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Shipyard

Reviewed by Ted Cheatham

(Czech Games Edition/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 11 and up, 60-120 minutes; $59.95)

 

The morning dew glistens in rainbow colors as the sun slowly wipes the sleep from its eyes. You feel the wet grass tickle your bare feet as you……………………who are you kidding? This is Shipyard. Not some fairy tale fantasy adventure! This is shored up braces of metal with hot rivets spewing molten steel beside the oil strewn, fish smelling commercial harbor. This is work.

shipyard1I have enjoyed Shipyard a great deal. To be honest, it is multiplayer solitaire for two to four players told in five rondels (the game device used to great effect and popularized by Mac Gerdts in games such as Antike [Winter 2006 GA REPORT] and Imperial [Winter 2007 GA REPORT]). And, it does come in right at 30 minutes per player as advertised on the box. If you like driving an economic engine to special victory conditions with minor player interaction, you should check out this fine effort by Vladimir Suchy published by Czech Games Edition and Rio Grande Games.

This game is really about building ships. Your ships score points in three ways. One is the overall construction with propellers, sails, smokestacks then adding equipment such as cannons and cranes followed by a crew of captains, businessmen, and soldiers. The second, is the maiden voyage scoring as people admire your ship and give you bonus points. The third is to maximize your individual random bonus cards. These cover various aspects of ship building like having a lot of sails or a lot of cannons, etc. And, since your are dealt these cards at the beginning of the game, this does give you something to plan for. Now I could beat you up with a lot of details on scoring, but all of this is very well laid out on the individual player mats and a soon as one boat sails and scores, all is really very clear.

The heart of the game then is building ships from three to nine sections long. You can go for quick builds or massive ships with many victory points. But, the way you build and those challenges are the heart of the rondel systems. I will not go into a lot of detail on rondels (you can check out the reviews on Antike and Imperial for further details) since I assume people are used to them. But, typically, you move the main pawn one space clockwise and can take that action. If you want to move farther, you pay. So, what are some of the rondels?
ship21. The “crew” rondel. This one is for captains, businessmen, soldiers, and propellers. I guess propellers really aren’t crew but, this is where they are.

2. The “deck” rondel. This one is for sails, cannons, smokestacks, and cranes.

3. The “exchange” rondel. This one allows you to exchange your train cars for money or equipment.

4. The “bonus” rondel. This one gives you additional powers during the game as a permanent tile. These are things like, move faster on rondels, get a bonus crew every time you take a “crew” rondel action or take and extra deck item every time you use the “deck” rondel. Many of these tiles are valuable to achieving your secret bonus cards. But, like all games, the goal is to make ships and equip them, not collect these cards….unless of course that is one of your bonus cards.

5. The “action” rondel. I saved the big one for last. This one drives the game. This is where you decide what action you will take for your turn. Only one person may occupy a spot so, you cannot always take an action you want to on your turn. And, you cannot take the same action twice in a row (unless you buy it and money is scarce). So, here is the “action” rondel:

a. Crew rondel. Go to the crew rondel to get items.

b. Deck rondel. Go to the deck rondel to get items.

c. Exchange rondel. Go to the exchange rondel to get items.

d. Bonus rondel. Go to the bonus rondel to collect a special tile.

e. Train acquisition. Take a train car. This is used at the exchange rondel for money or items.

f. River tiles. Take a river tile. A ship cannot sail unless it has water. These tiles also show you who will be standing on shore for your maiden voyage so that you can maximize your score. You will want to take tiles that can give you the best points for the ship you are about to sail.

g. Boat pieces. You can choose up to three boat pieces; sterns, mid sections, and aft sections.

h. Money. In a four player game there is also a money option. The only way to get money otherwise in this game is to exchange train cars or to play behind someone on the “action” rondel.

Now, rivers, trains and boats are slightly different. They are draftable but, at a potential cost. One row is valued at zero, two rows valued at $1 and two rows valued at $2. As you buy cheaper items, the more expensive ones slide down and get replaced from the draw pile. As a result, money can prove rather tight at times. You will need money to buy items in rows that cost money, to move the rondel marker farther around the rondels and to take an extra turn. If all of this sounds convoluted, don’t worry, it is. There is a lot going on here and will take about 15 to 20 minutes to explain rules to new people. However, at its core, it is very clear, straight forward, ship building. After two or three turns, it will all be clear and the only down time is the amount of choices people have and which are the best for this turn.

Several turns work like this. A ship cannot sail without a captain. Somehow, before you finish a ship, you must acquire a captain and there is a rondel for this. A ship cannot sail without a river tile. Somehow on a turn, you must acquire a river tile before you complete a ship. Oh, and make sure you have a long enough river. If you ship is sailing too fast and leaves your river, you get no points. Also, it helps to have people looking at your boat that want to see the things on your boat for bonus points. Finally, you need a ship. A fore section, and aft section and at least one mid section. It will take you several turns just to be ready to sail a generic boat. But, you really don’t want to sail a generic boat. You want to score points and work toward your individual bonus cards. Maybe you really want a lot of businessmen and cranes. If so, you may want some bonus tiles from the “bonus” rondel that give you these for free. Then head over the “crew” rondel and pick up those businessmen.

I need the rondel right where it is to get what I need on my turn, but I cannot take it now because Mark’s pawn just occupied it and I must wait until he vacates the spot and hope someone else doesn’t take or it will cost me too much money to move the pawn where I need it. Or, I hope someone takes the bottom river tile because I am out of money and need the one in the $1 row. If someone takes the bottom river tile, the one I want will slide down for free. If not, I need to find a way to make some money.

Although Shipyard is really solitaire, there is a constant race feeling. Considering you typically build 3-5 boats in a game and it is always difficult to get exactly what you want when you nee it, the game has a nice ebb and flow and sense of tension for me.

 


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