Don't worry, the game is not as boring as the awful cover might suggest.
Also: sweet Phillies bits bowls are not included. =P
Mac Gerdts has made a name for himself based on the rondel mechanism. All of his previous games have used the mechanism, for better or worse. I personally have only played Navegador, but I find the rondel in that game to be a lot of fun. It keeps turns simple and forces players into a rhythm that all players are subject to - but whoever works the most efficiently within those constraints will be victorious.
Look Ma! No rondel!
With Concordia, Mr. Gerdts ditches the rondel...sort of. Despite not having an actual rondel, Concordia still has players forced into adapting to a rhythm that Mr. Gerdts - at least at first - has designed for them. But does this alternate take on the rondel make for a fun game? Let's find out!
Introducing New Rondel! New and Improved - With more Cards!!!
As I said, Concordia has no rondel. In its place, each player is given the same deck of 7 cards. A player's turn consists simply of playing any card in her hand, and executing the card's action.
After playing this card, a player would choose either the top or bottom action.
The game consists of two basic areas the players will be competing in - the map and the card draft pool. On the map, players will be competing for colonies which grant resources. Above the map is a card draft area where players can draft new cards into their decks, which will grants players with either new actions or duplicate of one of the starting actions.
All roads lead from Rome.
Players being with two colonists in Rome, and their starting action cards. These allow players to move colonists and build, produce in a region, trade resources and money with the bank, copy the last card played by another player, or pick up all of the cards they have previously played back into their hands.
For every VESTA card a player has in her deck at the end of the game, she will score 1 point for every 10 Sestertii she has.
As I mentioned above, a player's turn consists simply of playing a card from her hand, and taking the card's action. The game will end when the final card is purchased from the draft row. Then comes one of the most interesting parts of the game - final scoring. In Concordia, each card in a player's deck will score points based on how much or how well a player has done at a portion of the game, an interestingly, what each card gives points for is usually what the card's ability helps the player to do. So, for the example below, this player would want to have as many provinces and colonists as possible by game end.
Interestingly, these cards help a player during the game to acquire the provinces and colonists required to score at the end of the game.
Before I get to what I like about the game, let's talk about its shortcomings. The first, and I think biggest, has to do with a possible lack of variety when playing this game multiple times. Players start the game with the same cards, the game ends when all cards have been purchased (so almost every card will be played in every game), and the cards available to purchase have abilities that are either duplicates of starting cards or not-so-exciting-new-actions. So aside from a few things that are randomized during setup, not much will change from game to game. This is one of those game, especially if playing against the same opponents, where players could fall into a strategic "rut" - wherein they end up following the same VP path every game.
So many choices....delicious, delicious choices...
That being said, there is a lot to love about this game. The mechanism of playing cards until a player wants/needs to take a turn to pickup all of her played cards is great. It feels fairly similar to another big Euro release from last year, Lewis and Clark, in that way. Doing as much as you can in between picking everything back up is beneficial, but were you able to play things in such a way that every turn between now and then is a productive turn? Or are the cards left in hand useless at this point, and picking everything up early - for less of a bonus (or more of a penalty in Lewis and Clark's case) - makes more sense this time?
In Concordia, whenever you pick up your discard pile, you have access to every card in your deck, but the longer you wait to do so, the bigger the bonus you get.
I mentioned above that the cards available for purchase are less than exciting. Well, part of the reason for that is because all of the actions players start the game with are all already pretty interesting and satisfying. Turns in Concordia are short and simple, but choosing which action to play next is always a tough decision - mostly because most of a player's choices on a turn are generally good.
The card draft area drives much of the game's interaction.
Player interaction here is fairly minimal. Players can colonize cities near each other and gain the benefits of another player's Prefect action, but the card draft is where the most interesting player interaction takes place. A lot of the "game" in Concordia is in how well players are able to balance between drafting new cards before their opponents and how well players are able to expand their empire on the map. Because the cards players are drafting grant them new actions as well as victory points at the end of the game, the competition for cards can get intense.
Concordia is a very well designed, interesting, and (most importantly) fun board game. Part deck builder, part card draft, part hand management, and part (small part) dudes on a map, Concordia combines all of these mechanisms successfully - all in a way that keeps gameplay simple but also satisfyingly deep. With this game, Mac Gerdts has shown that he is more than just the "rondel guy." I enthusiastically rate Concordia an 8.5 - and eagerly look forward to Mr. Gerdts' next effort.