Do you fancy a gentle cruise down the Mississippi? Well, Rio Grande Games are offering just that with their latest game Broadhorns: Early Trade on the Mississippi. Available to purchase from March 31, Broadhorns puts two to four players in the soggy shoes of 19th century merchants, plying their trade up and down the river from St. Louis to New Orleans.
Broadhorns began development back in 2009, and generated interest from Rio Grande during the Chicago Toy Fair. Thanks to its designer’s extensive historical research and hours of play-testing, eager fans can soon get their hands on this polished foray into one of America’s most interesting and economically productive periods.
This pick up and deliver/economic style game from designer Jim Harmon, adds to a growing number of games exploring aspects of American history, making a change from the wealth of Euro games tackling themes of Mediterranean trade or medieval city building. Harmon has done well to transform various aspects scoured from historical texts and even Mark Twain novels into mechanical ideas for his game, hopefully making Broadhorns a rich and engaging tabletop experience.
Life on the Mississippi
Thematically, Broadhorns can be seen as a kind of precursor to Mayfair Games’ Riverboat, with Harmon’s game taking place before the advent of steam technology. These early traders used flatboats instead, with larger examples becoming known as Broadhorns due to the giant oars used to navigate them. 19th century flatboats were built in various sizes depending on the type of goods - or sometimes travellers - they would be transporting. This has been implemented into the game, with players having access to differing sizes of boat. Players wanting a small but quick delivery can opt for the small boat, whilst those anticipating greater rewards for their stacks of goods will have to sail on the largest.
Five types of goods are available for delivery in the game; apples, flour, pork, furs and whiskey. These goods will fluctuate in value and can be bought before each expedition as well as from port towns along the river. Interestingly, Broadhorns implements a mechanism whereby certain goods can spoil, lending an element of strategy and urgency to your deliveries. Seasonal effects also come into play, with summer months increasing the rate at which certain goods will spoil.
The cargo can be sold anywhere along the Mississippi, but travelling further afield will grant greater rewards. Your stops along the river will also bring new opportunities to gather more goods and sometimes even passengers willing to pay for the trip. Through the course of a year, players’ merchants will have made a number of trips. Whoever has amassed the greatest gold during this time is the winner!
It may have taken a long time for Broadhorns to make its way to production, but the wait seems to have paid off. Inside the box you will find a nice colourful board depicting the Mississippi River as well as wooden pieces for the titular broadhorns. The various goods are represented by barrels coming in five different colours, which will be placed in the included cloth draw bag. A number of Town Tiles and Expedition Cards are also included, ensuring a unique experience with each play-through.
The game’s refined and simple premise and look is inviting but promises a great deal of strategy as you paddle your way down the iconic river. Harmon’s attention to historical detail and smooth mechanics is applaudable, and should offer an engaging 45 - 90 minute game experience for players wanting a playful glimpse into America’s Southern past. Fans of Great Western Trail, or Lewis and Clark looking for a new game to explore the colourful history of the United States should look no further!
Look out for Broadhorns: Early Trade on the Mississippi at the end of March.