Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Speicherstadt

Plays: 2Px1, 3Px1.

The Game

The Speicherstadt means the warehouse district. In this game, a number of cards are available for purchase every round. Players use a unique system to buy cards, and they use these cards to score points.

Everyone has 3 pawns, and takes turns placing them into queues to buy cards. Being at the head of the queue means you have priority to buy the card. However the price of the card is equal to the number of pawns in the queue at that time. If you can't afford it or refuse to pay that much, you leave the queue, and the next guy now may buy the card at a slightly cheaper price.

There are a few different types of cards. Some give goods, some let you convert them to money, some let you convert them to points, some give points directly, some give points at game end depending on other criteria. One type of card that you can collect is the fireman cards. During the game there are 4 times that a fire card will be revealed, and when this happens, the player with the most firemen scores points and the player with the fewest firemen gets penalised.

The game ends when the deck of cards run out. Most points wins.

The deck of cards is divided into four seasons, starting with winter and ending in autumn. I like the card backs.

Ship cards come with 3 random goods drawn from a bag.

The Play

I have played a 2-player game and a 3-player game. The queuing mechanism is innovative (I hesitate to call it a bidding mechanism). Money is very tight. Every round you earn $1, but other than that money is hard to come by. If you don't buy any card for one round, you earn an extra $1. Other than that you mostly need to rely on claiming some goods to sell to earn money, and you also need to have the right cards to sell them at $1. Without the right cards, you sell 2 goods for $1.

A 2-player game.

At the top is a market card that everyone gets at the start of the game. You can convert 3 goods to any 1 good, you can sell 2 goods for $1, and you can store 1 good here.

A long queue.

The queuing mechanism creates some interesting and sometimes painful decisions. You want to be first in line to buy a card you like, but people queuing behind you will make that card more expensive for you, and often they can make it more expensive than you can afford. There are certainly opportunities for some nasty moves. You are always counting how many coins your opponents have. Usually it's 3 or less. Money is that tight.

Being start player feels like a significant disadvantage. Good thing it rotates. Due to how tight money is, people who queue first often end up not being able to afford the card.

There are various ways of earning points. The one that seems to give the biggest scores is the contracts. You can claim contracts, which specify a certain number of goods that need to be delivered and the number of victory points awarded when fulfilling the contract. Contracts that the players have committed to determine which goods will be contested over.

Firemen on the left, traders in the middle who allow you to sell goods for $1 each, and a contract on the right.

3-player game in progress.

The game plays very fast. Sometimes you do need to think a bit when placing your pawn, but the actions for the rest of the game are simple. The cards are simple.

The Thoughts

I didn't like the 2-player game, and the 3-player game was only slightly better. I think the game will be better with more players, but I'm not keen to find out. This feels like a game built around one new mechanism - the queuing mechanism. The types of cards available and how they work all feel too familiar and they bore me. They feel rather JASE (Just Another Soulless Eurogame). I'm afraid this game didn't click with me at all.


Kai said...

I share your feeling that Die Speicherstadt is a game built around a mechanic. Fortunately for me, it's a mechanic I enjoy, just like I enjoy games with scarce resources in general. Still, it's not a game everyone enjoys.
Don't set too high hopes in the game with more players, either. It does scale well, but that also means the feeling of the game is quite similar to playing with two or three.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Indeed the queuing mechanism is quite unique, and it's a new innovation. I'm neutral towards it - no dislike and not really a fan either. That's probably why the overall game fell flat for me.

Paul Owen said...

Funny to learn that the game left you flat. I'd read about Die Speicherstadt before and wanted to get excited about it. In fact, I saw it on sale at the Z-man Games table at PrezCon, but they only had one copy, and when I went back for it, it was gone. Now that I've read your thoughts, I might be glad I passed on it in favor of the other games I picked up instead (all of which I like).

Frank Conradie said...

Here is why it deserves a spot in my collection: it has good weight and tough decisions for a game that plays in less than an hour and is easy/quick to explain.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

it's good that posting this negative review of a game has generated some discussions, both here and at my facebook page (where i auto-feed blog posts from here).

i have always been a bit torn about posting negative reviews. if a reviewer always gives only positive reviews, his credibility may be questioned. i find that most of my reviews are on the positive side. i guess it's hard to avoid since i tend to want to play games that i think i will like in the first place. so i try share the feeling when playing a game, and i try to explain why i like it.

sometimes i'm happy that i come across a game that i dislike, because that means i have a chance to play the "bad guy", to write something negative for a change. but i need to remind myself not to be unfairly critical to a game just because of my own preferences. afterall, liking or disliking a game has a lot to do with personal tastes.

Arnau said...

I am glad to see that someone share my feelings. The reviews I had read about the game said basically only positive things, but when I played I thought that except for the queuing mechanism, the rest was a quite dull resource management game.

At the same time, as the queuing machine is more "social" than analytical, I understand that it is a rather light game.

Congratulations for the blog and greetins from Spain.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Ola, Arnau. And that's one of the very few words of Spanish that I have learnt from my daughters watching Dora the Explorer. :-)