Plan B Games are a publisher that don't seem to be able to put a foot wrong, or when they do they put it right and everyone forgives them. At the UK Games Expo I got a chance to play the next game in their Century Trilogy - Eastern Wonders. Eastern Wonders builds on the premise of Spice Road, adding in a few more layers on top. So. does that make it a better game?
Upon opening the box there is a feeling of comfort as familiar elements are presented in slightly new ways. The cubes and bowls of Spice Road return but Eastern Wonders contains no cards or coins. In their place are wooden outposts, and tiles. The player mats now include space for 20 outposts and as you place them out on the board you unlock upgrades and VP for the end of the game.
Confusingly, although the cubes are the same colour here they represent different items - I can only remember 'cloves'. The upgrade order remains the same though with brown cubes being hardest to obtain. The way you gain and manipulate the cubes has changed though. A map of island tiles is built and you travel around with your boat. You can harvest on any island, but to use the trading ability you must first build an outpost.
This means that the puzzle of getting what you need is laid out before you right from the start of the game. Rather than hoping for a certain card to turn up you will be planning your route and looking for the best ways to gain certain colours. In the game I played the green cube was really difficult to get a hold of, so getting an outpost on an island that traded in it was essential.
Eastern Wonders has the total feel of Spice Road, but is a bit more crunchy. Not so much to put people off though, as the crunchiness comes from all the information in front of you. There is a nice pace to play as just like it's predecessor you choose one action to perform each turn (along with an optional move). The rules are a double-sided sheet and there are also rules for a combined game using both Spice Road and Eastern Wonders. I didn't try this but it looked like it leaned more to Spice Road than it's successor.
There doesn't seem to be any imbalance in the trading posts, and the game avoids the 'too few' cards of a certain type issue found in Spice Road. I am hopeful that this will eclipse Spice Road in my collection and look forward to my next few plays.
So on the surface of it Eastern Wonders looks like it will be well received by fans and other gamers. It retains the look of it's sibling and develops the gameplay and depth nicely. It is a tad more fiddly than Spice Road, due to the outposts and moving around but not enough to put me off playing.