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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Thursday 29 June 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Century Spice Road

GameCentury: Spice Road

Publisher: Plan B Games

DesignerEmerson Matsuuchi

Century Spice Road is certainly a much anticipated game. I remember first hearing about it last year when a game called 'Caravan' was being discussed that would be released with two different themes (Trading in the Mediterranean and Fantasy, if I recall). Now there's only one game and the 'Caravan' refers to just one element of the game, but glowing reviews from Tom Vasel seem to have put this on the radar of many gamers. At the UK Games Expo, we were promised an early limited release of the Century Spice Road, which turned out to be not very limited at all, given how many retailers attend the convention, but it was certainly a popular purchase for many attendees, including us.

Century Spice Road is a euro game for 2-5 players which plays in around 20-30 minutes from our experience with two or three players. There are four types of spice in the game; tumeric, saffron, cardamom and cinnamon, represented by cubes in yellow, red, green and brown, each of increasing rarity and value. On your turn you have a choice of just four actions; play and use a card from your hand, take a market card to expand your hand, fulfil a demand to gain victory point cards or pick up the cards you have played. It becomes key to collect a combination of market cards with good synergy, whether these be production cards, which give you cubes, upgrade cards with give you a set number of upgrades that you can distribute among any cubes on your caravan or trades which specify a specific number and colour of cubes that can be traded up to a different combination.

The game set-up for two players. There are not many components, but the bowls and the metal coins are a nice touch.
The game moves very quickly with most turns taking a matter of seconds so long as all players are on the ball. However, there are some really critical decisions to be made about which cards to purchase for your hand, when to pick up and judging which points cards your opponents might be working towards so that you can keep your strategy agile and not get beaten to a specific card. As soon as one player has gained 5 victory points cards (or 6 with 2 players) the end game is triggered. This moment often causes me immense frustration when I can't get to the point I've been working towards, but all of the non-yellow cubes on your caravan at the end of the game are worth a point as a consolation.

The market cards in their three different types.
It's quite hard for me to form an objective opinion of the game, because it turns out I'm quite bad at it. Winning the game relies on your ability to identify successful and efficient card combinations in the market, something I've only managed to do once in our 6 or 7 plays of the game. Amy is definitely better than me at this, meaning losing often feels inevitable. I'm still at a stage where I have to consider the economic benefit of every card eg. this cards trades up 2 in value and this one trades up 3 overall, and sometimes I'm sucked into the trap of trying to get the technically better card rather than the right one for my hand.

I can certainly appreciate that Century Spice Road is an elegant design, that has some real meat to it in spite of it's simplicity. For the RRP of £34.99 there's not a whole lot in the box, but it's certainly hitting the table very frequently, a lot more frequently than many on our shelves, so we're getting our money's worth. It's still hitting the table, because even though I don't actually enjoy the frustration of playing and losing, there's something very addictive about the game and I really would like to get good at it.

Century Spice Road is the first in a series of 3 games, hinted at on the side of the box. I'm intrigued to see how these all fit together in the long run, although the 12 month wait between each game seems like a long time to me, given that they must have thought about how they link already. I imagine people might be bored of Century Spice Road within 12 months it could go either way, with the second game either bringing a revival of interest or being an 'expansion' to something you no longer want to play.

As much as I can see Century Spice Road as a good family weight or gateway euro game, I'm just not enjoying it, so the Yellow Meeple can only give it a 6/10.

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