FTW Staff Picks - Century: Spice Road

For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.

Century: Spice Road

Genre: Economy

Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi

Player Size: 2 to 5 Players

Game Length: 45 minutes

For fans of: Splendor

It's been 3 years since Splendor was released, and the popular title has finally seen not one but four separate expansion modules. And while these expansions are not this week's Staff Pick, it's almost impossible to talk about Century: Spice Road without bringing up the Splendor comparison. When the Century was still early in its development stages it was a game called Caravan which was set to have two different versions, only distinct in their themes. It was during that time that popular YouTube personality Tom Vasel of Dice Tower declared that Caravan was the "Splendor-killer". Fast forward a year and the now titled Century:Spice Road has finally been released to the masses. Talk of Splendor's demise was greatly exaggerated, but Century introduces some really interesting mechanics to a familiar formula. 


In Century: Spice Road, players compete to collect the a variety of different spices of staggered values, in hopes to fulfill the demands of the silk road. In order to fulfill these demands, the player must deliver a specific collection of spices which allows them to collect a card of a set victory point value. To diversify their spices, players may establish trade routes represented by the Market Cards. These cards allow the players to produce spices or trade a specific arrangement for another. On a player's turn they may perform one of four actions: play a market card from their hand, establish a trade route, fulfill a demand or rest (pick up all their played Market Cards). When a player collects their fifth Victory Point card, the game ends and players tally their totals. The player with the most victory points is declared the winner. 

Century: Spice Road uses a lineup mechanic where players must pay one spice for each Market Card they choose to bypass from the front of the line. And when a card is taken, the rest are shifted to the front. It's something that players of Small World will be familiar with and incentivizes picking up lesser cards. Similarly the Victory Points cards award gold and silver coins for picking up the front two cards in line. Gold and silver coins are worth 3VP and 1VP respectively. How to value your spices is important, but more important is timing. You constantly have to be aware of what other players are doing, or you could find yourself a few steps behind. Enough to set you back several turns. 

Let's get it out of the way, Splendor and Century can both coexist on any gamer's shelf. What they share in common is actually not enough for one to over shadow the other. Splendor is a wonderful entry level game that just about any gamer can pick up over the course of one game. It's not the deepest strategic option, but it's not trying to be. On the other side, Century offers a diverse option of strategies where players will likely require a few tries to pick up the nuances of the game. The expansions for Splendor are a bit of a disappointment and with a price tag as high as the base game, it's an unattractive value proposition. My suggestion for those who have been waiting for more Splendor would actually be to just pick up Century instead. Promising to be a trilogy, there are two more titles coming over the next two years. And if Spice Road is any indication the sequels should be very good games.  

Earl OliverosComment