Thursday, March 4, 2010

Container: Economic Terror on the High Seas

Oh, Container. I've had my eye on you for some time. You seemed so full of potential. People said you were a fantastic economic game, where there was no hidden information, where the decisions of the players determined the in-game economy. This meant I was either probably going to love you or hate you. You might break my heart. You'd never go on sale, though. And Valley Games has a bad reputation for shoddy components and poor customer service.

When tax return time came this year, I decided to finally give Container a try. I bought it along with its expansion (Second Shipment) from CoolStuffInc last month, and I got the chance to try it for the first time last night.

Yellow's ship arrives at the remote island with 4 containers of goods to auction off.

We played a 3-player game. The rules aren't too complicated, and once we had a few turns under our belt things flowed pretty smoothly. The game involves buying factory machines and using them to produce goods. Other players then buy the goods from you and sell them at their harbor store. Players have a ship which can sail from harbor to harbor buying goods from other players harbor stores. Once a ship has one or more goods on it, that player may choose to sail to the remote island where there is an auction for those goods. Since each player gets a secret scorecard at the beginning that tells how much each color of good is worth to them, everyone values things differently. Also, since players set their own sale prices, the economy is determined by the players.

I've only played the one game so far, but I'm really impressed with Container. I'm also pretty bad at it, which doesn't surprise me. It reminds me a little bit of Chicago Express, another game I enjoy and am bad at. There is a delicate balance to the gameplay. Sell your goods too high and no one will buy them. Sell them too low and you won't make enough money. You have to buy machines to produce goods, and warehouses to sell those goods at your harbor store. You also need to keep enough money around to compete in the auctions to get goods for your island. A low bid means you might get them for cheap, but it might also mean that the seller will just match your bid and keep them.

A game of Container in progress.

I feel like I will need many, many more plays to figure this game out. That's a good thing. At the moment, I'm absolutely fascinated by Container and look forward to playing with 4 or 5 players.


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