We were looking forward to play and review this game from Tactic Games. We love tiles placed board games and don’t have as many competitive games so we were happy to add this to our collection. But it also has a personal touch since we have family in Brugge and we know the history pretty well. We were ready to become King of the Canals!
How to Play.
This game is easy to learn and comes with a well written rulebook with many languages.
The goal of the game is to build and connect your canal amongst the four points you are given and be the first to sail your ship to it’s final destination.
The setup is done under 5 minutes as the only thing you have to do is get the game board on the table and the canal tiles. Then each player gets 5 canal tiles, one random special tile, choose one character card, a ship and get one random route card to sail.
First you have to build your sail route, for this you will need your route card. This tells you where to start, what your second and third stop is, and what your final destination is. This card remains a secret for any other players until your route is done.
On your turn when you are still building, you can do multiple things. You can place a canal tile on an empty spot on the game board. This tile will need to connect with it’s surroundings, just like Tang Garden for example. This means, if you have a tile that can go two ways, and you try to place it on a spot where water would connect with land, it is incorrectly placed. you can replace a tile, with a tile you have, but you can only do this if it again fits the environment. You can swap one to five tiles from your hand, or play your special tile. Your special tile also needs to match the environment, you can place it on an empty spot, or replace a tile. When you place this, you place it’s grey side up and also put your character token on top of it so every player knows from who this is. This tile can’t be moved or replaced trough the entire game. Some canal tiles has flags with different colours on it. Your special tile tells you what colour you are. Don’t place a flag of your own colour on your route because this will slow you down while sailing. Every time a player sails on his own colour, he has to stop sailing and end his turn. Your route is finished when you can sail your entire route from your route card from beginning to end.
Now comes the sailing part. If you or another player finished his route, you reveal your route cards. Before you set sail, the other players need to check if your route is correct, if not, you continue building. If your route is correct and accepted by the other players, you can place your ship at the start of your route, your special tile colour are also revealed at this point. If you start sailing, you can’t build or move tiles anymore, but all the players who are still building still can adjust their or your route as long as it follows the rules. Your ship can’t make sharp turns, it has to follow the white lines on the canal tiles. On your turn, you can sail until you reach a flag of your colour or your next port, you can continue sailing on your next turn. If you sail on a special tile of another player, not only does it end your turn, you also have to skip your next turn. if you sail in the wrong direction, you can use your turn to get back to the last port you came from.
The player who reaches his final destination first wins the game.
Playtrough of the game.
To become the king of the canal you really have to build a good route for your ship to sail. But the more people play this game with you, the more chaotic it gets. Your route will cross other players routes and they will have different flag colors, different stops, and just different tiles overall that you will have to work with. You also will have to pick the right moment to sail, as the other players still can rebuild your route which can cause you to delay much more then you initially planned. We also like the colours used in this game. As you build you really brightens up the player board.
Overall this game is really fun to play, but we did see some missed chances. The characters in this game are just there for decoration, unfortunately they don’t have skills or do something extra for you as a player. I expected more from the characters because the game even comes with an small book with extra information about the characters. I would love to see some sort of advanced rules for these characters to play with, if you are familiar with the game. What would also fit in those rules would be the ports. The rulebook says it is no problem to visit extra ports, but they way the rules are set up now you will avoid this at any cost because it only causes you to wait an extra turn. It would make more sense if the ports would give extra points in a way or if you would get extra recourses for example. Then again, this game is from 8 years of older, so for that age group it might get to complicated.
Canal King is a fun competitive strategic tile build game that we still enjoy to play, it has nice colours and comes with a nice insert. If you like to play competitive tile games this is a great game to add to your collection.