Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 27 June 2017

Then add a pinch of cubes:- Century Spice Road

Game: Century: Spice Road

Publisher: Plan B Games

Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi

Century: Spice Road is a 2-5 player card game in which you take the role of spice traders on the famous Silk Road. You’ll have to hire farmhands to grow spices, trade your spices locally, and then finally ship the spices to Europe for a handsome profit. The intention is for this to be the start of a series of relatively quick “Century” games that can be chained together to create a longer game.
Century: Spice Road is the quickest game I’ve ever played that you could call a deck builder, though perhaps it would be more apt to call it a hand builder. You can use your spice cubes to buy new cards from a common market by placing 1 cube on every card below the one you take (which makes taking the cheapest card for free very tempting if it has a cube or two on it). If you get the right cards you can make it so you have some very powerful combinations that let you quickly get the spices you want.

The game works on a 1 action per turn basis, which keeps the game running very fast, in a two or three player game you find that you are almost playing constantly! This is certainly something I love about the game. The lack of downtime means you are constantly doing something, but also means that you feel pressure to think on your toes to keep the game running fast. The actions you can take are simple: play a card, pick up all your played cards, buy a card from the market, or trade spices on the Silk Road for victory point cards (which require certain combinations of spices).
A player area mid game, on the left is a previously bought point card, complete with a bonus coin, in the middle is the caravan which holds all your spices, to the right is all the cards that have been played, and at the bottom is the remaining hand.
There are 3 types of cards that you can buy. Some cards generate spices, these vary from a large number of the common turmeric, to a single cube of cinnamon. Upgrade cards can be used to change a cube into a better one (there is a strict order of yellow, red, green, brown), different cards allow for differing numbers of upgrades, so you can bring one cube up multiple levels, or multiple cubes up 1 level. Finally there are trade cards, these require a certain input to get a certain output, for example 2 Turmeric for a Cardamom. Trade cards are in the unique position of being multi-use, when you play them you can perform the action as many times as you can supply the input, though take note that you can only hold 10 spice cubes at any one time!

The art is beautifully detailed, not every card is unique, but there is a good amount of variety to prevent cards from looking stale.
Century: Spice Road very pleasantly surprised me after I picked it up at the expo, there is so much going on in a game that, for 2-players, is only 20 minutes long. There is a great amount of tactical depth, with victory often going to the person who created the best combo in their hand. You do find that your strategy ends up being focused around one trick, but with the game being so short that doesn’t matter, you’ll have a different play style next game! The spice bowls really do give the game a nice touch, and keep it quick to set up. However the cubes, while giving a nice tactile feel to the game, aren’t particularly helpful for the theme. Overall Century: Spice Road is certainly one of the best small game I've played and I highly recommend picking it up.


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