20 September 2018
A sequel/expansion that proves that spice is the variety of life
Century: Spice Road was one of last year’s most delicious gaming treats. Emerson Matsuuchi’s spice-trading card game was simple to learn, easy to love and hard to tire of. It was also a joy to handle, with those big, tarot-sized cards, the wooden ‘spice’ cubes that you scoop from and drop into textured plastic bowls, and its shiny metal reward coins.
Which means its sequel (the second game in a promised trilogy) has a lot to live up to. Set further along in the history of spice trading, it shifts location to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. And genre, also – to a Catan-like modular-board on which players must move from idyllically-depicted market to idyllically-depicted market, establishing island outposts to access unique trading actions.
However, despite the absence of Spice Road’s cards and coins, many elements remain the same. Those bowls and colour-coded cubes (ranked from cheap yellow to valuable brown), for a start. Similar to the merchant cards, each island tile offers a chance to trade up your cubes for others in a wide variety of combinations. Or, if you just want to generate a couple of yellow (now representing ginger) cubes, you can take the simple ‘harvest’ action, just as if you’d played one of Spice Road’s starting cards.
The more cubes you have, the better – not only to form combos that will earn you precious VP at one of the game’s four ports, but also to allow you to travel further, as you have to spend one cube per tile after the first has been traversed. Be careful, though: those spent cubes stay on the map, and can be snapped up by other players if they’re fast enough.
It’s a quick, smooth system, with player turns rotating swiftly, while offering many different potential synergies. Especially as the tactical removal of outposts from your player board to the central map opens up the chance to grab bonuses that can give you the edge over your opponents; for example, granting an extra free boat move or a bonus red (chilli) cube when you harvest.
The game also serves as an elaborate expansion to Spice Road itself (or vice versa). Add in that game’s starting cards and merchant deck, and follow the alternate ‘From Sand to Sea’ rules, and you have a third-way experience which combines both Centuries as neatly as the cover art joins up when you place the boxes side by side. In truth, it’s not quite as fun as the two other games played separately – there’s some attention-tension created by combining the similar-functioning cards and tiles – but given it’s an entirely optional addition, who could possibly complain?
As for Eastern Wonders itself, it is indeed a wonderful complement to Spice Road. It may not be superior to its predecessor, but is certainly its equal, applying far greater play variety to the same theme in a deeply satisfying way. It’s so good, we’re already getting impatient for 2019’s final, spicy instalment: Century: A New World…
A whole new dish, and yet very much of the same flavour as Spice Road, Eastern Wonders is as likely to impress those who loved the first Century as it is to earn Matsuuchi fresh fans.
Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi
Artist: Chris Quilliams, Atha Kanaani
Time: 30-45 minutes
This review originally appeared in the July 2018 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.
Sometimes we may include links to online retailers, from which we might receive a commission if you make a purchase. Affiliate links do not influence editorial coverage and will only be used when covering relevant products.