Jun 21

East Bound and Down – A Review of Century: Spice Road

Quick Board Game Reviews That Pack a Punch. No Rules, Just Opinions. 

From the Publisher:

Century: Spice Road is the first in a series of games that explores the history of each century with spice-trading as the theme for the first installment. In Century: Spice Road, players are caravan leaders who travel the famed silk road to deliver spices to the far reaches of the continent for fame and glory. Each turn, players perform one of four actions:

  • Establish a trade route (by taking a market card)
  • Make a trade or harvest spices (by playing a card from hand)
  • Fulfill a demand (by meeting a victory point card’s requirements and claiming it)
  • Rest (by taking back into your hand all of the cards you’ve played)

The last round is triggered once a player has claimed their fifth victory point card, then whoever has the most victory points wins.

Century: Spice Road is about as pure of an engine builder that I have ever played. There are only four actions: take a card, play a card, pick up the played cards, or fulfill a contract. The fun is in creating your engine by taking cards in the display at the right price, timing their use, and completing contracts as they cascade towards the spaces that give bonus points. It’s a real juggling act of efficiency, and opportunity. Take too long and someone else may grab what you want.

It’s pretty easy to think of Century: Spice Road as a Splendor killer. It’s a lovely little engine builder that sees players racing to acquire resources and exchange them for points. Here, however, the market cards you acquire will allow have you swapping and converting your goods in an effort to claim victory point cards. Century: Spice Road keeps you on your toes by slowly revealing new market and victory point cards. Opportunities arise constantly but if you’re not quick your opponents may claim them.

It’s hard not to compare this to Splendor. What makes Century: Spice Road different is the sliding display of trade routes and contracts, and the generation of the four resources, in this case, spices instead of gems. As you take trade routes, you pay a spice cube for each card past the first, so by buying further down the line, you leave resources for the other players. The other big difference is that you upgrade from Turmeric (yellow) in steps to Saffron (red), Cardamom (green), and finally Cinnamon (brown). There are some opportunities to generate higher level spices straight out, but you will have to pay heavily to get them first. In Century: Spice Road, the mechanics that can bog down Splendor are turned into a well-oiled machine.
There’s a bit of a hand-building element as market cards go to your hand and you choose how to play them to best meet your goals. A lot of the market cards are tempting, and more cards mean more ways to trade your goods. Each turn you spend acquiring one is one less turn you were trading goods, making each an interesting decision in timing and opportunity. At the end of the victory point card row, there are gold bonus coins on the first slot and slivers on the second which creates another timing decision. Should you grab the point card as soon as you can, or wait a round or two for it to cascade down to the bonus slots and hope no one snatches it out from under you?


In games this light, it’s hard to incorporate a theme effectively. The cards do evoke a feeling of negotiation to turn one set of spices into others. Some negotiations are more profitable than others, but you never feel dumb for making trades until you realize that maybe you’ve made one too many. It’s definitely a minimalist theme that doesn’t get in the way of playing the game.

The mechanics and theme work surprisingly well together. Playing the variety of market cards evoke a feeling of running around a crowded marketplace, visiting other spice traders you’ve personally curried favor with to fulfill contracts. In a more abstract way, the cascading rows of market and victory point cards represent a journey down the spice road, with new opportunities gradually revealing themselves.

The card art has a varied amount of scenes nicely illustrated. The metal coins look and feel like a different time and a different land. The way it all sits on the table though doesn’t make for a pleasant overall look. I was fortunate to get the neoprene playmat in the pre-order, and to me, it makes all the difference. It really pulls the middle east aesthetic together. It doesn’t improve the gameplay at all, but it looks amazing on my table.

It’s such a beautiful production, from the lovely illustrations by Fernanda Suarez which adorn each card to the subtle woody texture on the component bowls. The metal coins are a nice touch, but I wish the gold ones were a touch darker to make them a little easier to tell apart from the silvers. I hope Plan B has plans to produce more of the drop-dead gorgeous playmats that quickly sold out to folks who pre-ordered, as it makes the game looks absolutely stunning on the table.

The MSRP on Century: Spice Road is $39.99, and that feels right to me. The cards are oversized and easy to hold and pick up. The art is fantastic. The bowls that hold the spices are easy to use, and the insert lets you use them as storage by making them sit right under the lid. Plan B did a great job on production, and Emerson Matsuuchi really nailed it on the gameplay.

Forty bucks is definitely the right price. Century: Spice Road is the rare game that handles different player counts and experience levels with ease. In addition to the intriguing gameplay, the excellent artwork and lovely components really stand out. The insert and component bowls are such a nice touch when most other publishers are content to just toss a few baggies at you. I’ll be keeping a close eye on future Plan B productions.

Century: Spice Road is a stripped down, no frills race to completing contracts. It plays up to 5 well, and will be one of the few games I am willing to suggest at that player count. Century: Spice Road also makes for a great 2 player filler which seems to be a rare versatility in board games. While there is still luck of the draw, the game encourages you to plan for different opportunities, and there are plenty of opportunities that crop up. I love the planning and the tension I feel. I give it a 5, and if it can hold my attention over time it may even move up to a 6.
There’s a lot in Century: Spice Road that is right in my wheelhouse. Gorgeous art, simple mechanics, tense gameplay, and a solid theme make this one a welcome addition in almost any collection. With the goods exchange and the cascading rows of cards, I feel a little more in control when playing compared to Splendor. As the first entry in the planned Century trilogy of games, I’m really excited to see what’s next in the series. Century: Spice Road earns a very high 5 from me. And did I mention it’s gorgeous?

The Dukes of Dice Rating System
1 = Poorly designed but playable. Not necessarily fun.
2 = Game has some merit but has significant detractions.
3 = Game is okay, not exciting. Will play in the right situation.
4 = A good game. Worth playing, just not all the time. Belongs in the Duchy.
5 = A great game, will rarely turn down a play of it.
6 = An all-time favorite that is a contender for the top 10

If you want to connect with us you can find:

Matthew on Twitter as @uncouthtooth or matthew@dukesofdice.com

Matt on Twitter as @matosowalker

Join the discussion in our Board Game Geek Guild on this review HERE

Jun 19

Dukes of Dice – Ep. 148 – Gold As Spice



Click here for a direct download!

This episode the Dukes …

… Discuss recent plays of Escape From 100 Million BC, EXIT: The Game – The Pharaoh’s Tomb, This War of Mine, Mined Out, Cobras and Hunt a Killer (7:18);

… Discuss the latest gaming news including the closing of Geek Chic, the transmission for Pandemic Legacy Season 2 and the new Kickstarter for the Component Collector (31:30);

…Review Century: Spice Road from Plan B Games (42:17);

… Look back at their review of Karuba in their Dukes’ Double-Take (1:07:09); and

… Discuss their votes for this year’s Dice Tower Awards (1:14:04).

Please be sure to support the Dukes on their Patreon campaign page!

Twitter: @dukesofdice
Facebook: /dukesofdice
Dukes of Dice YouTube Channel
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Jun 12

Dukes of Dice – Ep. 147 – Rocky Mountain Gaming Vacation 2017



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This episode the Dukes are joined by:

They all discuss their experience at Rocky Mountain Gaming Vacation 2017!

Sean also interviews Mark Specter from Grand Gamers Guild to discuss Pocket Ops now on Kickstarter (32:55).

Please be sure to support the Dukes on their Patreon campaign page!

Twitter: @dukesofdice
Facebook: /dukesofdice
Dukes of Dice YouTube Channel
Subscribe on iTunes

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Jun 07

The Yen is Mightier than the Sword – A Review of Yokohama

 Quick Board Game Reviews That Pack a Punch. No Rules, Just Opinions. 

From the Publisher:WAM Header - 2

Once Yokohama was just a fishing village, but now at the beginning of the Meiji era it’s becoming a harbor open to foreign countries and one of the leading trade cities of Japan. As a result, many Japanese products such as copper and raw silk are collected in Yokohama for export to other countries. At the same time, the city is starting to incorporate foreign technology and culture, with even the streets becoming more modernized. In the shadow of this development was the presence of many Yokohama merchants.

In YOKOHAMA, each player is a merchant in the Meiji period, trying to gain fame from a successful business, and to do so they need to build a store, broaden their sales channels, learn a variety of techniques, and (of course) respond to trade orders from abroad.

Yokohama is all about efficiency of movement, building, and gathering of resources so you can turn it into victory points or even extra actions. There’s a dance that happens across the board as you lay down paths for your president to traverse. Since each president, assistant, or building at a location is an additional power, where you expend these limited resources can hinder or help your climb up the Victory Point tracker. There’s a fluidity of movement and creative thinking akin to hockey, and that makes gameplay extremely entertaining.
Each turn, you’ll spread your gentlemen around the city, not just to reap the benefits of additional labor, but to pave a path for your president to arrive and whip them into action. You’ll collect the fruits of their labors to fulfill contracts, earn achievements, and buy technologies to turn your operations into a lean, mean business machine. Earn enough sway with your foreign trading partners, and they’ll send you an agent to boost your productivity. Yokohama, however, is still a small city, so you’ll be vying for position in tight spaces with other players.

This game feels like an amalgamation rather abstracted mechanics to me. The set collection exists, but it is interspersed between contracts and technologies. The area of control is part of the Customs Board, Church Board, and Technology Cards. There is an ability to gain incremental improvements on each board by adding Shops and Trading houses to boards that you want to utilize more often which in turn require fewer assistants to gain the maximum effect. In reality there are so many different ways to get what you need, that while there are workers you place, it really is a worker movement game. The real struggle and by that I mean fun is to navigate the myriad of options available. It can be incredibly difficult to stay on target.
Take a little bit of area control, a dash of set collection, a smidgen of resource gathering, and a soupcon of area majority, blend together well, and you wind up with the heady concoction that is Yokohama. It’s a hodgepodge of modern mechanics that somehow manages to play nice together. That everything feels connected is a testament to Hiyashi Hisashi’s thoughtful design. Of course, it helps if you focus on a few select goals and stick to it. Collecting goods will help you earn points by fulfilling contracts; focusing on imports will give you fewer opportunities to score, but those can yield even more points. Investing in tech will not only make your actions more productive but can also net you some end-game bonus.

The designer, Hiyashi Hisashi, is Japanese, so a theme about industrialization of Meiji Era Japan seems like a natural draw. I can see how the theme plays out on the board, but rarely do I find the narrative in the game. It almost completely grabs me as an exercise in efficiency, which on second thought seems like a very Japanese way to run a business. So maybe racing around the board in an effort to be the biggest zaibatsu on the board without wasting resources and actions is fairly thematic after all.
There aren’t many opportunities here to create a narrative with your actions, and Yokohama probably won’t have you recounting tales of epic games with your friends. It’s an efficiency exercise, where you attempt to chain A, B, and C in order to get points with D. The Meiji-era Japan setting is interesting, but like a lot of games I’m not sure it’s essential. Perhaps the most thematic bit of gameplay is the foreign agent, who arrives to help you whenever you do business with their country twice.

When TMG brought Yokohama over to North America, they left most of it the same. They had Adam McIver clean up the iconography and make the boards a little less busy which helped. As someone who has to wear bifocals, this game is a challenge. The colors wash together, and the card art isn’t distinctive at a distance. All that being said, it has a lovely table presence, and it is sure to grab a lot of attention.

The art on TMG’s edition is a definite improvement from the Japanese publication, but still suffers from a soft pastel palette that can make some areas a little hard to distinguish from others. In a four player game, using all the locations, the board sometimes looks at first like a dreamy blur and can take some turns to get your bearings. Some of the iconography can be a little confusing as well, especially on the foreign agents, each of which has both a flag and Kanji crammed into a tiny circular space.

So let's start with the negatives. Setup is pretty involved. It’s hard to read the boards and cards, and maybe the best way to play is standing, so you can access the sprawl much easier. The rules are also a bit convoluted, for the weight. I’d rather have the Deluxe version than the retail which will jack up the price, but at a $60 MSRP for the Retail version, you are getting a lot of value. The pluses are that Yokohama is a very dynamic game with lots of replayability. It looks amazing and can play quickly with enough experience. On top of that, there are true multiple paths of victory. I think there is plenty of game in this box, and how well it all works together increases my esteem for Hiyashi Hisashi as a designer.
You probably won’t be surprised by Yokohama after your first session. There’s quite a bit of variability here, what with the contracts, the random map generation, the different bonuses placed on locations, and the various achievements up for grabs … but it doesn’t make the game dramatically different from play to play. Overall, It’s a very nice production by TMG. The “deluxified” version has wooden bits for the goods and buildings, which helps them really stand out in a game that can be hard to read at a glance. Also, be advised that the rule book isn’t the greatest, perhaps due to a poor translation.


So if you listen to the podcast we generally poo on double scores, but that’s what I am going to do. I think this is a great game that I am happy to own. The gameplay is engaging, and the overall positives outweigh the negatives. I am going to give a high 4 to the Retail version. For the Deluxe edition though, I think TMG deserves some recognition for what an outstanding job they did, and since that’s the copy that I own, I am giving Yokohama a bump to a low 5.
Yokohama is a bit of an odd duck. It’s not a heavy game, but it looks like one, and its combination of mechanics makes it tough to summarize succinctly. At its core, it’s ultimately about efficiency, which I find appealing in games, but I sometimes struggle with it in identifying locations and reading technology cards. I really like Yokohama, and I’m glad I have the “deluxified” edition in my collection, but I can’t say that it sets my world on fire, which makes it a solid 4 on the Dukes scale.
The Dukes of Dice Rating System
1 = Poorly designed but playable. Not necessarily fun.
2 = Game has some merit but has significant detractions.
3 = Game is okay, not exciting. Will play in the right situation.
4 = A good game. Worth playing, just not all the time. Belongs in the Duchy.
5 = A great game, will rarely turn down a play of it.
6 = An all-time favorite that is a contender for the top 10

If you want to connect with us you can find:

Matthew on Twitter as @uncouthtooth or matthew@dukesofdice.com

Matt on Twitter as @matosowalker

Join the discussion in our Board Game Geek Guild on this review HERE

Jun 05

Dukes of Dice – Ep. 146 – Rank Me Up Before You Blood Bowl



Click here for a direct download!

This episode the Dukes …

… Discuss recent plays of El Dorado, Century Spice Road, Fugitive, Scythe with the Invaders from Afar Expansion, Bahnanza : The Duel and Greed (4:45);

… Discuss the latest gaming news including Asmodee North America’s exclusive distribution with Alliance and Alex sits down with Steve Avery to discuss his latest game on Kickstarter: Metal Dawn (22:20; 31:32);

…Review Blood Bowl from Games Workshop (45:59);

… Look back at their review of Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King in their Dukes’ Double-Take (1:28:09); and

… Sit down with MAtthew Ward from WAM to discuss his recent experience at Heavy Con 2017 (1:35:30).

Please be sure to support the Dukes on their Patreon campaign page!

Twitter: @dukesofdice
Facebook: /dukesofdice
Dukes of Dice YouTube Channel
Subscribe on iTunes

Thanks to our awesome sponsors – please give them a visit

Arcane Wonders

Tasty Minstrel Games 

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