Editor's Note: My full review of Hermagor will appear in Knucklebones magazine. Following is an abbreviated version.
Each Spiel in Essen, there are a few small publishers that are on my “must visit” list. This is due to their outstanding track-record of producing games that seem designed just for my tastes. Among these publishers is Mind the Move, as I’ve grown quite fond of designer Emanuele Ornella’s efforts. I thoroughly enjoy both Oltre Mare and Il Principe, and was looking forward to his latest release, Hermagor.
The setting of Hermagor is familiar: a medieval city wherein players obtain goods, then travel around the countryside to sell them for a profit. Fortunately, in spite of its familiarity, the game has some unique mechanisms and feels different. Particularly, the method whereby players acquire goods seems original and is quite competitive.
The large board depicts three main areas: the country of Hermagor (which is shaped roughly like Africa), the general market, and the commodities price table. The first phase of each turn is conducted on the market, wherein players place markers, representing merchants, in attempts to acquire various commodities. Then, play moves to the map, whereupon players travel to various towns, selling the wares they acquired, earning profits, and establishing trade stations and production buildings. The value of commodities, as well as players’ production buildings, is tracked on the price table.
The market phase is the most interesting aspect of the game, wherein players compete for the various commodities available. Lots of choices must be made during this phase, including which commodities to pursue, the cost of placing merchants, the potential income derived from properly aligning one's merchants, and more.
After all commodities are distributed, players take turns traveling from town-to-town on the map, paying the cost listed on the roadways they use. Towns are connected by roadways, which also divide Hermagor into regions and dukedoms. Each town depicts a commodity which may be sold there, and most regions depict one or more production buildings, which match the various commodities. If a player possesses a commodity that a town desires, he may sell it, collecting the current value as listed on the price chart. He also places a trading post on the town.
Further, if a player successfully constructs a trading post in each town surrounding a region, he places a production building on the row of the price chart matching the production building depicted in the region, earning the amount of income depicted. Possessing a production building on a commodity, regardless of its position, will earn more gold at the end of the game.
After each player has conducted the designated number of turns, the turn is complete and a new one conducted. After the fourth turn (five turns with 2 or 3 players), there is a final scoring wherein more gold is earned in three fashions:
Production Buildings: Each commodity is examined to determine the players who have placed production buildings upon the chart. Depending upon the value of the commodity, 0 – 9 gold is earned.
Dukedoms: Players determine which of the three dukedoms wherein they have constructed the least number of trading posts. They earn a corresponding number of gold. Thus, a balanced approach when constructing trading posts is yet another goal for which to strive.
Principal Route: The player with the most trading posts along the main road, which traverses the kingdom, earns 5 gold. The player with the least posts loses 5 gold. Again, this is something to keep in mind when constructing posts.
The wealthiest player emerges victorious.
As with the designer’s previous title – Il Principe – there is a LOT to consider here. There are numerous ways to earn victory points, and players must attempt to strike a balance between them. This isn’t easy, as once a player begins moving on the map, it is more efficient to concentrate on a logical path wherein the towns are in close proximity. This often means that certain areas of the map are neglected, which can significantly impact one’s final income and ultimate standing. Balancing all of the possible ways to earn gold is a huge challenge, and should keep the game intriguing far into the future.
Jared, Mark, Diana, Gail and I competed for commodities, then traveled the countryside selling our wares and erecting trade stations. The game was quite competitive, and four of us all tied for the most stations along the main route. Ultimately, Gail’s dominance in establishing production buildings proved to be the difference.
Finals: Gail 134, Greg 129, Jared 122, Mark 108, Diana 105
Ratings: Jared 8.5, Gail 7.5, Greg 7.5, Mark 7.5, Diana 7