Dave and Sterling made it to Rich's house to make it three for games
this Wednesday evening. The first course of action was to vote for
games on the table. Alhambra, Atlantic Star and Hansa were offered up
with Atlantic Star winning. An interesting start in that we usually
play a board game first and end with a card game, but as you will see,
we essentially played a card game first and ended with a board game.
So the three of us donned our chartering caps and started to fix ships
to delivery the required 3, 4, 5, or 6 legs of a cruise in the Baltic,
Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans. (OK, the Baltic and
Mediterranean are Seas not Oceans, but let's not let theme get in the
way of card play). The game involves collecting ships hoping to form
sets (the legs mentioned above) of various length in each of the 4
areas. The sets are then scored by the value of the set and earn
victory points based on the relative value of each cruise to the
others in the same area.
With 3 players, each starts with 36,000 marks and needs to complete
two cruises in each of the 4 areas. Money is spent to purchase 1 of 4
ships available at the chartering house or spent to clear all the
ships to see the next 4. The ships cost 0, 1000, 2000, or 3000 marks
and clearing the board costs 2000 marks. With a minimum of 36 ships
required to complete all the legs, one needs to be extremely lucky to
be able to afford ships with just the starting money. The only way
money can be gained is to take a loan against a previous scored
cruise. One can reduce the value of the cruise by up to 10 points,
gaining 1000 marks for each point reduction. The obvious impact is
that the now lower valued cruise slides down the relative value scale
scoring fewer victory points.
Sterling was the first with a cruise ship down scoring 20 points on a
Baltic cruise. Richard followed shortly thereafter with a 25 point
Mediterranean cruise. Dave also got on the board with a 34 point
Pacific cruise. The money seemed to be flowing pretty freely as all 3
players managed to get 4 cruises chartered out of their initial 36,000
marks. However, we all had 4 more cruises to go and money was in the
low 1,000s for all players. It was obvious that the loans would soon
start. As a result of frequent deck clearings (Dave at one point
cleared the agency three times before taking a liner.) we actually
went through the ship deck about 4 times in the game.
Rich was first to schedule all 8 of his cruises getting very lucky
cards in the final rounds and having no surplus cards. Dave and
Sterling both had hand limits where they could draw at most 1
additional card before being forced to charter a cruise because of the
rule requiring at most 2 cards remaining in the hand after laying down
a set of cruise cards.
Tallying points showed Rich gaining 88 points on the strength of two
1st place and two 2nd place cruises in relative value. Sterling came
in second with 71 (scoring the other two 1st place spots in relative
value) and Dave (probably being forced to spend too much to get cards)
found himself at 63 points.
My own personal reaction based on this single first time playing - I
personally feel that my own score reflects more than a bit of luck in
being able to get nice cruises with high points for decent money as I
didn't really seem to have any agonizing choices what to do. About
the only decision I felt was critical was how much to borrow at a late
stage in the game to purchase a card. In the end, I probably cost
myself a few extra points as I had a bit of money left on the table.
The game does have a nice mechanic and money is tight as the game
progresses. It is gut wrenching to see 2 nice cards for offer, think
you will have a shot at one and then see the prior player clear the
deck making you rethink your strategy. It is a nice, quickly played
game of set collection with money management thrown in to keep the
With some time left in the evening, we decided to play Hansa as it was
the second in voting at the start of the evening and the playtime was
advertised as relatively short.
The game depicts several trading ports around the Baltic with fixed
routes that the trading ship can move. The routes are arrows
connecting two cities so the ship can travel in only one direction
along any of the available routes. As traders, player spend their
cash to move the ship and buy/sell goods. Goods can be sold
(converted) into marketplaces at any town or goods can be converted to
victory points at any town with a players marketplace. What makes the
game interesting is that selling good for victory points results in
the loss of 1 marketplace in that town. This adds an interesting
dynamic of gaining and losing market share in the various towns.
Finally, victory points are also scored for having marketplaces on the
board at games end.
In the initial set-up, Rich seemed to favour the northern cities, Dave
the central cities, and Sterling the southwest cities. With the rules
explanation over, we set out to sail and trade. Sterling seemed to
find the best port locations as several times he could purchase goods
in one location and then sail to one of his market places to convert
the goods into victory points. Dave and Rich both tried to corner
into Sterling's progress with Dave having more success then Rich.
When the game ended, all players had 7 cities occupied with
marketplace (none a monopoly) for 14 points each. Rich had only an
additional 11 victory points in sold goods for a total of 25. Dave
had 30 additional victory points for a total of 44; while Sterling had
a total of 39 victory points for a total of 53.
My own personal reaction to the game is that I enjoyed the game. I
can see multiple choices on a turn and the need to plan a bit into the
future. Also, as the shipping routes become second nature and the
flow between cities better understood, the value of certain cities can
be better appreciated. As a result, I think the game will improve
with subsequent playings. It also seems to fill a nice spot for a
relatively short, but still strategic game with minimal luck. I hope
I can play this again in the near future.