I have updated my review and giveaway policies page (now just titled Policies above). If you are entering a giveaway, please read and abide by the applicable policy.

Attention Authors! If you arrived here looking for information on the Two Sides to Every Story guest post series, see the tab at the top of the page for more info!

Search This Blog

Friday, August 26, 2016

Historical Board Game Spotlight: New Bedford

New Bedford, a Game of Historic Whaling & Town Building
Designed by Nat Levan
Published by Dice Hate Me Games
1-4 Players ... 30-60 min ... Ages 13+
Set in the mid-1800s, the historical age of whaling, New Bedford gives 1 to 4 players the chance to build the Massachusetts town of the same name into a thriving community.  Gather resources to add buildings with new actions, and launch ships to go whaling.  Go out longest for the best choice, but wait too long and the whales become harder to catch.  And don't forget to pay your crew when ships return!  Carefully balance risk management and timing to become a leader of industry in this medium-weight worker placement and resource management game.
New Bedford, Massachusetts was one of the prime whaling communities of North America in the 1800's.  The whaling industry allowed cities to crop up along the Atlantic coast and drew cunning business moguls and gruff tradesmen alike to the salty shores.  Whale carcasses were used for many things, the most important of which was the oil obtained from rendering the fat.  This oil was used to light houses and street lamps until the more efficient and environmentally friendly kerosene was discovered.  Many different species of whales were targeted, including the peaceful and blubber-dense right whale, the larger bowhead whale, and the sperm whale, whose head cavity was filled with a valuable liquid form of oil.  As time wore on, whaling ships served to drastically reduce whale populations and drive the animals further and further from the shore.

The game of New Bedford seeks to replicate the whaling and town building process that took place around these times.  Players adopt the role of business men in charge of whaling ships.  Using money and resources, they build and launch ships to collect whales and use their reputation and funds to construct buildings in the town and gain dominance over New Bedford.

Your Whaling Empire

You start the game with an individual player board.  This contains a warehouse to store your goods, depictions of ships where you place whales they have caught, and a scoring area where you place whales that have been returned and successfully harvested.  Each player also starts with two workers and two ships in their supply, which they use to complete certain actions and catch whales.

A player board mid-game, along with the ocean bag where whales are found
The Sea Side Town

A central board depicts the town of New Bedford.  At the start of the game, it is very small and houses only the most simple structures.  As the game progresses, players build more districts and expand its borders.  Each building represents and action that can be performed which will progress your whaling venture.  For example, the farm allows you to collect food, the forest allows you to collect wood, and the town hall allows you to build new buildings.  Players take turns placing their workers on the board and taking actions.  The player who uses an action first usually gains a bonus, so it pays to prioritize your actions!

The town board has been expanded and workers have been placed to take actions
The Open Ocean

Once you collect enough resources, you may construct a ship, hire a crew, and launch it into the ocean to seek your fortune.  The further into the sea you wish to send a ship, the more hardtack (food) you need to spend.  However, the best whales are found further out.  Every round, the ships you have sent out sail closer back to the harbor, and collect whales as they travel.  Tiles are drawn from the ocean bag which represent varying whale varieties as well as open ocean.  If your crew finds only ocean open and no whales, it will negatively affect your future earnings.  As the game goes on, there is a greater chance you will draw open ocean from the bag.  This mirrors the fact that historic whaling severely threatened whale populations.  When your ship, laden with whales, finally returns to harbor, you will need to pay the lay, which is a term for the wages of your crew.  If you can pay your crew, you can collect victory points for the whales they caught.  If you cannot pay the crew, you will sell the whales to your opponents.  You will get money, but they will get the points.

The whaling board, depicting players' ships returning to town

The game lasts 12 rounds.  At the end of the last round, players total up their victory points.  Points are earned primarily by bringing in whales, but can also be earned by building up the town as well as collecting and amassing a fortune.  Whoever has the most points wins!

New Bedford is a great game in that it combines strategic gameplay with historical value.  The rise and fall of the whaling industry was an important event in the history of the United States and the world, and this theme has never been explored in the form of a board game.  This game is relatively easy to learn but there is strategy behind every decision.  Even people who are not "gamers" will be able to find enjoyment in playing out the historical aspects that New Bedford brings to the table.

In a pinch, the box can be used as a cat bed!

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I one million percent need this game -- we love New Bedford, and my wife is a Moby Dick fanatic. This game is, like, made for us!

    1. I'm not 100% sure it is available for purchase just yet - we got in through a kickstarter campaign, but if it's not, it should be out in the near future. I'm a huge fan of little wooden components of games and love that this includes whales and ships, etc!

    2. Oooh, I'll keep an eye out for it -- the New Bedford Whaling Museum has a bunch of whaling games available so hopefully they'll stock this if it becomes available. I'm so jealous!


Thanks for leaving your comments! I love reading them and try to reply to all!