Precious Cargo from Winning Moves Games works perfectly as an introduction to multi-level strategy for young gamers as well as a great lighter strategy game for experienced gamers. It plays more like checkers than the classic dueling strategy game chess thanks to its potential for players to upgrade. Just like kinging a piece, players can improve their ships to have more power on the board, but they will have to choose which actions to make when.
The art in Precious Cargo leaps off the board to create an immersive experience worthy of the mastermind merchants of yore. Two neighbor countries, Koruna and Talonas, are eager to trade their wares with one another. The players are competing merchants, seeing who can become rich the soonest by directing their fleets across the trade routes and back with valuable goods. Cargoes are represented by colored wooden blocks with regular foodstuffs worth the least and fine spices or rich ores worth the most.
A game of Precious Cargo begins with each player holding one ship with one sail at a home settlement, denoted by each player’s Governor token. Commodity chips are drawn at random and placed on the board to show what that settlement is eager to buy. Players then race to make the deliveries and collect their pay, racing to be the first to collect 25 coins.
Precious Cargo is an excellent mix of strategy and social play by studying an opponent. There is a touch of randomness as to where commodities will be for each particular game, which boosts replayability since players will have to recalculate the most advantageous route. Overall, players will have to continuously watch their opponent to keep up with improvements. As actions, players may build an additional ship or add sails to make a ship move faster. Alternately, players could install a new Governor to claim a settlement for extra income or push one ship to move an extra space along its route.
While improving a fleet in Precious Cargo is a must, players will have to carefully judge how many actions should be spent improving rather than pushing ahead with what they have. The end goal is to collect coins, so a player constantly buying more sails will have an extremely fast fleet only to find his opponent actually closer to the goal of winning. Each player will have to decide the optimal action for each turn since the best strategy will change depending on what an opponent does.
Precious Cargo is a strategy board game for two players aged ten and up. It is a medium-length game, lasting about half an hour depending on how quickly the players make their moves. Some players may focus on adding sails as quickly as possible to move while others might have slow ships with more cargo space. Crafty players may even use a blockading technique to lock out an opponent from a valuable payday by sitting ships in both port spots and sending them to a lesser settlement. There is no one perfect way to play, except to study an opponent to beat their every move.
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