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Shady figures and corruption in the port of Shanghai. Fat bribes change hands in dark corners.
And outside a mysterious junk floats somewhere on the sea. Everyone in the port knows something about its place of residence. But none know details. Only one informant is available to ask -- if you've got enough dough. Whoever greases his palm has the best chance to get valuable information and can reach the junk first.
At the right time at the right place: that is the motto. But beware: If you're not careful, others will profit from the information that cost you so dearly.
Shanghai is a fast, virtually turnless, game (30 minutes with 5 people) with great interaction among players. The theme matches the game well--starting with a fixed amount of money, out-bribe your opponents for the opportunity to send your (and everyone else's) contact, Lang Tsu, to one of 13 various locations around Shanghai harbor where you (and possibly others) collect points. Points allow players to move their tokens along a scoring path with the goal of catching up to a moving Chinese junk. Land on it or overtake it (but not by too much!) and you win.
The game is played in rounds. Points are collected by playing cards from each player's hand. Although the winning bidder may send Lang Tsu to any of the allowed locations for that round, any player may play cards corresponding to that location and collect the points each card indicates. Other details are an event card draw which may have good or bad fortune, plus it indicates how the junk moves after that round, and rounds that are played in different times of the day, affecting point values of cards.
As usual, the game components were of high quality: Wooden tokens and a very nicely done metal junk; The board is in a chinese motif, with a drawing of Shanghai harbor in the middle depicting the 13 places that Lang Tsu could visit surrounded by the scoring track. The graphics are very nice!
The available translation of the German instructions did a good job. However, one exception was an example auction that showed a low bidder winning. The problem was that one line was omitted from the translation that showed the low bidder bidding again, and winning.
Also, there is a bit of subtlety that was explained but that I hadn't quite grasped in our first game. When an event card indicated moving a position, it meant position of the players with respect to each other, not the individual spaces on the track. Thus, if you are in second place on the track and a card indicates to move one position ahead, move your piece just ahead of the first place person.
But how good the game is, is in the playing. With most of the kids in our family having reached teen age a few years ago, it is increasingly more difficult to get them to play a board game. The promise of a short game enticed them enough. They got into the game quickly, especially analyzing bidding strategies, and we wound up playing 3 times in succession. The fact that they would not have played a 1.5 hour game, but played this game the equivalent time, means that this is certainly a good game!