Gameday First Play – Panamax

Posted on by Jesta

“My impression about the Panama Canal is that the great revolution it is going to introduce in the trade of the world is in the trade between the east and the west coast of the United States.”

~ William Howard Taft

In Panamax each player manages a shipping company established in the Colón Free Trade Zone. Companies accept contracts from both US coasts, China and Europe and deliver cargo in order to make money, attract investment and pay dividends. At the same time the players accumulate their own stock investments and try to make as much money as possible in an effort to have the largest personal fortune and win the game.

So that sums up the game really, but how it’s all done is very interesting.

To take actions you draft dice. One player rolls their dice and puts them in the very top row of the matching number, moving duplicates so they spread out. Everyone else rolls and adds them to the row depending on the number rolled from the bottom up.

At the start of your turn you take one of these dice.

Panamax Dice Drafting

The 3 on the left (1,2,3) are movement of your ships and the 3 on the Right (4,5,6) are for loading.

You can take from any column but you take the bottom die of a row first. Whoever takes the last die from the very top row, if one exists, gets an extra action… Taking the second to last die in a column knowing you’re giving an extra action to someone was horrible ūüôā

If you load, you take the card next to the die you took. These cards show you how many containers you have but also where the shipment is going. On the left of the board you have the ships heading to the East Coast of America and Europe, on the Right the West Coast and China.

Panamax Storage

When you get a cargo card you take a die of your colour for each space on the card. Then you can load the dice into empty ships in that port.

Panamax Ports

You can’t load more than one die onto the same ship and often there aren’t enough ships in that Port to put your dice in. We had a lot of Europe ships loaded so the port was empty for a lot of the game.

Ones you can’t load sit in front of you but emptying a card does give you a token that goes onto your board and gives you a bonus.

Panamax Player Board

You get a one off bonuses for placing the different locations tokens on your board. If you complete a full column you get some bonus Personal cash.

You also keep your Companies money on this board so it’s separate from your Personal money. Having the most Personal money is how you win but you need Company money to do things… So balance that!

Movement involves going through Locks and across open water…

Panamax Boats in Locks

You get X¬†movement points for Locks and Water depending on the die you are able to take and you move any Ship¬†one space per point. If a Ship is in the Lock in front you push it though. Also, when out in open water you can group up any Ships you want and move them into a Lock… assuming they fit in.

This lets you get 2 or 3 of your goods on a couple of Ships and push them through the Lock using fewer actions to get them delivered. At the end of a round you pay for where your dice are sat. Ports and Storage are expensive, Locks are varying prices and open Water is quite cheap. You can try and push your opponents into the more expensive areas and make them pay.

But you may also want to help your opponents out.

You can buy shares in your opponents companies… Every so often they pay out dividends so if you have shares in that company you’ll want to make sure they are able to pay out¬†or you get nothing!

Panamax Shares Board

Each company has a value that can go up and down. The cost to buy a share in that company is reflected here too.

So this games sounds boring… and to be honest as far as Euros go, it is… in that you’re not Fighting Trolls or Casting Spells etc It’s also very heavy and requires a lot of brain power. (I was VERY tied and had a bad toothache when I played too!)

But it is good. It’s VERY restrictive but only in a realistic sense. You have a lots of money generally, but as it’s split between Personal and Company money you rarely seem to have enough of either.

Movement is obviously restricted although you can chain big moves with the right dice selection and some bonus cards you can pick up.

You can’t just load your dice freely and get them on ships. You have to make sure you get the cards that let you load multiple dice, but also you need enough free ships in that port. You need to have enough dice available and the right card available too…

It’s very good.

Now I know what I’m doing (I was in last place by a LONG way) I look forward to playing it again. But I said that about Kanban and I still haven’t played that again yet :s

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