Review: Traders of Carthage

Posted by James (admin) on July 31st, 2010

Traders of Carthage is essentially a card game but does include a board.  Each of the cards shows one of 4 different commodities (red, blue, yellow and green) and has a coin value from 1 to 5 on it.  Next to the board are two rows of face-up cards – one is the Market (these cards can be bought or taken) and one is the Field (which are cards that will soon be moved to the Market).  The board depicts a trade route passing through 6 Mediterranean cities along which 4 ships – one for each commodity – will travel.

On their turn a player can carry out one action:

Get coins: The player can add any 1 card from the Market to their hand (excluding any card with another player’s reserved marker on it).
Reserve a card: Each player can place their reserve marker on any unreserved card in the Market or the Field.  It can only be retrieved by taking the reserved card (Get coins), or by buying the cards (Buy goods).
Buy goods: A player can spend coins (the cards in their hand) to buy the cards in the market; however, the player must buy ALL of the goods cards in the market or none at all.  Purchases must include any good in the Market that the player has reserved, but exclude any goods reserved by other players.  Any goods bought are placed face-up in front of the player – these are the player’s shipment.  After a purchase, the ships matching the colours of the cards bought are moved along the trade route (1 space if one card of that colour was bought, 2 spaces if more than one was bought).

If any ships have reached Carthage (the end of the trade route), players with face-up goods in front of them that match the colour of the ship(s) at Carthage are scored.  Each player multiplies:

[ The number of cards they delivered ]   x   [ Highest value card delivered + achievement tokens ]

The player takes cards equal to their score divided by 5 (rounded up) and each of these is worth 1 victory point (VP) at the end of the game.  The cards used are the ones the player delivered, taking any extra from the draw pile.  Also, any player who delivered goods gets an achievement marker for each colour they delivered (which makes future deliveries of that colour more valuable). 

When any ship reaches Carthage, the ships that are nearly at Carthage are attacked by pirates.  Any player with cards in front of them (their shipment) the same colour as the pirated ships will lose them unless they discard cards from their hand of the same colour which have storage icons on them.  As soon as any player has 8 achievement markers, the game ends and most VPs wins.

Overall, Traders of Carthage is a really clever design.  The cards act as the commodities, as the cash, as the victory points, and as the protection from pirates.  This isn’t just neat in terms of components but it creates an incredibly inter-woven game which delivers a lot of interesting decisions and tight gameplay.

It took a few turns to get used to the actions available but, after that, it was simple.  The game flowed very quickly as the options available are often straight-forwards, although many can be excrutiatingly (and entertainingly) difficult to make.  As a result, there was little downtime between turns (even playing with the full 4 players), although players who are prone to too much analysis may need a poke here and there to keep things moving.  The cards available in the Market can change rapidly making it difficult to plan too far ahead but it is very possible to plan strategies. For example, trying to find ways to cause opponents’ goods to be pirated is always entertaining.

As the game progressed, I started to realise the hidden depths that the game has.  The interlinking of the cards means that doing one thing will usually affect someting else.  Taking a card from the Market will make it cheaper for the next player.  Reserving a card means it’s yours anytime you want but, when it’s in the Market, buying the goods is more expensive compared to other players without a reserved good.  Buying goods may be tempting but may result in ships moving that you would prefer not to move because that would help other players deliver their goods, and may even mean your newly gained goods get pirated.

The different colours of cards diminish as the game progresses too as delivered goods start to pile up in the players’ victory point stacks.  This was something I only realised towards the end of the game – I was waiting to buy (or for someone to buy) just one more green good so the green ship would move to Carthage and deliver my green goods, especially as I had several green achievement markers.  Needless to say, no more green appeared and my green went with the pirates.

Traders of Carthage was a really pleasant surprise and I am looking forwards to the next printing so I can get a copy of my own.  I’m sure there are more tactics and strategies to be found amongst all the challenging and rewarding decision-making.


[Played with 4-players]

2 Responses to “Review: Traders of Carthage”

  1. Alan Says:

    It works very well as a two-player game. Nicely portable, too – we took it camping.

  2. James (admin) Says:

    Hi Alan,

    That’s great to know. Makes it an even more definite purchase for me. (It’s almost a shame they didn’t include a card for each of the ports because then you could play without the board at all for those occasions when travelling light. Following on from that, I should say I like the board and it makes the game feel more focussed so I don’t feel it’s purely included as padding to justify greater cost.)



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