The newest game from brothers Stefan and Louis Malz, designers of Rococo, Valparaiso is a programmed action-selection Euro. It’s as if Rococo and Lords of Xidit had a baby with a bit of help from Splendor.
Every round players have access to their entire hand of Action cards, and select up to six to use. These involve moving your Merchants around the board, using them to make trades in selected locations, loading up your ship and sending it out to trade, and straight-out trading things for other things (cubes; money; VP’s).
Once one player has finalized their decision, everyone else has 60 seconds to conclude their decision-making. That’s right, there’s an egg-timer--the surest cure for Analysis Paralysis. Then everyone reveals their choices for the round. If you find you’re about to be pooched by another player, you have a few options to avoid disaster. If you paid 5 dubloons during the Planning phase, you can use the card in the Mayor Slot any time out of order. You can also play regular cards out of order for a cost. Or, if you’re unwilling to spend the moolah, you can always take the alternate action at the bottom of the card, generally grabbing a cube or some money--better than a kick in the teeth.
The best thing about shipping goods abroad is that it lets you pick more and more powerful action cards--useful when you want to do the same thing twice in a round or do it more cheaply or efficiently.
The game is a race to 18 VP, and as one would expect there are multiple ways to get there. Each time you fill your ship with goods that’s 1 VP right there. Building houses in market towns or (sometimes) in Valparaiso itself gets you VP--and building in Valparaiso is always good for the income it brings. But most of your points are going to come from trading goods or cash for VP at one of the markets, which are constantly morphing their exchange abilities via an intriguing (and possibly over-complicated) tile-switching mechanism. The more merchants you have at a location, the more times you can do the trade--but you also have to pay other players if they have merchants or houses there, too.
Valparaiso is a quick yet think-y game that (in my opinion anyway) is more forgiving than its parents. It’s a solid middle-weight game that plays quickly. Click here to order your copy now!