18 November 2019
Emerson Matsuuchi's historical trading trilogy reaches its spicy conclusion
You’ve got to hand it to Emerson Matsuuchi. Century: A New World doesn’t just mark the finale of his none-more-Euro, cube-trading, 300-year-spanning trilogy. It also marks the last part of a triptych that, thanks to his ‘mixable game’ design ambition, combines in a variety of ways to create no fewer than seven variants. In addition to the three base games (Spice Road, Eastern Wonders and this), there is a fourth which combines the first two, two more which each combine A New World with one of its prequels and an epic seventh which bundles together all three And it works. Really well, in fact – as long as you don’t mind the faff of setting up and packing away with two or three different boxes, and happen to already own either or both of the previous games. When you combine with Spice Road, that game’s cube-trading cards can form a player’s own ‘trade route’, which beefs up the engine-building element. The Eastern Wonders version adds that game’s explorable modular tile map, with its islands offering up additional cube-trading options. And the full-on, entire-trilogy-on-one-table version folds it all together in a surprisingly elegant way, offering a wide range of options per turn, at the risk of increased analysis paralysis.
But how does A New World work as a standalone game? As with its predecessors, it comes with four cube-represented commodities – this time corn, meat, tobacco and fur, in keeping with its 16th-century America setting. And, again, the core of its gameplay involves switching up these commodities to create combinations that will allow the purchase of game end point rewards. However, the prevailing mechanic here is now good old, reliable worker placement.
Each player starts with six settlers (each represented by a disappointingly diddy meeple), but can build to a maximum of 12. Like A Feast For Odin, these often have to be placed in multiples to pull off more valuable actions and, similarly to Charterstone, other players’ pieces don’t necessarily block you – you just have to place one more settler than usually required, which sends your opponent’s settlers back to their player board, allowing them to be redeployed during future turns.
It’s pretty straightforward, medium-weight stuff, and won’t exactly bother the titans of the genre, such as Agricola or Lords of Waterdeep. What adds some flavour is that each of the points cards grants benefits when claimed, either one offs (for example, adding settlers to your pool) or ongoing, which brings some gentle engine-building into play. There are also bonus tiles to purloin, which encourage set collection strategies, too.
Like the previous Centuries it’s all smoothly implemented and lavishly presented – though the location boards really should have been tile thick, rather than outsized cards. In truth, despite its standalone charms, A New World is probably best enjoyed by those who have already travelled with Matsuuchi along his Spice Road and around his Eastern Wonders spice islands. After all, it is the all-three-games combo which impresses the most – a real triple-treat.
PLAY IT? YES
Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi
Artist: Chris Quilliams, Atha Kanaani
Time: 45-60 minutes
This review originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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