Navegador is a relatively fast (90 min) economic game for 2-5 players set in the Portugues Age of Discovery in the 16th century. Players ship towards Asia, explore new colonies, exploit their resources and sell them on the market.
In Navegador players build ships, sail to Asia, explore new waters and colonies and sell the raw resources and refined goods after building production buildings. There are 3 raw resources from colonies and 3 refined goods that each correspond to one raw resouce. The game can be learnt quite easily, the game is of medium weight. Players plan their actions on a rondel which mostly limits the options for each turn to 3 single actions.
Interaction: 7 out of 10
The interaction is mostly indirect. If I rush to the market before the player after me in the turn order, I can spoil the prices. The reason is that the prices for goods are not fixed but fluctuate due to a sophisticated and very elegant market mechanism. Selling a raw resource will make its price drop while increasing the price of the corresponding refined good. Selling a refined good will make its price drop while increasing the price for the raw good.
So the game is a lot about timing. Thus, players carefully watch other players’ moves to plan for the optimal timing of their moves.
Fun: 8 out of 10
The game is very elegant, there is no unnecessary complexity and there is hardly any luck factor. So players move quickly, there is no downtime at all and overall one is accumulating more and more colonies and buildings. So the income is steadily increasing which contributes to a positive experience. One can feel good even if one loses. Having studied entrepreneurship and economics I love such economic games.
The game also has some good strategic depth, one can and will try to plan 2-3 moves ahead. I also like the theme and the game material.
When one sells goods at the market, one can’t sell the raw and the refined good at the same time. This makes sense to prevent players improving their own prices within their turn. The disadvantage is that it incentivices specialization. One should decide to produce the raw good OR the corresponding refined good. Once having gone into one direction it is hard or at least not recommended to still switch to another strategy. This tendency to reward disparative strategic paths is even strengthened by the privileges that work as a multiplier on one’s production units like colonies, buildings, churches etc.. So after having figured out a strategy there is little room to adjust in the mid or late game. This also limits the depth at some point as it can become relatively obvious what to do or not to do.
Another aspect I didn’t like was the exploration. It feels too linear, it is basically going from left to right. I’d wish to have more spatial strategy like in Imperial or Terra Mystica. The spatial strategy can sometimes be completely omitted, I already won without any sailing.
Replayability: 6 out of 10
The game is not that deep after all. The setup is almost the same in every game (the colonies are a bit randomized) and as there are mostly disparate strategic paths, there are not many distinct combinations one can go for. Thus, the replayability is not that high for a strategy game. But then again one should remember that the game can be taught quite easily and that the game is rather fast-paced: given these factors the replayability is ok.
The rondel works again fine, there is basically no downtime. The market mechanic is very cool and elegant. In contrast to Power Grid, one does not have to refill the market, one actually does not really move any goods but simply adjust their prices. The market also works better than the one in Cuba because if the price of a good is 5 and I sell 3 goods, I earn 15 Cash and the price drops by 3. In Cuba I would get 5 + 4 + 3 so much less which incentivices to sell just one or two units and wait for better prices. Actually the market in Cuba is also for buying but this doesn’t change anything. The outcome is that the market and thus the prices are much less dynamic than in Navegador.
However, the incentivization of specialization and thus disparative strategic paths, the boring linear exploration and the limited replayability and strategic depth prevent this good game from being a top game despite its very nice mechanics. But it’s still a good one.