Initially launched on Kickstarter, Import/Export is a beautifully designed game from Dark Flight. The designer, Jordan Draper, has built unashamedly on the mechanics first developed in the currently out-of-print Glory To Rome and recycled by GTR designer Carl Chudyk in his more recent games, including Mottainai and Uchronia.
Plastic cubes and (in the deluxe Captain edition) plastic model ships aside, this means that Import/Export is essentially a card game. Like its forebears though, it is a card game where all of the cards have multiple uses. Players control shipping companies and they are competing to earn money by loading containers onto ships and fulfilling contracts, each of which boosts your capabilities. Like Glory to Rome, the action chosen by the active player (the Captain) can be copied by the other players; so there is a need for canny players to keep a close eye on what opponents are trying to achieve (and on their special capabilities) to avoid taking an action that benefits them more than it does you.
Because Import/Export is building on an already well-established mechanic, it plays seamlessly and you will admire the elegance of the design as the game unfurls. Unlike previous games that utilise similar mechanics, the cards in Import Export are all unique: there are lots of cards of each type, of course, but no two have the same contract powers on them. This means that the game can play out quite differently each time you play; and that’s before you add in any of the four mini-expansions. Import/Export introduces an auction element and opportunities for piracy; neither of which directly correspond to elements in Glory To Rome. These add spice to the gameplay, although neither turn this into an overtly aggressive ‘take that’ game.
Nevertheless, Import/Export is a game where you may well find yourself cursing. Though there are several potential actions available to players, these are dependent on you having matching cards. Sometimes the card you have permitting an action is the very card you want to use for one of its other functions. And, be warned, Import/Export can be quite unforgiving: if you make a bad call (for example, going for a contract that you cannot readily complete or overbidding in an auction), you can find yourself scuppered with virtually ‘wasted’ turns.
Import/Export is a game that is both challenging and rewarding. If you’ve not previously played other games with multi-use cards, you may find it initially daunting but after a couple of turns you’ll have got to grips with the different ways in which you can utilise the cards and you’ll quickly be on the lookout for how best to use the available cards to build the most effective economic engine. This is definitely one to check out. It’s a game you’ll likely to be playing again and again.