Strategically Thematic: Container

October 12, 2017

Strategically Thematic is a segment featured on The Dice Tower's bi-weekly Throat Punch Lunch videos about games where the theme and mechanics go together really well.

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Hi! This is Ambie from Board Game Blitz, and this is Strategically Thematic, a segment where I talk about theme in different strategic games. This time, I’m talking about Container.

Container is an economic board game about the manufacturing and shipping of goods. Players are producing and shipping goods to a remote island where the players need to buy the goods for their island. Although the theme might be a “boring” one, the mechanics make the game extremely thematic. In the game, you’re playing multiple separate parts, like the producers, the shippers, and the purchasers. It may be somewhat weird thematically managing all of these jobs, but you can choose to focus more on one type, since they all can get you money. And since the jobs are actually all separate, you can’t just produce and sell to yourself - you have to sell the goods you produced to another player who stores it in their harbor, and they sell it to another player who ships it.

Because there are different types of goods, you can choose which goods to have, and depending on what other players choose, one player could get a monopoly on the goods! But one really neat mechanism of the game is that players set their own prices for all the goods. So when someone has a monopoly on a good, you can join in on the market and set your prices lower so that all the other players will then buy from you! But you still need to make sure you set your prices high enough to make a profit, since it costs money to produce and acquire the goods.

Another thing that’s thematic is that you only get money when other people actually purchase the goods. You don’t get anything for producing the goods until someone else buys it, and they only get money when someone else buys it to put it on their ship. And you don’t get anything for shipping until you go to the island and other players buy the goods from you. This makes the economy very thematic - if everyone sets prices too high, no one will buy goods, no one will make money, and everything will stall.

The final points at the end of the game depend on what containers each player has. Each player is trying to stock their island with certain goods, so the container points translate into different amounts of points. Since each player values each type of good differently, and you only know how you value the goods, you can’t foresee the demand for the goods you’re producing and shipping. Other players may not want to buy anything from you if you happen to produce something they don’t need!

Another interesting mechanic is that once someone ships goods to the island, all the players simultaneously bid in order to purchase all the goods from the ship. So if your island really needs those goods, you’re willing to bid more than other players, but you don’t know how much the other players want those goods. Also, the player who shipped the goods can match the highest bid in order to get it for their own island, but then they actually have to pay the money and don’t make a profit on the shipment!

Container is a highly interactive and challenging game. The flexibility of being able to set your own prices as well as the auction on the island is really interesting, and it’s very thematic how the end prices naturally end up being a lot higher than the manufacturing cost! Thanks for watching Board Game Blitz! What are your favorite themes in board games? Let me know in the comments!
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