Posted by: gschloesser | November 1, 1971

Chinatown

If you enjoy negotiation and deal-making games, this one’s a treat.  Plus, there’s enough room for a wide variety of variants to suit just about any taste.

First off, let me state clearly that I LOVE negotiation and deal-making games.  If you’re not one who does, put Chinatown out of your mind now.  Move on to something else.  Nothing of interest here.

However, if like me, you get a pleasant burning in your belly when negotiating deals during the course of a game, rush out and purchase this brilliant game immediately.  It is a gem.

My first taste of the game was at the Gulf Games 3 get together in New Orleans in late February 1999.  Jay ‘Rio Grande Games’ Tummelson brought along the games he was planning to release during 1999, plus a few others he had considered.  Although Chinatown ultimately didn’t make his release schedule due to a number of factors (none of which had to do with the quality of the game), it is well worth seeking out and obtaining.

Jay taught the game to us from memory as he had no English rules available.  He did teach some things incorrectly … but after several subsequent playings (including some with the correct rules), I (and several others) have found that we actually enjoy the game better with Jay’s misinterpreted rules.

So, after much discussion with fellow gamers Al Newman and Mark Jackson, I present ‘our’ version of Chinatown.  We have found that the following options provide even more opportunities and materials for trade, plus adds that element of mystery in the trade phase which, to me, is extremely important.  But, hey … if you don’t like these alterations, by all means play the game by the rules as written.  It’s an excellent game either way!

All rules of the game remain the same except the following.

1)  Players are dealt a number of cards each round to bring their hand size UP TO the larger number appearing on the player aid card. 

2)  Players do not have to discard two cards as per the original rules.  They may hold these cards throughout the entire round AND offer them for trade during the trading round.

3)  Players may, following the trading round, discard up to two cards from their hand.  These are re-shuffled into the draw pile.

4)  Each round, players MUST play a number of cards equal to the smaller number listed on the player aid card and mark them with their tokens.

5)  Each round, players are dealt a number of business tiles to bring their hand UP TO the larger number appearing on the player aid card.

6)  Players may play ANY NUMBER of business tiles during a round.

7)  All business tiles are kept FACE DOWN instead of face up as written in the rules.  (This is the mystery element I spoke of).

Some have also debated the Business Outlook cards, claiming that the payout, which is on a PER TILE basis, can skewer the game.  They have suggested making the payout be on a PER BUSINESS basis.  Having played both ways, I still like the rules as written wherein the payout is on a PER TILE basis.  This encourages players to build businesses and not hoard the tiles in their hands.  Plus, the mix of cards is such that it there is an equal chance that each business will be rewarded.  Further, it is highly unlikely that a player will build only one type of business.  Most opt for a diverse strategy, so all players will usually benefit from the cards.

Of course, another option is to simply not play with the Business Outlook cards at all.  The game is perfectly fine without them.

One of the neat features of Chinatown is that it can be easily tailored to fit just about anyone’s tastes.  A big, big plus.

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