Tonight saw one recent trend broken and one tradition maintained.
As for the broken trend, instead many quick games, we managed to play
one longer economic pick up and delivery game....Merchants of
Ven....no, not Venus, but Venice. And not the just announced game
from Essen (Oltremare) but the 1996 attempt to capture renaissance
trading: Serenissima. Sterling, Rich, and Jeff also welcomed Jeff's
neighbour Sean to have 4 at the table.
According to the rules, Serenissima is the name that Venetians called
their region in their heyday. The game shows the Mediterranean Sea
and each player represents one of the 4 trading powers: Venetians,
Genoese, Spanish, and Turks. Starting with 2 galleys, 10 sailors, and
200 ducats, players move, trade, and battle to try to gain points at
the games end. The winner is the player with the most points.
The 4-player games is played in 8 rounds with each round consisting of
Phase 1 - The round marker is advanced and an auction held to
determine who will select their spot in turn order. It is important
to note that the winner of the auction doesn't automatically go first.
The winner may decide to go last. It is the selection order that is
Phase 2 - Players may buy trade goods, build additional ships, fortify
ports, and hire sailors. Each port produces 1 single commodity.
There are 7 commodities in the game. If a player controls the port
where he wishes to purchase (or the port is still uncontrolled), the
price is a fixed 100 ducats. If another player controls the port, a
brief negotiation can occur between the two players to determine the
selling price of the good. Should another player have a monopoly in
that commodity, they can charge a much higher price. But the buyer is
not obligated to buy, so setting an unrealistically high price runs
the risk of no sale. Finally, if a player may rearrange goods/sailors
between ports and galleys that are in the same area.
Phase 3 - Galleys are moved on the board. Each galley has 5 spots to
hold either crew or cargo. The speed of each galley is determined by
the number of sailors onboard. A fast galley might have 4 sailors,
but only 1 good. A slow galley might have 1 sailor and 4 goods. (As
an aside, I think we did allow players to rearrange cargo should a
ship move adjacent to another ship during this phase. However,
looking at the rules online, I think such rearrangements are only
allowed in Phase 2. Would be nice to get a clarification from the
rule book.) Another feature of movement is that ships are allowed to
move into spaces occupied by other ships, but in order to move through
an occupied space, the moving ship needs to get permission from the
player who controls the other ship.
Phase 4 - Players may (but are not required to) battle. A galley may
attack another galley in the same space or the port in an attempt to
take control. The combat mechanic is quite simple. Both the attacker
and defender roll a single die. They add the number of sailors either
in the galley or in the port garrison and divide by 3 (rounded down)
to determine the number of men lost by the other side. For example, a
galley with 3 sailors rolls a 2 for a total of 5 which rounds down to
1 sailor lost by the other side. After each roll, the decision is
made to continue the battle or to stop. Should all the sailors on a
ship/port be eliminated, the other side has an opportunity to take
control of the ship/port.
Phase 5 - Players may move men from their ship into unoccupied ports
to gain control of that port. Sailors at the port form part of the
port garrison and help defend the port against future attacks.
Phase 6 - Players may sell goods from their ship to the warehouses at
each port. The only restriction is that each warehouse cannot house
the good produced by that port, nor may the warehouse hold more than 1
of any single type. Each good in the warehouse must be unique. The
warehouses come in 3 sizes. Small warehouses can hold just 2 goods.
Medium warehouses can hold 4 goods. Large warehouses (at the capital
each player can hold 6 goods. The value of each good sold is higher
than the previous good by 100 Ducats. Additional, there are potential
bonuses for opening new markets (selling the first of any type of
commodity that the player does not produce or already have in one of
These sequence is repeated for the requisite number of turns (8 in the
case of 4 players). At the end of the final turn, points are added up
to see who was the best trader. 10 points are awarded for controlling
one's starting capitol + 1 point for each 500 ducats in hand + 1 point
for each controlled port without a full warehouse. A full warehouse
at a small port is worth 2 points. A full warehouse at a medium port
is worth 5 points. Finally, should a player fill the warehouse at
their capital they receive an additional 10 points.
With a 30 minute rules explanation and set-up, we were ready to start
trading. Our game lasted nearly 3 hours and not many notes were taken
during the game itself. Jeff played the Spaniards; Sterling, the
Genoese; Rich the Venetians; and Sean, the Turks. Rich did get a bit
hemmed in early and never fully managed to keep pace with the leaders.
Jeff and Sterling were aggressively expanding their networks in the
western Mediterranean while Sean did a good job in the Eastern
Mediterranean. Towards, the end game, Rich was 2 commodities short of
filling his capital's warehouse, but when Rich's ship stopped at an
Iron port, he discovered that all the iron had been sold, so no more
iron was to be had. Furthermore, Rich had gemstones on a ship and
could sell them either to Sterling's nearly full capital or to Jeff's
nearly empty capital warehouse. After moving his ship to Jeff's
capital, Rich was quickly surrounded by Sterling's pirate fleet (ships
with 5 sailors and no cargo) who were determined to capture Rich's
ship and transport it back to Genoa (which they did do). Sterling
also had some gold that he decided to sell to Sean. It did net
Sterling 500 ducats (or 1 additional point for the endgame) and did
fill Sean's warehouse (+4 points for Sean). Sean also managed to fend
off a last minute attack to wrest control of Istanbul away from him.
After 8 turns, the points were counted. Each player still had control
of their capital city (Sean barely) for 10 points each.
Next, we counted the controlled ports with unfilled warehouses.
Sterling had 3 (3 points) to Rich's 2, Jeff's 1, and Sean's 0. Scores
now sit at Sterling 13, Rich 12, Jeff 11, Sean 10.
Next, we counted the filled small warehouses. Jeff had 4 for an
additional 8 points. Sean had 2 for an additional 4 points. Rich had
for 2 additional points; while Sterling had none. Interim scores:
Jeff 19, Sean and Rich 14, Sterling 12.
The filled medium warehouses gave Sterling, Jeff, and Sean each an
additional 10 points, but Sterling also filled his capital city
warehouse for an additional 10 points. Scores: Sterling 32, Jeff 29,
Sean 24, Rich 14.
Finally, the money points. Sean had actually played part of the game
thinking that maximum money was the victory condition and had amassed
16 additional points (at 1 point per 500 ducats) to Rich's 9 points,
Jeff's 7 points, and Sterling's 5 points.
Final scores: Sean 40 points, Sterling 38 points, Jeff 36 points, and
Rich 23 points.
Interestingly, if Sterling had not sold the gold to Sean, the
resulting point swing would have given Sterling the win. But at
least, the tradition of the newcomer victory is maintained as Sean
walks away with the victory.
A long session for certain, but probably a bit longer than normal as 3
of the 4 players were new to the game and there were quite a bit of
time before the gameplay settled into a rhythm. Given its length, we
might not see Serenissima hit the table again soon but it was an
interesting journey to Renaissance Italy for tonight's session.