So, having managed to obtain one of the early release copies of Century: Eastern Wonders, I have now had a few playthroughs with varying numbers of players and so far I have enjoyed all of them.
Although there are many similarities between Eastern Wonders and Spice Road, there is also enough difference to require quite a different strategy for each of the two games.
In Eastern Wonders, you are a merchant navigating your ship around a collection of islands to trade your stock of herbs and spices, in order to fulfil the export contracts at the four main ports. Once again, there are four different coloured cubes (yellow, red, green and brown) to represent the stock of goods you have in your hold.
Other than fulfilling the export contracts, these cubes are required to perform certain tasks:
- Moving your ship one island is free; for each additional island, you must leave a cube on it as you pass. There is a bonus token that will allow you to increase this to a distance of two free movements.
- In order to trade on an island, you must first build a trading post. If you build the first trading post on an island, you get to build it for free; however, if another player has already built a trading post, you must pay one cube (to the reserve) for each opposing trading post.
- If you end your movement on an island occupied by another players ship, you must pay one cube to each player with a ship there. You also cannot build a trading post if another player’s ship is present.
The combination of these various cube costs does add an additional element of balancing cost vs. benefit and can seriously ruin your strategy if you’re not careful. On top of this, as you build your trading posts, you have the opportunity to gain a number of bonuses from straight up points, to extra cargo space and extra free movement.
As much as I enjoy playing Century: Spice Road, Eastern Wonders is an improvement. There is a lot more interaction with the other players, rather than just staring at your own set of cards, with the ability to prevent (or at the very least) discourage your opponents from taking their prefered action.
Another feature I particularly like is the ‘closed port’ token. This means that players need to move around the board to reach the different ports as the closest one to them may currently be closed; by all means, they could wait until another contract is claimed and the nearby port to be re-opened, but this could be detrimental to them and full behind in the overall game.
There is an additional set of rules supplied with Eastern Wonders, ‘From Land to Sea’, which makes use of the market cards from Spice Road; which does work quite well as an additional ruleset.
If you are a fan of Spice Road, you will most likely enjoy Eastern Wonders. Whether you will continue to play Spice Road, or whether you will just add the market cards permanently to your copy of Eastern Wonders is another matter. Either way, Eastern Wonders will make a worthy addition to your collection.