Type: Worker Placement / Euro

Time to play: 150 – 190 minutes (Teaching: 20 – 25 minutes)

Best played with: 4 Player (2 – 4 Players)

Okay…so let’s start with the slight odd categorisation – this isn’t really worker placement but worker pick up! You might think this is a very “in the weeds” comment to start a review with but it is right at the core of this game. It is the balance of action selection and efficiency that is going to keep you scratching your head throughout this game.

Every worker you pick up determines the action you play right then. Every different colour of worker that you pick up before resetting your board will cost you more money. This is a constant conflict between actions that you want and money that you will need. Too much of one and you will lose – too little and you will lose.

The last time I played I punished my late game score by refusing to be inefficient – taking workers of one or two colours on each reset of the board. However that really restricted my ability to grow my points through actions. That is despite playing this game so many times that I typically score highly…

Anyway, that’s enough lamenting and time to say more about the game. This is a game of building an economy – buying factories, upgrading them, running them and then selling the goods they produce. You are one of the major conglomerates that have dominated the history of Japan – producing multiple goods and distributing them locally and internationally.

To build factories you will need money and blueprints; to run factories you will need coal and … well time. This is all a series of actions that you want to run as often as you can, but will struggle to. Also, it’s no good producing more goods than you can deliver into those markets.

So, now you built and ran an economy and you have shipped it internationally for money (and victory points) or locally for an accumulation of victory points for dominance. If you are following all this, then apologies for the next bit – because if all that was intuitive let’s add trains and boats that impact your dominance and your victory points for regions because you own the infrastructure.

Now if all of the above was in a simple worker placement with equivalent workers and a simple scoring system, well then this game would be a mid-weight euro with plenty to learn. However, that’s just not the end of it – you will be choosing between those coloured workers, you will be thinking about when the round might end and therefore when areas will be scored. This takes it to the next level.

The macro factors of the game then are very clever – you control your reset period for workers and at each reset you choose a multiplier that you will score at the end. A reset that will cost you time but earn you money and coal. A multiplier that leaves you with a “build your own victory condition” structure. Perhaps you want to score a little for everything or perhaps you want to score a lot for the things you do well – either is viable.

When to reset, when to take each action? Well the game uses those workers that I mentioned to also run the game clock. Every time a pair of actions is played three times the worker pool is updated – after a certain number of updates the worker pool is entirely reset. This is the end of one of three rounds and one of three scoring phases for local dominance.

Scoring can occur at different times – concentrations of actions across players can lead to scoring earlier or indeed if the players pursue a variety of strategies then the game may play longer. Which will favour your actions? Hard to say.

Again, through all of these choices you are in the driving seat – effecting the length of the game, the cost of your turns and the actions you can take. Everything is always available (unlike some action selection) but it comes at a cost. Again, not a pure cost in isolation but a cost for the combination you choose.

Personally to get through all of that, I think you will need to play for years, but in the interim I think you will find lots to enjoy along the way. Clearly, this isn’t the game for everybody though. Firstly, it’s long and complex – this is a brain burn that we take a long time to play and I suspect you will too.That can be very frustrating for some groups – especially those that get stuck with analysis paralysis.

The other note of warning is this map is not Indonesia, but it’s complex and it takes a while to get to grips with it. There’s variability with the set up (goods in different quantum and locations), but you may struggle to navigate it at first and this can further the analysis paralysis.

Lastly, in my photo I have put some things in the bowls to keep components together – this is helpful, really helpful. These don’t come with the game and you may find the game quite busy without them.

Last notes;

  • If you like a complex marathon where you can really follow many paths for points, this one is a cracker
  • If you hate the downtime of other people’s turns…. watch out
  • If you win, the goods will be different next time, and other players will be watching out!