work your way up and down through acquiring and trading these spice cubes to accumulate point cards, and coins (the points on the cards you have + the coin values you have = the victory points you have), and strive to have the most.
Our final thoughts on this game: First, it must be said that we here at PaladinElliott Productions love Splendor, and heard that this was going to be similar. That was a great way to spark our interest in the beginning, but this adds a unique twist to that game. There are similarities in the way that you select resources, are limited in the number you can hold and how you use those resources to purchase point cards. However, there is an increased level of complexity as some of the spice cubes are easier to obtain. In order to gain cubes of the most valued spice, Cinnamon, you would have to trade multiples of lower level spices. The more valuable your spices, the more valuable the points cards you can purchase with them.
That being said, this is a very easy game to teach, both to children and to adults. It also plays quickly, especially if everyone has one game under their belt. The game is highly colorful, with the colors being clear to see, and comes with great components. It is clear the game was thought out very well in what comes with it, how to teach it, how it looks, how it plays, and how it is stored. The only thing I would say is that after playing it you might want to acquire the game mat that is made for it, but must be purchased separately. The mat really ties everything together nicely, but some may find that they don’t want to spend the extra money as it is not necessary for the game to be played.
I have played this game with several different players, and different numbers of players, and everyone finds it highly enjoyable. This is a game that I recommend to show to non-gamers as this is as good of a game to introduce people to gaming as you can get. After one game play, players will find themselves truly considering how they could have played better and moved faster in acquiring higher points before their opponents do. It is a truly wonderful game, tying its theme with a brilliant color scheme, solid mechanics, and quick play. I would place this on the Board Game Geek scale at a 10 out of 10, as I would play this every time someone asked me to.
Mechanics and concepts found in this game: This is a game where you will collect sets of cubes to help score points cards. The game has card hand management, and you will want to acquire what you believe to be the best card choices, and then decide when the best time is to use said cards. It has elements of deck building but the card pool is constantly changing and you have to make decisions about whether or not you want to spend resources to get to cards further in the pool faster than your opponents do. You will need to decide between settling for an ok card and paying for a card that is further down in the pool; or you may get lucky that others do not want the card you want, which can happen. The game requires strategic thinking around cost and benefit analysis as you think about the best way to get the cubes needed to acquire a point’s card. You might have to trade down, trade up depending on the cards you have in order to bring yourself to the right cube combination to purchase the point card you are after. When it comes down to it, this is a game of card collection and card use for cubes to be acquired and spent.
The game components (what is included, and what you can add):
1 Game box
1 Rule sheet
4 Cube Bowls
35 Yellow Cubes
30 Red Cubes
20 Green Cubes
20 Brown Cubes
10 Silver Coins
10 Gold Coins
5 Caravan Cards
53 Resource Cards
36 Points Cards
-You can purchase separately-
1 Century Spice Road Mat (it comes in a nice box that is good for storing the mat)
Winning conditions for the game: Having the most points at the end of the game. Points are added from point cards, along with Gold coins being worth 3 points each, and Silver coins being worth 1 point each. The ending game turn is when any player acquires their fifth point card in a four to five player game (sixth point card in a two to three player game). Any players that have not went during that turn are allowed to finish (you finish the current round of play) and then total everything up. The highest amount is the victor, but in the event of a tie, the last player to take a turn amongst the tied players wins.
Game setup: You want to shuffle the Point cards (Orange back) and draw five cards from this deck, and place them in a row to the left of the deck. You will then take the Gold coins and place them above the first from the left of these five Point’s cards, and then place all the Silver coins above the second from the left of the cards. Place coins equal to 2x the number of players. As players claim the point cards below the pile of coins, they will take one of the coins. You will then take the Merchant cards (these have purple backs and I think of them as resource cards) and shuffle the deck, draw 6 of them and place them in a row to the left of the deck. The deck of Point cards should be above the position of the deck of Merchant cards. Please note there are 10 cards that have a purple border on the face up side and each player will start with two of these cards. The two cards each player should have are the Create 2 yellow cubes, and Upgrade 2. If any of these starter cards are not being used, then set them aside in the box. You will want the cubes sorted by color in the four bowls and have them within reach of all the players. You will need them in order, so starting from left to right (or bottom to top) yellow to red to green to brown (Turmeric to Saffron to Cardamom to Cinnamon). Each player will need one Caravan card (grey back) as this is the card to hold your cube inventory. Shuffle these and hand one out to each player, and make sure you have dealt out the card that has the little flower icon on it, as it designates the first player. Finally, you hand out cubes depending on turn order, the 1st player gets 3 yellow cubes, 2nd player gets 4 yellow cubes, 3rd player gets 4 yellow cubes, 4th player gets 3 yellow cubes plus 1 red cube, and the 5th player gets 3 yellow cubes plus 1 red cube. Set up is now complete.
How to play: The game will be played over a series of rounds that could be different every game. Each player plays one turn in a round, and you will only perform one action during that turn in a round. You can choose from the following:
Play: You choose one card from your hand and play it face up, and perform its action. You might play a Merchant Spice card where you immediately grab the cubes the cards indicated on the card. You might play a Merchant upgrade card, you start with an Upgrade 2 in your hand. You are allowed to upgrade one cube twice (yellow to red to green for example) or upgrade two cubes once each (yellow to red, and then a different one, such as a green to brown for example). You are never required to take all of your upgrades, you just need to choose what is most advantageous for you. The third Merchant card is a Trade type, such as trade two yellow cubes for a green cube. You will simply trade as the card dictates, and you are allowed to perform this trade more than once on that turn as long as you have the resources and space in your Caravan to do so.
Acquire: This is where you will choose a Merchant card from the Merchant row. If you pick from the furthest left spot of the row, the card is free. If you choose anything to the right of the first spot, you must place a cube for each card (each step) to get to it. So, if you want the third card from the left, you will place a cube on the first and second from the left, to purchase the third. You choose what cubes to use from your Caravan. If you choose a Card that has cubes on it, you take the cubes and add them to your Caravan. If this would put you over your limit of 10, you choose the ones you want, and place the remaining back in the bowls. Once a card is acquired, move the remaining cards over to the left, filling in the gap, and draw from the deck to bring out the next card in Merchant’s row.
Rest: Through this action, you take back all of the cards you have played, thus renewing your card hand. Don’t be afraid to do this whenever you deem it necessary, and you will have to call this action if there are no cards in your hand (unless you are claiming a Point card).
Claim: This is where you declare that you are taking a Point card, and you must spend the correct cubes dictated on the bottom of the card. Once you have done this, the knowledge of that card is private until the end of the game. You move the cards to the left in Point’s row to fill in the gap, and draw one new Point card to come out. If you claimed from the furthest left then take a Gold coin. If you claimed from the second from the left, take a Silver coin. Once the coins have ran out, there will be no more coins to be claimed for those spots. It is a limited bonus. If all the Gold coins are taken, then shift any remaining Silver coins over to the spot where the Gold coins resided.
Some reminders: Your Caravan limit is 10 cubes, if you exceed it; you choose at the end of your turn which ones to discard to come back down to the limit. The cubes in the game are not limited. So, if you need more cubes of a color, use whatever is appropriate and/or nearby to supplement what you need.
Thank you so much for reading my review of Century Spice Road by Emerson Matsuuchi and Plan B Games!