The blocks in Century Spice Route, another game by Plan B Games, are (not surprisingly) spices: turmeric (yellow cubes), saffron (red cubes), cardamom (green cubes) and cinnamon (brown cubes). You have to collect, upgrade and exchange these blocks during the game in order to acquire certain combinations with which you can complete assignments. The assignments earn points and whoever has the most points wins the game.
At the beginning of the game everyone starts with a number of blocks and two action cards. With one action card you can take two extra yellow blocks and with the other you can upgrade two blocks one step or upgrade one block two steps (from yellow to red to green and finally to brown). On the table are six action cards and 5 assignment cards. There are roughly 3 types of action cards. Some cards give you the right to take blocks (for example 3 yellow or 2 red), some cards give you the right to perform a certain number of upgrade actions and the third type of cards gives you the right to exchange blocks into blocks (exchange 3 yellow for 1 green and 1 red block or exchange 2 green blocks for 3 red and 2 yellow blocks).
During your turn, you can first play a card from your hand. You then carry out the action on that card. A rule that you easily overlook here is that with the exchange action cards you can carry out the exchange several times as long as you have enough blocks. With the other types of cards (pack of blocks or upgrades) you can only perform the action once. So beware!
You may also take one of the open action cards in your turn. The first card from the stack is free, but for each other card you have to hand in cubes. You have to put a block on every card that you do not take. And if later somebody else picks up that card, he or she will be given those cubes as a gift.
The third action that you can do is rest. You may then take back all the action cards you have played so that you can play them again.
The last action you can take is to perform one of the open assignments. You supply the correct combination of blocks and take the assignment card. Some cards are very easy to realize (few blocks and / or cheap blocks needed) and others are more difficult (many blocks and / or expensive blocks needed). The more difficult the assignment, the more points you get for completing it.
The game ends as soon as a player completes his fifth or sixth (depending on the number of players) of the cards. The round continues as normal and whoever has the most points after the round wins the game.
Conclusion: Century: Spice Route better then Splendor?
Century Spice Route is frequently compared with the immensely popular Splendor. What these games have in common is that they play very smoothly. Turns rarely last long and everyone is busy. In Century Spice Route you try to grab simple action cards at the beginning of the game that together form a nice combo to quickly transform cheap blocks into expensive blocks to fulfill more valuable assignments. But yes, every turn in which you take a new action card is also a turn in which you do not take any steps forward (unless there are a few blocks on the relevant card). Sometimes you just have to play it with the action cards that you already have.
But that is where the comparison ends. Splendor is much more exciting and fun. Century Spice Route is a decent cube-pusher, but it has nothing extra that makes it stand out above the rest. I miss the progression from Splendor where every completed assignment gives you a benefit for the rest of the game. By cleverly choosing the assignments you make you can fulfill your assignments faster and faster. In Century: Spice Route you start all over again after completing each assignment.