Spotlight on New Games: The Speicherstadt

Over the past few years, Z-Man Games has edged its way to the top tier of the American board game market, bringing us such well-received titles as the high-end strategy game Agricola and the cooperative adventure game Pandemic. In response to the company’s recent successes, we at Eureka have brought in a large collection of Z-Man’s most intriguing 2010 releases, including Dungeon Lords, Inca Empire and At the Gates of Loyang, among others. As we play our way through this influx of new games, expect a number of blog posts over the next couple weeks detailing our favorites. Today I want to focus on an innovative economic game called The Speicherstadt that immediately won me over.

Speicherstadt means “Warehouse District” in German, and the game takes place in the thriving port city of Hamburg at the dawn of the 20th century. Players take on the role of merchants collecting goods from across the world and directing them toward tradesmen and contracts, while staving off occasional fires by hiring private firefighters. The remarkable feature of the game is its novel bidding mechanic, which is simple enough to appeal to even the youngest strategy game players (around eight years old), yet effectively simulates the basic economic principles of supply and demand – in a way that makes for very intelligent competitive gameplay. Each turn, a series of trade assets – which may include firefighters, ships full of cargo, and a wide variety of specialty cards – is revealed at random. Players have three workers which they send, in turn, to bid on these assets. Each worker gives the player and extra opportunity to buy the item in contention – but also raises the price!

The Speicherstadt fulfills the same role among economic games as Ticket to Ride does among networking games, or Carcassonne among tile-placing games: an excellent introductory game for younger players with enough strategic complexity to interest veteran players as well. It can be played with two to five players, but I particularly recommend it with three or four. The Speicherstadt continues Z-Man’s string of successes in grand fashion, at once novel, intelligent and accessible.

Look out for further reviews of Z-Man’s 2010 lineup in the near future!

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