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Greg Schloesser
United States
Jefferson City
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I am always hesitant to take chances on games "sight unseen", but sometimes
the lure of newly released games prove to be just too much. When putting
together a recent game order from Germany, most of the newer Nürnberg
releases were not yet available. One exception was Dshunke from Michael
Schacht, so I took a chance and ordered the game. When it arrived, the
graphics didn't appear too appealing and a cursory reading of the rules
didn't generate much excitement. Still, we just had to give it a try. I
was joined by Lenny, Jim and Ashton.

Players represent powerful trading merchants in the Far East, attempting to
secure commodities, execute profitable trades and load their goods onto
junks (cargo ships). The ultimate objective is to earn the most money,
which is earned by skillful (and sometimes lucky) transactions.

The game is relatively short -- only ten turns. Turns move fairly quickly,
with a full game being played in 1 - 1 1/2 hours. The mechanics are also
very straight-forward and after a turn or two, everyone should easily grasp
the rules and mechanisms.

The board depicts five junks of various colors, as well as a market area,
tracks for the two merchant trainees and four locations for the action
cards. The artwork is functional, but somehow fails to impress. The
quality of the components, however, is quite nice and the game should prove
quite durable. Each junk has a space for commodity cards, as well as a hold
for loading cargo.

Players begin the game with numerous cargo plaques, each depicting three
crates. These will be stacked into the various junks during the course of
the game. Each player also begins with eight commodity cards. The
remaining commodity cards are divided by type and begin the game located on
the junks. The set-up chart also calls for certain junks to be pre-loaded
with a few crates, and the three merchant tokens begin on pre-designated
junks. They will move clockwise top the next junk with the passing of each
turn. The two trainees begin on at the beginning of their charts.

The Sequence of Play is very straightforward:

1) New market tile is revealed. The market tile depicts the four
commodities and their value for the current turn, ranging from 1 - 4. There
may also be an "S" indicated on one of the commodities, which allows the
player who wins the right to sell this type of commodity to choose a special
action card.

2) Special actions. In turn order, players may select one of the three
merchants or one of the two trainees and perform their special action. Once
a merchant's or trainee's special action is used, it is inverted and not
available for use by another player that round.

The special actions of the merchants are fixed can only be executed on the
junk where they are present located. The trainees actions are listed on the
trainee chart and vary from turn to turn. Those actions can only be
utilized on a junk where a merchant is NOT present.

The special actions of the merchants are:

a) Load 2 Crates. The player executing this action loads two of his crates
onto the junk where this merchant is located. Crates are loaded in rows of
three, with the next row being stacked atop the previous row but in a
different direction. This is important as the number of crates visible
plays an important role in the game.

b) Take Commodity Cards. The player executing this action takes a number of
commodity cards from the junk where this merchant is located equal to the
number of visible crates of his own color loaded on that junk. The minimum
number of commodity cards he takes is three even if he has less crates

c) Take Money. The player executing this action takes money equal to the
number of crates he has visible on the junk where this merchant is located.
Again, the minimum amount of money he takes is three.

The actions of the trainees basically mirror those of the merchants, but
vary from turn to turn and can only be executed on the junks where a
merchant is NOT present.

Four times throughout the game, the trainees will be located on a special
spot. Two of those allow all players to choose an action card from one of
the four stacks, while the other two force all players to reveal their
current money totals.

3) Refill Hand. Each player selects two commodity cards of his choice from
the junks. The number of commodity cards a player is entitled to may
increase during the game if the proper special action cards are taken.

4) Bid for Right to Sell Commodities. At this point, all players bid
commodity cards for the right to sell those cards for the price listed on
the current market tile. Players secretly place a number of commodity cards
of the same type before them and simultaneously reveal them. The player
bidding the most for a particular commodity receives the amount of money
indicated on the market tile. Ties are split between the tied players. In
any case, ALL players who bid on this commodity, whether they won or lost,
must discard the cards they bid. Ouch! This forces players to pay
attention to the number and types of commodity cards each player has in
their hands, a skill I am not particularly adept at!

If some commodities were not offered for sale, a new bidding round is held
until all commodities are sold or everyone passes.

5) Merchants and Trainees move. The three merchants then move to the next
junk in clockwise order, while the trainees progress one space to the right
on their charts.

6) Start Player Rotates. The entire sequence is again repeated, with the
start player rotating clockwise.

As mentioned, there are several opportunities for players to select special
action cards. When these opportunities arise, players actually take one of
the four stacks of action cards into their hands, study them and select one
they prefer. The remainder are returned to the board. It behooves a player
to remember what types of cards are remaining in the various stacks in order
to benefit the player in future selection rounds.

The action cards allow a variety of special abilities, including:

a) Break Ties. This is a VERY important power and there is only one card in
the deck. Any ties during the bidding round are broken in favor of the
player who possesses this card. Grab this one if you can!

b) Extra Commodity Cards. This allows the player to collect an additional
commodity card each turn.

c) Swap Commodity Cards. The Player can swap two commodity cards for two
others when the market tile is revealed.

d) Move or Load Crate. These cards allow the player to move one of his
crates, or load a new one to a junk

e) Victory Points. These cards are used at the end of the game and award
victory points if the player has the required number of crates visible on
the indicated junks. Points awarded vary from 8 - 12 points.

The game ends following the tenth turn and players tally their victory

a) Money

b) 4 points for each junk wherein a player has at least one visible crate,
or 25 points if a player had crates visible on all 5 junks.

c) Any bonus points awarded by the action cards.

The game follows a very processional path and players are able to discern
the future movements of the merchants and trainees. This allows the astute
player to carefully plan his actions and take advantage of opportunities on
the turn when he is the start player and gets to select his action first. I
didn't realize this until a few turns into our first game ... what I call a
"D'uh!" moment!

The bidding can be frustrating and does involve quite a bit of guessing. As
mentioned, it pays to have a good idea as to the quantity and type of
commodity cards held by your opponents. I normally am not too fond of this
type of guesswork, but it seems to work well here and isn't too bothersome
to me.

In spite of a few rules glitches (we mistakenly allowed the victory point
action cards to be played immediately, not held to the end of the game as
required), we all enjoyed the game. Subsequent playings didn't tarnish my
opinion. This is a good game, but not spectacular. I can see it hitting
the table a few times each year and it may well be one that my 'casual
gaming' friends will also take a liking to.

Our scores and the outcome was a bit skewered since we allowed the victory
point cards to be played during the course of the game. This made achieving
the conditions WAY too easy. Still, we had fun, in spite of Jim's
impressive victory.

Finals: Jim 73, Greg 59, Ashton 58, Lenny 56

Ratings: Ashton 8, Jim 7, Lenny 7, Greg 6

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