“Trading in the Mediterranean” has become a bit of a cliche.
But look at designer Mac Gerdts breaking that cliche and making it interesting again!
The boardgame version of Concordia, designed by Gerdts with artwork by Marina Fahrenbach, Mac Gerdts and Dominik Mayer, came out in 2013.
The app version, however, comes out Tuesday, September 28 and is published by Acram Digital.
What a win-win!
Acram has done the brilliant Istanbul (though it needs the expansions!), the interesting 8 Minute Empire and a great rendition of Steam (not my cup of tea, but the app is great!)
The game itself is pretty fun, though it’s not my favourite (it’s probably up in my Top 100 out of 400+ games, though).
Oh my, it’s gorgeously done.
How does it play?
Let’s take a look.
Concordia is a game where players are trying to establish trading posts in multiple cities around the Mediterranean and Europe. Their colonists can travel over land or sea (depending on whether it’s a “person” or a “ship.”)
There is no luck in the game other than the order that the cards that you can buy come out. Otherwise, it’s all “what the hell am I doing and why am I fucking this up?” all through the game.
Everybody starts with two colonists (a ship and a person) in Rome (or wherever the start is on the particular map you’re playing). You also start with a hand of cards.
Using the “Senator” card, you can buy one or two of the cards that are on offer, as long as you have the required resources.
Otherwise, using the Architect card, you can move colonists as many spaces as you have colonists (so the more colonists you have, the more they can move around). Then, if you have the proper resources and enough money, you can place a trading post in one (or both) of the cities that your colonists are connected to.
You can use the Mercator card to sell one type of good (as many as you have) and buy one type of good (as many as you want and can afford).
The Diplomat lets you copy the top card of another player’s discard pile (i.e. the card they just played previously).
Prefect lets you get resources based on the region (or perhaps money if you’d rather have that than resources).
Finally, Tribune lets you collect all of the cards you have played and possibly get money depending on how many cards you’ve played before your last Tribune.
Slowly but surely, you will be spreading your empire. As you do so, the Prefect card becomes more powerful because for every city you have a post in where the Prefect is played, you get that city’s resource along with anything else you might get.
Play continues until either a player has placed their last trading post or the last card has been purchased.
Scoring is kind of complicated, as it’s based on the types of cards you have and how they interact with your position on the board.
It’s my least favourite part of the board game, trying to figure all of that out.
Thankfully the app takes care of that!
Yes, the app has a running score total.
Or not, if you don’t want it. You can turn that off.
I guess I should start talking about the app now, eh?
First, as I said, you can turn the VP counter off or on when you set up a game. Some purists who love the boardgame and the fact that there’s no way you can tell how you are doing would prefer that they be off.
Others like to know how they are doing.
Good on Acram for providing both options.
There are also 3 levels of AI. I’ve only played the Easy one and it’s pretty easy. I’ve heard that the Medium & Hard can be more of a challenge, though.
The game plays up to 6 players, though I can’t imagine that (even more so I can’t imagine 5 AIs in the game).
I think it works best with at most 4 players.
The UI in the app is pretty good, though on Steam (the version I have), you have to be careful.
You have two options: Windowed mode or Full Screen. If you choose Windowed, depending on your resolution I guess, your resources at the bottom of the screen are cut off. I was actually wondering how I would see my resources and then I noticed half of a wheat bushel at the bottom.
However, the rest of the interface is very good.
You can click on the card row at the top right and open that up, just to look at them. It will also pop up if you play a card that lets you buy cards.
You can see your opponents’ resources on the top left.
When you start a game, you can either choose top-down or perspective mode.
It even has a colorblind mode!
What’s the most important thing for a boardgame app for me?
You know it.
Like most Acram apps, online multiplayer is very good.
You can either invite people or you can set up a room and make it password-protected so only people who you’ve given the password can join.
Again, I only know the Steam version, but you can get emails that tell you when it’s your turn, and these are a bit wonky.
I get multiple emails and often it’s not actually my turn.
It’s a bit annoying, but hopefully something Acram can fix soon.
I may buy this for my iPad as well, so I’ll check out how the notifications work when that happens.
Overall, except for the notifications, I’d have to say that the online multiplayer works very well.
You get to see what the other players did (unless you turn that off in your game settings, but why would you?) Then you get to take your turn.
I believe it is cross-platform multiplayer (other Acram games are) too.
Another great thing about the user interface is how you can get overviews of the provinces, your score (and how you will score, which again can get kind of confusing) as well as a log of previous plays.
The province view will be greatly helpful when you want to play Prefect because it will tell you what the province produces as well as what you are producing there with your trading posts.
The scoring…well, I get it, but players who haven’t played the board game might not.
Still, it’s a valuable tool!
Speaking of “players who haven’t played the game,” there is actually a tutorial but it’s buried in the “Rulebook” section of the game and not obvious.
Most apps have that as either part of the “Play Now” section or they actually have a menu item for the tutorial.
I’m not a fan of that (I was just about to say they didn’t have a tutorial, which wouldn’t be good).
Other than the tutorial and async turn notifications issues, Acram has once again done a wonderful job bringing a great game into the digital realm.
I love how when you play a card, it tells you what your options are and what the card does. That is a great interface.
Concordia will be coming to Steam/iOS/Android on Tuesday, September 28, and I think it’s a worthwhile investment.
On iOS, it will be $9.99 (I think that’s US). At least that’s what’s showing as the pre-order price. I’m not sure what it will be on Steam since it’s already in my library, but I would expect probably around $20.
What about the expansions?
The expansions will be coming. You will be able to buy them individually or they will also be offering a Season Pass where you will get access to the expansions as they come out, presumably for a discount over buying them individually.
No pricing on any of that is available right now.
Even though the beta for the base game is closed, it will still be possible to get into the beta for expansions when they are being developed.
Check this game out when you get the chance.
It’s a brilliant game and the digital adaptation is first-rate!
Thanks to Acram Digital for the pre-release copy of the game.