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Published on April 21st, 2014 | by Luke Turpeinen


A Land Of Milk And Honey

Review of Ophir by Terra Nova Games

Nicole and I recently met Ophir designer and Terra Nova Games team member Charles at our favorite local board game hangout: the Raygun Lounge. While there, Charles showed us Terra Nova Games’ upcoming game Ophir and walked us through a game.

The name Ophir is derived from a biblical reference, a legendary source of gold and riches that were shipped to King Solomon. The game Ophir doesn’t have a biblical theme, but it uses the idea of shipping gold and other luxury goods to create a really solid merchant style game.

In Ophir, the objective of the game is to gather luxury items and return them to either the Market or the Temple for points. The game is over when enough gold or silver has been given to the temple to complete its construction- the player with the most points wins!

ophir board game

These photos represent an early prototype version of the game, not the final art/design.

The board is composed of six hexes surrounding a central hex. When we played, the goods, temple and market were all randomly assigned spaces on the board with each space having its own good acquisition or turn-in action assigned to it. There are also two reef tokens that prevent passage between hexes on the edge it’s placed. The placement of the hexes and the reefs was extremely important and any change made to the set up could really change the game.

As a shipping game, one of the most important parts of the board is your ship! You start the game with a ship that can hold two cubes worth of non-metal goods (gold and silver each take up two spaces per unit). As you progress you can buy up to two more spaces- for a total capacity of four basic goods or two metals.

In Ophir, the goods are really just fluff. There is no real mechanical difference between Wood, Cloth, Stone and Gems besides the color associated with each type of good. The Market cards, which give you points and favor, require various combinations of goods but Gems (for example) aren’t inherently worth more than Wood. Metal is different: you can pick up Gold and Silver from the same hex but they each take up twice the space of a normal good.

ophir board game

Much of the strategy of the game comes from trying to balance getting goods for the Market (which gives you cash and favor) and getting metal for the Temple (which gives you a ton of victory points). Favor lets you break certain restrictions in the game, and cash is used to buy gold and silver to build the temple. Knowing when to stock up on one or the other is very useful and will mean the difference between success and failure.

Ship positioning is also a vital aspect of the game. Whenever a ship enters a hex that is occupied by another ship, the entering ship rolls a six-sided die. If that rolled number is higher than the static number on the other ship, the entering ship is allowed into that hex. If not, then that ship loses its movement for that turn and the defending ship loses one point on its static die, making it easier to get into that space on later attempts. Between the reefs, players blockading certain regions and other mischievous positioning- ships can really change the flow of the game.

ophir board game

I really liked that each player at the start of the game is given a chance to draft a single role for their ship to assume. These player roles let you break the game in certain ways, getting past certain rules. One example of this is the ship that starts the game with access to all four spaces on their ship, another is a ship that gets to roll two dice and choose one whenever entering another ship’s space.

The ship roles are all balanced differently and some seem to favor the start of the game, while others favor the end of the game. I like how the powers all seemed very relevant to actual play, you could immediately see how they were useful upon reading them and they didn’t get too abstract.

Overall, I feel like Ophir is a really solid shipping game. In a lot of ways it reminds me of a new and improved Pirate’s Cove from Days of Wonder (one of their lesser known games) and that is not a bad thing. The whole game is full of resource management decisions, area control strategies and precise timing requirements. Ophir does a great job at making all of your decisions feel important and urgent, which is something I wish more resource management games could pull off!

Ophir will be on Kickstarter later this year. Be sure to follow Terra Nova Games for updates! UPDATE: Terra Nova Games are excited to announce that their artist for Ophir is Naomi Robinson. She’s previously worked on Fantasy Frontier by Gamelyn Games, Pay Dirt by Crash Games, and the upcoming Kanban: Automotive Revolution by Stronghold Games. We’ve included her full final cover art for Ophir below. This cover is a sign of more wonderful things to come for Ophir!

ophir new cover

UPDATE: The designers let me know that the goods do it fact have a slight mechanical difference in Ophir. For example, gems (red) are consistently worth more coins ($) than the other goods at the Market and stone is worth more favor/VP at the Temple, etc.

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About the Author

Luke Turpeinen

was raised by lava wolves deep in the Vesuvian sulfur jungles. He played board games with his family often. The discovery of games like Risk led him to the 1993 TSR classic Dragon Strike which fueled a life long love of games. Luke tends to like games that have high production values, quick-to-learn rules and hard-to-master strategies. Current Favorite Game: Argent: the Consortium.

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