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Cartolan: Trade Winds

In Tom Wilkinson's Cartolan - Trade Winds, 2-4 players are setting sail from their home island to explore the seas, find foreign lands and set up trade routes. It's a tile laying game where you'll be placing out new tiles according to whether the tile edge you are traversing is sea or land, and as they game progresses players will be collectively building their shared map.

You each start off with one adventurer meeple and accompanying character card that sets out your adventurer's special abilities. There are special abilities too on the culture and manuscript cards that you pick up with adventurer meeples. On your turn, you'll place out tiles to explore and you can move your meeple over water provided it's in the direction of the wind (indicated in a corner of each tile). The aim is to earn silk by trading with ports but the silk only counts towards your score when you bank it at a city; when it's with your adventurer, it can be fair game for piracy from other players...

You can lay out 'inns' to give you additional movement, tho' in a thematic disjunction the inns can be placed out on sea tiles. Other players can use your inns but they have to pay a silk for the privilege. Silk at inns tho' can also make them more of a target for pirate raids that can steal the silk there and put the ransacked inn out of action.

You aren't limited to just one adventurer - players can have up to four, tho' each extra adventurer comes at a steep 10 silk price tag. As more adventurers enter play tho', the game ratchets up a pace as players rake in the silk from their trade routes. To win, you just need to have banked 15 silk more than any other player, so you need to watch that no-one is racing ahead. If no-one achieves the victory margin or hits a banked 100 silk, the win goes to the player with the most silk when the map tiles run out. In our plays of the prototype shown here on Board's Eye View, we found that players tended to avoid opponents running away with the game so most wins were determined at the stage when the tiles ran out.

We especially enjoyed the piracy rules in Cartolan. If a player built up a large unbanked quantity of silk it made them a juicy target for piracy. Of course, a successful pirate attack means that the pirate is themselves then an attractive target - so we often found an initial act of piracy led to a cascade of attacks, which certainly added to the fun of the game. Attacks tho' aren't a foregone conclusion: success or failure is determined by playing rock/paper/scissors - tho' some of the special abilities on character and manuscript cards can skew the rock/paper/scissors result in a player's favour...

We've enjoyed our early voyages with the prototype for Cartolan, tho' we'll have to wait till June before the game is due to launch on Kickstarter. One to add to the calendar.

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