Indonesia

On the Finnish site, a review of Indonesia just came up.

Indonesia is a serious business game from Splotter, the guys behind Antiquity and Roads and Boats, two highly esteemed heavy games. Indonesia is a worthy addition to that line.

Players work behind the scenes of the Indonesian industry. The beginnings are humble: few rice fields there, few spice plantations there and a couple of boats to connect the fields to the cities that yearn for the products.

However, new companies start every turn. Every now and then, new business opportunities rise: rubber plantations, siap faji microwave meals, oil fields, new shipping lines. Players grab these to produce more. The products are shipped to the ever-hungry cities, which grow as they are fed, needing even more products. Players try to make as much money as possible from this system.

Mergers & Acquisitions

The key element in the game are mergers. Players can join two companies together; an auction decides, who gets to own the new company. Original owners get to share the money. The new company can later be merged to something else. This means you shouldn’t get too attached to your companies, as they can be stolen from you by a hostile takeover.

The shipping companies are an interesting twist in the game. Producers need ships to deliver the goods (remember, Indonesia is an archipelago). Shipping costs; in worst case scenarios you’ll have to ship so far you’ll end up paying more than you get for selling your products. Since you have to sell everything you can, that can be a pain. Owning the shipping lines makes it so much easier.

Flaws

While the challenges are interesting, the game has some flaws. It looks pretty, but the map has few difficult spots where good looks win usability. The game also seems unnecessarily complicated at points. The operations phase is particularly something you’d wish a computer would handle. It’s complicated and takes more time than anything else in the game.

Another problem are the merger auctions, where you must bid in odd increments (the total value of the merged companies). Better start memorizing the multiplication tables for numbers like 7, 9, or 13 — up to 600-700 or so — because you’ll need them. Keep a calculator handy.

Good economics

Despite these flaws, Indonesia is a sweet game. I think it’s a superb way to spend the three or four hours it takes (prepare for four or five hours the first time you play, and keep the Geek handy, you’ll run into questions). The game definitely works with four or five players; of those, I’d prefer four (the game will be turn or two longer, which makes it better) and I’m really curious on how the three-player game will turn out. Might be even better, really.

If you’re into economical games and don’t mind some complicated rules (most of Indonesia is pretty simple, but there are few trickier parts) or long play time, you can’t go wrong with Indonesia.

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