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 instalment 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
I had never heard of Century: Spice Road prior to attending UKGE and the mass amount of posts asking about it on Facebook got me intrigued. I had a read up online and a lot of people were saying it was a game that would get rid of Splendor from people’s collections as it was a better game. This was a bold statement and one I had to find out if was true as I love Splendor.
When the game arrived I didn’t know what to expect. For its relatively cheap price the box was a small to medium size with great artwork, but nothing I hadn’t seen before. Upon opening the box I was pleasantly surprised, the rule sheet was one piece of card with pictures and writing on both sides.
For someone who struggles with reading and learning rules even I managed to pick this game up within 10 minutes. Underneath this was four small plastic pots that housed the spice cubes, these sat in a thick plastic insert that is very well designed. Next up was the two decks of cards and the player cards. These are bigger than normal playing cards and are of good card stock.
The hidden gem for me was the metal coins that are in the box. These are used as extra victory points in the game and have the Century: Spice Road logo on them. So for around £30 you get a game with great quality components in a box that doesn’t take up to much room on your shelf.
Century: Spice Road - Setup
Century: Spice Road is a game where you take on the role of a spice trader. The object of the game is to buy and trade spices, represented by different colour cubes, to build up enough of these to fulfill the demands of traders and purchase point cards.
To set up the game each player is given a Caravan Card, which is the storage for your spices and can hold ten cubes. The bowls of spices are placed in value order starting with yellow (turmeric) and ending with brown (cinnamon).
Next you need to shuffle the Points Cards to form a deck and lay out five of these face-up. When any of these are purchased the cards slide down to the left and the space closest to the deck is filled with a new one.
Above the first two cards on the left you place coins and these are taken when one of the cards below is purchased.
Each player is given two cards from the Merchant Deck (the starting hand cards are represented by a purple boarder), the rest are then shuffled to form a deck and this is placed below the Point Cards. Six cards are then laid out and replenished in the same fashion as above.
The game is played in a series of rounds where you get to do one of the following actions;
- Play a card from your hand. These may be an upgrade card which allows you to upgrade a spice cube to the next level or a Spice Card where you collect a set amount of spices.
- Acquire a Merchant card is where you will build up your deck of cards. If taking a card, you must place a spice cube on any card to the left of the one you are taking.
- Rest which allows you to add all played cards back in to your hand.
- Claim a point card if you have enough spices of the required colour(s).
Century: Spice Road is played using the actions above, players will collect spices buy market cards and trade for point cards. The game ends when the first player gets their fifth point card. Turns are fast and even our first play only lasted 45 minutes.
This game was one I was very much excited to play and one I expected I would enjoy as I like Splendor a lot. I did enjoy it as expected but what was unexpected was the fact my partner (someone who dislikes games) really loves this game too. I didn’t ask her to play I just set it up and tricked her into playing, and since we have played a game every night of this.
The simple setup and playtime helps keep her interested and even though the theme is not one that really shines through, the game has enough fun and depth to keep all levels of gamers invested throughout the play time.
Century: Spice Road has quality components and the artwork is great. The only bad points I can see to this game is that the theme is a bit on the bland side (pun intended) and at no point do you feel like a spice trader (Splendor has the same problem) and the game does feel like a solitaire experience as no real player interaction is involved.
Overall, I am very pleased to add this to my collection and always have a great time when it hits the table. I will be looking forward to the next instalment of the Century trilogy and it will be great to see how they all work together.