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, 8 December 2020

What's in the Box!?:- Curious Cargo

Game: Curious Cargo

Publisher: Capstone Games

Designer:  Ryan Courtney

Year: 2020


Curious Cargo
is a two player tile laying game in which you'll be trying to produce goods into waiting trucks to deliver them, while at the same time building pipelines to intercept your opponents outgoing goods before they can reach the market. All of this is done by connecting your factories' machines up to loading bays via a series of coloured tubes. In the base game you'll have two types of cargo to deal with, while the advanced game adds a third colour to make things even more difficult. Combine this with careful manipulation of the incoming and outgoing trucks and you have a game that really requires your thinking cap!

Each round of Curious Cargo consists of two phases, during the first phase players will get to construct the new production pipelines to make their factory work, while during the second phase they will be able to load/unload cargo and manipulate the trucks. In the first phase each player will get three action points. These can either be spent to draw a new tile from the bag, or to place a tile onto your factory floor. Tiles may be placed over existing tiles in order to change the flow of the pipes, and each player has a supply of 5 scaffold tiles to help with this. Left over tiles can be saved for future rounds. Any pipelines which connect from a machine to a loading bay in a continuous path of one colour make a connection. Each connection you make moves you up a track which gives out bonuses and determines the first player.

Once the pipelines are laid the truck phase begins. During this phase, firstly all connected pipelines will either output or accept one good if there is a truck with an empty space/full space attached the the connected delivery zone. If a player fills a truck they get the relevant bonus, but to make things tricky a truck cannot have two cargo of the same colour in a row. Next, in player order, you will be able to do one of three actions: Throw away truck cards to draw more tiles from the bag, throw away tiles in your storage to draw more truck cards, or use truck cards to play trucks. Trucks come in several sizes, but all have a cab which cannot load goods followed by a cargo bay with 1-5 slots for goods. These good slots may already be filled with non player goods. When you play a truck you can play it either in your area or your opponent's area. It will then push any existing trucks along the cargo bays until it makes room. Any trucks which are even partially over the edge of a player board will leave that player's delivery area and head to their opponents receiving area.

Trucks will take goods from the left side and receive goods from the right, send out your cargo and steal your opponents!

What this boils down to is a game with two relatively simple phases which makes Curious Cargo a relatively easy game to learn. The phases go quick too, even with the bonus tokens that you get for completing many mini objectives giving players an extra couple of action points to spend when they cash them in. But be warned the game can be extremely AP inducing. If you want to do well then you'll want to ensure that your trucks are moving along your delivery zone, getting loaded up as they go, so you will want to work out where they will be once you place the next truck you plan on playing and build pipelines to match. Similarly keeping an eye on what your opponent has loaded lets you manipulate your pipelines to steal their goods which is worth far more points than sending goods yourself. Trying to keep your mind that turn or two ahead can turn this mechanically easy game into a real brain burner.

Curious Cargo does a great job bringing the game to life with wonderful art and components, The cargo themselves are lovely little wooden components with printed faces. The tiles all feature little scenes of the weird goods being produced, while the game comes with a handful of different double sided player boards to present you with a slightly different game every time. One slight frustration with the game can be when you need a specific tile. The tiles aren't double sided (OK they are, but one side is for the basic game, the other is for advanced) which means it's not a simple task to turn a left turn into a right one. sometimes all you need is a simple bit of red pipe and for all your attempts you are only drawing blue/purple mixes or U-turns when you need a straight. This is in no way a deal breaker, but it does come as a huge element of luck in a game that is otherwise extremely predictable.

Trucks come in various different sizes and have different numbers of free slots and rewards for filling.

Curious Cargo hits a sweet spot for me, it's fast and easy to play, bringing the easy mechanics of a tile layer, but taking them to a level of difficult decision making not often seen in a two player game. It also features a huge amount of player interaction, but isn't directly competitive. It's easy to do well by focusing on your own board, and while you can "attack" each other by playing trucks unexpectedly, ultimately all you are doing is moving their delivery spots, and they will have at least 3 actions to fix that before it matters. Overall this makes Curious Cargo a fantastic addition to any two player lineup.

9/10.

Curious Cargo was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £39.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk 

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