Cargo Noir

Days of Wonder, 2011, 2-5 players, ages 8 and up. In Cargo Noir, players attempt to smuggle various illegal goods out of the different ports in the game. Said goods are then traded for victory cards. The player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins. Each player starts with 7 coins and 3 ships. The number of ports in the game varies by the number of players playing (more players = more ports). Each port starts out with a number of randomly drawn cargo tokens (and with some ports having more than others, thus making them more valuable as destinations). The center square (Macao) is special insofar as it contains the Casino and the Black Market.

Turns start out with each player selecting the ports to which they wish to move their unallocated ships, and then resolving any unresolved ships that they'd allocated on a previous turn. Players are awarded two free coins for each ship they send to the Macao Casino (one of two ways to earn coins in the game). Players visiting the Macao Black Market may either trade one of their cargo tokens for one of the tokens in the Black Market, or they may opt to take a random cargo token from the token bag.

For the rest of the ports, players select how many coins they are going to bid for the cargo at said port and place them under their ship token. If another player's ship is already at that port, they must bid more coins than that player has bid. If their's is the only ship in that port, they pay their allocated coins to the bank and collect the cargo from said port. If another player is present, the situation remains unresolved until the next turn - at which point the low bidder must either bid more coins than the other bidders or drop out of the bidding entirely (retaining the coins previously bid). Once a port is uncontested, the last remaining bidder's ship departs with the cargo tokens from that port (which are then replaced from the token bag).

After all ships have been resolved, players may trade cargo tokens for victory cards. Any remaining unredeemed tokens that won't fit on a player's card are discarded. Tokens are redeemed in either "all different" or "all the same" sets. The more tokens in a given set, the more points awarded (and thus, the more valuable the victory card that can be purchased). There are three special "Smuggler's Edge" victory cards - Cargo Ship, Warehouse and Syndicate. These are worth fewer victory points than the "Victory Spoils" cards, but they also give players certain advantages in the game. Cargo Ship cards give players an additional cargo ship. Warehouse cards allow players to store more tokens between turns. Syndicate cards give players a 2 coin bonus whenever they abandon their bidding in a port (apart from the Casino, the only other way to earn coins in the game). The Victory Spoils cards are useless as far as game play goes - basically just providing victory points at the end of the game.

Once all the cargo token machinations have been resolved, players then relaunch any unallocated ships and a new turn starts. Depending on the number of players, games last either 10 or 11 turns. At the end of the final turn, the player with the most victory points wins.

This is a moderately entertaining game that's easy to learn and play. Unfortunately, the whole thing basically boils down to a single mechanic (the bidding), so there's not a huge amount of strategy to consider from one turn to the next. I imagine we'll pull it out and play it once every blue moon or so, but it doesn't seem compelling enough to warrant much more play than that.

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