Updated: Jul 5, 2020
Designer Mac Gerdts is best known for his roundel games (Navegador, Imperial 2030) and his smash hit game Concordia. With Transatlantic, the designer has taken the core mechanics from Concordia and adapted them to create a trading game that moves from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic and from Ancient Rome to the early part of the 20th century.
Transatlantic plays from 2–4 players and you can expect to complete a game in a little over an hour. Though the set-up for Transatlantic feels more complicated than Concordia, gameplay is actually very straightforward. That means this is a game that can be learned fairly quickly and one that can be used to introduce to newcomers to board gaming. Just be warned that you'll need to play in good light because some of the card colours can be difficult to distinguish.
This new game replicates almost exactly the Concordia mechanic of playing a card to take a specified action. For example, playing your Shipyard card allows you to purchase 1 or 2 ships from those in the ship market and then to deploy one of them. The market for the ship cards works in a similar way to the market for the personality cards in Concordia, in that the additional cost of the cards falls as they move to fill slots to the left. In Transatlantic, however, each time a Shipyard card is actioned, the ship that remains in the most leftward slot is removed altogether from the market and moved to the 'dock' (out of the game but it contributes to the multiplier for trains of its colour for the purposes of end-game scoring). This adds a neat twist to the mechanics. Just as the Shipyard card mirrors Concordia’s Senator, so, for example, the Ship Agent replicates Concordia’s Diplomat (copy the action from a card played by another player).
Although the actions on the cards are mostly very similar to their parallels in Concordia, the dynamics of play in Transatlantic will mean their use differs. For example, the Director card closely mirrors Concordia’s Tribune in enabling a player to take back to his hand the cards he has previously played but it also allows the player to take and immediately play one of the five ‘extension cards’ on display. This makes the Director notably more powerful than the Tribune, so the game imposes limitations on when this card can be played.
In a departure from Mac Gerdts’ best-known previous games, this game has no central playing board. Instead, ship cards are placed out on different seas or ‘regions’ of the Atlantic which function if not as a playing board then at least as a card mat. Players have individual boards where they collect markers that grant additional functions during play and which score for completed rows at the end of the game. For example, a player is awarded a blue riband marker when they place out the fastest ship in the New York/North Atlantic region. The ships that players buy generate victory points at the end of the game but they also generate points when they are taken out of service because they have been superseded by newer vessels. Part of this game, then, is about working out how best to place out your ships so that you maximise the benefit you will get from their eventual obsolescence.
If you have a particular interest in the history of steamships, you will be especially enthralled by Transatlantic. You will admire the care that has been taken to ensure that all of the ships used in the game represent real ships that plied the Atlantic. You will particularly appreciate the booklet supplied which outlines the history of each of the 50 ships featured in the game. For those less captivated by the theme, this game could suffer from its inevitable comparison with Concordia. It makes a change from that game, and it will definitely appeal to Concordia’s legion of fans, but it doesn’t top Concordia. The rules incorporate a couple of variants, so you'll be able to keep this game fresh. It's never going to supplant the development of trade routes in the classical world but it has its own stylistic appeal. Transatlantic is definitely one to check out.