Review: Die Speicherstadt

Posted by James (admin) on February 17th, 2011

Die Speicherstadt (whose English language version is called The Speicherstadt) is the name of Hamburg’s warehouse district and is a simple but clever game.  The goal is to earn as many victory points (VPs) as possible and the game ends when the deck of cards has been used.  Each round 4 to 6 cards (number of players plus 1), are available for puchase.

Players take turns placing one of their 3 meeple next to a card (on the adjacent warehouse) to show that they want a chance to buy it.  If a card already has meeple next to it, the player places their meeple next in the queue for that card.  When all meeple have been placed, each card is resolved. The player whose meeple is first in the queue can purchase the card at a cost equal to the number of meeple in the queue.  If they don’t buy it, that meeple is removed and the player who owns the meeple that is now at the front of the queue gets the chance to buy it (at a lower cost than the previous player because there are now fewer meeple in the queue).  When a player buys a card, any meeple in the queue are simply returned to their owners.

Some cards give you goods, some give you VPs if you place the stated goods on them, some allow you to convert goods to cash, etc.  The cards are quite varied but the icons on them ensure they are easy to understand. Each card belongs to one of 4 seasons and each season is shuffled and the played in order which keeps the game balanced.  Also, there are 4 fire cards (one in each of the last 3 seasons and 1 at the very end of the game).  When a fire card is drawn, the player with the highest total of fireman cards gets gains points and the player(s) with the least lose  points.  There appear to be different routes to scoring VPs and the key is to specialise in your chosen route as much as possible.

The result is a simple but very entertaining game that delivers plenty of entertainingly difficult decisions.  Most euro games contain more layers or stages of mechanics, so Speicherstadt surprised me being stripped down but still delivering interesting gameplay.  As a result, the game plays quickly too.

The core queuing/purchasing game mechanic demands that you balance a lot of different factors.  Being first in a queue gives you the first chance to buy the card but also at the highest price, especially as other players often place their meeple to drive the price up out of your reach.  As you will likely have meeple in more than one queue, you often need to decide whether to purchase one card before you know what the price the later cards you are queued for will be.  The placement of meeple makes the game very interactive and results in (enjoyably) difficult decision-making to the game.

Money is scarce, and I don’t just mean you sometimes only have a few coins – I mean having more than 4 coins is positively wealthy and you could probably pay another player to carry you home for 7 coins.   Having more money than other players is very important, even by 1 coin, as this gives you more options from the same queue opportunities.  As well as generating money, players get 1 coin income per round, plus 1 extra coin if a player didn’t buy any cards that turn.  In our first game, I got stuck without cash and felt the bonus coin (for not buying a card) was outweighted by the fact that opponents that bought cards usually earned cash from them too.  It taught me to ensure I kept generating cash and that sometimes it’s better to save your money.

If money is important, turn order is absolutely crucial too – going last gives you a lot of power/control because your last meeple placement is made with full knowledge of its outcome.  First player moves one player clockwise each round (and turns are taken clockwise), but I did wonder if a more interesting method could be to allow the player with the least money to choose the first player each round, as this might balance out the disadvantage of having the least money.

Die Speicherstadt is a very solid eurogame which shows that sometimes less is more without having to sacrifice gameplay.  Very enjoyable and I look forwards to playing it with 4 and 5 players.


[Played with 3 players]

Note: Michael Schacht’s Felinia, which is due out soon, has a similar bidding mechanism; however, in his game the player at the back of the queue gets the first opportunity to purchase.  I think this sounds very interesting too (even if its cat-people theme seems slightly strange).

2 Responses to “Review: Die Speicherstadt”

  1. Emanuele Ornella Says:

    I’ve played both games last year on Bruno Faidutti’s gathering. Michael was there and had the prototype of what is now Felinia.
    We played Die Speicherstadt and his proto after.
    Both very interesting and enjoyable.
    Both with a similar mechanism that, I can ensure, was not copied by Michael: he only found a publisher just later…


  2. James (admin) Says:

    Hi Emanuele,

    Didn’t mean to imply Michael may have copied the mechanism if that’s how it sounded. I was just commenting that Felinia has a similar mechanism but with a different method which makes it appeal to me a lot too. When I read the rules to Felinia, I commented to a friend that it looked like an elegant game mechanic.



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