Century: Spice Road
Author: Emerson Matsuuchi
Publisher: Plan B Games
Playtime: 30-45 Minutes
Mechanics: Resource Management, Deck Building
Retail Price: $39.99
My granddaughter is now of the age to introduce her to board games with deeper gameplay and fun themes. Based on the recommendation of one of our patrons, we tried Century: Spice Road, a game of acquisitions. I did not own a copy of the game, but thankfully the same patron loaned me there’s. Thanks to the extra time off provided by the holiday season, I got this and other games to the table with family and friends.
The game has only a few components, but each is aesthetically pleasing: tarot-sized cards, colored cubes in plastic bowls, and metal coins. The plastic bowls and their cubes fit comfortably inside their wells in the insert, and the game’s set up and rules are housed on a single double-sided, full-color stiff card. All of the game’s components fit nicely inside the box.
Two rows of cards are laid out; one contains five face-up scoring cards, and the other six face-up merchant cards. Coins are placed above the first (gold) and second (silver) face-up scoring cards. The remaining cards are placed to the right of their respective row and serve to replenish claimed cards. The four bowls with their colored cubes representing four spices (turmeric, saffron, cardamom, and cinnamon) are placed on the left of the play area. Each player is given two starter merchant cards that form the basis of their hand; all players have identical cards. Players are given specific colored cubes to “seed” their caravan based on their position in the turn order.
Century: Spice Road has a distinct rhythm to the gameplay due partly to the game’s fast-play design and mechanics. The overarching premise of the game is to collect spice cubes into your caravan and then spend them to purchase scoring cards. Depending on the number of players, the first player to amass 5 or 6 scoring cards triggers the end of the game and final scoring. During the final scoring, the player with the highest score wins.
On a player’s turn, they may take one of four actions: Play, Acquire, Rest, or Claim.
- Play a merchant card from their hand – Acquire cards allow cubes to be taken directly from the supply to the caravan (the caravan limit is 10 cubes). Upgrade cards allow cube(s) to upgrade one or more levels—yellow, red, green, brown—with yellow being the most common and brown being the rarest. Trade cards allow players to return the specified cubes to supply in exchange for the color and quantity of cubes shown on the card.
- Acquire – Allows you to take one of the face-up merchant cards into your hand, giving access to the benefit on the card. However, there is a catch, merchant cards are claimed from left to right; you may claim any card, but you must place a spice cube on every card preceding the one claimed.
- Rest – Return all played cards to your hand. Combined with the Acquire action, this is essentially the game’s deck-building or, perhaps, hand-building aspect.
- Claim – Claim any one-point card by paying the specified color and quantity of cubes. If claiming a card in the first or second position, you also take one of the coins for bonus points.
Although there are limited choices on your turn, the deck-building aspect of the game is essential to ensuring you can generate enough spice cubes, either through acquiring or trading, to claim point cards in a timely manner. As cards in the game area are claimed, the remaining are slid to the left to fill in the holes, and a new card is placed in the rightmost position—constantly cycling in new options. Having too many or not enough of the right cards may leave you in a lurch, but the Rest option allows the recycling of cards back into your hand for the next turn.
Century: Spice Road is a wonderfully designed game that is fast, can be furious, and is satisfying to play. The game is simple enough for younger players to grasp and play with little to no difficulty. More seasoned players will find the design light and refreshing. Like us, both types of players will quickly begin to strategize a plan based on which merchant cards are available in relation to the available scoring cards.
I give Century: Spice Road two thumbs up!
As a footnote to this review, Spice Road is the first in the Century series. Elements from each can be intermixed, creating a more complex and profound game experience.
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