Review – Singapore from White Goblin Games
Designer – Peer Sylvester
Art – Alexandre Roche
Many thanks to White Goblin Games for providing a review copy of this game
Guest Reviewer – Alan Hatcher
Singapore is a strategy game for 3 to 4 players, ages 12 and up.
I have to say from the outset that this was one of the games that caught my eye from the word go ahead of Essen 2011, simply because of the fantastic artwork and design of the game. But it was not one that I immediately picked up because of the limited player range; most of my gaming is either in a larger group or two player. So I was very exited when Mark gave me the chance to review Singapore and I was not disappointed, when I eventually found the right number of players.
The components are very nicely done. The exterior artwork carries through the game very well and fits the theme perfectly. All the components are high quality, as you would expect from White Goblin Games, and my only gripe is the small player screens that kept falling over.
In the box you will find:
A start tile and 6 land tiles, together with 42 building tiles,
55 wooden Streets and a black hut,
80 Goods cubes in 4 colors representing tea, brick, textiles and opium, (yes that’s right opium)
1 Victory track and 4 markers,
8 Colored pawns, two for each player,
4 player screen
56 lot markers, 14 for each player in their own colour
Money and a black bag in which goes 16 black chips and 2 white chips
Singapore is set in 1861 at the time Sir Raffles was assigned to set up an outpost of the East India Company and is an interesting game of balancing up legal and illegal trade, and hence risk taking, to ultimately be the most successful land owner.
From the outset Singapore looks like a fairly simple game and the rules only run to three pages but there is hidden depth to this game. Players start by building up the board from the start tile, which has four buildings on it already, and the 6 land tiles. The land tiles have 6 lots on each and vary in price from £0 to £4 and so the aim of the game is fairly simple; players buy up the land, build buildings and move their worker pawns around to gather, sell and trade for victory points; all standard stuff you say but there are a few interesting twists.
The first player is determined by the player furthest back on the player track and is designated the Raffles player. Building tiles are turned up from a stack, as many as there are players plus one more and then the raffles player takes a lot marker from each player and places them on separate lots, connected to previously filled lots, around the board. This is an interesting mechanism; there are plenty of games that use the last on the track first player mechanism, but by allowing them to influence all the players’ actions is very powerful and actively makes players try to move themselves backwards or force the other players forwards, which they can doing by using another player’s buildings.
The next stage sees players taking their actions, which as you can imagine is playing buildings and moving workers to take actions. A worker can move up to three spaces and use up to three buildings including the one they started on to take/buy goods trade, sell and gain victory points. To start with you have one worker until a tile comes out that allows you to add a second one. The second nice twist to this game is the use or placing of illegal buildings with darker colored back grounds; these of course involve opium in some way. Every time you place or use an illegal building you take a chip from the bag, if it is black then you simply place it in front of your player screen but if it is white all players are raided and the person with the most combined black chips and opium must pay £1 for each chip and cube of opium. This was one of the nicest elements of the game and added a nice element of luck set off against the risk you are taking.
The game ends when you can’t lay out another set of tiles and the winner is the person with the most victory points.
Did it work for me?
In a nutshell, yes it did. I have played Singapore several times now and each game felt different enough to keep it interesting. I like the Raffles and illegal building mechanisms that set the game enough apart from all the other tile layer worker placement/movement games to make it worth playing. Nice artwork a very nice theme and a little piece of history I know more about now. The whole game is played out in about two hours for 4 players.
I think the 3 to 4 players in very restrictive and I think that it is very hard for a worker placement or tile laying game to shine out, with so many in the market, and so I doubt that this will become a classic but I think it could be one that people starting thinking of as a hidden gem. Only time will tell.
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 7.5 out of 10
Some people may be concerned by the use of opium in the game but it is historically what happened in Singapore; out of its massive growth in legal goods also came a boom in the opium trade. So put in historical context I don’t see it as a problem. Certainly family friendly but for older children.
For more information go to – http://www.whitegoblingames.com/