In Singapore the players represent traders in the titular city-state, working to develop trade and establish the city in the early 19th century. You can trade for nice wholesome goods, or you can go for a more high-risk strategy by trafficking opium.
The board is made up of a bunch of tiles that represent plots of land. At the start of the game each player ‘builds’ their first building, and from there on in on every turn players do three things: they pay for plots, build buildings, and use the powers of those buildings by moving their workers around the roads of the city, visiting them. The buildings work in various ways, but when used to your advantage will turn cubes (which represent tradable goods) into either more cubes, or money, or both. One or two buildings do other things, such as generate an extra worker. The game is structured so the player in last position on the scoretrack always goes first in a round – taking the Raffles role – which is effectively an inbuilt policy to stop one or more players surging off into an insurmountable lead.
As the game progresses more buildings are built, and players can add more roads to the city as well. More roads is good, because it gives your workers more freedom to reach the various buildings. However, blended into the simple get stuff to get stuff mechanic is the opportunity for risk-taking. Yellow cubes represent opium, and having the most carries an inherent risk. Certain buildings (the black tiles) are black market areas, where using them can trigger a police raid. When the police arrive the player with the most opium cubes / workers in black buildings loses half of their opium. In a game of fine margins, that can be quite a hit – but as the black buildings tend to be more rewarding, it can be a risk worth taking.
When the building tiles run out, the game is over and after final scoring, the player with the most points wins.
The thing that saves Singapore from being a kind of physical manifestation of maths (turn these cubes into these cubes) is the opium dealing. If you do none at all you may find yourself left behind on the scoring. But if you do too much then the game – assuming itself a kind of moral and legal arbiter – will bite you on the backside. I like that aspect of it. For me though the game takes rather long to get to a point where all the player interaction and risks become interesting, so it’s not a game I really yearn to revisit.
I played Singapore once, and I remember almost nothing about it save for not enjoying it all that much. Not a ringing endorsement then, but I feel barely qualified to comment.
Most of the Take That is self-inflicted, if you choose to trade opium. But players can mess with each other's plans a little too.
There may be the odd lull as players chew over a decision.
Not too heavy. There are a few things to weigh up, but you're never overwhelmed by options.
If you like what Singapore does, there's a good deal of inbuilt variety due to the order the tiles come out, the randomness of police raids, and the tactics of the players themselves.