After I was already on ships in the last review of AEOLOS, I'll be moving on ships again straight away. Phraya was a Kickstarter for Spanish publisher DMZ Games. The Bonn publisher Nice Game Publishing took over the localization of the game. It is author Alberto Millán's most complex game to date. Phraya is a tactically demanding Worker Movement/Pick up and Deliver Game in which the players drive their boats across the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, buy goods and use them for various actions. We tested the game.
The players drive their boats from stand to stand on the floating market. The king is also present and is happy about gifts. The turn sequence is quite simple and yet the tactical demands in this game are quite high. There are always many options to weigh against each other.
The River Market
The big market is created by putting the four game board parts together in any combination. Here you will find the various market stalls where the players can trade during the course of the game. A first selection of baskets and orders will be placed on the appropriate stands. The harbor board is placed next to the market. The trader is placed on this and the current prices of the four goods vegetables, fruit, fish and meat can be seen.
In addition, the bars of the temple and the king as well as the card display can be found here. Everyone gets their own small ship board, a wooden ship, tiles, buildings and five starting cards of their own color. A building may already be placed at the start of the game. The various resource dice, flowers, favor tokens, and the coins are set aside as a general supply. You can get started with a few coins as starting credit.
On to the stands
The basic train structure is quickly explained. You play a card from your hand, resolve all effects, move your own boat at least one section and can then trade with the two adjacent stands. If the king is adjacent to the section you are on, you may also pay tribute to that section.
The hand cards that you have at the beginning allow you to influence the prices or the movement of the royal barge, which is located in the middle of the market at the beginning of the game. When the royal barge is moved, all those who have a building adjacent to the barge's new location receive flowers or some other bonus.
With the cards that you can buy from the harbor board, improved variants of the actions you already have and additional action options are added. For example, you can lower the prices of resources on your own turn. Once played, cards are lost for the time being and can only be used again after the rest card has been played. You receive a coin for every card played up to that point and take all cards back into your hand. After that, your turn is over.
If you didn't play the rest card, the turn continues. Now you have to move your own boat at least one section. The maximum distance is determined by the number of rowers. You may move through other boats, but never stand in the same section. The royal barge is blocking the crossing it is standing on.
trade on the river
When the movement is over, you can trade at both adjacent booths. There you can buy or sell the four resources at the current price. These resources can be delivered to the restaurant stands to fulfill orders. You can also use the resources together with flowers to make offerings in the temple.
At the other three stand types you can buy buildings, new cards or baskets and rowers. If the king's barge is at a crossing adjacent to your own boat, you can also pay tribute to it. You choose the free space furthest to the left on one of the three king tracks, pay the corresponding resources and place a scoring disc there. As a reward you receive a favor marker. With these you can get goods, rowers or baskets for free or make an offering in the temple without paying for flowers.
The game ends immediately if two of the three end conditions are met. These are: one person has built all buildings, one of the three king tracks is full and the last area has been reached on one of the temple tracks.
Now everyone sells their remaining goods at the current market price. One point is awarded for every five coins. Now the temple and king tracks are scored. There is a majority rating on both. On the king tracks, additional points are awarded for "sets" of tiles on each of the three tracks. In the temple, each tile scores points depending on the type of goods.
All orders fulfilled during the game bring points. If you have action cards that bring victory points, these are now scored. Finally, for each of the four types of goods, it is checked who has the majority of buildings there.
The person who now has the most points wins the game.
Number of people: 2 to 4
Age: from 12 years
Playing time: 90 to 120 minutes
Long-term motivation: moderate
Core Mechanism: Pick up and Deliver
Author: Alberto Millán
Design: Michael Menzel
Official Website: Phraya
Year of publication: 2022
Cost: 50 Euro
Phraya actually offers a great combination of simple and clear rules and high tactical demands. In the test, however, it cannot convince us in the important points. It lacks that certain something that can make it stand out from the gray crowd to be good or very good.
The game mechanics are well done, but as you are used to from Euro-Games, the topic is very arbitrary. Both fit together, but especially with regard to the sometimes confusing salad of points at the end, you don't really feel the topic in the course of the game. The game illustrated by Michael Menzel scores especially visually, even if it unfortunately quickly gets lost behind the abstract mechanisms.
The components can also convince like the artwork. The wood components are really very good. The same applies to the cards and other "mobile" game material. The pluggable game board is a nice idea, but not really mature in its implementation. The "clips" don't last long and even the four "reserve clips" are likely to break quickly. We could clearly see signs of wear and tear after the second game, which cannot be attributed to improper handling. The promised variability due to the many combinations also does not offer any added value in terms of play.
Unfortunately, the instructions were missing in our edition. Since the rules are also available online, that wasn't too much of a problem, although of course she was supposed to be there.
Keyword Rules: These are really well written. Even after a longer break between two games, we had no problems finding our way back into the game. Despite the language neutrality, the various symbols no longer cause any problems in the second game. The rating at the end is quite a jumble of points that doesn't quite fit the game. So the importance of the individual areas is only really clear after a game.
In addition to the point distribution, which sometimes seems artificial, the gameplay is not really successful. The game overstimulates its time very much. Even a two-player game with slightly modified house rules easily breaks the two-hour mark. The three of us needed a little more than three hours in the first game. That's way too long for the development the game is taking. Upgrades to the cards, baskets and rowers are noticeable, but never give the feeling of being able to do "more".
Especially at the beginning, moving on the game board is very sluggish. The flow of the game is relatively good and the downtime is still tolerable even with more players, but the lack of "upgrading" of the moves quickly causes boredom. You long for the end of the game. This is never a good sign in a game.
Such a gaming experience also has little desire to play the game more often. The arbitrary combination of the individual map parts suggests variability, but in the end you don't feel anything of it. Once you've finished a game, you're happy to be done and prefer to put the game down for the time being, as it's very demanding for your head.
Unfortunately, the game doesn't manage to combine the partly good approaches in terms of game mechanics in a compact and exciting way and to create a gaming experience that you'll be happy to get out of the closet again.