See my previous posts on this game about the pre-European trade ties between Swahili coastal nations and dynastic China through Indian Ocean trade routes. I swear it's less dry than it sounds. The basic idea remains a card drafting game with a twist:
At the beginning of the game, you have a hand of cards much like in 7 Wonders or Sushi Go, but you also have a personalized Ship card in your hand that is in your player-color. You also have a personalized tableau representing your port. To play, players pass their hand to the left and trade one card from the new ship for one card from their port, then pass again. Thus, each hand remains the same size throughout play and eventually ships will return to their home port, carrying an eclectic mix of cargo.
One problem with this idea is that the tableau is public information, so savvy players may see what an opponent is giving up from their tableau, then change their mind about their own trade. This little dance could continue indefinitely, which isn't very fun. So instead, I am making ports something like a personalized Guillotine or Bohnanza-style queue:
- Your port is a line of cards that are ready to trade with incoming ships.
- You must give up the card in your port furthest to the right, which is considered the front of the line.
- You may take a card of your choice from the ship at your port, but it must be placed at the back of the line.
- Each card has a movement icon, indicating whether you can move a card of your choice 0, 1, or 2 cards forward in line.
Imagine this sort of like the action cards and noble cards in Guillotine combined into a single card. You have to be careful about which cards you keep because they may put valuable cards at risk of trade. The scoring and tactics would be more based on set collection though:
- Perishable Goods: If you have fewer than __ perishable goods cards, total ranks on those cards are penalty points.
- Over __, positive points.
- Rare Goods: If you have more than __ rare goods cards, total ranks on those cards are penalty points.
- Below __, penalty points.
- Bulk Goods: Whoever has the most bulk cards, gets points equal to their total rank.
- Second place: Half of their total rank in points.
- Fashionable Goods: Whoever has the fewest fashionable cards gets points equal to their total rank.
- Second place: Half their total rank in points.
- In addition, these categories have individual values on a market board. Players score a flat rate of points for each card in a category.
Some sets also offer tactical advantages for subsequent rounds.
- Gold: The player with most gold raises or lowers a two category values by 2.
- Second place: two by one.
- Everyone else: one by one.
- Players may adjust a value that has already been adjusted this round.
- Crew: Whoever has the most, may trade 1:2 or 2:1 twice in the next round.
- Second place: Once.
- Port: Whoever has the most gets two more cards in their port in the next round.
- Second place: One.
- Fleet: Whoever has the smallest fleet gets two pirate tokens.
- Whoever has the second-smallest, gets one.
When you trade, you have the option to set aside your taken card face-down beside your port. After scoring, players may take upgrades.
- Whoever has the fewest points takes the first turn.
- On your turn, you can take the first of a set of Advantage cards which will upgrade your port with special abilities.
- If you don't want this card, you may skip it by placing a face-down card beside it.
- Whoever takes an upgrade card can also take any face-down cards beside them, adding them to their tableau in the next round.
Any cards in a port are discard. Cards in returning ships become the new port and a new hand of cards is drawn to begin a future round.
And that's my current outline.
My main concern is keeping the game distinct enough from 7 Wonders and Sushi Go. 7 Wonders is the definitive drafting game, in my mind, while Sushi Go is the best introductory drafting game. Among the Stars distinguishes itself by being a tile-placement game with drafting. I wonder if the market board and queue mechanic would be sufficient. If the market board is too much, I can remove it, but then that's one less thing to distinguish the game. What do you think?