Game Buzz: Amerigo

Following Bora Bora, Rialto, and Bruges, here’s the fourth Stefan Feld game of the year:

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Amerigo is, as mentioned, designed by Stefan Feld and being published by Queen Games.  It’s a 2-4 player game that plays in 75 minutes.  It’s themed around the explorer Amerigo Vespucci, and specifically the exploration of trade routes and the building of settlements in South America.  This game is notable because it brings back the cube tower, a component famously used in Wallenstein (also a Queen Games release).  Amerigo successfully met its Kickstarter goal in June, and should be availbale at Spiel 2013 in October.

The game comes with a cube tower that must be assembled before each game; 49 cubes (7 colors); a storage board; 16 island tiles; 8 frames; 37 neutral landscape tiles; 24 progress tokens; 40 commodity tokens; 50 production tokens; 6 pirate markers; 5 treasure chests; 4 time markers; and a planning token.  Additionally, each player gets a player sheet; 16 village tiles; 12 trading posts; 2 ships; 5 discs; and 2 VP tiles (50/100 and 150/200).

At the start of the game, you set up the islands in a 3×3, 3×4, or 4×4 grid depending on the number of players (surrounded by the frames).  A treasure chest goes on each big island (20 or more spaces), and commodity tokens are placed on corresponding spaces of the islands.  Each player gets their components, and keep their 16 village tiles face down.  Five of the pirate markers are randomly placed face down on the pirate spaces of the storage board, one progress token is placed face up on each space of the progress area, and one production token is placed face up on each production space.  Setup ends by dropping all 49 cubes into the cube tower, and placing any that come out onto the matching storage space of the action circuit.

Amerigo is played over 5 rounds, each with 7 phases.  In each phase, you’ll drop all cubes on the action circuit of one color (beginning with blue and moving around to black-red-brown-green-yellow-white) into the cube tower.  The cubes that come out the bottom are then placed in the action space to indicate what actions can be used during the round.  The largest number of cubes of a single color indicate how many action points can be spent on a single action.  So, if 4 blue, 1 red, 1 black, and 2 green cubes come out, players can spend 4 AP on one of those actions.  The player who is farthest along on the special action track (or on top in case of a tie) performs one action.  The actions:

  • BLUE: Move ships.  The first time you take this action, place two ships on any spaces you choose on the frame.  Each AP allows you to move each of your ships to an orthogonally adjacent water space.  Each water space outside of the frame can only hold one ship.  If your ship lands on an anchor, you can establish a trading post and build on the island (3 points for being the first on an island).
  • BLACK: Load cannons.  Move the cannon scoring disc on your player sheet one space to the right per AP, for a max of 12.
  • RED: Plan.  Take neutral landscape or your village tiles and put them next to your player sheet.  A village tile costs 1 AP, neutral landscape tiles cost 1-6, depending on its size.  You can only take one neutral landscape tile per phase.
  • BROWN: Progress.  Move the progress scoring disc one space clockwise on your player sheet per AP.  Each time you pass the BP space, you take a progress token.  These provide benefits for the rest of the game, a one-time use, or during final scoring.  You’ll get points for the highest number you pass at the end of the game.
  • GREEN: Build.  Build the neutral landscape or village tiles you planned face down on any island where you control a trading post.  Placing a village costs 1 AP, placing a neutral landscape costs 1-6.  You always play on land, and place next to your trading post or in a chain that extends from your post.  You could claim commodities in this way.  After building, flip your tiles face up and score points indicated on the tile (different numbers for small and big islands).  If you cover the last empty space of an island, you score 3 points and take the treasure chest if it’s a big island.  Players also get points based on the number of trading posts they have there.
  • YELLOW: Buy production tokens.  Spend 2-4 AP to buy these tokens from the storage board.  They go with your commodity tokens.
  • WHITE: Advance your disc on the special action track one space per AP, which changes player order, or take the action of the color of the space you’re on.

Instead of taking an action, you can choose to take gold instead, equal to the number of cubes in the action space divided by three and rounded up.  You can’t go higher than 12 gold, but if you would exceed 12, you get VPs instead equal to the difference.  Once all players have used their actions, the cubes are moved to their same colored spot on the whell.

After the seventh phase (the white cubes phase), players must face the pirates.  Each player must fire cannons equal to the current pirate strength, moving their cannon marker down the track.  If you don’t beat the pirates, you lose points equal to the full strength of the pirates.  If you do beat the pirates, you keep any cannons you didn’t use for the next round.  Win or lose, you’ll reveal one more pirate marker (increasing their strength for the next game), replenish tokens, and adjust the time marker.

After the fifth round (plus pirates), final scoring takes place.  Treasure chests and one-time progress markers get you gold, and you get one point per gold on your track.  You then score points equal to the number of commodity points of one type by the number of production tokens you have of the same type.  Some progress tokens will score you points, and you’ll get points for your position on the progress and special actions tracks.  The player with the most points wins.

Wallenstein is not a game I’ve played, though I’ve heard good things about the way the cube tower works.  In this game, it seems to be a pretty clever way to determine what actions are available and make sure it’s going to be different every time.  Oh, you need to load your cannons?  Too bad, no black cubes came out this time.  I like that unpredictability, so that’s a plus.

This game also seems to have many of your standard Stefan Feld tropes – a weak theme, lots of different paths to points (I’ve heard the term “point salad” thrown around in reference to this, and it fits well), and his trademark don’t-you-dare-neglect-this-or-this-game-will-puinch-you-in-the-face mechanism with the pirates.  It’s the rats in Notre Dame, the demands of the people in Trajan, and the fires of The Spiecherstadt.  It looks like a Feld game through and through, so that might tell you if you’ll like this game.  Personally, I think it looks pretty good and I’m excited to see how it plays.  I think someone in my group Kickstarted it.

Which brings me to Kickstarter.  I feel like a broken record – I don’t agree with the way Queen uses Kickstarter.  For something like Dark Darker Darkest, it’s a good idea since that’s so outside of their normal base of operations.  But for this, there’s no way it was necessary.  Stefan Feld is a very well-established game designer at this point, and indeed is the current favorite of many Eurogamers.  Plus the cube tower is a component people have really wanted to see in a game ever since Shogun reimplemented Wallenstein, so I don’t think this was any more than a preorder for Queen.  I think that goes against what Kickstarter was intended for.  However, I’m not one to tell Queen how to run their business – they’re going to keep using it, I’m going to keep not liking it.  I think I’m done talking about it now.

Anyway.  Amerigo.  Check it out.  Thanks for reading!

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5 comments

  1. I have no problem with bigger companies using kickstarter when conventional methods with do. I just hope that there aren’t too many cases where companies pull the plug on kickstarter projects and leave contributors with a bitter taste in their mouths. The more successful projects on kickstarter the better. 🙂

    • I understand that. I just see Kickstarter as a means for smaller companies to get the funds they need to get their products out there. A company like Queen doesn’t need Kickstarter, and I worry that they’re taking money from the companies that do. However, as long as it keeps working for them, they’ll keep doing it.

      • I understand that sentiment, but I don’t think it really does take money away from people who need it. It could even drive traffic to kickstarter for those people. (People like me by the way – I’ll be putting my game up on kickstarter when it’s ready, and I have no real chance otherwise.)

      • That’s a good way to look at it. It just doesn’t sit well for me. I know it doesn’t bother a lot of people because their campaigns are always successful. I’d just rather see less involvement from the bigger companies. And yes, I realize that Queen isn’t HUGE by any means – if Hasbro, or even Fantasy Flight started using Kickstarter, I would REALLY get ticked then.

        Let me know when your game is ready to go on Kickstarter, by the way, and I’ll try to help you with getting the word out.

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