Traders of Osaka (Review)
Updated: Jun 27, 2019
Recently, Kayla was looking for a game to play that we've never heard of before and ran across Traders of Osaka being mentioned on reddit as a good game for two players. The box size gave us the impression it was a filler game so we decided to give it a shot.
Traders of Osaka is a re-skin of a previous game, Traders of Carthage, and after looking at the maps and tokens for both, you can quickly see they are identical. The purpose of the game is to buy merchandise and get it to Edo without being engulfed by the Black Tide at sea. There are four types of merchandise and four ships to carry it on. Moving a ship can also help another player and getting a ship to Edo can also spell doom for other ships you are invested in.
Traders of Osaka first looks like a game that would come out on top for Theme. The box art is beautiful, the flavor text in the beginning of the rule book is interesting, but that’s where it ends. The four types of merchandise are never explained in the rule book so one must guess from the pictures. Kayla and I weren’t sure if one of them was rice, sugar, salt, cocaine or something else. The Black Tide is a nice touch where the sea can capsize your ship off the rough shores of Japan unless you insure it. This worked well with the game mechanic under it so it was a central part of your strategy.
The rules were easy to pick up and easy to remember. After spending about 15 minutes reading the rules and understanding it, we didn’t need to look at it again. They were also fairly intuitive, which helped with being able to remember the rules. It takes a few play-throughs though to understand what strategy to employ.
There is a fair amount of strategy in the game in terms of knowing what resources to focus on based on your achievement tokens. Achievement tokens help you get more VP out of your merchandise that you sell in Edo so if you focus on a few resources, you can really rack up the points. On the flip side, due to the Black Tide, you may not want to put all your eggs (or rice/salt/sugar/cocaine) into one basket. If any merchandise reaches Edo, then any other merchandise still at sea are at risk of sinking due to the Black Tide. We found ourselves strategically picking cards in order to avoid that however it became difficult when we both had a stake in the same merchandise.
The game is not big enough to be an entree game but big enough to not be a filler game either. It strikes an interesting balance between the two and is one that we would play when we want something more challenging but don’t have enough time to commit to a full board game. It isn’t a game that we will go out of our way to pick up and play, but is one that would be on our shortlist when staring at our shelf looking for a game to play.
Traders of Osaka is a challenging more-than-filler game that is easy to learn and remember. The use of the Black Tide mechanic led to a lot of thought during each turn in order to best optimize the selling of goods for victory points. The game slapped a skin on solid mechanics and it showed as there were some areas that could have improved in terms of transporting players to another world.