The board games market seems to have grown in popularity exponentially for the past few years. Where our parents used to play games like Scrabble, Monopoly, and Clue, we have games like Catan, Carcassonne, and Ticket to Ride, and that’s just the mainstream titles in this amazing hobby. There are hundreds of new games funded every year through Kickstarter that attract people’s attention and cause them to pledge their hard-earned money towards helping this dream become a reality. This has led to some amazing games being created, like Raiders of the North Sea by a relatively unknown New Zealander Shem Phillips. On the flip side, there have been probably more duds created than success stories, none of which I will name.
So how can you decide what games are worth backing on Kickstarter? There is no hard-and-fast rule, but apart from backing an established company (always important), I am learning to back an already established game. By this I mean, I am looking at publishers who take a modern classic that has been out of print and find a way to improve it through better art, better components, better game play, and/or expansions. Today, I am going to talk to you about my shining example of this in the game Endeavor: Age of Sail.
Endeavor was a board game from Z-man Games that was published in 2009. By the time I got deep into the hobby of strategy board games, this edition was long out of print and only available secondhand for a hefty premium. I essentially crossed this game off my want list and tried to put it out of sight and out of mind. Fast forward nine years to 2018 and Burnt Island Games and Grand Gamers Guild made the popular decision to not only reprint Endeavor but make a better version of it. Thus, Endeavor: Age of Sail was born, so to speak. Calling upon the original designers and artist, the modern classic received updated art, improved game play, better components, and new mini-expansions.
Within Endeavor: Age of Sail, you are an empire hungry to expand your territory. You will do this by increasing your status in Industry, Culture, Wealth, and Influence. In order to increase your status in these four attributes, you will need to expand your reach in places such as Africa, the Far East, and the Americas. This will involve shipping, occupying, and strategically attacking your opponents. The empire with the most Glory at the end of the game is the winner!
Endeavor: Age of Sail plays very smoothly with five phases each round. First, you will construct a building based on your Industry level. This acts the timer of the game as you will build seven buildings, one for each round. Next, your empire’s population grows based on your Culture level. This dictates how many potential actions you can take each round. Next, a salary is paid to your workers from the previous round based on your Wealth level. This too dictates how many potential actions you can take, as you might have some buildings that stay occupied because you couldn’t pay your workers. The action phase is the meat of the game, and this is where you will perform actions such as shipping, occupying, drawing cards, attacking other empires, of paying workers early to open up buildings to use again. Last, there is a discard phase where you must discard down to the amount of cards you can retain in your tableau, based on your Influence level.
On its own, Endeavor: Age of Sail will provide you countless game sessions with a high level of replay value due to token placement on the map and various strategies you can pursue. This is a game that I would happily play at any time, feel I could teach to anyone, and recommend without asking. With that said, the designers added some extra content to the box, called Exploits, that will appeal to seasoned gamers as it notches up both the difficulty and replay value. In a nutshell, Exploits add more theme and nuances to a typical game. There are fifteen in total and they are based on historical events, such as the Dutch East India Company, the Haitian Revolution, and my personal favorite Jesuit Missionaries.
In the Jesuit Missionaries, for example, players must first unlock the South America and India regions on the map. Once this has been accomplished, a new Ship and Occupy ability is unlocked per the rules on the card. With the new Ship action, you may spend one of your Influence tokens to place a Missionary token and one of your population discs on an unoccupied city anywhere on the map. With the new Occupy action, you may spend one of your Culture tokens to move the Missionary token from its current location to any city that that you control. This gains you two population discs. Also of note, is that a city with a Missionary token can never be attacked. This is a subtle change to the game play that gives players new goals to shoot for and ways to interact with the map and each other.
Presently, there is an expansion being funded on Kickstarter which completely changes how you are going to play the game. The first big change is all new buildings. Adding more variety to the game, we now have new actions on buildings such as Conscription and Mobilization. Whenever you gain population each round, these buildings also get a population and give you the ability to Mobilize that population disc with another action you are taking that round. There is also the Trade action, which allows you to swap one of your tokens with a token still on the map. This can be good for generating extra points at the end of the game or bumping you up into a new tier, to potentially perform more actions or hold more cards.
Also in the expansion are brand-new Asset cards for each region on the map. Each Level One card has a Merchant Fleet space that allows you to place a card on top of it, and effectively increase the number of cards you can retain. Each Level Two card has a Subsidy space, which allows you to pay for a worker on a specific building type. (Be sure to get the right Subsidy, or you will not be using the card to its fullest potential.) Level Three and Four cards are more symbols and more points. Level Five cards are where it gets interesting! Pulling from historical events again, we see cards like the Rosetta Stone and the Declaration of Independence. The Rosetta Stone is awesome, because you can use any action once per turn, and can come in a pinch when you might have gone to heavy on Shipping and there is nothing left to ship. The Declaration of Independence can be a two-edged sword as you will lose all your cities in Europe (appropriate), but essentially gain six points, so long as your Fortification tokens stay on that card. The Europe deck also received some thematic upgrades that I will leave you to discover.
The new Age of Expansion for Endeavor lives up to its name and then some! Having tried out a print and play of all the new features, I have a hard time imagining playing Endeavor again without it. The theme is stronger, the decisions are tougher, and the experience is just more enriching. That is the beauty of this game is that you can tailor it to your group and their level of experience. This game is in my Top 5 to Top 10 and moving up the ranks. I look forward to seeing what little surprises that Burnt Island Games has in store for us with their Kickstarter!
See all our Family Game Night articles here.
Copyright 2019 Stuart Dunn
Your purchase of the resources mentioned here through Amazon affiliate links benefits the author of this article.