Bombay

Cyril Demaegd

Publisher: Ystari Games

Ystari is famous for publishing games with the “ys” letters embedded in the title. Sometimes the letters are separated or flipped. By my count, Bombay is the first or at least the first few games to break that tradition. Why…? No one really knows. I think Shakespeare is the other title that dropped “ys”.

Anyways, enough with trivia. How does Bombay play?

This is a simple move and deliver game with a supply and demand market to determine prices of goods. In the case of Bombay, all goods represents bales of silk. Players try to accumulate rupees and winner is the one with the most wealth. At the heart of the game is a regional map with Indian cities centered around Bombay, each with a column to fit 3 different colored silk cubes to simulate demand for goods. Cubes at the top are goods with the highest demand and worth 4 rupees and cube occupying the lowest slot is worth only 1 rupee. Selling silk of a specific color nets you the amount of money, but also pushes the cube all the way to the bottom as the demands are now met. In this way, cubes of different color have fluctuating prices in each city depending on the types delivered.

To deliver these cubes, players each control an elephant capable of carrying up to two cubes of silk. Players move around the map to different trading posts to purchase specific types of silk as each trading post only specializes in one. The purchase price and availability is pre-determined at the beginning of each set (or round) where silk cubes are randomly drawn from a bag and distributed based on quantity on to three common markets. The most abundant silk cubes are cheapest and cost fewest actions to purchase while the rarer types of silk are more expensive and requires you to spend more actions to make that purchase. The remaining cubes are placed in the middle market.

Once the elephants are packed with silk, they will make the journey to cities to deliver the goods. Each set of the game consists of four turns with each player getting 3 actions during that turn. So in total, players have 12 actions per set with each game lasting 4 sets. That might seem like a lot of actions but in truth, moving around the board requires a lot of action points as is delivery or purchasing goods in cities and trading posts. The actions do fly by quickly. Players can also earn extra points by building palaces on certain empty spots on the map for 1 action and 1 silk cube. These palaces earn points in the end of the game and also forces opponents to pay you 1 rupee for passing through. Players also earn rupees at the end of the game for visiting all the cities on the board. The total rupees earned during the game for goods delivery as well as these end game victory conditions will determine the winner.

In Bombay, there is a back and forth of trying to determine efficiency vs. cost: Should you buy a silk now even though it is expensive because traveling between locations on the board consumes a lot of actions? One also has to decide if it is worthwhile spending silk to build palaces. There are bonus tokens scattered across locations to encourage building palaces. It is nice to be able to get these bonuses as well as the additional income from other players for building palaces at specific choke points on the board. In all, it might be possible to win a game by focusing on building palaces.

The game is light but it is not without weighty decisions. There is also ample interaction between players. One must react to market forces and time purchases and delivery….to a certain extent. Because the game is light, there is no long term planning. Sometimes it is frustrating getting shafted by the moving economy or getting beat by others for delivery of silk for maximum profit, but this is all part of the game. I think the lightness of the game is both a strength and flaw. It is easy to learn and the game can be done in 30-45 min. It is faster still if played online. I suspect that playing the game online (via Boardgamearena) provides a very sterile experience of clicking and moving cubes. I’d imagine slotting silk cubes on an elephant mini is far more tactile and satisfying while allowing a more complete visual assessment of what other players are doing.

Overall, this is an average or perhaps slightly above average Euro but not really groundbreaking or unique. There is a lot of “been there done that” feeling for the game. Yet, I think this game is somewhat underappreciated for what it is trying to accomplish, which is trying to streamline heavier mechanisms into a 30 min affair. I am reminded of the recent series of mini rail games that tries to emulate the 18xx series. Games like Mini Rails or Mini Express are downsized and streamline to produce a truncated but still rich gaming experience.

Initial impressions: Average

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