- Designer: Eason Kao & Tsai Huei Chiang
- Publisher: SOSO Games
- Players: 1-4
- Ages: 10+
- Time: 45 minutes
Dadaocheng is one of the most important trading ports in 19th Century Taiwan. In this game named after the city, players try to be the most prestigious trader in the port. The board shows the trading area of the port as a 4×4 grid of trading spaces. These spaces are randomly seeded with trading discs – with the 4 opium discs starting in the corners. Each player has a side of the board with 4 storehouse spaces that surround the trading disc area on their side of the board. There are some shipping cards – separated into three stacks based on their level; the top card of each stack is revealed. There are also building cards that are placed on the opposite side of the board from the shipping cards.
On a player turn, players go thru the same 4 phases:
- Manage resource discs
- Collect and store resources
- Full House
- Purchase and Actions
In the resource disc phase, you make two separate actions – either swapping the position of any two discs OR flipping any one disc over to the opposite side. You can repeat the same type of action twice if you want.
Then you collect resources – you survey the board and see if you have made a single line of 3 or 4 resources of the same type. If so, you then collect 1 cube for a line of 3, 2 cubes for a line of 4. Then, you stock the storehouses; any storehouse which is directly adjacent to the completed line gets a resource cube of the matching color placed in it. Thus, a line of 3 will only place one cube – for whichever storehouse is on the border while a line of 4 will place two cubes, one on each side. Then, you check to see if any storehouse is overfilled – if there is a single storehouse space that has 3 or more cubes, all of those cubes are then returned to the supply. Finally, you flip over all of the scored discs over to their other side. You then look at the new board setup, and if you have formed another line of 3 or 4, you return to the top of this phase and score, store, and flip again. This continues until there are no newly formed lines of at least 3 after the flip.
In the next phase, you look to see if you have a full house in your storehouses – if you have at least one cube in each of your 4 storehouse spaces, you can take any one of those cubes into your hand.
In the final phase, you can take actions and buy cards. You can do these actions in any order.
You may use the Temple once per turn. You pay 1 or 2 cubes to the bank to roll 2 or 3 dice; you then get cubes based on the roll chart printed on the board. You could also trade in any 2 cubes for any 1 other cube.
You can buy as many ship cards as you want. You simply pay the cost with matching cubes (2, 3 or 6 cubes based on level) and place the ship in front of you. You must have a prerequisite number of credits on previously obtained cards in order to You can also buy building cards – though you are generally limited to only one of each type of building per turn. Again, you pay the cost by matching the cubes printed on the building. Each building comes with a special ability that can be used once per turn.
- Markets allow to exchange cubes
- Workshops reduce the purchase price of ship cards
- Business Offices increase the number of cubes you get from your storehouses
- Opium Dens let you trade 1 opium cube for any two others
While buying cards, you can use opium (black) cubes to pay the costs. Each time you use a black cube, you move forward on your own personal Opium track. When you reach the 8th and final space, you start a new cube on number one. At the end of the game, you lose points for each cube on the final space of your opium track.
The active player can end his turn at any point in this action phase, and then the next person starts by modifying the discs in the center of the board. At the end of your turn, you may only have 6 cubes in your hand. The game continues for a total of 8 turns.
At the end of the game, you tally your points – scoring points for:
- VPs printed on Ship cards
- VPs printed on Building cards
- Points for cubes in hand and cubes in your storehouses and for credits on your cards
- -1 point per cube on the final space of your opium track
- Further negative points if you have an opium den building
There are also rules for a solo game. The game is played over 10 turns, and there is a reduced supply of cards available to the player. You may only keep 3 cubes from turn to turn. Your goal is to score as much as possible.
My thoughts on the game
Dadaocheng provides an interesting multilayered game – there is a pretty strong puzzle aspect to lining up the resource discs in the first phase of each turn, especially trying to get a chain reaction of multiple scoring lines to form on the board. There are three discs of each type on each side, and there is one of the other three resources on the back side – the bottom of the disc tells you what’s on the other side. You can spend most of your downtime planning your move, but it’s probably worth it to stop and take a second to look around when your turn comes as the board changes with every player’s turn!
You also have to try to make lines on the board that line up with the storehouse spaces that you want. Normally, you want to try to get the cubes on your own spaces in order to help you generate more cubes into your hand, though there might be times that you actually want to try to put a cube in an opponent’s storehouse in order to force them to lose their cubes.
The ship cards are kind of a gamble – especially the level 3 ships which are worth a whopping 10 points. It will likely take you a few turns to build up the matching 6 cubes, and if another player beats you to that card, you will then have to shift your focus to something else. You also have to decide between taking lower VPs with building cards – though they give you special abilities to use the rest of the game – or going straight for the higher scoring ship cards.
The game moves along quickly, and the quick pace is helped by the fact that the next player in turn order can start his turn (i.e. modifying the discs on the board) once the previous player moves into the action phase. There isn’t any direct interaction between players, so the game state won’t change as a result of taking actions. Once we were used to the flow of the game, it seemed like at least 1/3 of the time, we had two players actively doing something.
It’s hard for me to comment on the production values as I have what appears to be a nearly finished prototype – but it’s still not a production copy. If the art is unchanged, it is quite good – with an obvious Asian slant to the theme. The cards in my prototype set are simple printed cardstock and my discs are foamcore circles with stickers on them, so it’s clear that this isn’t a final version.
Dadaocheng is another game from Taiwan that has impressed me this year. It will still take a few more plays to see how it holds up, but I am thinking that this one will be a keeper. (Let’s just say that I like it enough to try to see if Smoox will trade me for a full production copy at Essen!)
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor