Mainports is the third nautically themed Euro game by Hans van Tol in the 'Ports of Europe' series. The game is published by The Game Master BV. It's a simple card-driven pick-up-and-deliver game for 2-4 players, using a rondel for action selection. Players will send their ship(s) across Europe seeking to fulfil lucrative contracts as efficiently as possible, reinvesting profits into technologies that bring powerful bonuses, all with the aim of finishing with the most money when the 20th contract has been completed (or being the first to €1 million, depending on the game mode chosen).
The streamlined simplicity of the game makes it very easy to learn, and it can be used as an excellent introduction to the pick-up-and-deliver genre. Having said that, there is plenty of strategic depth and replayability to appeal to experienced gamers too - particularly thanks to the technology cards, which are powerful enough to change your game plan depending on which you purchase. There is also a second side to the board which has additional rules, adding to the complexity of the logistics as you consider sea transport in addition to the river routes, making the game more challenging.
The rules are so brief that a number of situations are unclear (in the English rules at least) and will require house-ruling (or referring to BoardGameGeek), but this isn't too problematic. The components and Wim Euverman's artwork may appear quite basic, but that might appeal to non-gamers who are used to Monopoly and Risk, but some design choices are frustrating (for example, similar colours used for the goods, and cards that don't have their value shown in the corner for easy fanning). Nevertheless, this is a fun and challenging medium-weight game with good replayability that should appeal to new and veteran gamers alike.
(Review by Matt Young)