#020 Taiwan (2018)
Designer: Bob Yang
Board Artist: Hua-Hai Chen
Card Artist: Benevolence
Publisher: Good Game Studio
Player Count: 2-5
Time: 40-60 minutes
World War II has just ended. The Japanese occupation is over. Taiwan will soon enter its golden age of rapid industrialization and economic growth known as the Taiwan Miracle. Lead your construction company to international fame and vast fortune by buying and fulfilling contracts, building iconic Taiwanese landmarks, and donating vast fortunes to charity. TAIWAN is a card drafting engine building country designing board game from Taiwanese publisher Good Game Studio. Engineer your destiny! Construct your legacy! Build Taiwan!
Each of round Taiwan is played through a series of 5 phases. For ease of play, each player board comes with a super clear player guide. Let’s walk through it together, shall we?
1. Dice Phase: In clockwise order, players take turns rolling their dice once and obtaining the resource results on each die rolled. Players roll at least 2 dice but may purchase another die for $5. Players can not roll more than 7 dice. In our example photo, we rolled: 2 workers, 1 merchant, 1 steel, 1 brick, and 2 stone.
2. Action Phase: In clockwise order, players take as many actions they like and can afford. Charity: Pay $5 and 2 resources to increase your fame in one of four regions in Taiwan. Having area majority by end game scores a good amount of points. Over Time: Push cards on your player board one space to the right to shorten construction time. Exchange resources: There are multiple ways to exchange resources in the game. Players will do this solely for the most important action—buying cards!
3. Building Phase: During the building phase, buildings slide one space to the right. If any buildings slide off your player board, they’re completed and the card effects immediately activate.
4. Income Phase: Everyone gets $15.
5. Cleanup Phase: Players may only keep up to 5 resources and must discard all workers and merchants. The player to the left of the current starting player becomes the new starting player for the next round.
When 2/3/4/5 decks of building cards and/or landmark cards are depleted in a 2/3/4/5-player game, the end game is triggered. Players will have one more additional round before the game ends. Players score points from built cards, partially built cards, and having area majority in the four main regions of Taiwan. The player with the highest score wins TAIWAN!
The one big gripe that everyone has with Taiwan (the game) sticks out like Taipei 101 in the Taipei city skyline—those dice. Sure, there are a few cards that help mitigate the random input and resources given by the dice; however with so few dice rolled, it can be quite painful on some turns. Sure, bigger projects take a few turns to stock up for, but a bad roll can delay production for a turn or two. It can be quite frustrating. Why the designer didn’t go with the 2 free re-roll Yahtzee/King of Tokyo mechanic is beyond me. I’ve seen and played games with this house rule and it doesn’t add much time to the game.
Now for the flood of Cardboard East nitpicks and criticisms. They’re not so much nitpicks as they are disappointments due to wasted opportunities. The board for this game is ridiculously huge. No. It’s huge—seriously huge. My gaming table is quite big, but Taiwan’s footprint (island board, player boards, and resources) eats up most of the table. The main island board is way too big. It could have been half its size with the drafted cards placed next to the map, and I would have been more than happy with that. Players sitting on the northern end of the island may have a hard time reading the cards as they’re mostly on the southern end of the island. Reading upside down may not be ideal for some players.
The player boards are way too big as well and could have been easily reduced to half in size. The detailing and local tribal artwork on the bottom right corner of the player is great, but it’s rather unnecessary. If the player boards and main island board were smaller in size, then the game box could have been a more manageable size. It’s not as big as Xia, Twilight Imperium 3, Star Trek Fleet Captains, or Eclipse: First Edition, but it still eats up a lot of valuable shelf space. The new sized box would also have been the proper Thunderstone sized box, complete with card slots. Any deck builder that doesn’t follow the built in card slot inserts model from AEG’s Thunderstone series is doing something wrong in my opinion. Oh yeah, and why is there no first player token?!? A little Taipei 101 mini (or a Taiwanese black bear wink wink) would have been perfect!
I would have liked to have seen more card variety. There are 20 building cards and 12 are chosen each game. 20 cards can get a little samey after a few games. A base game of Dominion plays with 10 out of 25 kingdom cards. It really feels like a missed opportunity to not have printed out 10 or 20 more kinds of cards. For a game celebrating Taiwan, I would have loved to have had the money look like actual Taiwanese money instead of uninspired colored tokens with block numbers. If you haven’t seen Taiwanese money, it’s bright and colorful—perfect for a board game.
Taiwan is a game I feel I shouldn’t like. The board’s too big. The player boards are ugly. The dice are too random. The size of the box belies the true weight of the game; it’s really simple. But I like this game. I live in Taiwan and I admit I am slightly biased, but I really like this game. There’s an undeniable charm to this simple city/tableau builder. The ease of play combined with its speed create a light-hearted, fun, and colorful environment to explore. Rolling your dice on the ridiculously big main board is fun. Seeing those colorful dice roll across the actual island of Taiwan is ridiculously fun. Sure you could roll your dice somewhere else on the table, but NO. Why would you possibly do that instead of rolling on the island?! Maybe the board could be smaller, but then I wouldn’t be able to tumble my dice across the Taiwanese mountain line. Seeing clouds on the board, makes it almost feel like your gods rolling for resources from up on high.
Yes, the individual player boards are ugly, but wow is that player guide super clear and concise. I literally just taught the game as we played the first round together. After that, no one needed any help what-so-ever. That was true for every single group I played it with across all age groups and player counts. The game play is smooth and consistent across all player counts. The money is ugly but super clear. The resources are big and bright. The iconography in the game is clear and intuitive. Clarity is something that is often sorely missing in modern board games, and Taiwan has it in spades.
The card art is fantastic. Thank you for not using stills or stock footage. The places on the cards not only actually exist but the card art is detailed and exact. The woman behind the counter in the Lottery Office is wearing the actual uniform. The Tax Office cards looks exactly like the entrance to the tax office. There’s this great attention to detail with the cards that shouldn’t go under appreciated. The landmark cards look exactly like the actual landmarks! It’s crazy! Even the box art is taken from an actual street corner across the street from Taipei 101!
Taiwan also plays in under an hour, and it’s a fast hour, too. Momentum ramps up quickly in this game. The interactive red cards can be quite vicious and mean; however, they’re really easy and quick to counter. Like most good deck/tableau/engine building games, they end before you know it—leaving a lingering aftertaste that makes you crave for more. And this is how I feel with Taiwan. I really like it, but I want more—more cards, more colors, more dice, better player boards. MORE.
GoodGameStudio is a Taiwanese publisher that breaks my heart. Their two designs this year were really good games, but they were both riddled with missed design opportunities that would have made them stronger games. However, at their core are solid mechanics that create fun and memorable gaming moments that can be enjoyed by all. If that sounds like the games you look for to fill out your shelves, I recommend you give Taiwan a try!
Gamer: Cardboard East recommends TAIWAN for gamers looking for lighter tableau building games with grandiose table presence. Gamers interested in Taiwanese architecture and culture will have exploring and appreciating the fantastic artwork. The cards are also double-sided: English and Chinese. If you’re looking to brush up on some traditional Chinese characters, Taiwan’s a great purchase for you.
Family: Cardboard East highly recommends TAIWAN for casual gamers interested in slightly heavier games or who are curious about exploring tableau engine building games. Taiwan is great with kids 10 and up. They’ll enjoy the bright and colorful components and seeing their engine quickly gain momentum. The board state is incredibly easy to read so helping out or younger gaming buddies will be quite easy.
Party: Cardboard East does not recommend TAIWAN for the party environment; however it is simple enough for gamers to enjoy with a glass of their favorite booze.