On the menu of today, a small step back in time. We are in 2013, and after a brief stint on Kickstarter, Amerigo arrives from Queen Games. Playable from 2 to 4 players, Amerigo is a game by designer Stefan Feld (The Castles of Burgundy). He has made a reputation in the community by offering multiple games with always original or multiple mechanisms for the same game. It must be said that this gentleman has talent. Although most of the time the themes of his games are quickly forgotten, but the mechanisms are pampered with love and minutiae. As a result, every time a new game is announced, the world holds its breath.
The game allows you to embody marine explorers. Your mission is to discover new countries and especially, to develop them. The game also takes its name from Amerigo Vespucci. This Italian explorer of the late fifteenth - early sixteenth century was among others, the origin of the name of the new world: America. The game Amerigo is trying to immerse you in this period of discovery. As much as I’d hate to admit right away, the theme is not the main asset of the game even if there was an effort made on it. Finally, you’ll quickly forget why you moved or what plantation you will recover (except for the idea of scoring points). And do not even talk about the development of the islands, which will be more a reflection on where you place your tiles, that then create a market, a swimming pool…
Amerigo is therefore a game of maritime discovery but also resource recovery. The game board is composed of tiles to assemble. As a result, each game will offer a very different environment. The islands formed will therefore be totally different in both number and size. There are two types of islands: small and large. The large ones are composed of more than 20 spaces. Rarer, they offer a bonus when they are completed, compared to small ones.
When you first open the box, you will see a multitude of components. At its opening, you’ll realize that this is not necessarily the case, but it’s far from the empty box. Without being exceptional, the material is of good quality. You’ll find traditional pawns, colored cubes, small wooden chests ... Where it gets a little more original, it is at the level of the main components. Already the tiles are of different sizes and shapes, a bit like the Tetris game. Yes, today it is not really surprising anymore but in 2013, there were few games using this system. The most original element and what made its notoriety, it is also the one that takes the most space in the box. This is the cube tower. You know what a dice tower is? This is the same but you throw cubes in instead of dice. This one is of good quality and will inevitably make you think of the tower present in the game Shogun, from the same publisher. Besides, cubes were also thrown in there.
Once the board is built, everyone chooses their color. Each player has an individual board that will be used to track their progress whether it is acquired bonuses, resources recovered or progress on the tracks such as cannons or technology. Another plateau is placed next to the maritime map. It is here that you will find the main elements like the available actions, the victory points track, the market and the available technologies. Depending on the number of players, the set up may be different. One agreeable thing is even with two players, there is no neutral player.
Amerigo is not a complicated game in terms of rules. A round of games is composed of seven throws of cubes into the tower. Each throw corresponds to one step and so there are seven. But beware, a step does not necessarily correspond to a type of action. It will not be a case of matching the color of the cubes that are cast. I’ve lost you? I’ll start again. In Amerigo, you will find seven different colors of cubes. Each color corresponds to a type of action. During a game turn, you will take all the cubes of a remaining color of a set and throw them in the tower. This will determine the available actions. The colors are in order:
Blue: the maritime movement of your boats. The plateau is divided into spaces with ports on the islands where you can set up a market. Each market will bring you points either to discover the island or during the game. But to create a market, you have to stop on the associated space. Each cube corresponds to a movement point.
Once you have thrown your cubes into the tower, you gently pick up the fallen cubes. As you will quickly see what you have put in is not necessarily what you are getting back. And this is all the ingenuity of the game. Among the available cubes, you will have to define the most present color. Once done, you will count the number of cubes of that color. And here you have the number of action points available. As for the types of actions? This corresponds to the fallen cube.
For example: I threw the seven green cubes. When they exit, I have three green cubes, two blues, one red and seven brown. So I have the opportunity to perform seven times the action of green, blue, red or brown.
Each player, in turn order, chooses their action and realizes it. You can all very well take the same. Then you’ll move on to the next step, so the next color is thrown in. And so on, until you have finished the seven steps. Then you’ll proceed to the end of the round with the attack of the pirates. If you have enough cannon you simply lose them. If you do not have enough you lose as many victory points as the attack. Do this for five rounds and then calculate the victory points. As usual, the one who has the most, wins.
Amerigo is a very clever game. Do not hide it, the cube tower is the main interest of the game. Its very original use makes it an example. Since Shogun, I have loved this system. It is true that it creates luck at the level of possible actions. But this chance is ultimately not so penalizing and offers a dose of non-negligible fun. The tower and its unpredictability breaks the routine and the cerebral monotony of which this game could suffer. The replayability of the game has only been expanded. And above all, you will have to adapt to all situations. Finally, the interest of the game is there. The ability for players to adapt to situations and many choices. The game actually offers many ways to score points. Especially a lot of choices.
Will I do this action now or wait to do the same action later, in the hope that it will be better? But if that does not happen, will I end up with nothing? And if I do red, I could do the green after except that if I do the blue it will bring me more points now, but at the risk of not being able to do the green after.
The strength of the game is there. It proposes a big challenge, with a multitude of choices to score points. A great replayability factor, while offering incredible easy accessibility. This title is not complicated to play. One could even consider it a family game by some aspects. But its richness and depth bring it closer to an expert game.
It should nevertheless be noted that Amerigo offers a fairly limited interaction between players. It is not absent, but is not direct either. The interaction will be more at the level of resources to recover before the other or discover the island first or even finish the construction of the islands before the other. It's more of an opportunist game. Amerigo could be compared to some sort of race. Many actions correspond to this idea of first come, first to have more points. But sometimes just being on an island can save you a lot of points. We were never really bothered by each other directly. But if you do not care, you can be stung by having your livelihood taken from beneath you. So it forces you to pay attention to what happens during the turn of the other players.
Amerigo is a game that will inevitably surprise you. Already because of the size of the box. It's huge and hefty. Then at the level of its price: finally not so high if you compare it to other games the same size (especially years later). But it is at the level of the game in itself that the size will surprise. Feld has managed to make a subtle, fun, smart, fluid, very deep and rich game of possibility and gameplay, while offering a very strong accessibility. The game is explained and understood quickly.
One could of course get pestered on certain points like:
We could be pestered. But we would miss out on so many other qualities that the title knows how to develop and offer as long as it is allowed to do so. The recycling of the Shogun tower system is a great idea. Its perfect integration offers a special flavor to the title. We have a great time during the games we played, which are not that long. We did not see the time pass. It is a real pleasure to go back to sea and return to face this famous tower. One of the best games from this designer. A very good game to consume without moderation.
Technical score 7,5/10
The graphics are still very old school and the choice of colors could have been better. Apart from that, the components are of good quality and the insert in the box is very well thought out.
My BGG score 8,9/10
(Very good game. Always a pleasure to play)
Simply one of the best Feld’s. Fluid, original, fun, intelligent, with a huge replayability, deep yet accessible. A very good game
Combined score 8,2/10
And now it’s over to you...