Game Buzz: Spices and Dices

Today on the blog, I want to talk about two different games that are not at all related, but I’m very interested in playing both.  We’ll start with the game that is already released:

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Century: Spice Road is a game by Emerson Matsuuchi and published by Plan B Games.  The game has a little bit of a complicated history.  It was first announced by Z-Man in 2016, and was to be called Caravan.  Not only that, there were going to be two different settings for the game – Spice Road and Crystal Golem.  In early 2017, it switched over to Plan B Games, which as I understand is the company that now owns Pretzel Games (which apparently was not bought by Asmodee last year with the rest of F2Z).  The Crystal Golem theme was dropped, and the company announced that Spice Road was the first in a trilogy of games in the Century series, with Eastern Wonders and A New World coming sometime in the near future (though I don’t know anything more about them than that).  Spice Road is a game for 2-5 players that takes 30-45 minutes to play.

Century: Spice Road comes with 36 point cards, 53 trading cards, 5 caravan cards, 105 wooden cubes, 4 plastic spice bowls, and 20 gold and silver tokens.  To set up, you’ll deal five points cards into a face up row.  A number of gold tokens equal to twice the number of players will be placed above the first one in the row, and the same number of silver tokens will be placed above the second one.  You’ll deal six face up trading cards into a row right below the points cards.  The four bowls are filled with cubes – yellow, red, green, and brown.  These should be placed in a column in that order so you remember that yellows are the least valuable, and browns are the most valuable.  Each player gets two starting cards, as well as a caravan card to store their cubes (each one has room for ten cubes).  The start player (who got the starting caravan) gets three yellow cubes.  The second/third players get four yellow, and the fourth/fifth players get three yellow and one red.

image by BGG user e0004252

On your turn, you will either play a card from your hand, acquire a new card, or rest.  When playing a card, simply put it in your discard pile and do the indicated action.  This could be to acquire cubes, or to upgrade existing spices into better spices, or to trade your spices for others.  These cards are unavailable to you until you rest.  To rest, you basically skip doing any other actions to take all played cards back into your hand.  This can be done whenever you want to get your actions back into your hand – you don’t have to wait for your hand to be empty.

If you want to acquire a new trading card, you may take the one that is furthest to the left for free.  If you want anything else, you must pay one spice per card you skip.  This spice is placed on the card, and will be taken by whoever claims that card in the future.  If you want to take a points card, turn in the necessary spices and take the card.  If you take the leftmost card, you’ll get a gold coin which is worth three extra points at the end of the game.  If you take the second card, you’ll get a silver coin which is worth one extra point.  If there are no coins left, you don’t get one.  Whether you take a trading card or a points card, you’ll slide cards over to fill the empty space then replace it from the deck.

The game ends when someone gets their fifth or sixth points card (depending on player count).  Once everyone has had an equal number of turns, the player with the most points is the winner.

image by BGG user HedgeWizzard

I get a strong Splendor vibe from this game.  In Splendor, you’re acquiring gems in order to acquire cards that will allow you use more gems and hopefully score lots of points.  This game isn’t quite like that – you’re not gaining discounts from the cards you acquire – but they’re both engine building games where you’re trading stuff in for better stuff.  There’s a real deckbuilding element here as you try to get really good actions that will work together, and the randomness element is taken out by having it all in your hand, or discard pile until you take it back.  There is still randomness in the way the cards come out, but this does seem like quite a tight and fun game system.  It’s getting a lot of great buzz, and it’s certainly one I look forward to checking out.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Dice Forge is a game coming out later this year from designer Renée Bonnessée and his company Libellud.  Ever since I first heard about this, I’ve been very excited to learn more.  It’s from the designer of Seasons (one of my Top Ten games), and features dice building.  Real dice building, where you’re customizing die faces.  Think Rattlebones instead of Quarriors.  The game is for 2-4 players and takes about 40 minutes to play.

Dice Forge comes with a Temple board, an Islands board, 20 resource cubes, 8 “100′ tokens, 4 Hero pawns, 4 Chest tiles, 4 Hammer tokens, 4 Triton tokens, 4 Cerberus tokens, 96 Heroic Feat cards, a round tracker, a First Player token, 8 Divine Die cores (light and dark), and 108 die faces.  The box is also (sort of) used in the game, and is known as The Foundations.  The Islands board is set up near the Foundations, and set up cards on their respective locations (each stack will include four identical cards).  Each player gets a Hero Inventory, five resource tokens that are placed on 0 of the various tracks, a Hero pawn that will start on the appropriate portal, and two Divinity Dice – one light, one dark.  Gold is awarded based on player order, and the Temple board is placed on top of the Foundations.  The Temple is where the different die faces are stored.

image by BGG user Jimmydm90

The game plays over a series of rounds.  During each round, players take turns as the active player.  The active player has four steps to complete:

  1. All players receive divine blessings.  Everyone rolls their dice, then simultaneously apply the effects of the dice.  This is typically going to involve gaining resources.
  2. The active player may call for reinforcements.  If the active player has cards with reinforcement effects, he may apply each effect once in the order of his choice.
  3. The active player performs an action.  This could be one of two things.  He could make an offering to the gods, which consists of spending gold resources to acquire new die faces for your dice.  He could also perform a heroic feat, paying the indicated resources and moving to the island with that Heroic Feat.  If there is another Hero there, it is ousted to the starting portals and receives a divine blessing in compensation.  In any case, the active player can take the top Heroic Feat card and apply its effects.
  4. The active player may (once) spend two red resources to gain an additional action.  You can choose from the actions above.

The next player in clockwise order becomes the new active player, and the game continues until 9-10 rounds have been played.  The player with the most points wins.

image by BGG user sur8ee

On the surface, this game doesn’t seem like much.  The die faces are mostly customized with resource production, rather than with actions (a la Rattlebones).  I imagine the real heart of the game is those Heroic Feats, which seem like they will give the game its purpose.  It looks very nice, to be sure, but not overly complex.  It’s still one I want to check out – I like the designer and the company, as well as real dice building as a mechanism, so it’s on my list.

That will do it for today.  Thanks for reading!

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