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Chartered: The Golden Age Preview


Quick Look: Chartered: The Golden Age


Designer: Alexander Kneepkens
Artist: Henkjan Hoogendoorn
Publisher: Jolly Dutch Productions
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-6
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 60-90 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Chartered: The Golden Age. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.



Review:

tl;dr: Prospecting hidden as a stock market game with a very satisfying 3-D table presence.

Getting to the Game: While the rulebook won't do you many favors in this regard, setup can be sorted out easily once you know what's going on. There are 95 warehouses in the game, so remove 25 of them if you're playing with less than four players. Set these aside, and find the labeled warehouses with each of the enterprises on them. Set these on top of their respective stock card piles. Shuffle the building cards up (again, keep out the B cards if you're playing with 2 or 3 people), and deal everyone their starting hand and cash. Now shuffle in the level cards to the remainder of the deck and deal the correct number of open cards on the side of the board face up. Place the deck next to these. Set the stock market board near enough for everyone to see, but DO NOT put any of the stock tracker tokens on it. Industry and Logistics await!


   

Your primary goal in Chartered is to prospect each of the enterprises based on their upward trajectory. Unless you're playing with the optional event cards, stock values will never go down, so buying early is always a good idea- the only question is what to buy, and what to found.

Playing the GameEach player has a hand of building plots that they have the rights to build. On your turn, you can turn in one of these cards and put a warehouse on that space. If it's empty and remote, you can found an enterprise on that space by capping your warehouse with the headquarters of a good you're into. The actual good doesn't matter at all; they're all the same. Once you do that, you place two free warehouses next to the one you built. The caveat to founding is that once you've founded and placed those two free warehouses, there must be at least three empty spaces between the new buildings and any that already exist. 


stacked opium warehouses in chartered board game

If you're not founding a new venture, then the warehouse you place has to be adjacent to an existing one. Whenever a warehouse is placed next to or on top of an existing structure, the stock value of that enterprise goes up. Vertical expansion is generally better than horizontal, so if you have a level card, you're going to get more value for that then a building space.


This all sounds far more complicated than it actually is, and that's really my main concern with Chartered. We spent more time than we should have trying to suss out the rulebook and how everything worked. Once we abandoned that and just tried playing it out, it became very clear, very fast. What the rulebook needs and lacks is a clear description of game setup. The included table is very helpful for referencing what's included in games for each player count, but there's no good image for how it should look at the start of the game. This would be a relatively simple fix, and one I hope will be done before the game is finished. 


I'm harping on the rulebook because apart from that, this game is spectacular. If you took all the good things you like about Ticket to Ride, Acquire, and Black Gold, you'd get this perfect concoction. Player count up to six is a wonderful addition, and the fact that Jolly Dutch took the time to add a reversible board with a new map shows that the game is clearly well-loved. It's easy to feel the care that went into this game. There are optional event cards that add a new level of suspense and interaction - these felt so correct in the game that playing without them felt like a more advanced version of the game, not a lesser one. Removing the variance the event cards provide forces you to play as efficiently as you can. In a three-player game we played without them, I thought for sure I was going to win by a wide margin. It came down to a single oversight mistake one of the other players made mid-game that I was able to capitalize on. 

This might be a turn-off for some. Chartered is a game of getting in on the ground floor of very specific enterprises, and when your financial domination is threatened, you perform a merger and take them over for yourself. This mechanic feels SO GOOD when it works, and it swings the game so wildly that the first time it happened in all of our games, each new player had a giddy smile on their face. Watching people get cashed out for a liquidated minority stake in a merger, and then adding that enterprise's market value into the new one and watching the stock soar is... intoxicating. I get now why all the movies depict stockbrokers as addicts of one sort or another. It's a rush.

One more thing I'd like to mention before moving on: This game feels like it's possible to invest in all the wrong things early, and be completely locked out of the game. That didn't happen in any of the games I played, but I think it's feasible that it could. Jolly Roger must have thought about this in their testing, but there's no rubber band mechanic built in. I'm wondering if because of the diversity of enterprises, and the ability to pay rock-bottom for a "flag stock" (each player when founding can add a plastic flag of their color to the enterprise warehouse for 200, giving them four non-tradeable stock in that enterprise) offsets this somewhat? Something to keep in mind.

Artwork and Components: The art in Chartered is almost nonexistent. I'm wondering if my prototype copy might be pre-art because there's so little here. The stock cards have flat images of their namesakes, and the playing board is a drab warehouse district with tiny boxes and barrels scattered about. The cover art depicting a Dutchman grasping coins in his claw-like hand doesn't do a great job of denoting the play inside. Overall, if a player were to look at the box, then look inside, I wouldn't blame them for not being excited about getting it to the table. They'd be so wrong, though.

  

The components are similarly kinda boring. I would be willing to bet that the majority of the asset work in this game went toward the warehouse pieces. They're not breathtaking, but they stack well and feel great on the board and in your hand. They have a decent enough weight to them that they don't slide all around the board when you're trying to play. The cardboard coins are okay, and the card stock of the stock cards (#SeeWhatIDidThere) is standard issue.

The Good: Gameplay is so good with such a small toolkit that it's addictive. Alternate board for higher player counts is necessary and very appreciated. 

The Bad: Unknown about the art. Rulebook needs a little tweaking. Might be possible to get locked out of winning with no way back in.

Score: I want to make sure that I'm clear in this review - a game doesn't need look good to be great. My GOTY last year was Ethnos, and I have on numerous occasions described that game as "ugly as sin." Chartered doesn't go that far, but I think the gameplay here rivals Ethnos for quality. It's that good. Despite my misgivings above, I think this could easily be a top-10 game for 2018 if it makes it into homes by Christmas. I'm giving Chartered: The Golden Age a score of Stacked Up.



Check out Chartered: The Golden Age on:


              

Coming to KICKSTARTER October 16, 2018.

About the Author:


Nicholas Leeman has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints, a professional baseball team. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.
Chartered: The Golden Age Preview Chartered: The Golden Age Preview Reviewed by The Madjai on October 10, 2018 Rating: 5

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