Century Spice Road

For 3-5 players.

Century Spice Road is a popular board game by Emerson Matsuuchi published by Plan B games.

The GM will require a copy of the game and the players will need to read the face to face rules here but should note that the postal game has a different mechanism for buying merchant cards.

Game Start

All players get a caravan with 3 turmerics (yellow) and 1 saffron (red)

The initial turn report contains the caravans, plus 5 point cards and 6 merchant cards for sale.

The GM also needs to randomly determine player order.

Player order only has an effect on the Claim action - all others are simultaneous. The Claim Order rotates throughout the game.

Example with 5 players:
Turn 1: 1,2,3,4,5
Turn 2: 2,3,4,5,1
Turn 3: 3,4,5,1,2
Turn 4: 4,5,1,2,3
Turn 5: 5,1,2,3,4
 and so on

A Postal Turn

Players can only buy cards that are showing (the GM replenishes the cards at the start of each postal turn, placing new cards at the right of each line)

1) Pay for any Merchant cards won last turn. Payment can be made using spices on the caravan (each cube is worth 1, regardless of colour), victory points or a combination. Payment is compulsory even if you don't want the card. Spices paid (but not VPs) go into The Spice Pot which can be bid for (see 4a). If there is a successful bidder for The Spice Pot, the fee is paid at this point (VPs only) and the spices added to the player's caravan. In this game newly-acquired merchant cards go into the hand (not discard pile) so can be used straight away.

2) Play a card from your hand and/or Claim a point card. You can do either, both or neither. Conditional orders are allowed only if you are attempting to claim a point card (see later).

3) Rest: Take all previously played cards into your hand (or pass). This action costs 1VP the first time it is played, 2VP for the second, 3VP for the third and so on. The exception to this rule is if a player does not Play or Claim in the round, it is free (and does not increment the cost of the next Rest action).

4) Bid for a Merchant card.

Example: Alice bids 3 for card 3 and 2 for card 2. Bob bids 2 for card 3. Carol bids 1 for an unspecified card, as does Dave. Eric passes. Card 2 has one bidder, Alice, who wins the card and is out. Card 3 now only has Bob bidding who gets it for 2. The Claim order is Dave - Eric - Alice - Bob - Carol, so Dave gets card 1 and Carol gets card 4.

4a) Bid for The Spice Pot.

Players who did not receive a merchant card are eligible for this. Players bid a minimum of 1 VP and a maximum of 5 VPs (not spices). In the event of a tied bid, no-one gets the pot (or pays).

Conditional Orders

For a Claim, you may be the only player who can obtain the desired point card, in which case no conditional orders are required. Or you may be in a situation where a player ahead of you in the Claim Order may be able to take your first choice point card, either with existing resources or after a Play action. So players may link the Play and Claim actions and make them conditional on point cards being sold or unsold.

Example: If the 15 point card has not been sold, play the double upgrade on two turmerics to make two saffrons and claim it. If has gone, play create two turmerics and buy the 8 card. If that too has been sold trade two cardamons for 1 cinnamon and 2 saffrons and do not claim.

Excess Cubes on Caravan:

Players should specify which cubes to discard if they go over 10. The default is the least valuable spices are jettisoned.


Any player who fails to submit orders automatically gets the (free) Rest action and passes on the merchant bidding.

Turn Report

The outcome of auctions and the details of each player's actions are reported, caravans show the spices held, and players' merchant hands are displayed openly, with both cards in hand and discard pile listed.

Victory Points

The player with the most VPs is the winner. Note that you can go into debt on VPs at any time during the game (but there is no interest to pay).

Game End

When a player claims his 5th point card, the game ends but not immediately. The current game round must be completed so all players have had the same amount of goes.

For postal play in Variable Pig the maximum number of turns is 15 for 3 or 5 players, 16 with 4 players. If no player has claimed 5 point cards by the end of the last turn, the player with the highest current score wins.

These postal rules by Richard Smith 2021