North is cruel. Sharp winds blow there, very close to the hurricane in their strength and entail cool and pungent kisses of winter. Snowflakes will not settle only on your hair and hands, but their sharp spikes also get into your nose, ears and even into the mouth. They will dissolve in a moment on your tongue , but let a strange aftertaste there. Dark and black as death. This is no water.
White landscape retains blackness. Somewhere down under a blanket of snow, below ice and water, there are thousand tons of oil hiding. And people are willing to freeze because of it. Expose themselves to the cold, breathe snow flakes and kill each other. The black and white is now completed with third color – red. It is often necessary to shed blood in the interests of black gold..
The battle of superpowers for oil is a fairytale of board game 2019: The Arctic, which was prepared for publishing by Polish company named SINONIS. Andrzej Kurek’s game was illustrated and decorated by Radoslaw Jaszczuk and Sandra Kochanowski. The game was first published in 2011.
Arctic is the place for this game and the main drivers of the game are not the players, but the countries, which are searching for hidden oil reservoirs in this area. You can see snow storm on the packaging of 2019: Arctic, where armed men go into attack from submarine parked nearby. Cold gets to you even from the picture alone.
When you open the box, you will find a game board inside, wearing a beautifully executed map of the Arctic. For comparison purposes, you can see a picture of reality next to the illustration somewhere in this review. In the box, you will also find cardboard tokens with mining platforms (two-sided – one side with legal platform, and second illegal crossed with red line) and round country tokens, and also round (but smaller) tokens for coins.
Inside awaits you also a pile of wooden chips. If it was one of the first production versions of the game, released before September 2012, you will be probably disappointed by their quality. However, the SINONIS company has negotiated with the manufacturer and hoping to release a new set. And we have it at our disposal! It has better colors, which are easily distinguishable from each other – unlike the original ones, where two dark tones was almost identical in every lighting.
But the important thing is, of course, what shapes have these wooden pieces. First of all, there are pawns serving as ambassadors of players. Those are lobbying in individual countries and are trying to persuade them to your advantage. Besides wooden figurines, every player would appreciate wooden ships carrying colors of the five participating parties of the conflict – purple Russia, blue EU, green Canada, red Norway and brown USA. The rest of plastic bag contents consists of several round tokens and cubes.
In addition to these pieces, players need nothing else. All important information is included on the board. No cards are necessary. Players here have their own representatives only on scoring route around the board. The five countries covered the whole map and their bases are on sides. This is the place, where ships will start their journey into battle for oil. Each one of those country boxes, in addition to small treasuries, consists mainly of three voting positions for lobbyists and six action fields.
We can easily find also a place for three different laws about the Arctic on the board, of which only one can be active at a time – the one most countries vote for. Then there is place for turn counter and a route of political influence. In the middle lies the map itself and it is divided into sectors. Each part contains square and round place for tokens. The first mentioned is for mining platforms, while round ones indicates, which land controls this space with its navy.
Through the map, we are slowly approaching the icy landscape. Do you feel the cold on your skin? But do not worry, if you succeed, you will have enough oil to warm up your entire life. In Arctic ice, black gold is hidden and you are the ones with right to conquer it. Or at least soon you will be.
Players must choose one of the dull shades of gray, brown and black to be their color. This will be figurines of their lobbyists (the number depends on the number of players), who they will faithfully serve them for the duration of the game. Also mining platforms are of the same color and all will get into property of players as influential tycoons, who desire to become oil barons.
Other pieces include individual countries and are player independent, as we have mentioned several times before. According to the preparation, you put several boats on their starting positions for each of the countries involved (neighbouring with Arctic area) – a different number for each country based on its strength. We have to add China to the already mentioned nations, because it is also involved in the conflict, but the players cannot control it directly like the other countries.
You put the turn counter on the first spot and also prepare an active middle of the three laws next to it, with countries votes according to setup guide. Each country gets endowed also with different amount of initial funding.
Now, for the first time, players will send their lobbyists to work. This is a part of 2019 based on a worker-placement mechanism, in which players send their pawns to individual countries to negotiate better conditions and allow oil drilling in their territory. Each country has just three spaces, where players can send their lobbyists.
Once they are all distributed, its time for a specific action phase. Players evaluate each lobbyist and charge it with a specific task, because his plane already arrived in the country, you want to affect. Naturally, the order in which players come to country (from top to bottom) is essential. Each site has a total of six action fields and each of these may be used by only one lobbyist in one round.
Like we have seen, these men are pillars of those countries and bring profit to it. But you can also retain option to choose action now and keep it for later. You can put your lobbyist on the scale of political influence (for money), so you can move it before action evaluation to any free space remaining in countries. You can imagine that, like sending special little person with private jet (or helicopter) directly to the headquarters of the country.
Actions of individual countries progress in a predetermined order from starting Russia to USA. A player, who has his pawn on the top, goes first. He can select any of the six actions. The next player then selects from five and the third from four. More pieces in one country may belong to one player.
You can choose from these events – diplomacy, ship production, platforms positioning, boats movement, taxes or unrest in the given country. The first event is the most complex and during it can be performed only one of the available diplomacy subactions. These are not represented among the symbols of events under country flag, so diplomacy could be used only by one player during one turn. You can start a conflict with another country to change its attitude towards the Arctic laws, promote the entry of Norway into the EU (these two parties can join, as well as their boats), or damage your opponent.
You can use country money to build as many ships as they can afford and manage to produce per round (every country has some ceiling in production). Boats begin in one sector at its owner shores.
Players can create two types of platforms – legal and illegal. That depends on whether the space on map is controlled by some country or not. In any case you must pay for such construction. In the game, there are three types of resources – gas, oil and stone. And money, but they cannot be harvested. The other three can. This field must be in ownership of the country (= legal platform), for which the player performs a move or must at least have active country boat (= illegal platform).
Another event is the movement of ships, in which the player can move all ships of this country. If the active law is in favor of declaring the supremacy of ships over fields, then you immediately after entering new sector with the ship, gain control of this space for active country. Taxes then can add money to the coffers of the country, so it can buy more ships in the future. That concludes all actions available for lobbyists.
Players after all events convene their lobbyists back home or may have keep them in place for free, if they are on the middle spot. In the game you will also find a common enemy of all players, which prevents the game to last too long – China. Provided that the ship arrives at the North Pole and successfully gains control of it, the game is over and all the barons and all countries lost to the Asian superpower. We can only guess, what will happen next.
If the war is raging, then ship in the same field venture into battle. In this case, both sides will lose the same number of ships and the side, which had more ships outlasts the enemy. But the greatest act of war is destruction of mining platform. But you need two ships to destroy it, when a legal contruction is concerned and only one for illegal.
At the end of each round, you’ll get finally your just rewards as a head of an oil empire mafia – a river of money turns more or less in your direction. And sometimes there is dry season instead. It all depends on how much raw materials were you able to mine this round. You must now convert all, you can keep no piece for future. You can get either coins or victory points for it. You directly receive twice as many, when you decide for victory points. That makes it also a double temptation.
The game may end up in China victory or when the time comes and there is last round on the turn track. In this situation, players sum their victory points and from saved money. Whichever pawn reached furthest on the route, is the winner.
2019: The Arctic is definitely not a simple game. The first one or two games, you will be little confused and you’ll be slapping everywhere in an effort to control unfamiliar mechanisms – to find your way to victory. But then the fight gets rough and the game, in which there is no room for chance, picks up speed. You got familiar with it and now you can only enjoy yourselves.
The strategy is the only way to victory, yet there are so many of these strategic roads to take. But players in fact do not control any of pieces on the board. Each boat can be moved by any of players, which makes it exceptional. This is just one of those magical feelings, while playing 2019: The Arctic. You have to fight your way to victory not directly, but through subtle influence. In this game is hidden more politics, than you would find in the whole Czech Parliament.
Money is precious in the game and you are constantly faced with its scarcity. At the beginning you get only ten coins, but the position of the platform (legal) can cost up to four – depending on the distance from the pole. You can still save on approval fees, but then you risk simpler destruction of your illegal mining tower. Shortage comes also from the fact, that you can (and have to) change earnings for the victory points from time to time. You get points also for the saved money at the end of the game also points, but there is not so advantageous ratio as when you convert raw materials directly. And we are not even counting ten point bonus, if you are able to sell all three species.
There is plenty of decisions and all of them are tough calls. There are so many various options for you to try. Lots of countries to control, different actions to take and influence with your pawns. Also the order, in which actions take place, is important. And we even did not mention laws, which can completely change the course of the game, if you schedule their change correctly.
The only not good thing about the game was processing figures in the 2011 version. Fortunately, as we have written, we have received a package with new pawns before the closing date of our review. These pawns are of much better quality. Nevertheless, there still remains a problem with color resolution of another components of two darkest shades – we are talking about platforms. Processing game plan is on the contrary great as well as its layout.
2019: The Arctic is a dense strategy game. And its not very well known. Maybe because it comes from Poland and from a small company with little marketing options. It would definitely deserve much more attention. One of the reasons for it is the fact, that it precisely translates feeling of backstage machinations into a game. You will experience true lobbying and all that in addition to environmental issuem, which is hot right now – oil. Yet despite all this subsides, the main thing did not get into backgroudn – the game itself. Challenging conquering the Arctic is a great experience for all, who like to think hard. And we mean really hard. So maybe your brain cells will not freeze in the North Pole, before you get there. You would not let all that black gold to those Chinese, would you?
2019: The Arctic is great board game, we have no doubts about that and you should not have either, if you read our review. It offers an interesting topic of oil platforms in Arctic and gives players large freedom with their action choice. Players do not affect events on the map directly, but they instead whisper their intentions carefully and quitely into heads of the state, bribing and make their wish come true. They are the real oil barons. Players only take up posts in these countries and then in that order gain privileges to do one of the available six activities. They can move ships, build platforms or gather resources. Materials have to be sold on the end of the turn for money or for twice as much victory points, which makes it hard to decide. There is a lot of paths to victory, lined with battle, destruction of platforms, joining EU and changing laws regarding the North Pole. If you overcome the first difficult match, where you struggle with rules, although they are clearly written in the rulebook. Since the second or third match, there will be only one problem present – while playing with four players, there is a hard time to tell two dark shade platform tokens apart. Similar issue was with pawns, but they were made again by the publisher. Two levels of worker placement offers interesting and tense options. But beware of analysis paralysis players! 2019: The Arctic is a board game, that definitely deserves more attention, than it gets. Become a wealthy oil baron and conquer Arctic now!
Reader Rating0 Votes
nice map graphics
vast strategic options
very interesting topic
feeling, you influence politics
you have to sell materials on turn end for money or points
customer support – replaced bad pawns from first version of game
platform tokens are hard to tell apart in two dark player colors