Cities of the Silk Road

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Players take on the role of City-States along the famous Silk Road. Through careful management, skillful trade, and strategic war, players build up their empires for riches and glory.


There is a stylized map of Central Asia, divided into various regions. Along the border of this map are four Great Empires: China, India, Persia, and Byzantium. With these Great Empires the players will trade the various resources to build up their city-state. There are three types of Resources: food, metal, and silk.

Silk is only produced in China. It comes in two qualities: standard and fine (Fine Silk can be thought of as being "twice as good" as Standard Silk; this will be described in more detail later). The Standard Silk and Fine Silk cards are shuffled together into the silk deck, along with the barbarian cards (this will be described in more detail later).

China has slots for six silk cards. Together these Slots are called a silk track. Each Slot has a price associated with it. These prices get progressively lower as more silk is added to the Silk Track. These prices are: 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1.

Silk is sold to Byzantium, which also has its own sort of Silk Track. Its Slots have prices associated with how much Byzantium will pay for the Silk. These prices are: 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10.

Food is used for growing your City-State. All regions produce some Food, but Food can also be obtained from India, which has a food track, analogous to China's Silk Track. The prices on the Food Track are: 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2. India will also buy Metal on its metal track. The prices it will pay for Metal are: 6, 6, 5, 5, 4, 4.

Metal is used for arming your Soldiers. All regions produce some Metal, but it can also be obtained from Persia. Persia is opposite to India, in that it sells Metal on its Metal Track and buys Food on its Food Track. Its prices to sell Metal are the same as India's prices to sell Food; and its prices to buy Food are the same as India's prices to buy Metal.

Each region is either a food region or metal region, meaning that it is either better at producing Food or Metal, respectively (This will be described in more detail later).

Players start out claiming a single region for their empire. Each player then receives a board for themselves, on which they manage their region. On this board, players initially start with five citizens, assigned as follows: 1 Merchant, 2 Soldiers, and 2 Laborers.

The main unit of currency in this game is called simply coins. Players start with ten coins each.

Each region also has a trade cost associated with it, representing the cost in coins of transporting goods through that region.

Randomly determine which player is going first.


Every round is broken up into a number of phases as follows:

Phase 1 - Replenish

All Soldiers in training become trained (see below). Each player untaps all of their citizens, then receives one coin for every citizen (not just the ones you just untapped). Skip this step during the first round.

Remove all Silk cards from Persia and India. Remove the most recently sold Silk card from Byzantium.

Add Metal cards to Persia until it has 3 Metal cards. Do the same for India with Food cards.

Turn over the top card of the Silk Deck. If it is a Standard Silk card, move any Silk cards already on China down one Slot and put the Standard Silk card on the first Slot. If it is a Fine Silk card, move any Silk cards down two slots and put the Fine Silk card sideways, covering two slots. If this movement of Silk cards would cause any card to "fall off" the slots, discard the card or cards that would "fall off".

If the top card is a Barbarian card, do the following:


Sometimes its not Silk that comes out of China. Sometimes Barbarians come thundering down the steppes to disrupt trade along the Silk Road.

The Barbarian card will have a number on it (1 or 2). This represents the Strength of the Barbarian.

The player with the most Soldiers gets priority. If more than one player has the most soldiers, then the player with the most soldiers who went last in the previous Phase gets priority (If this is the first round, the player who would be going last in the turn over gets priority). The player with priority starts an auction, but bidding Soldiers instead of coins. This represents taking on the Barbarian horde. When the auction is over, ALL players lose all soldiers that they bid, even if they didn't win the auction.

The winner of the auction gains 1 development card. In addition, each player who did NOT take part in the auction sees the Travel Cost of each region increased by an amount equal to the Strength of the Barbarian card until the next round.

Phase 2 - Action

The player who started the round with the most coins gets priority. If more than one player is tied for the most coins, then there is an auction to determine who gets priority. If the most number of coins is zero, then the player who went last during the previous round gets priority. Skip this step during the first round.

The player with priority takes any and all actions he or she wishes, as detailed below, in any order. When they are done taking actions, priority then passes to the left, until all plyaers have a chance to take an action.

The actions are as follows:

Assign Citizen

As stated previously, a Citizen can have one of three roles: Merchant, Soldier, or Laborer. Any untapped citizen can be assigned a new role. A citizen can be made into a Laborer by paying one Food. A citizen can be made into a Merchant by paying one Coin. Finally, a Citizen can be made into a Soldier by paying one Metal.

When assigning a new Soldier, that Soldier goes into training. A Soldier in Training can't attack this round; but it can defend. A Soldier in Training becomes trained at the beginning of the next round, and then can be used to attack.

Gather Resources

Laborers can be tapped to provide Food or Metal. The number of Laborers needed and the number of resources produced depends on the Region.

In a Food Region:
Tap 1 Laborer to produce 2 Food
Tap 1 Laborer to produce 1 Metal

In a Metal Region:
Tap 1 Laborer to produce 1 Food
Tap 1 Laborer to produce 2 Metal

Build Improvement

Cost varies. Build an improvement. See the "Improvements" section below.


Add a new Citizen to your Board as a Laborer. The cost depends on how many Citizens you already have.

0-2 Citizens: Pay 1 Food to gain one Citizen as a Laborer
3-5 Citizens: Pay 2 Food to gain one Citizen as a Laborer
6-8 Citizens: Pay 3 Food to gain one Citizen as a Laborer
9+ Citizens: Pay 4 Food to gain one Citizen as a Laborer


Tap one untapped Merchant to buy one resource from a Great Empire; or sell one resource to a Great Empire or other City-State.

To buy a resource from a Great Empire, pay the cost in coins of each region you must pass through to get from your City-State to the Great Empire. If there is already one or more stacks of coins on that region (from previous trades or combats), then pay one extra coin per stack already on that region. Set your coins as a separate stack on that region. If your route passes through another player's City-State, then pay them at least the cost of the region directly (City-States don't build up stacks of coins). That player may demand a higher cost if they wish. Then, pay the cost in coins of the resource in the Great Empire. These coins just go back to the bank.

To sell a resource to a Great Empire, pay coins to each region you must pass through as above. Discard the appropriate resource card and receive the stated price of that resource for that Great Empire in coins from the bank.

To sell a resource to another City-State (i.e., another player), negotiate the price in coins that the player is willing to pay for that resource. Then pay coins to each region as above that you must pass through to get to that City-State. Give the resource card to the other player and receive their coins in return.


Announce your target. Tap any number of your Trained Soldiers. This is your attacking army. Then pay the cost in coins of each region you must pass through to get from your City-State to your opponent's City-State. You must also have enough coins left over equal to the travel cost of the Region you are attacking. The two combatants then, starting with the defender, take turns playing any cards or abilities to modify the fight. The defender then taps any number of their Soldiers. This is their defending army.

Each army's strength is equal to the number of Soldiers in it, plus or minus any modifiers from abilities. Each army loses a number of Soldiers equal to the other army's Strength.

If this reduces the defender's Soldiers to zero or less, then the attacker gets one Development card, plus other rewards to be determined later.

If this reduces the attacker's Soldiers to zero or less, then the defender gets some rewards to be determined later.

Phase 4 - Rise and Fall

Remove all stacks of coins that were put on the board in the previous phase, EXCEPT for the largest stack in each region. Add that stack to the region's treasury.

Priority then starts with the player who went last in the previous phase, and goes in reverse order.

The player with priority then chooses to either keep their empire or to let it fall and let another one rise. If they let their empire fall, then they turn over their control token on that region. That region becomes a collapsed city-state and cannot be claimed by another player until removed. Any previous control tokens marking fallen empires for that player are returned to them. They then use their second control token to choose a new region for an empire. They receive any coins in the treasury of that region, as well as the following:

1 Coin for every Food or Metal resource they have.
2 Coins for every Citizen or Silk they have.
3 Coins for every Fine Silk they have.
A number of coins for each Improvement they have, as specified on the improvement.

These coins represent the "Golden Age" of the rising City-State

Then, all of these are auctioned off, one at a time, in an order determined by the current player. That player starts the bidding. The winning bid is paid to the bank, and the winner receives the item. The auction continues until all items are auctioned off. If at any time all players are unable or unwilling to bid, the current player receives the item by default. This auction represents the diffusion of skills and resources after the collapse of a City-State. The player keeps any Development cards they had already accumulated (these are not lost nor auctioned off).

Note that this auction is one of the few ways to get a resource without paying distance costs.

Lather, rinse, repeat

Continue until one player receives 7 Victory Points.


Most, though not all, Development cards are Victory Points. These VPs are kept hidden from other players. The first person to receive 7 Victory Points immediately wins the game.

Copyright © Brian Stepnitz

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