With the Mediterranean under Osman Turk control, the Portuguese were severely limited in the Mediterranean and looking for other trade routes. Better ships, better compasses, and a general centralization of power helped push the Portuguese explorers into the Atlantic, and sailors like Prince Henry, Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama took to the seas.
Sail to India is a Historical Strategy Card game about exploration and trade of the early Portuguese Explorers on their sail to India. In it, the players are nobles who support these sailors in their efforts to discover a route to India and to be the foremost and most famous explorer of all. During the game you’ll need to manage your player pawn’s movement through making use of 12 different actions, 6 different products, and 3 different buildings.
Inside the Small Box
- 4 Historian Cards
- 4 Domain Cards
- 3 Technology Cards
- 1 Lisboa Card
- 12 Coastal Town Cards
- 4 Reference Cards
- 52 Markers in 4 different colors (13 Red, 13 Blue, 13 Yellow, 13 Green)
- 1 Rulebook
Making Your Own Voyage
When starting a game of Sail to India, the Coastal Town cards must be set up first. One player lays out the Lisboa card face up and then the first 3 recommended ports (which are set face up and have a number order in the bottom left corner of each card). The remaining Coastal Town cards are set face down and must be explored, then after the last of the 12 cards are set (in left to right order). The 3 Technology Cards are set on top of the Coastal Town tracker and can be used by all players during play. Each player takes one Domain, Historian and Reference card to place in front of them during play and then chooses a color (Blue, Red, Yellow or Green). Then they take all 13 markers of their color, for their marker stock (a pool of markers used during game).
Sail to India determines the order of play as clockwise from the first player and the first player is the one who most recently sailed on a boat. At the start of the game, each player chooses a color and takes 5 markers of that color, one marker goes onto the Lisboa card, one mark on the “1” ship speed of the Domain card for that player, three markers on the Technology space on his domain card. The remaining markers of that player’s color stay in their marker stock. The order of players also determines a player’s starting Wealth, the first and second players place a marker on 2 Wealth, the third player has 3 Wealth and the fourth player (last in order) gains 4 Wealth.
Every round or turn of the game, each player chooses two actions of several action types to perform during their turn: Employ Marker, Move Ships, Sell Trade Goods, Build Building, Acquire Technology, Increase Ship Speed.
- Employ Marker – You pay one Wealth point as an action during your turn to take a Marker from your Marker Stock and place it on Lisboa. This is the only way to get markers from the stock. This action can only place one marker at a time (even if you have more wealth). You could spend both your actions during a Turn and pay 2 Wealth to place 2 Markers for a round. Removing markers from your Stock is important to track Wealth, Scientists and Victory points and other things like ships.
- Move Ships – Moving ships to explore or find ports to trade in, is an important part of Sail To India. One action allows movement of all ships up to their Ship Speed in spaces (each Coastal Town card counts as one space of movement). Ships must stay within the “Sea” area of each card at the end of movement. You may move under the movement of a ship’s speed or choose to not move a ship at all. You can only reveal an undiscovered card once per turn when moving ships. You may also move ships to Trade Goods markers at any Coastal Town card, to allow them to eventually be claimed as Trade Goods. Any markers which are on the Lisboa card can be turned into ships for purposes of movement, this allows exploration and building of any cards your ships land on – as well as acquisition of trade goods from ports.
- Sell Trade Goods – Returning any Markers placed on Trade Goods at Coastal Town cards, to your Lisboa card, allows you to claim them as Wealth and Victory Points. You may sell any or all Trade Goods this way. The amount of Wealth and VP gained is dependent on the variety of Trade Goods sold. There are six different types of Trade Goods: Gold, Jewels, Coffee, Sugar, Cloth, Spice. The chart below explains the points gained, but generally the best bet is to trade as many variety of goods as possible to earn the most wealth and VP. All Trade Good markers returned to Lisboa can be reused as markers for the future.
- Build Building – Pay two Wealth points from your Domain tracker in order to move a marker on a Coastal Town card (a ship from the sea, a trade good or even another building) to transform it into a building on that card. Each Coastal Town card has two buildings you can choose from, once you’ve placed a marker on a building space on a Coastal Town card, no other player can place a marker to claim that building.
- Acquire Technology – By paying wealth equal to the cost of the technology (some Technology types have 0 cost), you may move one of your scientists from your Domain card onto the corresponding space for that technology on the Technology Card. Once you have acquired a technology, you can use its effects and other players cannot place a marker to claim it. You may only ever take 3 Technology advancements based on the 3 scientist markers you begin the game with.
- Increasing Ship Speed – Increasing Ship speed from 1 to 2 costs 2 Wealth from your Domain tracker. To increase Ship speed from 2 to 3, costs four Wealth. Increasing Ship Speed can only be done once per action.
Each Historian Card is a method to track Victory Points, it is numbered 1-5. A single Marker can only track up to 5 Victory Points (VP) during a game and so a player must spend a Turn in order to Employ a Marker to the Historian Card to track more VP.
Domain Cards are a way for players to track their progress towards Technology and their Wealth. Each Marker being placed (as described above during the Employ a Marker turn), allows a player to choose whether a Marker on the Domain Card will be a Scientist or Banker. Bankers track wealth earned by selling trade goods and other actions (each Banker can track 1-5 Wealth), to track wealth beyond 5 points, a player must have additional banker markers. Scientists track progress towards a new Technology on the Technology cards. Scientists must spend Wealth equal to the cost required for researching a specific Technology. When a Scientist eventually reaches the level to invest in a new Technology, the marker is removed from the Domain Card to the Technology Card.
Each of the three different Technology cards contains 4 unique technologies that can be researched throughout the course of game-play. Each developed Technology has a beneficial effect for the player who researches it. Once a player takes a Scientist Marker who has reached the end of their research on a Domain Marker and places them on a viable Technology, that Technology is now off-limits for other players of the game – limiting their options.
There are three types of buildings with various effects in Sail to India; the Stronghold, the Marketplace and the Church.
- The Stronghold – This building grants +1 VP at the end of the game, it also serves as a short cut when using the “Move Ships” action, since any number of ships can be moved from Lisboa to the sea below your Stronghold (later in the game, this makes exploration and trade much faster). After a ship has been moved from Lisboa, it may move its normal speed.
- The Marketplace – This building grants +1 VP at the end of the game, when, as an action, you “Sell Trade Goods,” a Marketplace counts as a specific type of Trade Good as an extra trade good sold. The type of the Trade Good is dependent upon the Marketplace icon of that specific Coastal Town card. The marker is not removed from your marketplace and stays put even after using this action.
- The Church – The Church grants a +2 to Victory Points at the end of the game.
Each of the 3 Technology cards has four different Technology advancements included (each with a different cost), I will not go through all of them in detail, but rather highlight a Technology from each card to give you an idea of their effects.
- Metallurgy (Cost: 0 Wealth), When you acquire a technology, pay 1 less wealth.
- Architecture (Cost: 2 Wealth), after moving ships, build 1 building without spending an action point (limited to once per turn).
- Renaissance (Cost: 4 Wealth), at the end of the game, gain +3 VP.
Sail to India ends when either the final coastal town (India) is revealed or when two or more players have no markers remaining in their Stock. When the game end is triggered, the following players each get one last turn each, before Victory Points are totaled.
Determining Victory Points
Discovering the last of the 12 Coastal Town cards grants 2 Victory Points, but there are ways to gain VP from technologies and other actions. All VP indicated by your Historians on the Historian card. 1 VP for each marketplace and stronghold building you own. 2 VP for each church building you own. Tiebreakers are due to Players with the most wealth, who discovered India first and the player with the most VP gained on the Historian card.
The Race to India
For a very simple and relatively easy to learn card game, Sail To India has layers of strategy (especially in how you choose Technology types and in what order) and replayability with a quick game time. The game is meant for a minimum of 3 players to a max of 4 players, with how fun this game is, I’d wish there were rules for expanding it to more players. The game is mildly Educational and would be perfect material for a History class covering the “Age of Exploration”.
The hardest concept for new players to wrap their head around is simply the way the game tracks your markers as a resource. You have to spend an action to “Employ Marker” to track your Victory Points and Wealth, if you fail to do so, your extra wealth and VP may just “fall off” your Domain card – since you have no-one to track it.
It is possible to win the game without being the one to discover India, which makes the game a bit more dynamic than it seems.
During our playtest, the other players focused on exploration and revealing new cards. They also bought all the marketplace and stronghold buildings, allowing them much easier movements. I had not focused on anything besides Technology and so my ships were very slow, without Strongholds to give me the shortcut for exploration, I had to focus on a new strategy during play. The best way I found to do this, was to buy all the neglected Church buildings on the explored Coastal Towns. By doing this, I actually had more Victory Points by the end of the game than the other players and managed a close win.
By randomizing the Coastal Town cards and choosing different technology types each game becomes unique. The game seems replayable and I actually hope that AEG decides to expand the game with extra Coastal Town cards or new Technology cards, which would be easy to do. This game is easy to teach to a small group and can be as fast as 15 minutes per game. Its perfect for small parties or gatherings.
In conclusion, I highly recommend Sail to India to gamers looking for a strategy card game with a bit of historical flavor. For other historial games, you may want to check out some of AEG’s other products as well.
Thanks to AEG for providing a copy of Sail to India for review!
- Simple to Learn
- Well designed Rulebook
- Quick Play Time (30 minutes average)
- Great Party Game
- Educational Theme
- High Replayability
- The Marker mechanic is difficult for new players
- The design of the cards and markers could have been a bit more sophisticated
- Max of 4 players