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Subject: Nova Suecia – an intricate web of dependencies rss

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Nicholas Hjelmberg
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(Designer's own review)

At first sight, Nova Suecia is a difficult game to get a grip on. The classical concepts of a traditional worker placement game are all there: you acquire land, place workers, construct buildings and trade for gold. However, as the game progresses, you will gradually realize that your actions affect not only your own score but also the entire game balance. The real challenge is to tilt this balance in your favour (but not too much because if the colony is lost, all players lose!).

Let’s start with an overview of the rules. There are six kinds of resources in the game: grain, timber, iron, fur, plant and tobacco. Each good is produced in its special district type: farm, forestry, forge, trade post, plantation and spin. Each game turn starts with a ship phase, where resources drawn from a bag adjust the market prices. This is followed by a sell phase, where resources produced in the previous turn are sold, a settle phase, where new districts get available and settled, and a buy phase, where the colonists either construct buildings (to increase production) or produce resources. Finally a letter phase allows the player to place resources in the ship bag for future market adjustments.

So far, the game is fairly straight-forward - it is in the relation between resources bought and sold that (and their effect on the game balance) that the differences come to light.

The grain you sell is the same grain as all the players need to buy to feed their colonists. Fewer colonists mean less revenue to the farmers but less food also means fewer colonists to work for all players. Will the colony balance its grain supply?

The timber you sell is the same timber as all the players need to buy to build log cabins to lower their costs. The more log cabins, the less grain is needed in the game. But can you afford losing a production turn to build a log cabin?

The iron you sell is the same iron as all the players need to buy to increase their production. The more production, the more resources you can sell but the lower the price per resource. Will the net increase in revenue be higher than the iron cost?

Trade posts trade fur to the districts. The more trade posts all the players have, the more resources does each of them generate. But will you be able to maintain the prices or will one player dump the prices by selling too much?

Tobacco need to be refined from plant before it can be sold and unless a player controls the entire process, the players must indirectly trade with each other. If no player wants to buy plant, your plantation will sell to falling prices, if no player wants to sell plant, your spin will buy to rising prices. Will you find a balance?

The overall objective is to earn as much possible before the colony is completely settled and the game ends.

As stated below, it is difficult to immediately see how those comparatively few concepts affect the game balance. Which resource will pay the most next turn? Which resources do I need from the ship bag the next turn? Should I invest in long term revenue or short term revenue?

Overall, Nova Suecia introduces some interesting concepts but the players must be cautious not to over-analyse the outcome of their actions but rather letting intuition guide their decisions. After a couple of games, the web of dependencies will be clearer to you and you can focus on what really decides the outcome: the demand and supply of the resource markets.

Nova Suecia is recommended for anyone interested in adding a new dimension to the traditional worker placement game.

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