Designer Serge Laget is one of a handful of French game designers who often collaborate with one another. In Laget's case, he's designed Mystery Express with Antoine Bauza, Shadows Over Camelot and Senji with Bruno Cathala, and Ad Astra, Mystery in the Abbey, Castle and Kheops with Bruno Faidutti. This isn't to say that Laget can't design on his own, however, as his Mare Nostrum is one of his best-received games.
In 2011, Laget will go solo once again, with yet another big box game from Days of Wonder: Cargo Noir. (Only Alan R. Moon has as many standalone titles from Days of Wonder to his credit, all based on his award-winning Ticket to Ride design.)
In Cargo Noir, players represent "families" that traffic in smuggled goods in a 1950s noir setting. Each turn, you'll set sail to various ports where cargo is known to get "lost" for the right price – Hong Kong, Bombay, Rotterdam, New York and more – and you'll make an offer for the goods on display. If another family then offers more in that port, you'll need to up your bid or take your money and slink away to look for goods elsewhere. Stand alone in a port, though, and you'll be able to discretely move the goods from the dock to your personal warehouse. Says Laget in a press release accompanying the game announcement, "Everything in Cargo Noir grew from a core auction mechanism that is simple and trivial to explain – you can only bid up, and the last bidder standing gets the goods."
Once you collect goods, you can trade them in to add more ships to your fleet – allowing you to scout for wares in more locations – purchase Victory Spoils, or take other actions. The more goods you collect, the more valuable they can be. As you might guess, the player with the most Spoils at game end wins. Says Laget, "After [putting the auction mechanism in place] game development focused on three areas: fine-tuning the balance so there were always multiple paths to victory; making sure the game shines with two players as well as with five; and finding a theme that would be evocative with a feel that is very different from most other auction or trading games – a Sheep for two Woods it ain't!"
Cargo Noir is for 2-5 players, ages 8 and up, with a playing time of 30-90 minutes. The game retail for $50 / €45 and will be available in stores worldwide in March 2011. I'll publish a more detailed game preview in the future in the new news section of BoardGameGeek.