Reviewed by Herb Levy
CENTURY: A NEW WORLD (Plan B Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, 30-45 minutes; $39.99)
Not that long ago, Emerson Matsuuchi came up with a design called Century: Spice Road (featured in the Fall 2017 Gamers Alliance Report) and it was both a critical and commercial success! Some designers might have been content to rest on their laurels but that wasn’t all Matsuuchi had up his sleeve. He envisioned this as the first game in a trilogy of games. And now, following Century: Eastern Wonders, comes the third game in the set: Century: A New World.
In Century: A New World, the scene has shifted from the Spice Road to the Americas, where players will be using workers, rather than cards, to do the actions necessary to be the most successful merchant (as judged by amassing Victory Points). (The game can be mixed with the two previous releases in the series. In this review, however, the focus is on the New World game itself.)
The board is modular and consists of four square pieces divided into “locations”. A1, B1 and C1 are placed with your choice of D1, E1 or F1 finishing the large square. Four “Fort locations” will be found at the top of the board and Bonus tiles are mixed with a number of them, at random, placed face up in the specified spots. (Extra tiles are removed from play.) The Point card deck is shuffled and one card placed above each of the Fort spaces.
10 Exploration tiles are shuffled and put, face down, on their marked spaces. Every player gets their own player board and 12 “settlers” (meeples) in their chosen color. Six of these settlers begin on the board with the rest held in reserve. As with previous games in the series, cubes in yellow, red, green and brown are placed in bowls near the play area. The first player (randomly chosen) begins the game with 3 yellow cubes with the second and third players getting 4 yellow and the fourth player getting 3 yellows and 1 red. (As in other games, there is a limit of 10 cubes that may be held at the end of any turn.)
On a turn, the active player may move his/her settlers to any location on the board. Each one shows how many settlers need to be there to activate the action available. Some locations will give you more cubes, others will allow you to upgrade cubes in your possession to those more valuable or trade one type of cube(s) for others. When you have the right assortment of cubes, you may purchase Point cards by going to the appropriate Fort location.
Fort locations demand 1 to 3 settlers. You may buy the Point card there by handing in the needed cubes to supply. You may also claim a Bonus tile there and add it to your board. In fact, you have the option of buying the Point card AND taking the Bonus tile or just one OR the other. You need not do both! (Bonus tiles when taken are NOT replenished. When a stack is gone, it’s gone!) Both Point cards and Bonus tiles offer benefits.
In addition to Victory Points, Point cards also display an icon and a “power” such as giving a “settler discount” in a location (that is, needing fewer settlers to activate that space) showing the icon displayed, gaining a cube when you visit a matching location, liberating settlers in your reserve so they may be used for placement and allowing you to take an exploration tile from the board. (Exploration tiles not only give a one time benefit such as Victory Points or additional cubes but, when taken off the board, open up that location so it is now available for ALL players to use.) In similar fashion, Bonus tiles offer benefits that pay off, at the end of the game, by awarding Victory Points for icons, matching sets of icons and the number of settlers you have that are NOT in reserve. But there is only room for 3 Bonus tiles on your board so choose wisely.
There will come a time when players either cannot or do not want to place settlers. Then they “rest” and gather up all of their pieces from the board (the counterpart to gathering up your cards in Spice Road). That is the entire turn but, of course, they are poised to pursue new actions when their turn comes around again.
Unlike most worker placement games where a space is no longer available once occupied, this is not the case here. Any player may occupy an already taken location by spending one more settler than those already there. (Coal Baron, by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling, featured in the Summer 2014 GA Report, uses a similar mechanism.)
The game ends when a player has purchased 8 Point cards. That round is finished so all have an equal number of turns. At that point, the player who has amassed the most Victory Points in Point cards, Bonus tiles, Exploration tiles and points gathered from non-yellow cubes left on their board (at the exchange rate of 1 VP per cube) wins! Tied? Then the last tied player to take a turn gets the edge.
The modular board layout of the game helps keep play fresh as different locations can be added and removed each time. These modular pieces are two-sided (for use with other games in the series) and are of the same thickness as the player boards. (They are perfectly functional but a thicker board might have been better.) Card quality is, as in the other releases, quite good. The meeples used in the game are much smaller than depicted in the photo above, maybe the smallest meeples we’ve ever seen used in a game! Of course, you don’t want to overcrowd the board but still…
Game play follows the successful flow of the original game with cards powering the action replaced by worker placement. Set collection adds another layer of strategy augmented with ties to those Bonus tiles. Since you cannot have more than 3 Bonus tiles and, once taken, they cannot be jettisoned or switched, deciding which Point card icons you want to collect becomes very important. Your choice of icon(s) can also put you in direct competition with other players looking for the same ones! When to pick up a Bonus tile can be a question of timing. Too soon, and you may find yourself saddled with a Bonus unable to generate points; too late and there may be no Bonus tile to get!
Century: A New World is a new variation on the Century game group building upon the success of the original. For gamers who enjoy worker placement, for gamers who enjoy set collection, this is a game for you. For the rest of us who long for a twist to the original Century game, this is a new world ready and ripe for your exploration and enjoyment. – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy
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