In Panamax you are CEOs of shipping companies, carrying cargo back and forth along the Panama Canal. The goal is to end the game as the richest player.
The board shows the route of the canal itself along with spaces for some of the games other bits and pieces. Each player has their personal ‘clipboard’, representing their company, and starts with $18 company cash and $6 personal cash. Players also begin with a financial advisor card, which gives you a set criteria to aim for that rewards money at the end of the game. Note that the winning condition is the person with the most personal cash, not the richest company!
There are three rounds and in each round a bunch of white dice are rolled that will determine what actions players can take. The actions are taking contracts and loading ships, moving ships, or a couple of more alluring executive actions that allow you to buy shares. You load a ship at one end of the canal, and deliver it to the other. So the basic game is pretty straightforward. But a couple of things allow for intrigue and canny thinking. Firstly, ships in the canal, when moving, will push any ships ahead of them into the next available space. So if you time it right, you can effectively get a ‘free ride’ through part of the canal as another player pushes you along.
Secondly, the buying of shares isn’t limited to your own company. Whilst another player is busy spending their actions moving ships, you can buy shares in their company instead.
When ships reach their destination both company and player (as the CEO) receive a payout, and that ship can now take a new load.
There are a few other things to consider as well; military ships that can potentially reward you for pushing them through the canal, cruise ships than can squeeze in a bit of your cargo, and not least the fact that your clientele (East and West USA, China and the EU) reward you for fulfilling their contracts. You can also build extra ships, gambling that the investment will be worth it. It all makes for a very tactical game.
If you don’t mind the potential hard knocks this game can deal you, I think Panamax is great. Lots of interaction, very clever, and despite the theme, potentially very feisty! We’ve linked to some boaty games here but if being a captain of industry is your thing, the same designers also produced the (slightly dryer, and less interaction) Nippon.
High. This is a game for players who like some interaction.
Moderate. It's not a game for nippers, but older players may have to be patient at certain times when someone's scheme is scuppered and they need to think of a plan B.
Moderate. There is a fair bit going on, but at least the your decisions are defined to some degree by the dice.
Panamax offers a lot of variety - the financial advisors give you something to aim for, but they come out randomly and are kept secret. You can get more of them during the game, and play different strategies too: concentrating solely on y9our own company, or go more of a financial-guerilla style, wheeling and dealing across the board.