Dale Yu: Review of Century: A New World

Century: A New World

  • Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi
  • Publisher: Plan B Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Plan B on game mats also provided by Plan B – all games played with New World alone

Century: New World (C#3) is the newest and final installation in the Century game trilogy.  A few years ago, Century: Spice Road (C#1) came out, and it quickly became one of my favorite games – a masterpiece of resource management and micro-transactions.  When that first game came out, Plan B was already teasing gamers with the idea that it was the first game in a set of three; each of which could be played alone, but also each possibly being a module in a game that could combine any or all individual components.   Last year, Century: Eastern Wonders (C#2) came out, and while I did not really much care for C#2 on its own, the combined game of C#1 + C#2 was a worthwhile addition to the series for me.

As such, I was very interested in getting C#3 to see how everything works together.  And, as things would have it, a month after owning the game, I’ve yet to play the whole shebang (C#1 + C#2 + C#3)!  Don’t worry, I’ll get to that eventually, and I’m sure I’ll write about it here – but for now, I’ve been busy getting myself comfortable with the ideas from C#3 alone, and as it is meant to be a standalone game in its own right, I’m content to explore C#3 by itself for now.

In C#3, players still work to acquire, convert and trade goods cubes in order to eventually score victory points.  However, the main gaming mechanism here is different from the previous two games. In C#3, each player starts with a supply of 6 Settler meeples, and they will place these workers on different action spaces in the city to perform these micro-transactions.

The board in C#3 is made up of four different square segments – 3 of which are mandatory in every game, and one which can be chosen from a pool of 3. An appropriate set of Point cards is taken from the supply and shuffled, with a supply being dealt face up – one on top of each of the four Fort locations.  These Point cards each have a clearly displayed point value and cube combination which will be used to buy said card. The Point cards also have a special action at the top as well as a bonus scoring icon in the upper right corner. Each Fort location also gets some Bonus tiles placed on it. The board setup is completed by placing a random Exploration tile on any action space which has an appropriate icon on it.  These spaces are not active in the game until the Exploration tile is removed from it.

The forts are at the top. The brown rectangles (x2) tell you that each space here starts with 2 bonus tiles in each stack

Each player also gets an individual board.  The right side of this board has the now familiar ten spots for goods cubes, and next to that are three spaces for storing Bonus tiles.  The rest of the board is a place for you to keep your pool of unused and available workers. Each player gets a starting supply of cubes based on their spot in initial player order – with the start player getting the least amount of material.

The game will now be played in a series of rounds, and in each round, each player will have the chance to take a single action on their turn.  The game continues until the end of a round when at least one player has collected their 8th Point card; at this point, the game will end and points will be tallied.  On a turn, you have two options – you can either Work or Rest. 

If you choose to work, this means that you will take the action of one of the spaces on the board.  You cannot choose an action space that still has an exploration tile on it nor can you choose a space where you currently have workers in.  And, if that wasn’t enough, you will have to have enough workers available to place on the space to take the action. If the space is empty, the cost is equal to the number printed inside the meeple icon in that space.  If the space if occupied, you must simply pay one more meeple than the number currently there (and in rare cases, this might mean that your cost to use the space is less than the pre-printed number for the space!). The older workers are given back to their owner who places them on his player board for re-use.

If you are able to pay the cost for a space, then you take the action printed on that space.  It might be a production action, where you simply take the depicted cubes from the supply. Upgrade actions allow you to take a cube and improve it to the next color (yellow -> red -> green -> brown). Trading actions let you turn one selection of cubes for another, as shown on the action space.  You can do a trade action as many times as you have the cubes to power it.

The final type of action space is the Fort, and this is a bit more complicated.  Here, you have two options, and you can take either or both. First, you can collect one of the visible Bonus tokens.  Each Fort has one or two stacks of tokens, and you can take any one tile so long as it is on the top of its respective stack.  This token is placed on one of the three slots on your player board. You are limited to only acquiring three in each game. Each bonus token has a scoring criterion on it, and you will score for it at the end of the game. 

Additionally, each Fort space has a Point card above it.  You can buy the Point card by turning in the set of cubes as pictured on that card.  There is a bonus action at the top of the card, and it will either give you an ongoing bonus or an immediate benefit.  The ongoing bonus will either give you a cube discount for certain action icons OR it will give you a cube bonus each time that you take an action associated with a certain action icon.  Immediate bonuses might be getting an extra worker from the supply added to your player board (you start with 6 workers, but you can have as many as 12) or to take an Exploration tile from the board.  Taking an exploration tile has two purposes; first, you get a benefit as shown on the tile and second, that action space is now open for use for all players for the rest of the game.

some examples of point cards

If you are unable to take an action or choose not to pay for an action, you can instead Rest.  When you rest, you simply remove all of your workers from the board and replace them onto your player board.  At the end of your turn, regardless of whether you worked or rested, check to make sure that you have ten or fewer cubes on your board.  At the end of each round, check to see if the game has ended – that happens when at least one player has 8 Point cards. If so, the game moves into the scoring phase.

There are four ways to score points.

1] Point cards – each point card has a printed point value on it, you score what the card says

2] Exploration tiles – a few of the exploration tiles simply have 3VP printed on them, if you collected said tile, score the VPs

3] Bonus tokens – again, you are allowed to have up to three bonus tokens.  Each of these awards points for certain criteria. To make it easier, lay out all of your scoring icons (found on Point cards and certain exploration tiles) and your active settlers for easy reference.   Bonus tokens might give you points for a specific icon or perhaps points for each pair of shown icons or for a pair of active settlers. Each bonus tile is scored individually, so an icon might be used for all three of your bonus tokens.

4] Cubes – using the now familiar rule, score 1VP per non-yellow cube in your supply at the end of the game

The player with the most points wins. Ties are broken in favor of the player latest in turn order.

My thoughts on the game

So, as I said at the top, I was pretty interested in seeing how this one worked, and it was the first game I went to look at when I visited Origins earlier this summer.  I think part of my interest was to finish the trilogy, and part was sheer curiosity at seeing how the different pieces worked together. For a number of reasons, that hasn’t happened yet.  First, the base game of C#3 has been interesting enough on its own. Additionally, I’ve had some interesting discussions this year about trying to play games in the suggested optimal situations, and I’m trying to stick to my plan with that.   In short, I feel that trying to play a game with all the extra rules and expansions right off the bat is probably not the best way to initially experience a game, especially if there is a recommended beginner setup. So, I felt like I should play C#3 as a standalone first so that I could learn how it ticked before trying to incorporate it into a larger, more complex game.

Thus far, it’s been a familiar yet slower experience to C#1 – a game which is very close to being an Top 10 for me from this decade.  So, I should start by saying that C#3 was being compared against a very high standard. I’ve said more than once that if this was my first Century game, it would have been a sure hit.  I really do like these games with micro transactions, as the challenge of designing a strategy where you only take a single small action on each turn really appeals to me. 

At its basest level, the idea here is the same as C#1 and C#2.  Get cubes, upgrade or convert them into the combinations seen on the point cards, and repeat that to get VP and win.  C#1 was more of an engine builder. C#2 focused more on a pick up and deliver mechanism. And here in C#3, it’s worker placement.  But, in the end, the core idea is the same. And I like the fact that each part of the series ends up being familiar yet different.   I’m sure that different gamers might prefer a different part of the trilogy based on the mechanisms that they gravitate towards – and it’s no surprise that I prefer the deck builder one…

In C#3, there is a little bit of a turn zero, as you should definitely look at the variable quadrant of the board to see what actions are available to you in this particular game.  But, other than that, most of the variability in the game just comes down to which Point cards are randomly flipped up and the order in which the Bonus tokens come up in.

C#3 plays a little bit slower than C#1, but there are more things to consider.  Here, you have to figure out where you want to place your meeples based not only on which action you want to take but also on your ability to take future actions.  If you run out of meeples, you’ll have to spend an entire turn resting to get your workforce back. Sometimes, for game tempo reasons, you might prefer to take two less optimal actions that allow you to get more bang for your worker buck.  It also sometimes pays off to take a popular action because if someone else kicks you out of that space, you’ll get your workers back without having to rest. And, of course, while you’re worrying about all this, you still have to figure out how to get the right cubes for the point cards currently on offer, and figure out how to do all that faster than the other players in order to collect the point card that you want.

And, I should point out that the decision about the point cards is also more complex than C#1 and C#2.  The bonus action at the top of the card might make a difference, and the icons are important for endgame scoring.   This added complexity isn’t all good though, IMO. First, there may come a point where you don’t particularly want any of the current cards on offer because the next card off the deck may have a much more desirable scoring icon or bonus action.  All of that just comes down to random lady luck. And for me, that’s a fairly significant portion of the scoring that can be decided by who ended up being lucky enough to collect the right icons from the scoring cards that they took when they had the right cubes.  I have tried one game where I waited to try to only get cards with the desired icons, but it failed miserably as other players were still racing ahead to the finish line of 8 cards, and I just ended up with fewer cards overall; and not enough bonus points to make up the difference.

In addition to the luck factor, the overall game here seems to play slower.  Ten of the action spaces are blocked by Exploration tiles, and we’ve yet to have a game where more than 6 of them were opened up; sometimes only being opened near the end of the game – you’re at the mercy of the deck here as Exploration tiles are only removed when certain Point cards are taken.  It could be that certain actions are simply never available for use, and it can really make the game go slowly when you don’t get the advanced upgrade action or a particularly juicy trade spot.

Setup is somewhat fiddly; but this is I think going to be a feature of the game and not a bug.  This third installment of the game needed to have the necessary components for all of the combo games; and as a result, most games will have you digging through the cards/tokens to get the right set needed for whichever modules you’re using in your game.  While it’s a little time consuming, I like the fact that enough thought has been put into the development of the game to make sure that you have all the right parts that you will need. The player mats are also nice in this regard. Yes, I said “mats”. If you get the player mats, there are two different mats in the box, and they are set up to give you the right layout for C#3, C#3+C#1, C#3+C#2, and C#3+C#2+C#1.  While the mats are by no means mandatory for play, they do help keep things organized well and provide a nice place for everything.

So far, I have enjoyed my games of C#3, and again, if I didn’t have C#1 to compare to, this actually would have been even more enthusiastically received.  I can’t comment on the combination games yet as I really haven’t explored them – but I will save that for a later review! I love the micro transactional nature, and the game gives you a complex game which is still accessible to most levels of gamers in a 45 minute package.  But, it doesn’t give you the more streamlined, more elegant, less luck-dependent and much faster version of the game that you get in C#1.

just a random shout out to the ferret I found in the game

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Alan H: I played my first game recently and I felt that the description that Dale  provides is exactly how I feel. If Century new world #1 had a speed rating speed rating it would be 10. My first five games of it were completed in 50 minutes. 

The latest incarnation takes considerably longer principally because there are more choices. And the implications of each choice are more considered than the first game in the series, so the speed rating would be 6 or 7. . At the moment I like number one the best for its clarity, simplicity and speed. But the newest addition is more interesting for me than the second game in the series, probably because there is more to consider when you take your action, as Dale describes.

I’m looking forward to receiving my own copy to confirm my early thoughts.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y,  Alan H
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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5 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of Century: A New World

  1. Pingback: Dale Yu: Review of Century: A New World – Herman Watts

  2. @mangozoid says:

    I found C #2 drags the game out much longer than necessary, and combining C #1 and C #2 made things even worse, so my hopes aren’t too high for C #3, and especially for playing it jointly with #1 and #2 added into the fray..! The original game remains a classic, good game (imho), but I feel things should have been left ‘as is’, and find these expansions just an annoyance tbh.

  3. James says:

    How do you think it compares to Res Arcana, which is another resource-conversion euro with a strong turn zero component?

    I wasn’t sold on the previous Century titles (though Spice Road is at least a good replacement for Splendor),and it’d be hard to compete with something like Res Arcana, which packs so much depth into a filler length experience.

  4. Pingback: 2019 Origins recap | The Opinionated Gamers

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