#015 Discovery: The Era of Voyage (2018)
Publisher: EmperorS4 & A.I.Lab.遊
Published: 2018 (2015)
Player Count: 2-4
Time: 10-40 minutes
A 3-year-old Japanese game gets a 2018 reprint from a Taiwanese publisher and it shares the same name of one of my favorite albums of all time--aka the Daft Punk's 2001 robotic pop odessey electronic classic?!?!? Strap on your seatbelts dear readers! We're blasting off to Interstella 5555!!!!! (This article was completely written to all 14 tracks of the 2001 Discovery album. Listen to it while reading to glimpse inside my mind palace.)
01. One More Time 5:20
大航の時代 Era of Voyage was first published in 2015 by A.I.Lab.遊 (アイラボユウ, pronounced "Airaboyu"). A.I.Lab.遊 is a Japanese doujin publisher. While "doujinshi" refers to self-published works (including magazines, manga, novels, anime, video games, board games, and more), it often suggests the publishers are amateur designer collectives or business professionals wanting to publish outside the regulated industry. Doujin collectives are often dedicated to working as a collective team, and therefore do not identify any one person as the sole designer. Doujin publishers are typically very small and have been known to use copy-righted material (think fan fiction), which make some doujinshi highly sought after commodities. For the last few years, 大航の時代 Era of Voyage was one such property. It originally came in a wooden box and had an incredibly small print run. In 2017, Taiwanese publisher EmperorS4 obtained the rights and in the summer of 2018, published 大航海時代 Discovery: The Era of Voyage!
02. Aerodynamic 3:27
Smooth, space-age, sexified components!
03. Digital Love 4:58
If had you pre-ordered Discovery in Taiwan, then you would have received a special promo expansion--origami boats! While I haven't had the time to crack mine open yet, I love it when publishers add these little things to games!
04. Harder Better Faster Stronger 3:45
There isn't a better TL;DR review than: Harder Better Faster Stronger. Discovery: The Era of Voyage is a lightning fast pick-up and deliver game. There aren't many mechanics to the game. In fact, an introduction game can be set up, taught, played, and packed away in less than 30 minutes. Fast games like this are hard to be negative about as they’re lightning quick and never outstay their welcome.
In Discovery, you play merchants (pirates) who travel to various islands to buy, sell, and trade goods. Your ultimate goal is to have enough goods to buy (invest in) the islands you’re visiting. Investing gives you points. Whoever has the most points wins.
05. Crescendolls 3:31
Game Flow. On your turn, you’ll only do three things: (1) move your ship (mandatory), (2) trade at your location (optional), and (3) invest in your current location (optional).
06. Nightvision 1:44
Move. This is by far the the most complicated part of the game.
If you’re on the white center island (card), you may move to any other outer island. After moving, you must immediately decide if your ship will be facing clockwise or counterclockwise. Your ship won’t be able to switch directions until it revisits the center island.
If you’re on an outer island, you may move your ship 1 to 2 spaces but only in the direction it’s facing. You may pay extra to move farther: 3 spaces for $1, 4 spaces for $3, and 5 spaces for $6.
If you’re on an outer island, you may move your ship back to the center island.
If your ship ends its movement on an island that has another player’s ship, you must pay a tariff of $1 each to every player already on the island. If you don’t have enough money to pay the tariff(s), you CANNOT move to the island. Tariffs are never paid on the center island.
07. Superheroes 3:57
Income. Why was the new pirate movie rated Arrr?! For all the gratuitous booty!!!
You landed on an island! What next? We pillage, we plunder, we rifle, and loot! (You know. Gain income.) Take the base income as noted on the island your ship is currently on. (The beach resort card above gives a bas income of $2.)
If you had one investment marker on this island, you would get $2 + $1.
If you had two investment markers on this island, you would get $2 + $1 + $5.
If you have three investment markers on this island, you would get $2 + $1 + $5.
The order of the extra income can be taken in any order. While it may not matter for the cushy beach resort island, it will matter on other islands.
08. High Life 3:22
Invest! Keep your head high and your middle finger higher.
You’ve sailed your ship. You’ve gotten your income. Now it’s time to invest! Pay the resources marked at the top of the island card to place one investment marker on the card. Remember investment markers increase the income you receive from repeated visits this island card.
Each investment marker for the gold mine island below costs 2 fruit and 2 spice.
ARRRR! You CANNOT invest in an island if one player already has three investment markers on the island. If you have three investment markers on an island, you CANNOT invest anymore on that particular island.
09. Something About Us 3:51
The final round is triggered when (1) there the Cultural Island (the sole purple island) no longer has any VP tokens, (2) a player has no more investment markers, or (3) all islands are unavailable for investment. The current round finishes, so players all have equal turns.
Final Scoring. Players gain VP from having the most investments on an island (see top left corner). Players gain VP from any VP tokens received during game play. Tie breaker order: number of investments, number of islands invested on, number of resources in cargo hold, later turn order.
10. Voyage 3:47
Negatives. Components. The rulebook. I hate saying that Asian board game companies have trouble with English proofreading, but they do. There were punctuation, capitalization, and an image error or two; however, the rules were comprehendible, clear, and concise. The card quality isn't great. Not every game needs cards with linen finish, but no game needs cards that spin. Yeah, you read that right. Spin. Eight spinning islands is enough to make you flip the table. Also the cards chip quite easily around the edges. I wasn't too happy about that. Thankfully, I sleeved my cards and usually play on a table cloth, so this really isn't an issue anymore. EmperorS4 reused the boats from Burano. While it was nice to take a trip down memory lane, the boats weren't the most functional for Discovery. It could be a little difficult to tell which way a player's boat was facing--an important mechanic of the game. This complaint was mentioned by quite a few players, especially the non-gamers. After a round or two of play though, it was easy to simply remember which way each player's boat was facing.
While the game includes several cards to ensure the island layout is different each game, there is an optimal strategy that does dominate the opening moves—gold. The majority of points come from investments. Gold is a necessary investment resource for most of the islands. Whoever is able to gain gold the most efficiently early on, gains a tremendous lead. If the other players don’t counter this, or are unable to see this, then the “gold rusher” could run away with the game. Most of the games I played the “gold rusher” only won by 1-4 points, but it is worth mentioning. This could make the game feel “samey” and unfulfilling after a few plays.
11. Verdis Quo 5:44
Is it good for the family? YES. If you’d like to introduce someone to pick-up and deliver games, this would be an ideal place to start. It’s simple. There’s meat. It’s fast. While gamers could knock a game out fairly quickly, a non-gamer might take their time. You could easily see that play time go up as the non-gamer count increases.
There isn’t much interaction in the game other than tariffs and locking out other players from investing, but that is a strength to this game. Down time is dramatically decreased as players can easily plan their next turn or turns without being blocked. In fact, it’s quite easy to plan out several turns ahead, which leads us to…
12. Short Circuit 3:26
HOLY SHORT CIRCUIT BATMAN!!! Remember that 10 minute play time? That was clocked with a three player game. Know any other pick-up & deliver games that play under 10 minutes? Once players know how to play, game play can become lightning fast. It's quite shocking. You could debate whether or not that is fulfilling, but by the end of your discussion we would have finished another game.
This is where Discovery really shines. Remember, the majority of your victory points will come from your investments. Also remember that players can lock out other investments by being the first player to place three investment markers on an island. By the second act of the game, players will soon discover they’re in a deadly race to the finish line. Who will place the final investment marker? When will the game end? Where should I invest? Should I decrease my opponent’s score or increase mine? How can I be slightly more efficient than my opponent? These are all the questions that will be swirling around in your noggin. The ultra fast game play will spin those swirling questions into a high energy, super intense typhoon. You’ll be riding that lightning and thunder all the way to a glorious victory or a dismal defeat.
The speed and the simplicity of this game work extremely well together—each one building upon the other. It turned what could have been a mediocre pick-up and deliver game into something incredibly unique.
13. Face to Face 3:58
Two-player? There are rules for a two-player game. They include using player controlled pirate ships (the two unused ships). While the game was functional at two, I wasn’t too impressed. The racing element didn’t have enough tension, and the semi-player controlled ships felt under utilized. It’s not bad. It’s good. It’s just not good enough that I would like to consistently revisit when there are more captivating strictly two-player games out there.
Three is where this game really shines.
14. Too Long 10:00
Gamer: Cardboard East strongly recommends Discovery for a portable (small box) lightning fast (under 15 minutes) pick-up & deliver filler game.
Family: Cardboard East recommends Discovery for introducing new gamers and non-gamers to pick-up and deliver games.
Party: Cardboard East does not recommend this game for the party environment; however, the game is simple enough to enjoy with a glass of your favorite booze.