An hommage for A. Vespucci
Hayday of Seafaring and Discoveries
As a designer, Stefan Feld surely is one of the most innovative game developers in the community. His locations he often finds in Europe, in days gone by - Notre Dames (Paris), Speicherstadt (Hamburg), Rialto (Venice), Strasbourg, Brügge. But he is also at home in the South Seas (Bora Bora), and not to forget ancient Rome and Trajan, which marks the remarkable and noted entry of Stefan Feld into the community of experienced gamers. Not for nothing he made the Recommendation List for "Game of the Year" seven times in the last seven years, and three times he came second in "Deutscher Spielerpreis".
In Amerigo he follows the tracks of explorers and seafarers. This topic was featured in games quite a few times already, among others in „Columbus“, „Magellan“, „Vasco da Gama“ and „Wikinger“. The latest arrival in this illustrious circle is Amerigo Vespucci. He was a contemporary of Christopher Columbus, and while Columbus believed to the end of his days to have found anew sea passage to India, Americo Vespucci was convinced to have reached a new continent with his travels. He was the one to coin the phrase of "New World" and was also responsible for naming "Venezuela" and "Rio de Janeiro". That his suspicion was correct was proven 20 years after his death by Spaniard Balbao who reached the pacific coastline at the latitude of today's Panama. At that time a German cartographer already had introduced the name of "America" in his honor; originally in its Latin form of Americus, but then, changed to America due to the fact of female words for Europa and Asia.
So much for the historic background, which might, as I suppose, have inspired Stefan Feld to the name and mechanism of the game. It is, as far as I know, no secret that I am a self-confessed admirer of Stefan Feld and therefore my first steps in Essen 2013 took me to the booth of Queen Games, curious to see his latest games. To start with, it is a great game - at least as regards to the box measurements - 43 x 32 x 9 cm surpass nearly all that is common for games sizes, and thus, respectively, a lot of components await our attention.
Each player is given a board showing three tracks for Gold, Progress and Cannons as well a box for commodities markers of resources. There is coffee, copra, tobacco, sugar and cotton, including the necessary scoring markers for victory point track and ranking track for determination of order of play. Those two tracks are found on the central game board. In each color there are also 12 houses, called trading posts, 2 ships and 16 village tiles in different sizes. General components include 4 time markers, 6 pirate markers of varying value, 40 commodity tokens and 50 production tokens for multipliers. 24 progress markers and 37 landscape tile as general stock complete the components.
This takes us to the island landscape which we are meant to discover. A frame made up from several parts encloses 16 tiles, which offer a new set-up for each game depending on their arrangement. For 2 or 3 players you use a smaller board offering room for 9 or 12 island tiles. When creating the landscape you have the option to create one or more big islands featuring 20 or more land parts. Each island must be surrounded by water areas in order to be accessible from the frame = open sea or from all other directions.
In addition to the island archipelago the central map provides the core board of the game. It shows room for up to five pirate markers which double as markers for the number of turns. There is also room for progress markers that you can acquire. Eight of those markers are randomly drawn at the start of the game. In later rounds a minimum of four such markers is available for acquisition. In each round 10 production markers map are prepared for acquisition on marked boxes. The already mentions tracks for victory points and order of play complete the main board.
The center of the board shows a colorful roundel in seven colors. For each of those seven colors there are seven little cubes and with them I have arrived at the main feature of the game, the dice tower. This gimmick as such is not really new, we have encountered it already under the name of Castillo in Wolfgang Kramer's "El Grande", where it was used to change existing majorities in Spanish provinces by putting Caballeros into the tower. Another game using a dice tower is "Wallenstein" by Dirk Henn, where it decided the outcome of conflicts and there were "Peasant cubes" that influenced your luck in war.
Amerigo introduces a new way to use the dice tower. At the start of the game all 49 cubes are thrown into the dice tower. According to experience, an average of up to 15 cubes get caught in the grids inside the tower. The cubes that fall through to the bottom tray are sorted by color into the corresponding areas of the roundel.
Now the game can begin:
The current starting player throws all cubes in the blue roundel area into the dice tower. The number of dice in the color of which most cubes fall into the tray determines the number of actions for each of the colors available in this round, determined by cube colors in the tray; cubes in the tray are placed in the middle of the roundel on the action space. Now all players in order of play according to the track choose one and only one action, that is, one cube, from the action space and resolves the action as many times as determined by color majority of cubes - for instance, action Red three times, when three cubes of one color were most cubes that did fall out in any color. When all players had one action, cubes remaining in the action space are placed on their corresponding color areas on the roundel. Then the cubes of the next color on the roundel are thrown into the tower, and so on. The color sequence is blue-black-red-brown-green-yellow-white.
Actions for those colors are:
Blue - Movement: You move one step per action and ship, whereby you are travelling rather fast on frame spaces and rather slowly on the inner water spaces. On each island you find one or several places for anchoring that you must reach to set up a trading post, which then in turn enables settlement using your own village tile or neutral tiles from stock.
Black - Cannons: Black cubes raise your number of cannons for deflecting the number of pirates revealed in this round. This is checked at the end of each round in an intermediate scoring. If you have not enough cannons you lose victory points.
Red - Tiles: You acquire village tiles of your color and general landscape tiles, which are relatively expensive, depending on the number of island spaces that they would cover. You can only acquire one such tile per round, while the acquisition of village tiles is free of charge and costs only one action point, independent of size. All acquired tiles go to your personal stock.
Brown - Progress markers: Those markers have either a once-only or a permanent effect. Some of them can only be used at the end of the game. Progress markers can give you additional action points or influence the pirate, gold or victory point track. However, in order to be able to use the allover positive effects, you must have reached certain stages on the Progress track. After each completed round four new Progress markers are entered into the game.
Green - Building: With this action you can build the tiles that you acquired in a red planning action, on islands with your own trading posts and next to one of them. As the island spaces show different resources you receive those resources when you build over such spaces and you store those resources on your board. For building over spaces you score victory points depending on the size of the island and of the tile. Should an island be completely covered, you score three VP for completion, and, in case of a big island, three more VPs in the guise of a treasure chest. There are also victory points according to a table on the board, depending on the number of your own trading posts. This is where I think a mistake occurred, because it is nearly impossible to achieve the stated maximum number of sic trading posts.
Yellow - Progress Markers: Progress markers acquired with this action yield, at the end of the game and multiplied by the number of resources markers, quite a lot of victory points. Therefore you should pay attention to this winning strategy when building over resources and buying goods.
White - Sequence of play: With white actions you change the order of play track and use them in certain cases to replace colors that are not available in the action space.
That only leaves Gold. If you pass, when it is your turn to use actions, you can earn Gold in this way: The number of cubes currently in the action space, is divided by 3 and rounded up to determine the amount of Gold that you receive. Gold has two purposes: During the game you can raise the number of available action points and at the end of the game each Gold is worth one victory point.
When the roundel has been completed with the white cubes, the round ends with an intermediate scoring and you compare the pirate strength with your number of cannons and replenish Progress and Production markers.
After five rounds you score victory points for certain positions achieved on the tracks for Progress, Gold and Sequence. The result of Progress times Resources also usually yields quite a lot of victory points.
There is nothing at all to criticize as regards to game components, as is standard at Queen Games. The rules are exemplary as regards to content and layout. Allover, the game is very attractive to look at and is, for me, one of the best games of the year. The only point for some criticism is, albeit at a very high level, that we did not manage, despite rearranging the inner parts of the tower, to make the output of the tower more varied. Usually cubes that were thrown in came mostly back and formed the majority in the tray. This could be improved, in my opinion, but could also be due to our throwing-in technique. The given time of 90 minutes is not really feasible, but that should not detract from enjoyment in the game and the game can be wholeheartedly recommended, not only to fans of Stefan Feld.
Designer: Stefan Feld
Artist: Harald Lieske, Claus Stephan
Price: ca. 40 Euro
Publisher: Queen Games 2013
Genre: Development, dice
Users: For experts
Rules: de en fr nl
In-game text: no
Dice tower introduces interesting chance element
Archipelago and other development games on seafaring, colonization and trade
My rating: 6
The new use of the Dice Tower introduces a surprising change element into the game, guaranteeing a thrilling game.
Chance (pink): 1
Tactic (turquoise): 1
Strategy (blue): 2
Creativity (dark blue): 0
Knowledge (yellow): 0
Memory (orange): 0
Communication (red): 0
Interaction (brown): 1
Dexterity (green): 0
Action (dark green): 0