Instead of David vs Goliath, today you’re reading David taking on a goliath. That is the game of Concordia. A game that gets praise from a lot of reviewers. Often touted as one of the best games of all time. So let’s see how it fares against my slingshot and sandals.
Designer: Mac Gerdts
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
I am currently typing in a pair of welding gloves, because this is the hottest take I’ll have on this website. But…
Concordia did nothing for me.
An empty experience from such a celebrated game, I was so disappointed.
I can see why it’s so liked. As in theory, this should be my type of game. It’s simple to play and teach, and revolves around three things:
- Managing a hand of cards: buying, using, refreshing cards in your hand.
- Managing the board state: moving pawns around the map and building cities.
- Managing currency: which comes in the form of goods or money.
What did you expect? It’s a Euro game, and follows a lot of Euro game staples with its mechanics, and its theme – trading in the Mediterranean. But it’s not as dry as you’d think. It gets a bit salacious over it’s card effects.
You see, the map is broken down into 12 areas (provinces) made up of a number of cities. Playing a Prefect card allows you to choose a province, and then all cities in that province generate goods for all players who have a house in those cities. Meaning, if I put a house in a province which has goods that Bob wants to generate, then I also get goods when he plays a province card. Which is great, because I hate that guy.
After generating goods in a province, that province becomes used. That province now generates money. But only if someone plays a Prefect card, and only if they choose money over the goods. Which if they do, they get all the monies from all of the used provinces, and those provinces refresh. That’s right, the same card used to produce goods is also the one used to give you megabucks. It’s also the same card which makes everyone’s eyes grow a little wider whenever someone produces, and the same card that the table groans when someone recalls all the money. It’s like a really bad game show where you can either win a million dollars… or some bricks.
The other odd-ball card you can play is the Diplomat, which copies the last card another player played. Giving you access to the same card twice. Like a good joke, the most important part about playing the Diplomat is timing. If someone plays a card that you want another of, brilliant. If not then there’s really no point. This creates a sense of urgency when someone plays something good as you can’t be certain when you’ll see it again.
This all sounds great. So why did I bounce so hard off of it?
Well the theme does it no favours.
But that’s not the issue.
What makes me feel like a kid who got apples instead of chocolate is the scoring. You only score once. Which is both the most boring Bond movie ever, but also a reality in Concordia. And because of that, I never felt like I knew how I was doing throughout my plays. Most board games I enjoy revolve around having a plan, executing that plan, and sitting back to let the serotonin flow over me as I move my marker up the score track. In Concordia, you have a plan, you execute a plan, and instead of serotonin you get a paranoid thought in the back of your brain saying:
Was that a good move?
It’s Anxiety: The Board Game, and I really struggled to engage with it. What makes it worse is that scoring isn’t that easy to figure out either. Your hand of card acts as multipliers of stuff that you have on the board. It’s not as though you can do quick maths to figure it out either. Instead you have to feel your way through the game, like you’re walking through the dark when there’s no walls around – how can you tell if you’re going the right way?
I have a feeling that with more plays, most people would be able to get past this feeling and understand what is a good move, and what’s not. But I’m part programmer, I live on instantaneous feedback – I write some code, does it compile? Does it pass the tests? Concordia is the antithesis of that way of thinking, and therefore I don’t think we’ll ever get along.
Thanks for reading my review, I’m currently ranking all my board games in one brain burning list. You can see Concordia’s initial ranking below.
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