Curiouser and Curiouser – A Case of Curious Cargo
Load and unload the trucks…
Make the things, pipe them to the trucks, and ship them! Try to receive anything shipped to you and pipe it back into your machines!
That’s the general premise behind Curious Cargo, a game by Ryan Courtney and published by Capstone Games. Curious Cargo is a two-player only game for industrial engineers age 12+ that have an hour to spare. Ryan Courtney’s history as a complex game designer (Pipeline, Bear Raid) in on display with this brain-burner. Did we enjoy it, or was it a curious mess?
First, players agree on a board to use – there are three sets of double sided boards in the box per player. Line up two matching boards touching at the top. Each player also takes a shipping board and agrees to play regular (red and blue) or Night Shift (red, blue, and purple). Everyone fills their shipping board with goods and takes five Scaffolding Tiles. They draw three Truck cards and begin.
In Curious Cargo, the goal is to ship as many goods and receive as many goods as possible. Players accomplish this by connecting a goods machine to a truck. Connections on the left ship goods, connections on the right receive goods.
Because of the alignment of the boards, players ship directly into their opponent’s receiving dock. Curious Cargo has two phases per round, played mostly simultaneously.
Players take three actions during this phase, each time drawing a tile from the bag or placing a tile on their player board. Whenever a player covers a gear icon on their board they can take a Construction Token, which can be spent for two more actions per token.
There are a few placement rules for placing a tile.
Put construction tiles completely within the grid of the player board. They cannot be placed diagonally. Players can stack them but they must lay flat. Each player has five Scaffolding Tiles to use as support to help with this.
Players don’t need to connect pipes with every tile they place and can work on their delivery pipelines however they want.
An “Active Connection” is a connection from a player’s machines to a shipping or receiving dock (the slots with numbers on the sides of the board) made up of a single color pipe – nothing flows through pipes of mixed color. Players move their forklift token up (but never down) on the turn order track to match the total of their Active Connections.
At the end of the Construction Phase, players must store unused Construction Tiles in the middle of their shipping board. Players can later play the tiles in their storage – if they’re on the top of a stack.
At the beginning of the Trucking Phase, players check for opportunities to Load or Unload a truck. Players Load a truck if there is a single color pipe connecting a machine to a dock on the left of the board, and there is a truck with an empty bay at that dock. Load one good of that pipe color on the truck.
Similarly, players can Unload a truck following similar rules. The dock slot must be connected to a machine using the same color pipe as the good on the truck. Unload this good into the innermost spot on the receiving side of the shipping board.
The icons beneath shipping or receiving columns indicate rewards the player receives when filling that column. Similarly, when a player receives a good, if the good covers an icon, the player receives the good represented.
After loading and unloading, each player may perform up to one of these actions:
- Discard a Truck card to draw the number of Conveyor Tiles shown in the lower right of the card. (Note: Conveyor Tiles only go to storage at the end of the Construction Phase).
- Discard two Conveyor Tiles to draw a Truck card.
- Play Truck card(s).
While player interaction is at a minimum during the Construction Phase, it is at its maximum during the Trucking Phase.
If a player chooses to play Truck Cards they may spend up to two action points to do so. Players can play these trucks into either player’s shipping area. When a player plays a truck, it pushes any existing trucks forward on the docks until the last bay of the new truck lines up with the “1” bay. This may expose a bay to an Active Connection or push empty bays past an Active Connection.
If a previously placed truck is pushed past the end of a player’s shipping board, the entire truck immediately moves to the receiving dock of the other player’s board. If it is pushed past the end of the receiving docks, remove that truck from the game completely.
A player can also play a Trucking Token to draw one Truck card and receive an additional two AP for playing Trucks, of which they must spend at least one point.
At any point during a player’s turn they may trade tokens. Trade two Construction Tokens for a Trucking token and/or two Trucking tokens for a Splitter. Players can use splitters to split pipes into multiple Connections.
The game ends immediately at the end of a phase if any of the following happens:
- A player has shipped nine goods (12 in Night Mode).
- A player has received their fourth of any resource.
- Anyone has 10 active connections.
- The draw bag is empty.
- The Truck deck is empty.
Players must ship at least 2 of each good to win. Tally Shipping, Receiving, and Turn Order points. Add a point for each unused token. Whoever has the most points wins!
As a more strategic gamer I find a lot to love in Curious Cargo. This is a brain burner in a small package. Kwanchai Moriya’s fantastic art makes Curious Cargo look casual, but serious logistics planning is necessary to be successful.
My first impressions, namely the rulebook, were not great. It’s a bit of a mess, and there are a lot of very specific rules. The game would have benefited from a shorter set of rules and a hefty FAQ. I’d suggest watching a How-To-Play and refer to the rulebook later.
The strategy of Curious Cargo is almost entirely in the trucks. Pipe layout is largely luck of the draw – we often cycled through tiles trying to get something we wanted. Players do have options to get more tiles. However, this can lead to analysis paralysis when you’re stuck with a lot of non-ideal options.
Planning when to deliver trucks to your own board or your opponent’s is really where the strategy picks up. Careful planning will allow players to drop a truck in at just the right (or wrong) moment to capture as many goods as possible.
I mentioned Kwanchai’s excellent art already. I also love the material the boards are made of – some kind of durable plastic. The one obnoxious miss with the art is the orientation of the trucks. They appear to “lean” away from the board. I know this is minor and honestly kind of petty, but everything else looks so good, this was obnoxious to me.
Curious Cargo is a great two-player thinky game that doesn’t last for hours. The game flexes well with two different difficulty modes and six different factory boards for plenty of replayability. I wouldn’t pull this out with a younger player (under 12), but its small box size and shorter play time make it a great selection as a date night game for a couple that enjoys strategic titles.
Capstone Games provided The Family Gamers with a promotional copy of Curious Cargo for this review.
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Curiouser and Curiouser - A Case of Curious Cargo
Number of Players: 2
Age Range: 12+
Playtime: 30-60 minutes