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Century Spice Road by Emerson Matsuuchi []



Century Spice Road is a wonderfully simple and compelling game for 2-5 players. I love it. Here are some of the best things about it:

  • Setup is quick–not much more than just shuffling two decks of cards and counting out a few tokens
  • The game is easy to learn and quick to play
  • The competition is low key
  • The art on the cards is beautiful and the pieces (wooden cubes, metal coins, and plastic bowls) are tactilely satisfying
  • It’s a deck building game of sorts, but it is refreshingly different from other deck building games I’ve played
  • The gameplay is fun whether you win or lose

The premise is that you are a merchant, trading in spices. There are four types of spices in the game, each represented by wooden cubes of a specific color: yellow for turmeric, red for cayenne, green for cardamon, and brown for cinnamon. Market cards let you acquire or trade spices and spices can be traded for victory point cards. The trick is that you must have the have the right spices to pay the card’s cost. That victory card that is worth 20 points may be very tempting, but how are you going to obtain the five cinnamon cubes necessary to pay for it?

Everyone starts out with the same two market cards and a few cubes of turmeric and players compete to acquire market cards and victory point cards from an ever changing supply–each time someone acquires a card the cards to the right of it are slid left and a new card is dealt in the rightmost spot. Some clever mechanics ensure that their is generally an incentive to acquire the leftmost cards (the leftmost victory cards come with coins for bonus points and the leftmost market cards cost the least) which encourages turnover in the supply.

The gameplay can vary a great deal from game to game and there is no one winning strategy. Do you have a good way of obtaining new spices? Are your trades efficient? Are you able to easily obtain any spice you need or do you find yourself with a glut of cayenne or turmeric without a good way of obtaining the other spices you need? It’s different every game.

I very much Century Spice Road. Borrow it from the library and give it a try!

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