FTW Staff Picks - Traders of Osaka

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. 

Traders of Osaka

Genre: Set Collection

Designer: Susumu Kawasaki

Player Size: 2 to 4 Players

Game Length: 30 minutes

For fans of: San Juan, Alhambra, Camel Up

Traders of Osaka is a game we have long kept on our shelves despite it seeing minimal play. Few games are as creative in making the most out of very little. There are plenty of deceptive mechanics in Traders of Osaka that make it quite the thinker. It is primarily a card game with a board simply for tracking ship placement. There is tons of player interaction at every turn of the corner, which results in strong player engagement. 

In Traders of Osaka, players are responsible for transporting important goods and materials from Osaka to Edo, as they traverse very dangerous waters. The deck of cards include the four different types of goods, and a ship matching each coloured good represents its progress from Osaka to Edo. Each card has a value if used as currency and when it scores during a Payday. Paydays occur when a matching coloured ship reaches Edo. But along the way are two Black Tide spaces which will sink any ships sitting there during a Payday, resulting in players discarding all collected Merchandise of the matching coloured ships. As players sell Merchandise of a particular colour, they receive Achievement tokens which award bonuses for selling those same colours. Once a player collects their 8th Achievement token, the game ends and players total their VP and the highest total is declared the winner of the game!

There is a lot going on at all times here. The Market and the Farm of the game are visible lineups for players to choose from. The Merchandise that gets bought moves the matching coloured ships a number of spaces equal to the number of cards bought. Players may reserve cards in either the Market or Farm to prevent other players from getting them and even to prevent certain ships from sailing. Cards from the Farm are used to replenish the Market, which allows players to make some predictive moves. Scoring is done by looking at the sum value of the Merchandise, multiplied by the number of cards in a set. Without even discussing the strategy of the game, you begin to get an idea of how the many moving parts of the game leave room for players to setup and plan for big plays. 

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When we first received Traders of Osaka a few years ago, I had no real interest in trying it. It appeared, on the surface, to be a game with very little depth. With an advertised playtime of 30 minutes, I figured it would be a light warmup game at best. But as they say of all things, it's best not to judge a book by its cover. It would not be outrageous to claim that completing a game of Traders of Osaka is a fulfilling gaming experience. I don't view it as any less of a game than something like CATAN or Carcasonne. Traders of Osaka more than stands on its own merits.