PACKET ROW :
A Boardgame by Ase und Henrik Berg for PEGASUS SPIELE
2-5 Players aged 10 and upwards
PACKET ROW on display at Spiel Essen 2013 (above)
PACKET ROW is a game of collecting and using cards from four different locations
the Bank, Docks, Guild Hall and Market. Each of these places offer a selection of VPs
(from Buildings) Cash (by way of Gold bags), Helpful Characters (Banker, Trader, &
Captain), Gold bars (any resource), Resources (Grain, Cotton, Fur, Tobacco), Ships (of
different Nations), Contracts (associated to the ships by the National Flags) and Event
cards (that allow manipulation of the Futures Market).
There are just 4 pages of actual rules, plus 2 pages that describe the scoring system, end
game and cards - not that a lot of descriptive text is necessary as the on card illustrations
(picto-grams) are mostly self-explanatory.
At first it looks like it will be a game of fulfilling contracts, especially as each player begins
the game with a random contract, it soon becomes clear that although money is worth VPs
(1VP for 10 coins) VPs themselves are more likely to win you the game - but of course you
need money to buy the VPs - vicious circle or what ?
To fulfil a contract you need a Contract card, the resources required (as shown on the card)
and a ship bearing the National Flag as shown on the Contract card. The designers have given
a fair amount of thought to the constrictions this causes and have therefore included cards as a
balancing act - the ship's Captain can change the ship's the flag, and the Trader can change the
resources on a card.
A first player is randomly chosen - afterwards the first player token is passed clockwise
which makes for balanced play. Going first may or may not be an advantage, it depends
on a little bluff and some thoughtful manipulation of the other players.
The separate card decks are shuffled and placed on their respective locations. Then five
(6 in a 5 player game) of the cards are drawn from the top and placed 2 over 3 in the spaces
marked on the location board. The 3 cards make up the cards for the Current turn whilst the
2 cards above them are Future cards that will drop down into the Current slots for the next
round (along with a blind card from the top of the deck).
The first player selects one of the Locations - remember there is one card available fewer than the
number of players - and then the next player (clockwise) has the opportunity to take (or buy) one
of the cards on display. Whether they take a card or pass, the next player then has the same choice
(if a card was taken then the choice is limited by one card as the space is not refilled) and so on until
the choice comes back to the First player. If all the cards have been taken then the First player has the
choice of any available card from any of the other Locations (that haven't already been visited this turn).
Notice that the first player doesn't get first choice so selecting a location where there is a card that they
want is not always the best move.This is where manipulation of the players comes into play. If you select
a location with cards that you think the other players want, and you don't, then the chances are at least one
of the players will take a card. If the first player takes a card then the round ends, even if any/all of the other
players has passed - in which case they do not get a card this turn.
For example: 1st Player selects the Market. Their left neighbour (Player 2) pays cash and buys a 4 VP card,
then the next player (P3) takes the Trader. The 4th player passes leaving a 3 Cotton resource card as the last
on the display. Play now passes to the 1st player. If they take the 3 Cotton then that is the end of the turn and
the 4th player doesn't get a card this turn.
Same example as above except that the 1st player also passes on the 3 Cotton. Now P1 selects another Location
and P4 (the only other player to have passed) has first choice from the cards on display there. If they take one of
the cards then P1 can take one of the remaining cards or select another Location where they have choice from all
cards on the current display. If P4 doesn't take a card and P1 does then the turn ends and P4 doesn't get a card.
If a Location has been chosen and at least one card removed from it then ALL of its remaining cards (except the
Future) are removed from play at the end of the Turn. These get replaced by the Future cards plus cards from the
deck which add to the Current and rebuild the Future supplies. Locations not visited do not have new cards for the
With so few rules and such a simple mechanic PACKET ROW is an unexpectedly clever and enjoyable game.