Century: Eastern Wonders Review

Century Eastern Wonders - Plan B Games - Board Game Review

Psychology is an interesting subject. Not just because many years ago in a pub I (foolishly) proclaimed it’s “not a real science” after many jars, but because it affects all of us in different ways. We’re predisposed to like or dislike certain things, find stuff tasty or disgusting or, in my case, buy stuff because we’ve had a single good experience with something similar in the past. For example, Stonemaier Games, my fascination with E46 BMWs or Steve’s weird obsession with anything Lovecraft.

The subject of this predisposition here is Century: Eastern Wonders, purely because we really enjoyed Spice Road and were left wanting more. So Plan B dutifully complied obviously because, like every publisher, they hang on every word we say here at Polyhedron Collider and do our bidding. So here we have Eastern Wonders, the sequel and add-on to Spice Road. A curious mix of standalone and expansion (Steve loves the term Expandalone for this stuff) although there’s a serious twist here.

Century Eastern Wonders - Gameplay - Board Game Review

Eastern Wonders is not an expansion in the traditional sense, but I’ll come to that later. The main idea here is taking the concept of Spice Road and mixing it up with a dash of territory control and path optimisation to…er…spice it up and change the format to create an entirely new game. Sounds like a cop out? Not at all. The beauty of Eastern Wonders is that while it all seems familiar, there’s enough of a change that it’s a completely new game. A bit like the evolution from Suburbia through Castles of Mad King Ludwig to Palace of Mad King Ludwig. It’s kind of the same game…but not quite.

So what’s changed? The main difference is that Eastern Wonders is a board game, rather than a card game. The board is made of a random selection of tiles, each of which has a trading action upon it. You control a boat roaming around the Indonesian islands trading spices and buying contracts at the ports, which is the similarity with Spice Road. On your turn, you can either gather spice (pick up two yellow cubes) or perform the trade action if you have a trading post built on that tile. Trade up your paltry spices to the hefty, more valuable gear and buy those tasty contracts to score points.

Century Eastern Wonders - Player Board - Board Game Review

So in essence, there’s a lot of similarity. However, Eastern Wonders provides a much greater capacity for player competition as the actions are all visible and you need to plan your route instead of a chain of cards. Perhaps the same sort of thing, but players can get in your way here, whereas they couldn’t interfere with your hand in Spice Road. There’s upgrades available for putting down more and more trading posts, so it’s in your interests to put yourself about like a lady of negotiable virtue so you can get more powerful actions, move further without cost or simply carry more stuff. Once you’ve built enough posts, you start to score points for doing so as well, so there’s more than one reason to do it. Of course, it gets more expensive the more people build posts on the same tile, so get a shift on.

The added twist I referred to earlier is that you can include Spice Road in Eastern Wonders to create Sand to Sea, a wholly new game which takes advantage of both sets of pieces. It’s a novel idea and allows players to perform more actions by using the cards from Spice Road instead of, or as well as, the actions in Eastern Wonders. There's a distinctive shift in the feel of the game; it definitely feels heavier with a greater emphasis on planning your action chain. Since you can use both tile merchant actions and card merchant actions, you need to work out which is the optimum use of your resources. There's a lot more restriction too; you need cards to move your boat around so the game becomes very card-focussed. The interesting mechanic is that you can play a card as per Spice Road, which can then be used again (discarded after play) to move your boat. So a clever player (not me) can plan their strategy to make the best use of their hand.

Century Eastern Wonders - Detail - Board Game Review

I think it’s fair to say that I quite like Eastern Wonders (and by association, Sand to Sea). It’s a great advancement of Spice Road and the inclusion of both games to make a third is quite ingenious. The third of the three in this series will combine all three in a similar manner, so I’m quite excited to see what that’s like when it eventually comes out.

Plan B have pulled another one out of the bag and, unlike the scorpion thing in Flash Gordon, this one won’t stab you in the wrist.

This review is based on a full retail copy of the game.
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