Trading Empires! In the Mediterranean!
Android, iOS, & Steam
# of Players
Rio Grande Games
Concordia is the certified smash, top 20 Board Game Geek title from Rio Grande Games, brought into the digital space by Acram Digital. Concordia mixes a bit of drafting with hand management, trading, networking and other mechanics. You are tasked with building the best economy across the ancient Mediterranean map attempting to have your trading house rise to the top. There are a couple of game-end trigger conditions, a digital game against AI takes about 25-30 minutes to complete.
The primary draw of Concordia is that it hits that ever so elusive sweet spot; easy to explain, impossible to master. I have previously expressed my undying love for games that actually manage to hit this one in a million crosshairs, so naturally I was incredibly excited when this port was announced.
Each player starts with the same hand of cards with one land and one sea worker at the starting position on the map. Each of the cards does something, as you may have been able to guess. One of them allows you to move one space for each worker you have. Another lets you buy a new card from the drafting row, another lets you produce goods in a province, another lets you buy and sell goods, and so on. It’s all very “trading in the Mediterranean-y”, trust me.
The game end is triggered in one of two ways; the last personality card is purchased or one player builds their 15th and final house. Personality cards can be purchased by playing a card from your hand and then paying the cost of one of the seven face-up cards. These cards mostly help produce goods, but there are some different abilities mixed in. Houses are optionally built after playing your movement card, with each house having an associated type depending on what good they produce with a coin multiplier applied if other players already have houses in that city. One the endgame is triggered, the player doing so gets a seven point bonus and the round plays out.
Scoring in Concordia comes primarily from the personality cards. These will give you points based on various conditions. One gives you points for every ten coins you have, another for each different province you have buildings in, another for each brick-producing building you have (with separate cards covering the other good types), and so on.
Concordia has a hook that really appeals to me; very simple turns, but deep strategy. On your turn you play a card, take out its action, and that’s it. One of the starting cards allows you to collect your previously played cards. Another allows you to produce goods. Another move and build. The crux of the endgame is balancing getting scoring cards and doing the things that get your more points from those scoring cards. All the while you have to best plan and execute your production to increase your purchasing power.
The cards are individually simple, but the game quickly becomes brain melting once you understand the rules and how you score points. You can target putting buildings in all of the different regions, for example. To do this you need to maximize your available workers (you optionally recruit them, up to a limit, at the end of the action from a starting card). More workers allows you to move more freely as movement points are equal to the number of workers you have. To make this plan pay off you need to be sure to grab the cards which actually score points for having buildings in as many regions as possible. This involves closely monitoring the drafting row and what other players are doing to make sure you are able to purchase them before they’re gone. Oh, you also need to make sure you’ve got the funds to purchase them. There is a lot to consider for what, upfront, seems to be a very straightforward strategy.
I love Concordia. I have never played the physical game, but had done some research on it a while back and immediately knew I would love this game if/when I got the chance to play it (digitally or otherwise). Incredibly simple actions with wide open strategy options is an incredible combination in board games. The Castles of Burgundy is probably my favorite game ever and I’m pleased to say Concordia stands as its peer quite well.
Barrier to Entry
The game is taught through a tutorial and also contains a fully indexed rulebook section. The tutorial is a bit wordy, but it does a good job. It tries to dip into the “why” a bit so you can start to think of some strategy behind the moves rather than blindly learning how to do every, which is nice. Regardless, this is a game where most players will be comfortable with the rules after a game or two, but will spend a long time trying to develop and refine strategies. The difference between experienced and inexperienced players in Concordia is vast.
Look and Feel
The game looks good. There is a ton of information available at all times in the game and it is all available at a quick glance or with a tap to expand an area for more information. It’s impressive how much they crammed into small phone screens. The only minor complaint here is that all of the scoring details of your cards are gathered in a sub-menu. This isn’t a big deal, but it’s an extra click I find myself making quite frequently as I am learning the game.
Control-wise, things work generally as expected with a click-and-confirm setup that allows for undos when appropriate. My only complaint here is that the areas to tap for certain actions, most specifically moving a worker, seem to be very small which can lead to small bouts of frustration when trying to get your worker moved to the road you want.
Online games work as you would hope, allowing varying timeouts to accommodate different game lengths, a lobby system to find open games, password-protected games to limit them to only people you choose, the app is cross-platform, etc… Overall it’s mostly a perfectly pleasant, if not super polished, experience. There are other systems which make things a bit easier, but everything here is exceedingly cromulent. The game does allow local pass and play. There is no attempt made to hide what cards other players have in their hands in this mod
Single player also works as you would hope. Set up the game how you please, select the AI level of the opponents, and get started. Nothing fancy and it doesn’t need to be. The easy AI here is quite random and is best used as a learning opponent. Medium and Hard step things up a bit. I haven’t been able to master Hard in my time with the game, but I’m far from an expert.
All of the expansions are currently being developed, this includes the big ones; Salsa, Venus, and Fish Market. Acram intends to sell them individually or allow for a Season Pass which grants you access to current and future expansion content. That additional content comes by way of new maps which offer changes to the formula. More on this as it becomes available.
The Wrap Up
Concordia is a fantastic game. Simple to learn, impossible to master. It absolutely delivers on this promise and is one I’ve enjoyed every play of despite how poorly most of my strategy attempts have played out.
The app is mostly very, very good. There are minor complaints here and there, with the only one that really stands out are the tough to hit tap areas There aren’t any bells and whistles to be found, but it certainly does the job of allowing you to play Concordia on your mobile device.