2010 seemed like a slow year for games; aside from Dominant Species, there didn’t seem like much to get excited about. However, there are a few fun little games that slipped under my radar; Navegador, a rondel game from PD-Verlag, is definitely one of them. The game was a 2011 Golden Geek nominee for best strategy board game and an International Gamers Awards nominee for multiplayer strategy games.
Navegador seems like a fairly straightforward engine game – get more of this to get more of that so you can buy more of the first thing – but while you do need to focus on one set of actions and build them up, you can’t really afford to ignore anything. Hiring workers lets you buy buildings, which make it cheaper to hire more workers and build ships or help you make money when you go to the market. Ships let you explore (which gets you money and points) and colonize (which lets you get more money at the market). Privileges cost you workers, but get you money and can score a ton of points at the end of the game. Aside from the usual rondel action (move your pawn around the track a variable number of spaces – in this case, up to 3 spaces plus sacrifice ships to move further), there’s also a free ship movement action that starts with the last player and moves counterclockwise around the table as it gets used.
The trick is to specialize on something that your opponents are not. If you and an opponent are both collecting gold colonies, for example, you’ll be driving the market value down and won’t get much when you take the market action. On the other hand, if both (or several – the game takes 2-5 players) of your opponents are doing gold, buying gold factories and producing it becomes a very attractive choice; you’re helping both opponents, but they split the benefit of your factories while you get the benefit from both of their colonies.
One of the nice things about this game is that there’s no randomness aside from the colony placement, so it’s fairly easy to plan ahead IF you can predict what your opponents are going to do; this helps avoid downtime. The other side of that is that your move will often depend on what your opponents do, since the value of an action to you can change wildly (in either direction) depending on who takes it before you.
If you just play by intuition (I do!) rather than adding up points, it can be difficult to tell who’s winning; in my last game, for example, I had a virtual monopoly on the more expensive buildings for a while, but one of my opponents had a ton of the cheaper buildings and was cleaning up in the market. We had no idea who was ahead until we tallied up the score at the end (he thought I was, I thought he was, and alas, I was right).
I wouldn’t call this a great game (and I don’t own it) but it’s worth playing.