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Hansa Teutonica Review – great sandbox-style play in a fast 90-120 minute setting

When I got into gaming, I tried a variety of different genres, and I always enjoyed the refineness of a good euro (strategy) game the most. But there’s very few that have my favorite things I enjoy in games: sandbox environments. For those who don’t know, sandbox refers to a game style where players can do a variety of different interactions with their environments – typical examples would be video games like Grand Theft Auto and Skyrim, RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, and other free-roaming games based on free choices and actions. Obviously, this is a hard thing to accomplish in a board game setting given the amount of fiddliness and time it would require for each player to explore and develop their player space (for example, most of the legitimate, “true” Civilization games take upwards of 3 hours at the minimum), but Hansa Teutonica was one such game I found to be very reasonable in its time requirement yet also offering a huge degree of freedom in a small, minimalist system.

Component-wise and in terms of setup, players just need to load some cubes onto their board in their tech tree spaces and set up some bonus markers on the map. This is so simple but so effective, yet leading to dynamic, interesting, and emergent gameplay. Contrast this with other euro games like Concordia and Agricola and there’s a decent difference in terms of components – HT doesn’t need loads (or any! really) resource chits and wooden bits and pieces. Not that such bits are necessarily bad, but it helps keep the game simple.

Gameplay-wise, there are only four different actions players can take. The placement and displacement of cubes leads to high interaction as players block each other and try to be displaced to increase efficiency. Yet, this is all beneficial, both to the displacer and displaced in the majority of cases – one player gets the space he wants and the other gets the extra cube he desires. The clearing routes and teleportation also add to the replay and fun as players move their cubes all over the map taking over offices and taking advantage of empty board spaces.

The bonus markers add more variety and options to the game, and they’re simple to use and implement. The only issue I have is that the “Remove 3” bonus marker feels a bit “attack-y”, moreso than I’d like in such a euro game, but otherwise, I don’t think there are any other things that are super attack-based or “take-that” in this game.

The tech trees players have is awesome, and I like how players can each develop their own player boards to be efficient in different ways, which leads to really diverse gameplay. I do have a small issue with the strong need for actions – even though it’s not necessarily a dominant strategy, it is a very common one, and I do wish the importance of them could have been lessened. If, for example, the max was 4 actions and we all started with 3 actions or something, I may have preferred the strategy in such a game. But, the game was balanced around starting with 2 actions, and I don’t have a serious problem with this, albeit it does make some openings at times feel scripted.

Theme-wise, the gameplay makes no sense. For example, the teleportation/book action doesn’t make any sense to me. In another game I know of (I think either Historia or Golden Ages), there’s a semi similar teleportation action but its tied to getting increasingly better vehicles (horse carriage, airplane, etc) which would make more sense. But I don’t really care because the gameplay is just that good, so I overlook the theme in this one. I think a more reasonable theme may have upped the experience a bit though.

Mechanically, Hansa Teutonica may feel a bit dry, but I always enjoyed playing it. I like it best with 5 players, but I still really enjoy 3 and 4 player counts (no I do not think 3P is broken by the way, for those who think so). I have never tried 2p, but I suspect it wouldn’t be worth playing over other 2p games. My favorite aspect is probably the freedom to do whatever I like, in a sandbox like environment, and the high degree of interaction for a euro game. Its minimal components, fast setup and cleanup, double sided board that scales to 2-3p and 4-5p, and its board and tech trees for players all combine to make some pretty awesome gaming sessions and experiences. (One small thing I do question about the 2-3p board is that its almost the same as the 4-5p map, but when I eventually get the Britannia expansion, I suspect I won’t mind this as much).

Anyway, I highly recommend this game if the above aspects appeal to you. It is one of the best games ever designed and some other cleverest euro game mechanisms I’ve ever seen in a board game.

Thanks for reading, and please give me any feedback or thoughts on my review or any of your thoughts too.
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NowOrNever88 wrote:
Hansa Teutonica Review – great euro sandbox-style, highly interactive play in a fast 90-120 minute setting and easily one of the cleverest games ever designed

I too like the game but one of the cleverest games ever designed may be a stretch. No new mechanics just your basic

Action Point Allowance System
Area Control / Area Influence
Point to Point Movement
Route/Network Building

true they are put together in one game in a good design but imho not easily one of the cleverest ever designed.
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JeffyJeff wrote:
NowOrNever88 wrote:
Hansa Teutonica Review – great euro sandbox-style, highly interactive play in a fast 90-120 minute setting and easily one of the cleverest games ever designed

I too like the game but one of the cleverest games ever designed may be a stretch. No new mechanics just your basic

Action Point Allowance System
Area Control / Area Influence
Point to Point Movement
Route/Network Building

true they are put together in one game in a good design but imho not easily one of the cleverest ever designed.


You forgot the unofficial mechanisms: worker displacement and assymetric scoring systems. It's as if you have never played the game. That's where the goddamn magic happens.
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Quote:
The only issue I have is that the “Remove 3” bonus marker feels a bit “attack-y”, moreso than I’d like in such a euro game,


You could always change it from "remove 3" to "move 3" and they are kept on the board, just moved around. Less of a sting. In fact, IIRC the Britannia expansion might have made that exact rule change.
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JeffyJeff wrote:
NowOrNever88 wrote:
Hansa Teutonica Review – great euro sandbox-style, highly interactive play in a fast 90-120 minute setting and easily one of the cleverest games ever designed

I too like the game but one of the cleverest games ever designed may be a stretch. No new mechanics just your basic

Action Point Allowance System
Area Control / Area Influence
Point to Point Movement
Route/Network Building

true they are put together in one game in a good design but imho not easily one of the cleverest ever designed.


The person who invented the bicycle didn't invent the wheel, they just put them together in a good design, to make one of the cleverest vehicles ever designed. cool

The way these various mechanisms are put together, in such a free-flowing "sandbox" way, does make it IMHO one of the "cleverest" at least that I've seen.

And that said, the "displacement" mechanism is on its own quite innovative... or if not, which game does it borrow from and in what way? It changes the "blocking" dynamic you see in a lot of networking games, and gets a lot of people to play the game who don't usually like games with blocking.
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JohnnyDollar wrote:
Quote:
The only issue I have is that the “Remove 3” bonus marker feels a bit “attack-y”, moreso than I’d like in such a euro game,


You could always change it from "remove 3" to "move 3" and they are kept on the board, just moved around. Less of a sting. In fact, IIRC the Britannia expansion might have made that exact rule change.


Thanks, I didnt know of that change. Does bonus marker user it choose where they go?

Its supposedly only that way in Britannia because Remove 3 is overpowered for a route, so Im not sure it should be used in the base though.

Also agree with what others say about why this game is still unique despite its common points.
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Yes, the player using the marker chooses where they go.
 
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JohnnyDollar wrote:
JeffyJeff wrote:
NowOrNever88 wrote:
Hansa Teutonica Review – great euro sandbox-style, highly interactive play in a fast 90-120 minute setting and easily one of the cleverest games ever designed

I too like the game but one of the cleverest games ever designed may be a stretch. No new mechanics just your basic

Action Point Allowance System
Area Control / Area Influence
Point to Point Movement
Route/Network Building

true they are put together in one game in a good design but imho not easily one of the cleverest ever designed.


The person who invented the bicycle didn't invent the wheel, they just put them together in a good design, to make one of the cleverest vehicles ever designed. cool

The way these various mechanisms are put together, in such a free-flowing "sandbox" way, does make it IMHO one of the "cleverest" at least that I've seen.

And that said, the "displacement" mechanism is on its own quite innovative... or if not, which game does it borrow from and in what way? It changes the "blocking" dynamic you see in a lot of networking games, and gets a lot of people to play the game who don't usually like games with blocking.


I hated this "displacement" mechanism. You couldn't plan ahead for a placement, not knowing who might want to buck you off a route. Too chaotic for my tastes. No desire to play again. Rather play Tigris Euphrates any day over this. And there are a couple of overpowered tiles that I honestly can't remember what they are.
 
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The Britannia expansion is brilliant:
It feels tighter, you get in each other's way more often than in the two previous incarnations of the game.
The techs are weighted somewhat differently. The actions are harder to get, so you will be playing with two actions longer than in the base game. Whereas the keys are easier to get, and you will see a rush for them towards game end.
More smaller cities; the game ends when 8 of them are full. This happens more frequently than in the base game, and is a constant threat for ending the game.
Wales and Scotland are completely new challenges; separate areas for placing cubes. Increasing the options for the players (as if there weren't enough already).
No problem playing 3-5 players. There's even new 2-player rules (using dummy cubes), which apparently work much better than the original ones (I haven't tried any of them).

I am a fan of HT, and I couldn't believe it was possible to improve an already excellent game in such a way as they've done with Britannia. Go for it!
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