In Century: Eastern Wonders, the second part of a planned spice-trading trilogy by Plan B games, players sail across an archipelago, picking up and trading spices in order to score victory points.
We really enjoyed Century: Spice Road when we played it a couple of months ago, but I had a nagging feeling that there was a better game in there. It turns out that Century: Eastern Wonders is that game, taking the basic theme and mechanics of it’s predecessor and putting them on the map, in a quite literal sense.
In Century: Eastern Wonders, you’ll be playing one of up to four spice traders trying to collect a multi-coloured set of spice cubes in order to fulfill merchant orders, which provides you with victory points. You do this by traversing a beautiful, randomly-generated map of swirly island hexes, which provide you opportunities to manipulate the spices at your disposal. Initially, you can only generate the lowest spice (yellow, or ginger), but throughout the game you place ‘outposts’ on various islands, allowing you more complex and powerful abilities.
Once you’ve filled your cargo hold with an assortment of spices, you can head towards one of the four corners of the map, to the ports where the merchants wait for delivery. Provide the correct cubes and you win the victory points from the port. It’s satisfying and simple, to work your way up from just a couple of gingers to a handful of chilli, tea and cloves.
The introduction of movement to the game is what makes it, as does the requirement to build outposts before you can use an island’s action. They both bring a great dollop of area control to the game. To move more than one space on your turn, you’ll need to drop a cube from your cargo hold onto the island hex you leave behind. Other players can then pick these cubes up if they land on that space. Similarly, outposts are free to build if you are the first to make one on an island, but will cost one cube for each other outpost already built. We only played this with two players, and it was fine, but I can see this becoming a brilliant mechanic at a higher player count, as you all vie for control of these islands.
A second new mechanic introduces even greater strategy. In Spice Road, if you were behind with a weaker game engine, it appeared there was little else you could do about it. In Century: Eastern Wonders, you now get extra victory points for building lots of outposts, and can also unlock special new abilities for each set of four outposts you build. This means that while others might sail around, aiming for those high VP cards, you can play a slightly different game, spamming outposts and gaining abilities. It’s great to have this element of variety in the game.
Not that we had time to test it, but there’s also an option to combine Eastern Wonders with Spice Road together to form a new game From Sand to Sea, which effectively switches out some of the island tiles for blank sea tiles, and re-introduces the merchants you can play from your hand of cards in the original game. I imagine the expected third game in the trilogy will also join the others to form a single mega-game.
The art and components are of a higher quality than their previous edition, with everything far more vibrant and exciting than what was a darker colour palette in the original. The map soon fills up with outposts and it is not difficult to notice it filling up as the game progresses. It’s a real joy to play – between the small ships, spice bowls and the marvellous island tiles, the components come together to create a real sense of fun and excitement.
Century: Eastern Wonders builds on Century: Spice Road in all the right ways, introducing new mechanics that enhance, rather than dilute, the game’s original systems. Together with the excellent visuals and opportunities for further expansions, Century: Eastern Wonders is a classy entry into a series that may soon be regarded as a modern gateway classic.