SR: 29 February 2008 – Darjeeling, Cartagena II

This week, Guy joined us for the first time and we started out by trying Darjeeling, a game based on the tea trade by Gunter Burkhardt and published by Abacus / Rio Grande.

The game play revolves around collecting tiles representing tea crates in four different colours from the plantation area and then shipping sets of these tiles through the harbour. At the beginning of their turn, a player will earn VPs based on the crates he has previously loaded onto boats in the harbour. The points earned are determined by the position of the boat in the harbour, with boats in higher positions yielding more per crate than those lower down. The player then moves their plantation pawn to a new tile, which is placed behind their screen, and a new tile is placed in the pawn’s vacated location.  The player can then end their turn or choose to ship tea. To ship, a player must combine his tiles to form complete crates of one type (colour) of tea. Shipping causes the boat at the bottom of the harbour to sail with the remaining boats moving down the harbour by one position. The player loads his crates onto a new boat, placed at the top of the harbour, and may receive VPs depending on the market demand for the type of tea shipped and whether he has shipped four or more crates. This continues until one player reaches 100 points, at which point the game ends immediately. All players lose 1 point for each unfinished half crate, and the player with the most victory points wins.

This is a game where you need to time your shipping right to maximise your points but there is a nice balance between shipping lots to maintain decent points through the harbour and getting bigger shipments where you score many points each time you ship. The bonus for shipping four or more crates is good if you can manage it but, to me, often isn’t pursuing when you need to get crates into the harbour. In our game, Guy managed a good 3-crate shipment at a time when others weren’t ready to ship themselves so he got 9 points for two or three rounds before getting knocked down. He and I built up a bit of a gap on the scoreboard while the others were building up large shipments. Mark K had an impressive “5 crate-r” with a five point demand bonus, which brought him back into contention but Guy was just too far ahead and soon after was able to reach the 100 point target and claim the win.

Darjeeling is quite good, although it wasn’t to Nige’s taste (obviously not a tea drinker!) The market demand shoot is quite clever but picking tiles from the plantation fields and adding replacement tiles is very fiddly. Some say this could be a Spiel des Jahres contender and it may be, because the theme is good and it is fairly simple to explain. For me though, it didn’t quite have that spark to set it apart from the crowd. Still pretty enjoyable.

Cartagena 2 is designed by Leo Colivini and published by Winning Moves / Rio Grande. The gameplay is very similar to the original Cartagena but has different rules for regaining cards and you now have to ferry your pirates between two islands.

Players are racing to be the first to get all six of their pirates to the Pirates Nest and hoist the Jolly Roger. On their turn, the player takes up to three actions and can choose between three options: playing a card to move one of their pirates forward to the next space on the board matching the symbol of the card played; moving an opponent’s pirate forward to the next space occupied by one or two pirates and drawing one or two cards; or moving the ship between the two islands.

I slightly preferred this version to the original because you need to help others and so a back marker is unlikely to fall out of contention. Nige was the first to get a significant presence on the second island and it wasn’t long before pirates started arriving at the Pirate’s Nest. There was much tactical positioning of the boat to force opponents to waste actions moving between the islands. Guy managed to get a decent run of leapfrogging pirates on island 2 and I assumed he had run out of that type of card having spent three on the last turn and only having one left. However, he had managed to draw four identical ones and my pirates helped him get his back marker pirate home. After that, Guy was able toget his remaining pirates home in fairly swift order and claim a second win of the night. Perhaps we shouldn’t invite him again!!

Cartagena 2 is, like its predecessor, a quick fun game that can be played easily by gamers and in a family setting. It’s not a great game but it’s one that is likely to see quite a bit of play due to its accessibility.