Bombay is a great introduction to the “pick up and deliver” style board game where you take on the role of a silk merchant.
Your goal in Bombay is to amass the most wealth by the end of the game. You earn money (rupees) primarily by buying silk at the markets and selling that silk in the cities that desire it the most. You can also earn money by building palaces at key locations on the map which serve as a type of toll-booth; earning you a fee every time an opponent crosses through one of your palace spaces.
The silk market is where this game really shines. Each turn the new “player 1” replenishes the marketplaces by drawing a number of small colored wooden cubes at random. These are placed in order of abundance – with the most abundant being the cheapest to purchase, while the least abundant is the most expensive.
These cubes represent a certain color silk – which you then load on to your elephant and begin the trip to a city which demands that particular variety. The demands of the cities are fickle however – only three of the four possible colors are ever in demand at a particular location. Furthermore, the color in highest demand changes whenever someone sells a silk bale to that city. This is represented very clearly in Bombay by a set of three larger wooden cube ranked high to low near each of the four cities. The color of the “demand” cube on top indicates the color of silk which is in highest demand by that city. Selling a cube at the highest demand yields the most profit.
However, once you sell a bale of silk to a city, the demand for that color drops to the bottom, so a new color “rises to the top” – indicating a new color in highest demand.
I find this mechanic very interesting as it allows you to not only maximize your profit in a buy/sell market but also affect how cities will react to other players supply of silk. A very simple idea which is very well executed.
Another route to income is the building of palaces. At any open intersection on the map, one can spend any color silk and one rupee to build a palace. This palace serves as a type of toll collection point for the owner of the palace – any player who moves their elephant through an opponents palace earns that opponent a 1 rupee ‘tax’ (which is paid by the bank). As the map forces the players to traverse back-and-forth quite often (from market to cities), there is the potential to reap quite a sum of rupees just from road tax!
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to talk about the most important component of Bombay – Elephants! There are five different colored high quality plastic-molded elephants in Bombay. Combine this with plastic palaces and a huge number of cardboard rupees and other counters along with a brilliantly colored game board and you get a very pretty game. The brightly colored silk cubes fit nicely on top of the elephants (two maximum) which is not only visually appealing but also important for players as it allows them to easily see who is transporting what with a simple glance.
Overall I think Bombay is a terrific introduction to the “pick up and deliver” style of board game; with a neat market-manipulation mechanic thrown in to deepen the strategy a bit. It’s easy to teach and quick to play.