Res Publica, designed by Reiner Knizia, was originally released in 1991, with its most recent printing (I think) coming in 2011 from Queen Games. Now Res Publica is returning in a re-themed and modified version called Res Publica 2230 A.D. The new version, from MAGE Company, will be hitting Kickstarter in the near future, and we received a prototype copy to review (note: because this was a prototype copy I cannot speak to component quality).
Gameplay (skip this if you know the original game)
There are two primary aspects of the gameplay of Res Publica 2230 – the mechanics, and interaction through trading. Each player starts the game with four species cards out of a communal species deck – humans and various types of aliens. Players draw one species card a turn until they are able to assemble a set of five, which lets them build a space station. The space station is worth a few points (3), but more importantly allows access to a second technology deck. For each space station a player has, they get to draw (in addition to the species card) one technology card each turn. Sets of five of the same technology can be turned in for a city card, which are worth victory points (starting at 9 and going down to 4). Each deck also has two distinct cards that exist in more limited quantities, two of which are wild cards or extra draws, and two of which grant access to special cards: resorts (worth a static 7 points) and universities (which make it easier to found cities). Points can also be scored by completing “missions” – having multiple space stations, having multiple cities, executing multiple trades, and cashing in a full spread of technologies. The game end is triggered when the technology deck runs out, or a player completes all four missions.
Now that might sound a bit straightforward by itself, and it should, because the heart of Res Publica 2230 is the trading. Only drawing one card per turn at the start of the game means that, without trading, it is probably going to take quite some time to found the first space station. So, on each turn, each player can make a specific sort of trade offer. Rather than completely open trading, a player either says they want a particular number and kind of cards (I request one Terran, I request two Terrans, I request a Terran and a Cloning Lab, I request any two cards, etc.) or offers a particular number and kind of each. Each other player, in turn, says what they would want for the requested card/would exchange for the offered card, or passes if they aren’t interested (or can’t fulfill the request). The player taking their turn accepts one of the trades, or not.
What’s Different? (read this if you do know the original game)
While the original Res Publica had an ancient civilization theme, the 2230 version is (shock) set in space, and the civilizations are now alien species (the technologies are, of course, different technologies).
In addition to this re-theming, there are several new widgets added in. Each deck has two special cards in it, with six copies of each. The species deck has a Pilot card that lets you draw two/keep one from the deck, and also has a unique species that, instead of getting traded in as a set of 5 for a space station (the settlement replacement) gets traded in as a set of 3 for a resort (flat points). The technology deck has a Trooper card that acts as a species wild card, and also has a unique technology that, instead of getting traded in as a set of 5 for a city gets traded in as a set of 3 for a University, which is worth no points but makes it easier to get cities later.
The final new card is the New Colony, which is obtained by cashing in sets of 3 of a species and a technology. The New Colony lets you trade cards in your hand for cards that other players have previously displayed.
Additionally, there is now a set of four missions that provide bonus points for getting multiple space stations, multiple cities, multiple trades, and so forth. A player completing all four missions acts as an additional end game condition.
The core of Res Publica is the interaction through trading and, ultimately, how much you’ll like the game will depend on how much you like that. Players who are not enamored of trading may dismiss the game as a subsidiary of Settlers of Catan. Players who are fond of trading will enjoy the social interaction, and will observe how the sorts of offers and requests a player make will provide information to other players about what one might be willing to trade or trade for, allowing the brisker completion of trades and, as a result, more advantageous construction of space stations and cities.