Before anything else I should say that you need to have a copy of the VILLAGE (with or without the first expansion). A knowledge of the rules is helpful but as the PORT is easily added to the basic game there would be no problem purchasing them together and playing them both together for your first game - the only difference if you did that would be that you haven't experienced the original Travel Action rules. The PORT is the second expansion for Imka & Markus Brand's brilliant VILLAGE game from quality German publishers Pegasus Spiele. Unlike the first expansion, the INN, this one doesn't add another player ("shame" I hear you all say) so VILLAGE stays as a 2-5 player game. It also sort of adds a new dimension to the game by the use of a new board which features canals and islands. I say it "sort of" adds to the game because although the water board brings in boats and new resources (goods) it also removes the cart track as the water board is placed onto the main board over the Travel Action. From my viewpoint this isn't such a bad thing as although I thoroughly enjoy playing VILLAGE (it is always one of the (now) 5 player games I select from my library) I have always felt that the Travel Action never quite worked as well as the other options. The Port Action actually works a lot better than the Travel Action in my mind as I always thought that you couldn't do enough during the game with the Travel Action and you can do more, not quite enough more, but more none the less, with the Port Action. The PORT gives you a sea board that covers the cart track on the original Village board and thus replaces the Travel option - you can now move by ship and collect 3 different cargoes. As I mentioned ships you have probably guessed that these come with this expansion - there are 5 (one for each colour) wooden ships that replace the round movement markers and there are 5 card ships (again one for each colour) on which you place cargo as you obtain it. The cargo is Cocoa and Tea (which you can sell at the market) and Treasure Chests which are worth a number of coins that you can take any time during the game.
The PORT expansion brings Ships into the VILLAGE and thus Captains are also introduced. This means that the players have to hire these Captains when they wish to control a ship on a Port Action. Each Ship requires a Captain by the rules and each Captain has a different ability and a different cost to hire based on that ability. The PORT Action brings three new resources into play, Cocoa Baskets, Tea Bales and Treasure Chests. Each ship has three compartments for carrying goods. Players may load their ships with only different goods in each of these holds (there is one exception - the new QuarterMaster card) and one of these goods may be a Family member, thus increasing the Actions that can be taken on the visited islands. Once at sea, ships can stop at the islands and/or continue their journey until the owning player wishes to bring them home. Ships move on specified water spaces by using either a step (a game action), time or one of the other new cards - Admiral, Cartographer and Helmsman.h
There are also 17 extra cards, 8 Silver and 9 Golden that make up the life goals additional expansion which can be played with any current version or expansion of VILLAGE, though not all of these are available for each game edition. They do not change the rules in any way but instead give players a chance to gain extra Prestige Points. Each player is dealt one of each Life card, Gold & Silver, which they can hand in any time during the game if they complete the necessary mission/task. Once used, the cards are discarded with no replacements given, they are one-offs only. Players do not lose any points or suffer any penalties if they do not fulfil a Life Goal. What these cards do, apart from the obvious, is to offer players something else to aim for and thus possibly affecting the game and the way players approach it. There is no pressure on players whatsoever to complete these goals, they are simply another way of scoring PPs.This is a very clever, well worked out and designed expansion pack for a very clever and well designed original game. The new character cards for the Port are added to the character deck for the Inn, replacing the Count, Traveller, Messenger and Toll Keeper.
If you sail your ship with a family member on it this person can occupy a Church on an island and gain you immediate Prestige Points. No other player can place a family member on this church until you move your one off - they can sail on to other islands or return to the Port - or your family member dies. If a family member dies at sea there are specific spaces on the Port board which gain you Prestige points, but these are only used if there is no empty grave in the Chronicle's Travel (Green) section. Placing a Family member on the last space at sea prompts the end game mechanic.
The sea board also has new Market stalls where, when the Market action is triggered, the Tea Bales and Cocoa Baskets can be sold one at a time. The designer has obviously thought how some other games handle sales of goods collected by ships because it is only possible to sell goods that you have collected from your voyage(s) and brought back to the Port - you cannot sell goods that are on your ship. You gain 7 Prestige points for selling a Cocoa basket and 5 PPs for selling a Tea Bale. The number of Tea Bales and Cocoa baskets is limited so as they are sold they are removed from play. These goods take time and actions to collect but are worth it. Note that there are Treasure chests you can gain that can be saved until you need the money or immediately removed from play for their coin value, you do not have to sell the Treasure chests at the Market (or anywhere) to gain their worth.
There are a fair amount of prestige points and a lot of money to be made by taking the Sea Travel Action but like the Cart Travel in the basic game there are still only a very limited number of influence cubes that allow these actions. If you do travel by ship then you must have a Captain (you hire a Captain card) - once you end your voyage the Captain is removed from the game - and your first movement is always free (as far as influence cubes go - you still have to pay Time when the space requires you to do so). The Captain tells you what cubes you need to advance each space after your free move. There are three different Captains and apart from the inexpensive 1 coin ones the cubes required are not the same, thus you can generally choose your Captain according to the cubes you are holding. If you stop at an island and take an action there - selling, joining the Church, or obtaining a resource etc - then your movement ends there. You can always sail on next turn if you take the Travel Action again as long as there is another influence cube available on the Action space. We found that, like the Cart Travel Action there are never enough available to keep this part of the game interesting. If you decide not to sail on you can pay 1 Time and immediately return to the Port. This is a good idea, much better than having to spend Time and Cubes sailing back, though you still have to take the Travel Action to do this.
One rule we think is a bit strange is that you cannot throw any goods overboard to free up a Hold space on your ship - this doesn't really make logical sense - though it is most likely in place to make you think before acting; overall though this is an exceptional expansion. Yes, we are a little frustrated that it did not include the pieces for a sixth player, but with two expansions now firmly in place it cannot be long before this "oversight" is remedied. Having said this, I would be happy to see a third expansion with a 6th player and a new addition to the Village, but I hope that this excellent game doesn't go the way of Carcassonne and Catan which just go on and on and on until even the most avid player calls a halt on them.
I must admit that this is what I had expected when I first saw the PORT expansion I was a little disappointed when the Travel action was replaced and not expanded by the Sea Board. We have experimented, quite successfully, by adding the Sea Travel board to the game but NOT to the board; we use it as a totally new entity. Just by doubling the number of influence cubes available for Travel - there is still only one Travel Action space - the opportunities open right up. You can use these for travelling by Ship or by Cart so for example in a 3-player game we place 8 influence cubes instead of 4. These are not 4 for Cart and 4 for Sea they are 8 for Travel, how you use them is up to you. It makes Travel available and possible to more players and it makes for a more thoughtful game - players take a little longer (but not too much longer) to decide on their Actions each turn as there is now more planning and strategy available. It started because we felt that if you have an expansion it should, by definition, expand the game and using the Sea tile as a replacement wasn't actually expanding the play. Naturally we would expect you, the reader, to play according to the rules as laid down by the very talented Inka and Markus Brand, but just once in a while it is worth trying something new and a little different, using everything you have, basic, Inn and Port and not overlaying the cart system but playing both Travel sections as separates. We enjoy it and hope you will too.
The VILLAGE is one of the games that all players who enjoy the resource management side of strategy based games whould have a copy of. It is played in turns and has a very good mechanism for players choosing their actions which can result in them both gaining and losing in the same turn. Highly recommended is the game itself and both of the current expansions. When you add up all the pieces that come with the PORT it is actually quite good value for money (online there are shops selling it for around £15.00 or on eBay it is £22.00 - £25.00).