Vladimír Suchy


No. of Players:
2 - 4



G@mebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

Building and designing ships may have been a dream of the one or other of us during childhood. I personally remember a time when I made a lot of drawings about ship design. Now you have the chance to put these dreams into practice ... well, almost … Shipyard is still a game, but there is a chance that you will loose sense of time and get deep into the action of a ship company.

But no sweet without sweat: it surely will take you some time before you can play your first round. Shipyard is a new game from the Czech publisher CZECH GAMES EDITION that was presented on the SPIEL 09 convention in Essen. Over 200 small cards and equipment markers must be pushed out of the punched paperboards (be careful: the punching is not the best and ripping can occur quickly) and they have to be sorted afterwards. Then they must be placed on the game board, where you can find 27 different places for the various game components. I must confess that I was a little bit skeptical if this big variety and huge mass of game material would emerge as a manageable game in the end...But let us first see how the game works:

Players take the role of shipyard owners who want to build many and impressing ships to meet government contracts and to satisfy their costumers. The game is settled in the 1870s when engine began to dominate over sails and honor went to companies with the fastest, best designed ships. For this the players buy ship parts, equipment and crew for the ships and put all this together in their shipyard to complete the ships. Completed ships finally are sent on a Shakedown Cruise and victory points are given for the speed, equipment and crew of the ship. Trading with raw materials can improve the budget of a player, giving him more possibilities to get the best material and crew and additionally another action, too.


In a turn a player has five steps to perform. First of all he has to advance his previous turnīs action card on an action track on the board to the first empty space. The action track has 23 spaces and there are seven different action cards in the game. The players mark their actions by putting one of their figures on the chosen cards. Now all cards with figures on it and action cards from the previous turn that are just put in front of the other cards, must not be chosen by the active player. Thus a player has only a limited choice of possible actions in his turn. Whenever the action card that is put in front reaches the start space of the action track a new round begins. The game lasts exactly as many rounds as there are players in the game.

The second step for a player is to choose a free action. With this he can build ships, rent a canal, purchase freight trains, recruit the crew or produce equipment for the ships and he can hire employees who can help the player in many different ways. All these actions are performed on the board. At any time 20 Ship cards are available to be purchased by the players. Each ship must have a bow, any number of middle parts and a stern. Whenever a player chooses the action of ship building he takes one of the ship cards available, pays the indicated amount of money and puts this new card into his own shipyard board. This board has eight empty spaces for the ship cards. A player is allowed to build several ships simultaneously, but he may not move a ship card again before the ship is completed (a bow on the left, a stern on the right and at least one middle card) and leaves the shipyard.

To rent a canal a player also has a choice of five different canal tiles. Again he pays the indicated amount of money. As for the ship cards, empty spaces are filled from the spaces with higher prices and new cards are placed in the resulting new empty spaces. Thus the more expensive tiles become cheaper and cheaper with time progressing. Canals must be placed in front of the player and must extend an existing canal. No rearrangements are allowed here, too.

Another action with a similar mechanism is the purchasing of freight trains. Again the player takes a specific train, all loaded with three raw materials, and pays the indicated amount of money. Empty spaces are filled up as described before.

All other possible actions of the players work in the same way. After choosing an action the player moves a marker on the corresponding track on the board one step further. This indicates the kind of equipment, crew and employee a player can take and determines the current commodity prices for exchanging the raw materials from the freight trains. All this costs the players nothing. Only if the player wants a different equipment or crew, he has to pay one money for every step he wants to put the figure further on the track of the corresponding action. All tracks are circles, so with enough money the figure reaches the field it started from again.

A player gets one income for each occupied action card that is ahead of the one he chose. Additional income is given, if there are three empty spaces before the card the player chose. The action track is a clever mechanism for balancing the game, because actions that haven't found interest for longer times can improve the players income enormously.

Now why should a player invest in equipment and crew for the ships. Well, on the one hand a player gets victory points for all of this. In simple terms you can say that the better a ship is equipped the more victory points it gives for the player. And of course, you need a captain on the ship, otherwise you will get nothing, because the ship can't leave the shipyard. Then you must care for the right ship cards, because everyone of the crew without the captain needs a cabin and you must have the right constructional parts on the ship cards to tighten the equipment on your ship. On the other hand, every player gets two government contracts that will give him extra victory points in the end game, but only if the player has fulfilled the contract. So for example there is a contract giving the player additional victory points for businessmen on the boats.

Whenever a player has completed a ship a shakedown cruise takes place. First of all the player adds crew and equipment to the ships as long as he has the right material and crew for his ship, then the ship leaves the shipyard and begins a journey on the canal of the player. The journey begins where the last ship of the player ended its cruise. Then the velocity of the ships is determined. Smokestacks, propellers and sails increase the speed. After this the player advances his new ship one step for each point of speed. Then the scoring takes place. Victory points are given for the crew, for cannons and cranes on the ship, for the speed and for the shakedown result. Additional victory points for the shakedown are given whenever the ship moved over a canal space with an icon. This icon represents a government official who for example is interested in military power or safety measures and so looks after canons on the ships or life belts.

A second action can be purchased for six money markers in each turn of a player. I forgot this possibility in my first game and wondered why I had so much money. But it is a very important component of the game and you should be careful to have enough money when you really need another action. Especially short before the end, this possibility is worth a lot.

The game ends in the round when the action cards have completed as many laps as there are players in the game. Then every player has a last action and another chance to complete a ship before the final scoring for the government contracts takes place.

If all of these rules and my explanations seem to be a little bit confusing to you, I must admit that I was confused at the beginning, too. After reading the rules and exploring the huge amount of cards and components of the game, I was not sure whether I could manage to explain the game to someone else though the rules are written very well. But after I sorted the material and had made my first setup (which took us almost 20 minutes), the game concept and the rules were easy to explain and after one or two rounds, we felt sure about what to do.

Getting deeper into the game and exploring all different actions was a great experience and I changed my mind about the complexity of Shipyard. Once you have understood the rules, gameplay is straightforward and fast. Building the ships is already satisfying enough, but the shakedown makes the feeling nearly perfect. The different kinds of tracking on the board are sophisticated and well balanced. Especially the tracking of the action cards guarantees that all actions will be chosen after some time. The game can be played by 2-4 players. Unlike a lot of other games Shipyard has well solved the problem of balancing the game with only two players. Only one small change on the action track that decreases the available actions is necessary to create a wonderful two player game.

As already mentioned before, there is no reason to complain about the amount of game components. The only point of criticism about the design are the very thin shipyard boards of the players. Here a heavier paperboard would do no harm. The graphic design of the material, the box and the gameboard however is marvelous and fancies playing the game again and again, if you find the right opponents. And once familiar with all the different components the setup will be much faster than in my first try.

Shipyard offers a high degree of strategy without making the rules too complicated. Itīs a lot of fun for those who like finding the right combinations for their ships and canal systems. Although interaction is limited you are involved in the game at any moment watching what your opponents are doing and trying to guess what their government contract could be. In my opinion and to my taste Shipyard is one of the strong games that were presented on the SPIEL 09 convention. Not exactly for the family player, but for all players with a weakness for complex building games with a good design.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

[Gamebox Index]

Google Custom Search

Impressum / Contact Info / Disclaimer


Copyright © 2009 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany