Sunday, September 05, 2010

#93: Columbus

  • designer: Marius Mayer
  • publisher: Schmidt Spiele
  • date: 1991
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 4713/5.71
  • position on my top 100 in 2005: did not appear
  • age: 10+
  • # of players: 2-5
  • print status: out of print
  • cost: $45.00 (BGG Marketplace - there's currently one "like new" copy listed)
Historical accuracy is not the primary focus here - unless the Atlantic Ocean is full of reefs & rocky outcroppings, sailors can control the weather for malevolent purposes, and the worst thing that can happen to a ship is that it loses a single mast. Instead, the game is a delightful romp - a game that uses luck management (via the position you leave yourself in & the judicious use of provisions for re-rolls) and "take that" elements to fashion a fast-moving & truly "fluffy" game.

It's simple enough - players begin with their ships in Europe. Each turn, you roll 4 custom dice that generate both movement for your ships & some other special abilities (moving storms, strong winds, taking on provisions, and acquiring action cards). You can use provisions to reroll one or more of the dice.

Ships take damage (lose their main mast) in a variety of ways - running aground, colliding with another ship, being caught by a storm at sea. You can repair your ship by rolling a "sail" - or by using a particular action card.

You'll either be charmed or repulsed by this next bit - when you reach the western section of the mapboard, you use a small telescope to peer at discs to see if you've found inhabited land or not. Once you find this, of course, you must race back across the Atlantic to Europe to announce your discovery.

The game is not, by any stretch of the imagination, rocket science. A few simple tactical hints:
  • Make sure you have provisions.
  • Try not to stop where it's easy to run aground.
  • Try to stay away from the storms.
Like I said, this game isn't going to threaten Torres or Twilight Struggle for the title of "Think-y Boardgame." Heck, it barely threatens to eclipse the difficult decision-making (ha!) involved in Die Oster Insel or Project: CIA.

What it does have, by the barrel full, is fun. It moves fast enough that being targeted as a leader isn't terribly discouraging - you'd do the same thing if you were behind. The wild swings of luck (esp. when a hurricane blows every boat in the game into a reef!) make for big laughs - while a short playing time (20-40 minutes, depending on the number of players) keeps those laughs from turning into yawns of irritation. And there's the spectacular bits (see the picture here from

All in all, a worthy addition to my collection - and to yours, if you can scare up a copy. (It took me five years.)

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