2009’s Endeavor was a cult favorite, and now Burnt Island Games has brought it back all shiny and new and improved. Players take the roles of European powers in the mid 16th century and compete to explore, settle, and/or conquer the world over seven rounds representing a total of about three hundred years.
Your empire’s growth is constrained by four attributes, sort of like an RPG:
- industry (determines the power of the buildings you get to choose from);
- culture (how fast your population grows each turn);
- wealth (how quickly you can recycle your actions);
- influence (how many asset cards you can hold).
These stats fluctuate throughout the game—but you want them all to be as high as possible by game’s end not only for how they help you but also because they give you VP’s, too.
Rounds begin with choosing a building to add to your docks. Buildings either boost an attribute or give you more actions later in the round (or both). Activating a building requires placing a population disc on it. This is why your wealth level is so important, because you can only bring discs home again up to the limit of your wealth; a tepid economy means clogged-up buildings (just like real life).
After these bits of business comes the real meat of the game, which is taking turns doing actions. Here is where you’ll be shipping, opening up continents for trade and conquest, and giving Europeans a bad name for centuries to come.
(Related sidenote: the game does include slavery as an option, and I think the rulebook for the new edition does an unusually good job of unpacking that thoughtfully. Other designers and publishers should take note.)
Basically what you’re trying to do in Endeavor is use your actions as efficiently as possible. Every action expands your presence in a region, whether in its shipping lanes (which can lead to a valuable Governorship) or on the ground by occupying forts (which can be worth a ton of VP’s). Also, the more presence you have in a region the greater the rewards you can reap in the form of asset cards.
Furthermore, every shipping and land space on the board starts the game with a random trade token on it, which you get when you take the corresponding action. Each token either boosts an attribute or gives you a bankable action for later use—which adds a whole other layer of consideration.
You can’t dominate every region of the board; you generally pick one or two regions to concentrate on while maintaining presence elsewhere—but you need to stay flexible and take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
The first two turns go quite quickly, as players have few population discs to spend on actions. Turns three through five start to see more involved play, and the last two turns can stretch on a bit, particularly if you’ve got an AP-prone player in your group.
Endeavour: Age of Sail is a great Euro of this era in world history. It’s not a sim or a wargame, but it doesn’t pretend to be one—although the new Exploit optional rules really add great flavour and present players with even more choices. The components are amazing—including the best box insert and component holders I have ever seen. Owners of the first edition may want to think about upgrading for the double-sided map (which has a smaller board for smaller player counts), the Exploits, and a couple of other tweaks in the rules. There’s even a 2-player variant which makes things really cut-throat. In short, it’s a great game with great value for your money. Click here to order your copy.