Endeavor: Age of Sail is a Kickstarter reprint of the 2009 game Endeavor. The Kickstarter project has allowed the game to be improved in terms of component quality and artwork, as well as adding a lot of new content with modular expansions.
We never played the original game, but were very enticed by the look of the game on Kickstarter - both in terms of mechanisms and the awesome Gametrayz, which never fail to increase the appeal of a game for us! When we opened our retail edition, we were very happy to see that most of the component upgrades were retained. Endeavor: Age of Sail is a massive, imposing box, so much so that it wouldn't fit on our Kallax, and for a while it intimidated us - but the big box disguises a pretty streamlined and simple game, that we were pleased to discover plays in about an hour.
Endeavor: Age of Sail Gameplay
Endeavor: Age of Sail, is a 2-5 player exploration and light area control game in which you seek to expand your empire across the new lands and trade routes being discovered.
The game consists of seven rounds. At the start of each round you build a new building, pay your workers on your current buildings and gain new workers, all depending on your location on three of the four tracks on your player board. The final track determines how many cards you can keep at the end of your turn. After gaining your new building and workers for the round you take it in turns performing one action or passing out of the round. Most of the actions in the game require you to place a worker on a building spot, allowing you to occupy, ship, fight and draw cards.
Occupying is the simplest of the actions, you simply place a worker onto a building on the main map, so long as the area has been unlocked, and gain the token that was on it. If you manage to get a chain of buildings in a row you can also gain the tokens that are on the linked pathways between them, making this action extra efficient. Shipping is largely the same except for applying to sailing spaces on the board.
You also use sailing to unlock each of the distant lands, for each area there is a track of 4+ tokens, and the land isn't available until all those tokens have been claimed by players. When this happens, the person who contributed the most gets a powerful governor card. Attacking involves ousting a player from one of their spots on the board, to do this you have to lose a worker (casualties of war) before replacing one of their workers on the board with one of yours, gaining any link bonuses as normal. Finally, drawing lets you draw cards from the top of one of the decks, each area has a deck of cards which get stronger as you delve deeper, but you can only take a card if you own enough territory in that area.
So, what is the purpose of all these tokens and cards you are gaining? With the exception of blue tokens which are one-off actions, they mostly reward you with boosts to your four tracks. Every token you gain will increase one of your four tracks by one space, while cards often have several symbols on them, however you can only carry so many cards at a time. One of the card decks is slavery, a deck of very efficient cards, however they come at a cost, should you every discard them not only do you lose all the effects, but also you lose one victory point at the end of the game.
It may seem at this point like there is a lot going on in the game, but playing the game is actually quite simple. Each turn you'll be adding some of your tokens to the board by one of a few ways and gaining a small handful of tokens, these tokens bolster your stats letting you buy better buildings or hold more cards. At the end of the game you will score for your position on these trackers and your influence on the board, along with any other victory points you may picked up along the way.
Amy’s Final Thoughts
Overall Endeavor: Age of Sail is a brilliant game! The area control is comparatively light (particularly in a two-player game) and feels like expanding your empire rather than just fighting over a tiny spot of land. The art is suitable for the theme, though it can be a little confusing that you go up from Europe to reach Asia. The gameplay is elegant in its simplicity, with the first few rounds often being lightning fast, plus the one action each rotation keeps everyone interested in the game.
Whilst this new version is a big quality upgrade, it also introduces the exploits, which are optional, modular expansions. If you want a more variable game, then you can add three of these at random to your game. These give special rules to certain areas of the board once both the marked areas have been unlocked. While these do add a good amount of replay-ability to the game I do feel that in a two-player game they took a little too long to reach, getting your second exploit on round six of seven can leave a bad taste in your mouth as you see all those special rules that you barely get to try out before the game ends. That being said the rules were fun when we managed to unlock them, and this will be less of an issue in larger player count games as more territory will get unlocked sooner.
I would highly recommend picking up Endeavor: Age of Sail should you get the opportunity.
Fiona’s Final Thoughts
Whilst higher player count games of Endeavor are undoubtedly true to the area control mechanism listed for this game, I find that the two-player game is much more about building something. My focus in the game is engine building and route building. I really enjoy figuring out which cities and fleet spots on the board will best serve me for advancing my tracks. One round I might need to identify a way to get more brick, because I really want a specific building for the following round. Another round, the vases might matter most because if I don't clear my buildings, I'll have way too many workers.
It's a bit of a tactical turn-by-turn puzzle that really feels like a mixture of optimisation and opportunism. This sits nicely alongside the more long-term strategy of route building and developing presence in the different regions of the board.
The route building in Endeavor is one of my favourite aspects, but I'm very aware of how fragile it could be to hold onto this focus during games with more than two players. In this way, the game reminds me of Ticket to Ride - it's very simple in its route building and very fun until someone gets in your way. With two players, there is enough space to spread out on the board and only a very mean player would deliberately get in your way or attack you, but with the same number of spaces available on the board, all the way up to five players, competition will certainly get fierce with more players and the area control competitive aspects of the game might come out. These are traits of a game that I find very off-putting personally and so I'd prefer to stick with two or three players for Endeavor.
I suggest three players in particular because of the modular expansions. There are nine modular expansions in the box, and you select three to play with each game, which gives a huge variety of combinations to try. However, with two players, they all have the common drawback that they're not unlocked until very late in the game. Each module requires two board regions to be unlocked and in two players, this simply takes longer to happen.
When they do kick in, around about round five, I really liked the different strategies they gave me. I love expansions that make a game feel slightly more 'big money' and some of the modules in Endeavor: Age of Sail achieve this by giving you new actions that allow you to chain more elements into each turn. I think that with more than two players, these modules will be a bigger factor in my game strategy rather than a nice bonus to gain a few extra points at the end of the game. With that said, I love the base game so much, that I am more than happy to play the base game only with two and save the expansion content for occasional use or when we have a visitor at our table.
Endeavor: Age of Sail is a wonderful game. For me, it's a two-player experience that is best with the base game only, with variability added by expansions. For others who enjoy area control and player conflict, then I'd totally recommend exploring the expansions and having huge variety in your experiences. It scratches a combined engine building and route building itch, which isn't a combination I find in many games and gives me the ever-increasing excitement or turns that get better and better as I progress through the rounds of the game. It's definitely one of the best games of the last 12 months for me!