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The new game from Dirk & Barbara is more expensive than normal from this small company, but the price reflects the extra material needed to play the game.
The theme is the great gold rush of Alaska at the end of the last century. As a trader you are dealing with six goods (petroleum, wood, food, etc) which you buy in a central market and deliver to one of four camps. To do so, you have six cards worth 1,2,2,3,3 and 4. The cards show a number (their worth), a combination of goods, a destination (one of the four camps) and a letter from A to D.
In each round you play four of your cards: The first is used to buy Goods (shown on the card) from the stock at randomly determined prices (changes are known one turn in advance). The second card is played to determine the destination camp, the third card is used to determine the goods you want to ship from the central market to the camp (all players use the same single ship). The letter of the fourth card gives your vote for a specific Event to happen. The voted Event might indicate a loss of freight, change in market price or--the end of the game!
Played just once, this new DB Spiele offering was well-received by all four (quite fussy) players. The theme is buy-and-sell five types of goods to gold miners at four different creeks. The buying prices at Dawson City and the selling prices at each creek fluctuate each turn, but for the most part you can see what's coming and plan accordingly.
Each turn you get six cards (you can buy two more) to perform four actions: buy goods, vote for the destination creek, load goods onto the boat for sale, and vote for an event. Managing these cards isn't easy. For example, you can buy three wood for $1 each and plan to sell them for $9 at Bear Creek, but if all the other players vote to go to Bonanza Creek which pays only $2 for wood, you'll have to wait to sell your wood until later -- and you'll still have to part with some other card to sell *something* at Bonanza -- like it or not!
The event cards provide some nice flavor -- minor catastrophes, bonuses and the like -- as well as the end of the game if a 'Gold Runs Out' card wins the event vote.
An interesting rule (which can become effective as early as the sixth turn) is that a player with a 16-point lead at the end of the round automatically wins the game (the requirement later shrinks to 11 points, then 6 points), so players must keep pace and also cast a wary eye on the leader's stock of goods -- and take care not to let him go to the creek of his choice.
The game is expensive, and its components are definitely 'homegrown,' but we all agreed we've just scratched the surface of this one, and everyone is itching to play Yukon again -- and we can't understand why it wasn't published by one of the big boys....
This, the latest in an increasingly long line of games from Dirk Henn, is a business game and comes in the company's standard book style format, with the leather strap tucked into the front cover of the book. The layout inside is similar to that of many of the earlier games -- laminated cards strapped to the box by elastic bands. Nothing to suggest that there is a good trading game in here.
Yukon Company is a straightforward game about buying goods in one area and then selling them for profit in another. There is no pretence that it has a story or a theme but the game is not any the worse for that. The key system in the game is built round a set of cards that perform many roles and the skill lies in knowing how to make best use of them. The game also has an interesting device for ending the game, the result of which is that cash in hand is the sole parameter for winning, with purchased stock not being taken into account.
The board is pleasantly coloured and the layout, with spaces for everything, eases game play. As mentioned earlier, the cards are the key to the game and they have four features. These show
In addition, each card has a number, which is always the same as the number of boxes of goods. This number is also the number of votes that the card represents and the price of the card if you purchase it as an `extra card'. The general idea is to use one card to purchase goods, one to vote for the destination, one to show which goods are transported (and sold), and a final one to vote on the event. Each of the cards is used only once and then discarded. That useful card that represents four votes also shows 4 goods that you may wish to purchase. You have to decide how best to use it.
Each player receives the same initial mix (1's, 2's, 3's and 4's) of cards (6 in all) and then determines how to use these cards for this round. The goods boxes on each card show what could be purchased from Dawson City and also what to transport (and sell) at each destination. There are 5 different commodities available in Dawson and 4 creeks where they may be sold. The first card you play will determine what you buy in Dawson. Then you play a second card to vote on the destination. Finally, you play two more, one dealing with the selling of goods and one to vote on the event.
So you can see that the cards provide considerable options and you have to decide on the best use for each. In practice, the price of goods in Dawson City is a key determinant, as high priced goods are unattractive to buy and low priced ones are similarly attractive. Equally, the selling price of goods for this round is an influence, although this has to be tempered by the fact that only one of the destinations will be used to sell goods. Having considered the potential combinations that might work for this round, a player may buy up to two more cards. These cost the value of the number. This does not seem too dear, but we have found that while this gives you more options, the scores tend to be pretty close and too much use of purchased cards is detrimental to your chances of winning. The other disadvantage of purchased cards is that you have to discard down to 2 cards at the end of each round, so any extra (purchased) cards may be wasted if they do not provide you with a valuable option that the original cards did not.
The events are mainly bad but you can usually bet that the good events are voted upon! Mixed in with the events are some game ending cards, which can either be voted on -- which ends the game -- or can be purchased. As more of these cards are added to the possible events on display, it becomes more likely that the voting will finish the game. The cost of buying one also reduces as this happens, so the game does get to a conclusion.
As I mentioned earlier, the value of stock on hand is worthless, so it is always a question of when to hold back for better opportunities and when to cash in. As the top selling price is 10 and the lowest is 3, the variation is sufficient to make you want you to wait for a good price. Analysis of the 4-cards shows that the most you can sell of one type is three, you should not hoard goods. Some of the event cards are powerful -- the Good Trade card guarantees a minimum price of 7, while the Blizzard event causes the loss of all goods that are being transported. However, you are aware of these events and can influence their selection through cards, so the impact of these can be prepared for.
The game plays in about 90 minutes with four players and decisions are constantly required. There is a sense of control, which certainly means that you can see your plans unfold. The level of control is higher with 4 players as your voting has a higher level of influence. The games played so far have resulted in tight finishes, which seems to suggest that you need to maximise each sale during the game to have a good chance of winning. Whether additional cards purchased at the beginning of each round add sufficient choices does seem to be arguable, since they are drawn from a face down deck. However, the game is enjoyable and players seem to be satisfied that the systems work and the level of influence is acceptable within for the game.
It has been suggested that cards should be purchable at any time and this has some merit, as it may help get you out of a poor position. However, it would also seem to increase the luck element of the game. I would favour four face-up cards being available to purchase at any time, as this would introduce more control, but perhaps they could cost one more to buy. The fact that thoughts are flowing over how to change the game suggests that the designer has got it just about right.
Whether this is destined to be published in a future year by a major company is uncertain, but this game is better than many of the games that db Spiele have managed to get published so far, so I hope someone out there adds Yukon to their list.