SwatSh: 8,5 /10
Panamax is one of the games which have created a buzz in Essen this year. I must say that 2 of the 3 authors Nuno & Paulo are already the authors of Madeira, a very good game of last year which was elected as favorite game of 2014 in the best games website: Vin d’jeu 😀
In Panamax, we are managers of boats companies that are trying to earn as much money from goods shipments via the Panama Canal. This theme is beautifully rendered by the materials and its beautifully illustrated board. In addition, using many rules about the principle of locks and « traffic jams » that may result gives an extra layer to dive to 100% in this theme. For this, Panamax is clearly a success.
The Panamax’s central mechanics is a choice of actions. It is quite close to Madeira or The Doge Ship system. We throw the dice which will decide the number and types of actions available during this turn. Then each in turn will remove a die to perform the corresponding action.
What surprised me most in Panamax is that there are only two possible actions: loading a ship or move boats. It’s simple, it’s either one or the other. Panamax is rather close to a game of pick-up & delivery: the boats are charged according then are sailed along the Panama Canal to reach the other side to deliver the requested goods . Several elements have seduced me into Panamax:
– Lack of luck
– The complexity of choices and strategies despite the fact that there are only two possible actions: Which boats to load? With what load? Will I load the train? For which country I want to meet the demand? Which boats move first? How to get the most blockages in locks? … And there are many more available actions since everyone can, in turn, make other « free » activities such as building a new boat, buy a share or enjoy one free action when we meet the demand of a country. All this complicates your choices which become even more diificults and thereby slow the turns.
– The interaction between players is present. Of course when the actions are chosen because the action we choose becomes unavailable for others but also and especially in loading and moving ships. Indeed, one can easily load an opposing ship or move one. What makes some collaboration between players with a common interest in one or other of the ships to arrive quickly to the port. The reverse of this interaction is that we do not control everything in Panamax and excellent programming can be ruined by an opposing action: see next point.
– The management of the boat firm is important. Like in Imperial, you will have to manage two types of assets: your personal assets and the assets of your company. Each with its own money knowing that it is your own money that will determine the winner. However, you must not neglect the assets of your company. This will pay dividends for your actions if your company has enough money to pay them! And if it does not, the value of its share will drop what can be catastrophic! And it is absolutely not easy to manage the assets of your company because it must pay each round taxes on goods transiting the Panama Canal. And these taxes can be very significant in terms of where your goods are located in the channel. Some players may move your ships to the wrong place just before pay your taxes, you may lose valuable PVs for lack of money. That’s the reason why it is better to separate your goods by the different boats and not to put them all in 1 or your boat. The balance is to find and depend on the conduct of each game.
– Panamax also distinguished by a very long life duration.
Panamax can nevertheless be very frustrating for a game where control is required. You can lose a lot of money because of an adverse action negatively directed against you. A Kingmaking may occur but the consequences of actions are difficult to estimate. Although an action can affect one player in favor of another, it is unclear how this will influence on winning or not as the consequences are complex. And so, in Panamax, you will, at every turn, choose between two actions: load boats or move them. Despite this apparent simplicity, Panamax is not easy and offers a unique gaming pleasure with the way it is immersed in its theme, Cornelian choices (which slow the game), the interaction between players can be devastating and management of two separate but related assets (the one of your company and the other of your own). Panamax clearly deserves to be distinguished from the production of Essen this year and is already one of the must buy of this year as game pleasures are high.
Tapimoket: 8,75 /10
I like very well the system of moving the ships. Very new, very strategic.