Review – Navegador from PD-Verlag, designed by Mac Gerdts, artwork by Mac Gerdts and Marina Fahrenbach
please note that PD-Verlag provided a copy of this game for review purposes.
The “Rondel” mechanic. Yes, I’d heard of it but I’ve never played a game with it. Mac Gerdts had designed the Rondel Series of games including Antike, Hamburgum, Imperial, Imperial 2030 and now Navegador, a game for 2-5 players aged 12+, comes along. I’d heard of all of the other games in the series and for some reason or another I’d never come across them and hence I was a Rondel mechanic noob as it were. Adding to the problem, I guess, is that I tend to lean a bit away from Euro games as I have often found them dry and mechanics focused, with a painted on theme which didn’t matter. A generalization, I know but such has been my experience.
Now, being a history buff, and having a fascination with early European explorers, I was interested to dip my toe in the water and try out a Euro with this theme and Navegador, at least what I read about it, seemed like a good choice. But would it just be yet another dry Euro which is all abut the mechanics with the theme tacked on and meaningless?
Navegador is based on the Portuguese Age of Discoveries in the 15th-16th century. Players take actions such as contracting men, acquiring ships and buildings, sailing the seas, establishing colonies in discovered lands, trading goods on the market, and getting privileges, all with the goal of becoming the most successful at building the Portuguese empire! The last game I played like this was the old Spi version of Conquistador so it would be interesting to see how these types of games have evolved.
The first thing that I noticed was a simply beautiful game. From the box, with its gorgeous painting of Henry the Navigator, to the wonderfully beautiful, yet functional game board with period looking map, to the colourful pieces representing colonies, explorers, ships, money, goods and workers. Ok, the wooden pieces could have been more creative and are functional at best but they look fine on the board. The board itself is mostly a period map with areas for movement and colony locations. There are also areas to track goods in the Market, a Gallery of Portuguese Explorers to track privileges, an area to purchase Buildings, an area to track how many workers you have and finally there is the Rondel which is used to managed the game turn process.
Navegador takes place in three phases. Phase 1 concerns exploration and colony building from Portugal to the South Atlantic region. Once a player sails into and beyond Cabo de Boa Esperanca (around the Horn of Africa) Phase 2 is triggered, with higher costs to explore and colonize as far as Goa. Once Malaca is entered and passed, the final Phase three is triggered as players go for the far East area of Nagasaki.
The game turn play is entirely governed using the Rondel which is a circle with sections for each action that players can take. These include –
Sailing – Ships travel to different regions. Unexplored regions need to be entered by at least two ships as one ships is lost. In return an explorer is gained and the player recieves funds amounting to the price of the cheapest colony that can be built at that location.
Workers – Workers are recruited
Market (2 phases) – Goods are sold with colonies or processed with factories. Decisions as to whether sell or process will depend on the current market value potential.
Colony – Here is where your recruitment of workers pays off as each colony you have requires workers in Lisboa and a ship in the same region as the colony.
Privilege – Here you can gain a privilege for a worker which can gain you a bonus at the end of the game.
Ships – You need to build ships!
Buildings – You can build new buildings when you have enough funds and workers.
The new discovery for me is that rather than have a linear process, players choose which phase in the Rondel they start the game. The following phases allow you to progress up to 3 action spaces around the Rondel for free and further at a cost to take the action you feel next fits with your strategy. What is really cool about this is that you can choose from multiple strategies on which to focus. Build up resources and then explore? Push the other players by exploring sooner with the risk and reward that that entails? Stick with 1-2 goods or diversify? Lots of choices but you are not hamstrung by having to take every action. You choose your action order according to how you want to play it. .
The downside of this , like many Euros is that it really doesn’t lend itself to much player interaction as each player is focused on their own strategy. But I think that you have enough to think about let alone how to cross your neighbor.
Did it work for me?
Now THIS is the kind of Euro I can enjoy. The historical theme works well as you progress through the three discovery phases. You get a real sense of progress and exploration and the challenges of what is essentially a race. It doesn’t take too long to play which is good and a real plus (up to 90 minutes is about right). You get a sense of the history and flow of the actions without burning your brain too much and getting lost in the detail. This game allows you to play rather then sit ther fighting to figure out the mechanics. There are different but not an overwhelming number of areas of focus on to gain Victory Points. I love the Rondel mechanic and how it gives you the opportunity to work out different strategies and enable a challenge of decision making. This lends itself to a different gaming experience each time you play. Top class artwork for sure. The rules were pretty clear. This is lovely game.
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 7 out of 10
With older children 12+, yes. They should be able to pick up the game and they can learn a bit about the era of Exploration. And, its a fun game!
For more information about PD Verlag games got to – http://www.pd-verlag.de/spiele/index.html