The Great Material Continuum of CENTURY: SPICE ROAD
In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Treachery, Faith and the Great River,” the audience is introduced to a key spiritual aspect of the Ferengi race, whose entire civilization is based on economics and acquisition of wealth. In this story, a young Ferengi, Nog, teaches his human friend Jake about the “Great Material Continuum” or the “Great River” through which all commerce and trade in the universe flow. To get what you need is just a matter of effectively navigating the Continuum, trading what resources you have for something else that is tradeable, and all the time staying on course for the ultimate acquisition.
I’m sure it wouldn’t be revered as much as a Dabo table, but I imagine that Century: Spice Road could find a place of honor in a Ferengi’s game collection.
Players take on the role of spice merchants traveling on the Great Material Continuum of the historical Eurasian Silk Road. The goal of the game is to be the player with the most wealth, measured in victory points. These points are obtained by the trading and selling of spices, using a hand of cards that players collect during the course of the game.
On a player’s turn, they choose one of four simple actions:
- Play one card from their hand by placing it on the table, which will allow them to collect spices or trade spices.
- Choose a card from the merchant row and add it to their hand.
- Sell spices to buy a card from the victory card row and earn the points indicated on the card.
- Rest and collect played cards back into their hand.
Your hand of merchant cards is how you navigate the Great River, representing trade deals and inventory gain. One card will allow you to either gain a certain number or type of spice; another has you trade certain number and type of spices for another type. The spices are in a hierarchical order starting with turmeric, saffron, cardamom, and then cinnamon, so you’ll quickly realize that, generally, the victory point cards worth higher amounts need higher-value spices to purchase. When you have the right combination of spices for a particular victory card, you may purchase it and claim the points.
Another way to gain victory points is through coins. As victory point cards are claimed, the row of cards moves to the left, and new cards are added to the right. The two leftmost cards will have gold or silver coins above, respectively. When a player purchases these cards, they may take a coin. Gold is worth 3 points while Silver is worth 1 point.
The game ends at the end of the round when someone has claimed a fifth victory card. Games usually last about 45 minutes, so you may have people clamoring for another game when it is over, perhaps with another cup of raktajino?
The game itself is a beautiful production, with the artwork taking center stage on the tarot-sized cards. It also comes with little plastic spice bowls and solid metal coins; a nice touch. One little hiccup, though: the cube colors for spices are red, green, brown, and yellow, which may be problematic for those who are colorblind. I can talk at length about the importance of accessibility in tabletop gaming, but I’ll save that for a future post. For now, I’ll say it is disappointing when a published design seems to indicate that this issue wasn’t given full attention.
Nevertheless, Century: Spice Road is a great game for all types of players. It rewards savvy cardplay as well as taking some trade risks. Navigating this Great River is a blast.