List Price: $59.95
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(Worth 4,799 Funagain Points!)
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Container is a game about big ships and big production. Each player will play both the producer and shipper of goods. Players will decide which products they want to produce, and which of the OTHER players' goods they want to ship out to a remote island. During these phases, players will be able to set the prices for their goods and try to maximize their cash!
Once the goods have reached the island, players will play the part of the purchaser for their tiny island. Players bid for the goods arriving each day by ship, and the highest bidder collects these goods for conversion into points at the end of the game.
Sounds simple? It is! But the real challenge is turning heavy industry production into goods for your island. Your government is willing to subsidize your purchases, but just how much money do you want to give to your competitors for that lovely crate of goods your island desperately needs?
By far, this is the best economic game I have ever played. Why? Because in spite of the relatively simple rules, Container is a realistic portrayal of a real world economy. In a typical economic game, you invest heavily, hoping to produce tons of stuff, and never consider the ramifications for the economy as a whole (i.e., you AND the other players). "And why should I care? Let my opponents suffer!" However, in Container, your opponents are also your suppliers and your customers: if they have little money, then that's little money that they can spend on YOU. By way of perilous example, a five player game starts with a grand total of $100 equally divided between the players. Let's say in their initial turns, each player builds a new factory, hoping to have people buying up their wares. Problem is, that is (per factory) a cost of six dollars...six dollars that EXITS the game economy! So, at game start, there was $100 in the economy: now, there is only $70. Yes, Virginia, you have caused a recession by your spendthrift ways! The only way that new money enters the economy is by shipping containers to the foreign island, where the other players pay YOU for your goods...and the island government MATCHES what they paid you (your opponent paid you $10, and ten NEW dollars enter the game economy, for a gain of $20 to you). And how much is, say, a tan coloured container worth? It has no given value: its value is dependent on a), what it's potentially worth to YOU at game end, and b) equally important, what the state is of the game economy on this particular turn. Economy booming: container worth more. Money bleeding out of the game, container worth less. Inflation and depression! Supply and demand!
I am originally from a city with heavy container ship traffic, and the look and feel of Container is very realistic. The container ship pieces, in particular, have a gritty, grimy feel to them, and are often dinged: just like home! The colour scheme of the containers is also realistic...too realistic, in fact. "I want to buy that brown container off you." "This brown container?" "No, not THAT colour brown: the OTHER colour brown!" Oh, boy. Another problem with the game is that (regardless of where you buy the game from) the player boards are somewhat warped. The problem seems to be with Valley Games' production factory.
All in all, though, Container is a wonderful (and wonderfully unique) game. Relatively simple and straight-forward rules, and yet extraordinarily difficult on any given turn to know what exactly is the RIGHT thing to do. Be prepared to change your strategy as the economy changes. AND (apart from a teensy tiny bit at game start) there is NO luck element in Container!
One greets Container with trepidation. However, the game is terrifically playable. You first look at a large tile (player board) for each player that contains five major sections. As a player of a four-player and five-player game, let me describe what you are considering.
You have a section for purchasing machines. You may purchase machines in all colors at the factory (Section I) but the one you started with or were given by a lucky hand draw. You may purchase machines of the same color, especially in The Second Shipment additional scenario to create monopolies. However, you must carefully at your victory condition card to see which products you need the most to sell to others and then buy them back from other players.
Next, you have a section for factory stores. This section is extremely important in the game, because, here, you may manufacture goods and colors other players need. You need the colored machines to manufacture those different product blocks.
We, then, approach the warehouse section. These warehouses (also costing money) allow you to stock your docks (the last section). For example, one warehouse would represent one's ability to place a product in one dock, usually the "Two" section called the harbor store. It would not have to be the "Two section"; based on the cards given you through The Second Shipment additional scenario, you are allowed certain areas to place one or more products, depending on the number of warehouses you possess. The harbors themselves represent the fifth section of the large tile.
Each player is given a colored container ship for carrying up to five products. It is important to remember that your ship does not stop at your own docks. You can only visit other players. The colors of white and light green could have been better distinguished in the game.
Let's talk for a moment about player actions. You are given $20 to start the game. You are entitled to two actions in each turn:
However, it must be remembered that, let's say, you have a container ship in someone else's port. You may move out of that port into the open sea, and, then, you may move to someone else's port on the board and trade. That constitutes two movements, and two actions are finished.
The reason this game review was half entitled, "To ship is divine," means you need to go to a deserted island in the middle of the board and deliver your product(s) or commodities. However, when you get there with proper movement, your goods are up for auction. You win the game by how much money or points you have at the end. All players, except you, submit hands-down covered bids for your product, such as two tan blocks, one orange block, and one black block. The winning bid, let's say, is 20. You as the player with the container shipment at your designated colored portion of the island may accept the bid and receive 40, or pay the 20 and take the cargo for your own part of the island. If you need money, you sell your product; if you need products, you bid what you think you can win.
The Second Shipment additional scenario introduces gold as an alternative to regular colored goods on the island. Also, you can take two colored blocks of different colors and turn them into gold in your factory store during your turn.
As the game progresses, you notice you must have different colors represented on the island to get more points. For example, your victory card (everyone receives one at the beginning) determines whether you get the 5/12 number of points. The 12 would be given for having one of each color at least on your portion of the island. Also, it must be remembered that your largest number of colored products (let's say dark brown) go away at the end of the game. Therefore, it is important throughout the game to constantly add to products from others' container ships.
The game is highly spirited, and many times, I had to caution the exuberant players to quite laying their container ships down so hard on the table. However, that suggests how intense the game can become. For example, one can easily announce during his or her turn the following: "I am going to so-and-so's port" with great gusto.
During the game the trading is extremely important. You as a player can decide whether you will offer your products on your docks to other players at low or high figures. You can do the same from your factory stores and compete heavily with other players who are charging more than you.
The decisions are endless. . . and fun. If you want a game that is loan conscious, trading intense, and container cautious, you should choose Container for your holidays. We didn't talk much about loans. You may take two loans during the game. The loans each cost $10, along with $1 interest paid each turn until the loan is finally retired. These loans allow the player more flexibility to purchase machines, build warehouses, and bid in spirited auctions. If your loans are not paid by the final turn, those loan numbers are subtracted from your final score.
We ended up in the five-player game with 121, 102, 71, 58, and 55. Those scores show the intensity of the game and how cargoes change hands during the auctions at the island.