The Speicherstadt is an auction game by one of my absolute favorite game designers Stefan Feld. It’s based on the Speicherstadt which is a huge warehouse district in Hamburg. In it you play the head of a large trading house and your goal is to have the most successful business through the buying and selling of goods with careful bidding and taking on contracts.
In the box:
54 Trade Cards – There are four card classifications
E) Fire (one card)
These are separated by season, shuffled and stacked in one pile starting with the Fire card, then Autumn, Summer, Spring, and Winter.
45 Goods Cubes – These are randomly placed on ships. They can be collected, stored, and used to fill out Contracts from customers. In some instances Goods Cubes can be exchanged for coins.
20 Workers – Each player is going to select and take four of one color. Three will be used as your bidding markers, one will keep score on the side of the board.
25 Coins – Each player starts the game with five coins. You’ll mainly use your coins to pay for your winning bids.
1 Game Board – This is a nice sized, classy looking board with a subdued color scheme. The warehouse itself not only looks good, it serves a purpose in the game play. The green tracks on the sides are where you’ll place your meeples when declaring a bid.
There are five Market Hall Cards which are dealt out to each player at the start of the game and one metal coin which indicates the stating player.
Each turn has a total of five steps. The start player will act first and others will take their turns in clockwise order.
1. Supply – From the top of the card deck you take as many cards as you need to fill the card slots according to how many players you have. The board has icons letting you know how many cards you need to place.
2. Demand – Starting with the first player you place one worker on the lowest available slot above a card you would like to bid on. If another player has already bid on a card you would like to bid on as well, you may place your worker in the slot right above them. You may only play one worker and pass, you continue until all players have placed all three of their workers.
3. Purchase – The cost of the card is equal to how many workers occupy the green track above it. The player on the lowest space gets to decide to bid or pass first. If they bid they must count how many workers are above it and pay that amount of coins and that space is then resolved. If they decide to pass, they remove their worker and the player with the second lowest worker may now decide to bid or pass.
4. Loading – This only really happens when you purchase a ship with Goods Cubes on it. All you do is take your cubes and decide what to do with them. So you can fill out contracts, store them, or sell them.
5. Income – Each player receives one coin and if you were unable to purchase a card in a round you’ll get two coins instead.
*Fire Cards – There is a Fire Card in each season of cards. Once a Fire Card is drawn you count who has the most Fireman Cards and they get the points located on the top of the Fire Card. This works like the Pharaoh tile in RA or the Military cards in 7 Wonders.
The game ends when the final Fire card is used and the player with the most points at the end is the winner.
The most interesting part of the game for me is the type of cards you bid for. There are cards you collect sets of to score points, cards that let you sell Goods Cubes for money, cards that are worth points, cards that give the owner an exclusive way to score points and much more. One of my favorite characteristics about a Stefan Feld game is the ability to play creatively with his elegant and non limiting rules. For example in the Loading step you’re pretty much free to move your freshly purchased goods around, selling and storing them at your discretion.
Ships are very important to the game and with the Goods Cubes randomly pulled from a bag during the Supply step they are always an unknown. So you may see a ship with goods that you need badly or ships with goods one of your opponents could use to score big points and you’ll have to decide what to do on the fly. Should you bid on what you need or bid on what you can’t let someone else have. It’s always a tough decision and I really enjoy the type of control you have over what type of points generating system you have in your tableau.
The Speicherstadt is one of my favorite games of all time. The bidding system is absolutely brilliant because it actually lets you use your brain to win bids not just your coins. Placing your bid markers is so much fun and involves careful consideration. You can’t let someone run free by buying up cheap cards. Making your opponent sweat; not knowing if you really intend on buying a card, or if you’re just bluffing and jacking up the price trying to get them to abandon a bid is intense and can really test your poker face.
Everyone I have introduced to this game has really enjoyed it. Most of the time they play it at least twice; the first time to learn how to play and the second to try another strategy. It kind of feels like mixing an auction game with some of the abilities of a card game like Dominion. The Speicherstadt is a criminally underappreciated game from one of my absolute favorite game designers. Do yourself a favor and at least try it out even if you think you’ve had your fill of auction games. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised in what Stefan Feld has done with the genre.