In 2014 Splendor was released to critical acclaim, garnering several game of the year nominations and awards. The elegant play and easy ruleset made the game an instant hit and joined the likes of Ticket to Ride as an excellent gateway game for non-hobbyists.
Plan B Games’ Century: Spice Road is a Splendor-like journey with set collection and engine building mechanisms as the basis for smooth game play and reasonable game length. The nice, sturdy poker chips of Splendor have been replaced by standard-sized gaming cubes while tarot-sized cards propel the action in Century: Spice Road.
Like Splendor, the theme of Century: Spice Road (collect-and-trade goods-at-a-market) isn’t as important as its simple turn structure. Players start with two basic cards (receive goods or make a trade) and can perform one of four actions: take a card from the tableau, play a card from their hand, trade resources for one of the victory point cards, or rest, which allows you to take back your previously played cards.
Cards have resources on them, an upgrade action, or a trade action. Play a card with resources and gain those resources. Play an upgrade or trade action card and you’re trading some of your resources for others. Once a card is played, you won’t have access to it until you take the rest action.
It’s the simple choice of actions during each turn that’ll appeal to fans of Splendor and at the same time will draw in non-fans as well, since there are interesting decisions to be made with each action. After a few turns, it’s apparent that you want to be as efficient as possible as your opponents get closer to claiming victory point cards by trading in their resources. While Splendor allowed you to reserve cards, there’s no such option in Century: Spice Road. If you want a card, you’ll have to earn it through smart and effective card play.
Games go by at nearly the same pace as Splendor, but there are times when you’ll stop to consider the risks and rewards posed by one of your possible plays. There can be minor moments of analysis paralysis as you and your opponents try to perfect your engine building to earn the resources used to buy those precious victory point cards.
Obviously, luck of the draw can factor into determining the winner. If you grab the right combination of cards to produce, upgrade, and trade goods, then your opponents will have a tough time stopping you. Likewise, a streak of bad cards can doom you as you struggle to get the right cubes into your stock. Thankfully, games are quick enough that you can play an immediate rematch for your chance at redemption.
Century: Spice Road takes the basic premise of Splendor and ramps it a notch to offer a bit more depth while maintaining an easy-to-learn turn structure and goal. The artwork is even better here, although it missed the mark in one major way: colorblind accessibility. As in the earlier versions of Splendor, the colors can be confused for one another, especially in dimly lit environments. While Splendor finally fixed this problem by adding unique icons to each color, Century: Spice Road missed a good opportunity in its initial incarnation to reach more gamers. Here’s hoping that subsequent printings remedy this by adding its own set of icons. It’s too good of a game to have its audience limited by accessibility issues.
Do you have a favorite engine-building game? Tell us in the comments!
Feature Image Credits: Teri Litorco
Image Credits: Ruel Gaviola
Ruel Gaviola is a writer and educator based in Southern California. He loves board games, books, cooking, traveling, date nights with his wife, and Star Wars. He reviews games and reports news for iSlaytheDragon.com and his name rhymes with Superman’s Kryptonian name. Follow him on Twitter.