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List Price: $50.00
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Days of Wonder's Cargo Noir is a game of illicit trading in which players run "families" who traffic in smuggled goods around the world. The successful smuggler will learn to dispatch his cargo ships to the safest or richest ports, accurately judge which contraband is the hottest, and outmaneuver his competitors with an ample supply of gold - pouncing when the time is right to take the cargo he wants. Cargo Noir introduces a rich and immersive atmosphere, filled with evocative illustrations of the dark and seedy smuggling world of the 1950's.
Average Rating: 4.5 in 2 reviews
Cargo Noir is at heart an auction game where players try and outbid opponents for cargo which is needed to acquire victory points. There are 9 types of cargo (alcohol, weapons, art, cars, cigars, ivory, jewels, gold, uranium, and wilds.) These cargo chits are randomly placed on the different ports on the board. Players place their ships along with their bid amount in coins on ports of their choice, and if they are the winning bidder, collect their cargo. Players may back out of a bid at any time when they feel the price is too expensive, however, if all other players back out first the player must make the purchase!
Having all the same cargo is most profitable, having all different cargo still scores for points but at a lower rate. Players store their cargo in their warehouse (which holds a quantity of six) and must decide rather to cash in this turn or hold out in hopes of getting more cargo they need on the next turn. Players may only keep 6 cargo between turns, although they can buy extra warehouses to store more. Players may also buy extra ships to boost their activity.
Players may also use one of their ships to go to the black market which displays 8 cargo at random. There they can either swap one cargo from their warehouse or blindly pick a cargo from the black bag. They may also use a ship to visit the casino and collect 2 gold coins.
There are 3 types of Smuggler's Edge cards players may buy: buy an extra ship, buy an extra warehouse, and buy a syndicate card. The syndicate card allows the player to collect 2 coins from one port whenever they are outbid (in which case they get their ship and original bidding coins returned to them plus the 2 extra coins.) This is a great strategy to increase the bid on ports (making your opponent pay a hefty price) while at the same time collecting 2 coins instead of wasting a ship at the casino.
The game is fast paced and can get tense when opponents up the bid on a port you really need. The game also has a "race" element to it as players only have 10 rounds before the game ends. There is some "take that" element to the game, although players can reduce that by not being confrontational when claiming ports. So the game can work both ways depending on player's choice. (I will have to comment that the fighting over the ports is what makes the game fun!)
This is a light family game that plays well with 2 players and takes about 45 minutes. The board and components are beautiful which adds to the enjoyment of the game. (There has been an issue with the black bag falling apart but Days of Wonder will replace it.)
This has been my favorite new release for 2011. Highly recommended. Buy it!!
After playing two games of Cargo Noir (one four player and one five player), I can give you a review now of how excellent the game is. On first glance you don't think the game means much, because you see places for housing different tiles and nicely illustrated far-off places (ports) like Macao, Hong Kong, Panama, Capetown, and Tangier. The different pieces of the world (ports) fit together like a puzzle with the usual Days of Wonder attention to fine art detail. Some ports are different on the front and back of the huge square, depending on the number of players.
Then, one is told through the directions how the actions take place. You are given three ships in your color that remind one of an old tug. You are also given (by random) a card that allows six warehouses and a fictitious name humorously after some smuggling operation. I ended up being Al Kabash (Middle Eastern) and Tres Sombreros (drug cartel). You begin to take on the fiction of successful smuggling operations.
Let's deal more with the bidding. Suppose you see three tiles -- two Ivory and one Cigar in Rio. You take two of your seven starting coins and place the bid in the Rio Board to gain these tiles. All other players may place their bids in other rectangles or squares for a total of three actions. You may only bid the minimum of one coin. I would recommend keeping some coins handy at all times for handling overbidding in certain ports with many tiles. Some players are so anxious to achieve four tiles in certain ports that they bid four coins or more at the beginning. The tiles you took are now replenished from the Cargo Noir bag.
Your three actions were determined by the three beginning ships given at the game start. You may purchase up to two more ships (total: five) during the game. However, be careful, if you are in a five-player game that you purchase your other two ships early. The deck does not allow two additional ships for each player; you might be frozen out of your fifth ship. You notice during the round no one has any interest in Rio; they have designs on other ports and squares. You pay your two coins at the end of the round and take the three earned tiles. You immediately place them on your squares for the warehouses on your scoring card or family sheet (e.g. Tres Sombreros). You are entitled to six warehouses on your card, but more warehouses (two) will cost 10 points for the Warehouse Card. Further, if you have more tiles than the six warehouses will accommodate, you must either discard the additional tiles at the end of your turn or use immediately to purchase some victory point card, such as a Villa.
Everything is for sale with specialized cards. For example, you can buy another ship for 10 points. A syndicate is available for another 10 points. The syndicate allows you to take back two coins from an unsuccessful bid. Cargo Noir becomes a game of auctions. You are given seven coins at the beginning to start your bank. You may earn more money (two coins each round) at the casino in Macao by placing a ship on that board space. You may also go to the Black Market and "exchange" a tile or choose one from the dreaded Cargo Noir black bag. That takes one ship to "exchange." Specifically, that means you take one of your goods tiles from your warehouse and exchange for one of the 10 tiles housed in the Black Market. Further, you may simply draw from the black bag and accept the tile discovered. To the credit of Days of Wonder, that company has shipped me a replacement black bag for the one purchased that became terribly frayed and split on the side.
Two of my gaming friends conceived the strategy of going to the Black Market every turn with their ships and taking what the Black Market offers from the bag. That should have worked in theory, but with five players, the strategy fell apart. The friends wanted to easily receive combinations of tiles that would give them more points.
Let me explain how the scoring card awards you points. On the scoring card you have two rows and two columns for determining point accumulation to buy cards. For example, let’s say you have three tiles of the same kind, three gold. You have a total of nine points on the family sheet, but, if you had, say, one gold, one cigar, and one cars, you would only have six points to spend. It pays to accumulate, five or six of the same product tile (e.g. weapons), so you can spend for more expensive cards. At one juncture in the five-player game, I was able to spend 70 points to acquire a bank. The cost was 64 points, but the victory conditions were 70. That gave me an advantage in victory points for a time.
Three phases occur in a game turn: (1) resolve ships' actions. That could mean taking your winning bids or acquiring coins at the Casino in Macao. Second, you trade cargo for victory cards and discard excess cargo (unless you have a warehouse card). The excess cargo without appropriate warehouses must be traded away. Third, you send ships to new destinations. That means placing new bets or auctions and deciding whether to use the Black Market or Casino. I observed during the five-player game some gamers placing all their ships on the Black Market or four ships, for example, on the Casino to earn more coins.
The five-player game became quite intense as gamers vied to achieve more points in the waning moments before the end of the tenth turn. The scores reflect how closely the game ended: Player A, 145; Player B, 150; Player C, 70; Player D, 145; and Player E, 85. All in all, the game proved just as rousing with the second effort as previous times. Serge Laget should be commended on writing a fine set of rules that worked well. The game took about two and one-half hours mainly because certain players moved rather deliberately.