Radio Review #60 – Sail to India

 

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(2014 – AEG)

 

“Is there something I can send you from across the sea….from the place that I’ll be landing?….”

 

In 2012, Japanese designer Hisashi Hayashi released a small deck-building game at Essen entitled, Trains. Although many deck-builders had come before it, Trains did an amazing job of implementing a thematic purpose to the building of a player’s deck of cards, essentially in that they were building their network of rails and train stations. Publisher AEG brought it to the U.S. in 2013, and it became an instant hit, making its way on numerous Game of the Year lists and awards. Hayashi’s newest imported design Sail to India (also published in the U.S. by AEG) switches from the land of rails to the waters of the sea. Sail to India provides players a more Euro-style game experience, full of resource management, balanced planning, and an impressive amount of strategy encased in a 30-45 minute filler.

In Sail to India, players take command of Portuguese nobles, embarking on expeditions to find an alternate route to the East Indies, an area full of wealth and spices. Along the way, they will discover new lands, each containing various goods, marketplaces, strongholds, churches. Each turn, player are allowed two actions to sail to new lands, collect goods, sell goods, and buy properties. Along the way, players can develop new advancements in order to aid their expeditions. Eventually players will make their way to India, thus triggering each player to take one more turn. At that point, the player with the most Victory Points has won the game.

 

 

 

Components:

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– Lisboa card

 

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– Coastal Land cards

 

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– Personal Player cards

 

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– Victory Point cards

 

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– Technology cards

 

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– Summary cards

 

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– Player markers (one in each player color)

 

 

 

Setup:

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Players will begin their expedition to the East Indies, in the Portuguese capital city of Lisboa (Lisbon). At the beginning of the game, the Lisboa card is placed in the central play area, along with a player marker for each player in the game. These markers will represent ships that can embark and discover new lands, gather goods, settle locations, etc.

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All 12 of the Coastal Land cards are then placed face-down to the right of Lisboa (only 9 are used in a 3-player game; the remaining cards being discarded from the game). These cards will represent new lands as they are discovered, with the Coastal Land on the farthest right side representing India. Before the game starts, the 3 Coastal Lands directly to the right of Lisboa are flipped up. Apparently, these are territories and islands that have been discovered during previous expeditions.

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Each player receives a personal Player card, as well as a Victory Point card. The personal Player card houses the expedition’s bankers, ship builders, and scientists. Players will place their banker along the top row of the card (the Wealth track), according to the point at which they begin the game. For instance, the start player and 2nd player will place their banker on the 2nd spot of their wealth track. The 3rd player will place his on the 3rd spot, and the 4th player on the 4th spot. This helps to negate some of the advantages of going early during a Round’s turn order.

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The ship builder is placed on the 1st space on the Ship track, referenced on the bottom-left portion of the card. This represents how fast a ship can move when taking a move action during a turn. As the ship builder makes advancement along the track, the player can move his ship an increased number of spaces per action.

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Finally, 3 markers representing the scientists on the ship are placed in the section on the bottom-right portion of the card. The player can make up to 3 technological improvements during his expedition, and these markers will be used to do so. There are 3 Technology cards that are placed near the play area that players will be moving their scientists to during the game, in order to make these improvements.

The remaining player markers are placed in a supply area near the board, and each player also receives a summary card, referencing the various actions, goods chart, and settlement bonuses in the game. At the end of setup, the play area should look something like this:

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Gameplay:

Beginning with the start player, each player will take a turn consisting of two actions. Once that player has performed these two actions, play resumes to the next player (moving clockwise) and continues until the end-game conditions are met. A player can choose amongst six different actions to perform on his turn, and can choose to perform two different actions, or two of the same actions. At any time during his turn, the player can choose to return any number of his markers back onto the Lisboa card as a free action. Let’s take a look at what each action involves, and how they work:

 

 

Employ Ships

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The only way to add new ships from the supply to the Lisboa card is to take an Employ Ship action. Players must pay one Wealth on their Player card in order to place one marker of their color from the supply to the Lisboa card. As mentioned before, these markers represent ships that can be moved amongst the various lands during the game.

A quick note about increasing/decreasing Wealth and increasing Victory Points amongst the player’s cards. Each marker can only be responsible for five total units along the track. Once it has reached the end of the track, a new marker must be placed on the track and increased until it also meets its limit. If at any time, the player is awarded Wealth or Victory Points, but the supply contains no more markers of his color and he has met his limit with all of the previous markers he placed on the track, he would not be able to accept the awarded Wealth/Victory Points. When decreasing amounts along the Wealth track, players will decrease the lowest valued marker first, then when it reaches the end, one of the maxed out makers (if any) will decrease. Any markers that are decreased enough that they leave the Wealth track, are returned to the Lisboa card.

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For instance, Player A decides to take the Employ Ship action, and pays one Wealth to place one of his markers onto the Lisboa space from the supply. Taking a look at his Wealth track, he has a total of 8 wealth (a banker responsible for 5 and a banker responsible for 3).

 

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When paying the one point of Wealth needed for this action, he would decrease the banker from the 3rd space and move it to the 2nd space, instead of moving the banker responsible for the max limit of 5. If at any point that banker on the 2nd space was decreased two more spots, the marker would be removed from the track and placed back onto the Lisboa card.

 

 

 

Move Ships

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As an action, players can also choose to move their ships amongst the various known and even unexplored lands. As mentioned before, the amount a player can move a ship when taking this action is determined by how far his ship builder is along the corresponding track on his Player card. So, if the Ship builder was on the 2nd space (as seen above), the player could move a maximum of two spaces with his ship. When taking this action, players can move as many ships as they wish, but each ship is limited to the player’s movement limitation. There are three main steps when moving a ship:

 

 

1.) The Movement – Players can either move a ship from the port of Lisboa to a another coastal land, or they can move between two coastal lands. When moving amongst the various land cards, ships are placed beneath the cards, and there is no maximum number of ships that can be at each coastal land at the same time.

 

 

2.) Discovering New Lands – Once a ship reaches a Coastal Land that has not been previously discovered (is still face-down), the card is flipped up, the player gains 1 Victory Point, and the ship immediately stops its movement. Discovering a new land in this way can only be down by a player once per turn. If the player has revealed the final Coastal Land card in the play area (the card at the far right), this card represents India and thus triggers the end-game.

 

 

3.) Collect Trade Goods – After finishing a ship’s movement, the player can choose to convert this marker into a particular trade good that is listed on the Coastal Land’s card where the ship is currently docked. The player will simply place the marker from the ship area beneath the Coastal Land card, and place it into either of the two good spaces as long as it is unoccupied. There are six different types of Goods in the game; Coffee, Cloth, Gold, Jewels, Spice, and Sugar. When the ship marker is placed onto the good space in this way, it is not longer considered a ship, and now represents that particular type of good.

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For instance, Player B’s (green) ship builder advancement on his Player card track allows his to move two spaces with each ship when taking a Move Ships action. He currently has a ship located at the 4th Coastal Land card, and decides that he wants to move to the right and discover a new land. Even though he is allowed to move two spaces, once he moves one space to the right, he must immediately end that ship’s movement since it is at an undiscovered Coastal Land.

 

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Once there, he flips the card to reveal the new land, consisting of a port with Jewels and Cloth goods. It also contains a Stronghold and a Church (which we’ll talk about in a bit). He decides at the end of his movement action that he wants to convert this ship into a Jewel good, therefore moving the ship marker onto the empty Jewel space.

 

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Selling Goods

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Once a player has collected goods amongst the various new lands, he can choose to sell these goods as an action. The player can sell any number of goods that he wishes for a single action, by simply removing the marker from the goods space and placing it onto the Lisboa card. The player is awarded a combination of Wealth and Victory Points depending on how many different types of goods were sold. Therefore, selling 4 Jewel goods would be the same as selling 1 by itself. Wealth and Victory Points are awarded in the following ways:

 

– Selling only 1 type of Good will award a player 1 Wealth and 0 Victory Points
– Selling 2 different types of Goods will award a player 2 Wealth and 0 Victory Points
– Selling 3 different types of Goods will award a player 3 Wealth and 1 Victory Point
– Selling 4 different types of Goods will award a player 4 Wealth and 1 Victory Point
– Selling 5 different types of Goods will award a player 5 Wealth and 2 Victory Points
– Selling 6 different types of Goods will award a player 6 Wealth and 4 Victory Points

 

 

Settle a Building

When Coastal Land cards are first discovered, they reveal two different types of buildings that can either be Churches, Marketplaces, or Strongholds. Players will gain particular bonuses in the game by settling into and taking ownership of these various buildings. As an action, the player can pay 2 Wealth and move one of their markers currently on that Coastal Land card (or a ship marker below the card), and onto one of the unoccupied building spaces. Lets take a look at each building and how they work:

 

Churches

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– A player will earn 2 Victory Points at the end of the game for each Church they own.

 

 

Marketplaces

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– A player will earn 1 Victory Point at the end of the game for each Marketplace they own. Additionally, when the player uses an action to Sell Goods, the owned Marketplace gives the player a particular type of good (referenced on the marketplace space itself) that he can add to his overall good types being sold.

 

 

Strongholds

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– A player will earn 1 Victory Point at the end of the game for each Stronghold they own. Additionally, when a player moves a ship from the port of Lisboa, he is allowed to place the ship beneath the Stronghold’s coastal land card first, then continue its movement from there as normal.

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For instance, Player C currently has a marker on a Coastal Land card that represents a Gold good. There is an available Marketplace on this card that also contains Gold goods. As an action, he could choose to pay 2 Wealth and move his marker from the individual goods space and take control of the Marketplace.

 

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This would allow him to always sell a Gold good when taking a Sell Goods action, since the marker always stays on this new marketplace space. If he would have left it in the individual goods space, he would have had to move the marker back to the Lisboa card when selling the Gold.

 

 

Advancing Technology

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The 3 Technology cards we placed in the play area during setup of the game each contain numerous technological upgrades that can be used during a player’s expedition. As mentioned before, each player has 3 Scientists available to make these advancements. Each Scientist can create one of the available Technologies (different players can not use the same technology), and once all 3 have been used, player’s are allowed no more. As an action, the player can pay the Wealth listed on the Technology card corresponding to that particular Technology, and place one of their Scientist markers on the Technology space. Players can use these technologies as free actions on their turn. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

 

 

Factory

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– A Scientist can build a Factory for 3 Wealth. With a Factory, when the player takes an action to Sell Goods, he will earn 1 additional Wealth.

 

 

Guild

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– A Scientist can create a Guild for 4 Wealth. With a Guild in place, the player will earn 2 additional Victory Points at the end of the game for each Marketplace the player owns.

 

 

Printing Press

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– A Scientist can build a Printing Press for 1 Wealth. For each additional Scientist that creates a new technology, the Printing Press will gain the player an extra Victory Point. This technology can not be used more than once per turn.

 

 

 

Improve Ships

As mentioned earlier, a ship’s movement speed directly corresponds to how far the Ship Builder marker is along the track on the player’s card. As an action, the player can pay Wealth and increase the marker on this track by 1. This will then allow all of his ships to move an extra space when taking a Move Ship action. The maximum speed on this track is 3.

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As the first action on his turn, Player A decides that he wants to increase the speed of his ships by taking an Improve Ships action. He pays his 2 Wealth and moves his marker from the speed “1” to the speed “2” space. This now gives him the ability to move each of his ships 2 spaces when taking a Move Ships action. Since he has one more action left on his turn, he could in fact choose to use the Move Ships action and move all of his ships up to 2 spaces each.

 

 

 

End-Game Conditions:

The end-game triggers when either the last Coastal Land card has been revealed (representing India) or at least two players have run out of markers in their supply. When either of these occur, the current player completes the rest of their turn, then each other player receives one more turn before the game comes to an end.

Players will then count all Victory Points accumulated from owned Churches, Marketplaces, and Strongholds, as well the amount of Victory Points represented on the player’s Victory Point card and any end-game Victory Points awarded from Technologies. The player with the highest number of Victory Points is the winner.

 

 

 

Thoughts:

Sail to India fits nicely within publisher AEG’s recent line of micro-game releases, Love Letter, Agent Hunter, and Cheaty Mages. Although the game can be played in less than an hour, the amount of depth and strategy stuffed into such a small package provides for an intriguing and thorough civilization-building filler. The multi-purpose use of a player’s markers is an essential design decision that invokes a level of supply management, and the strategy of balancing one’s resources. Because markers can be used from anything between ships, trade goods, settling buildings, wealth, and even victory points themselves, players must coordinate these numerous uses efficiently. This supply management feature is one of the more unique and entertaining elements of the game.

It’s important early in Sail to India to employ ships from Lisboa as fast as possible. Being able to explore new lands and get a jump on trade goods/settling buildings can help to jumpstart one’s path to victory. While there is no direct player interaction, good areas, buildings, and technology spaces are only available to a singular player, therefore the game implements a race as players compete with one another for the various available areas in the play area. The combination of supply management mechanics, multi-purpose markers, and fast, strategic, civilization-building gameplay makes Sail to India one of the most interesting and engaging fillers thus far in 2014.

 

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