Sunday, February 27, 2005

Weekend: Hansa

!$^%$%$ IE destroyed my long review of Hansa, which I will try to re-create.

I had the unusual opportunity to play three nice games this weekend, two of which were first plays.


Hansa, a relatively new game from last year, was not high on my priority list for two reasons: 1) the board and mechanics looked uninteresting, and 2) it received good, but not great, user reviews.

Still, the game was brought to my house by Gilad on Wed and left with us, so, as long as it was there, Saarya and I decided to try it out 2 player. Summation: not as uninteresting as I expected, but otherwise good, but not great (possibly very good for younger players).

The word that hits me most when I think about the game is "gimmicky" - normally not an inspiring word. Still, there is bad gimmicky and good gimmicky. San Juan is kind of gimmicky, since the cards work as buildings, cash, and trade goods all at once, but it flows pretty well. Here, the gimmicks are more glaring, sometimes a little strange, but, at the end of the day, they fit together, if not particularly brilliantly, at least servicably.

The upshot: you have cash tokens, goods tokens in several colors and numbers (1-3), and market tokens (each player has 18 in his color). Get 3 cash each round, move the ship or buy goods with cash, buy markets with goods, buy vp's with markets and goods. Markets are in short supply, access to goods and vp's is hindered by the ship's movement. Most vp's wins.

The long version:

- Each player gets 3 cash per round, and you can only save 3.

- Moving a ship costs 1 GP. Ship can only move along arrows, and no two cities go back and forth with each other, although several form triangles (gimmick 1).

- You can only do 1 action per city (gimmick 2).

- Buy a good chip for 1 cash, regardless of the number of goods this represents (gimmick 3). Pay the bank, or, if someone owns the majority of markets in this city, pay that person (gimmick 4).

- Discard a good chip to place that many goods worth of markets in that city.

- Discard a good chip and 1 market to earn that many vp's plus 1 (huge gimmick - I think this is supposed to simulate "flooding the market", but I don't see how). Every time you do this, everyone else has to discard one chip they have
of the same color - in 2 player, this never happened, because we always used our chips almost immediately after buying them.

- Lastly, you earn 2 points for each location that has at least one of your markets at the end of the game, 4 points if only you have a market there.

The tactics: Try to set up a shipping triangle so that you can move back and forth buying goods from yourself and then trading them for vp's. Leave the ship far away from where your opponent's need it. Try to balance the need for using goods
to buy markets versus the need to use goods to earn vp's. Get the goods before they are gone. That's about it.

When I played, I missed the obvious triangles in several parts of the board several times, which hurt my moves. Generally, I tried to make Saarya pay for the replenishing of the good, figuring that my money was better spent doing other things. So we passed 3 cash back and forth, flipped and tossed goods, placed and removed good markers, and slid the ship around in circles, and at the end of the game we were about 2 points apart.

I wanted to play again. Like other good but not amazing games, I will probably want to play this several times, but I don't expect my interest to hold for a long time. On the other hand, the mechanics are just about the right complexity for younger players, although the theme is not so interesting for them. The game might be very good for kids if rethemed.

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