In Century: Spice Road, the first of the Century: trilogy by Emerson Matsuuchi, up to five players race to complete five demand cards, by cashing in a combination of spices. There are always five different public desired demands worth varying amounts, with the first two coming with bonus coins. Everyone starts with some low-value turmeric, and a starting deck of two basic cards that allows them to trade their spices away. There is an element of deck-building and therefore engine-building, too. Your turn is simple; you either play a card from your hand – allowing you to trade x for y, or perhaps upgrade spices (turmeric > saffron > cardamom > cinnamon); buy another card (which has a specific trade on it), but this might cost you spices to acquire it; complete a demand by cashing in the desired combo of spices, or pick up your spent cards to replenish your hand. Century: Spice Road is a race, but like a number of modern board games with a ‘game end trigger’, the person that ends the game is no guaranteed to win. The person who has accrued the most points via their completed demands wins, so the real question is: do you rush to end the game and complete more orders? Or risk completing fewer, more valuable ones?
There’s also a limit of ten spices that any player can hold in their caravan at any time, so you can’t stockpile – you need to think efficiently. The spices themselves are simple coloured cubes, but they come in adorable little spice bowls, which is a pleasant inclusion apposed to having the cubes sprawl across your table. It also comes with metallic coins – unusual for a game of this price bracket in the Kickstarter ‘deluxe’ components era. The cards are bigger than a regular playing deck, and the artwork on them (and the caravan player mats) is as bright and warm as the spices you are collecting.
Comparisons with Splendor are inevitable, but Emerson Matsuuchi and Plan B Games seem to have an ace up their sleeve to lure people towards their product over the likes of Splendor (and maybe Gizmos). Century: Spice Road is the first installment of a trilogy of ‘Century’ games, each one set in a different historical era. Century: Eastern Wonders was released in 2018 (this is a set collection pick-up-and-deliver style game), and Century: A New World is due some time in 2019 (at time of writing). These titles could be enjoyed separately, or – and here’s the fun bit – they can be integrated, to make a completely different board game. You can fuse the deck-building element of Spice Road with the delivery system of Eastern Wonders to make the individual gaming experience, ‘Sand To Sea’. Century: Spice Road is a gateway gamer’s dream. The rules take up two sides of A4, and they are super-simple to teach, and it looks lovely sitting on your table.
Player Count: 3-5 Time: 30-45 Minutes Age: 8+