(Eric, Dan, Rich, Dave)
Walt and Anton were playing Balloon Cup, so the rest of us decided to play Hansa, a new Michael Schacht game about trading in the Baltic Sea region. Dave was new to the game, so we began with an explanation of the rules, which are simple to describe but not so easy to use to your advantage.
Hansa is a game of timing and positioning. There is one boat shared by all of the players, and it moves between the nine cities by following arrows printed on the board. We particularly enjoyed the arrow from Tonsberg to Stockholm, since it cuts across Sweden (and shows a picture of a wagon train that must be dragging the boat across country.) During your turn you move and take actions, with the proviso that after you take an action you must pay to move the boat at least once before you can take another. Three actions are available: (1) pick up a goods marker and pay the person with the most market stalls, or the bank if no one has a majority; (2) pay a goods marker to the box and lay down new market stalls, or (3) turn goods markers face down to score points at the end of the game and give up a market stall. In order to win, you must execute a mix of all three types of action. At the start of your turn, you may pay to restock goods markers, benefiting not only yourself, but also the players who follow you.
Eric began by grabbing and selling two goods markers, but then went on a market stall laying spree, gaining majorities in a number of eastern cities. This brought in some welcome cash as the others paid him to pick up goods, and it delayed opponents who tried to avoid paying him too much and thus had to pay for multiple boat moves. Dan laid down a number of market stalls, including the only stall in out-of-the-way Lubeck, and Rich made some sales of his own. Dave scored some early sales, but ran his supply of market stalls down, reducing his future prospects (it's hard to judge the balance in your first game of Hansa.)
The game was played more defensively than our previous games of Hansa. Players were reluctant to pay for re-stocking, especially when their cash was low, and there were several times when a player did nothing in his turn but take 3 talers. One player even gave away a taler (you may keep only 3 talers at the end of your turn) rather than spend it. Thus, when we did restock, it often involved 8 or 10 new goods markers.
Near the end of the game, Eric restocked and hit the jackpot, turning over three red goods markers that he was able to scoop up and sell in a single turn for 9 points. Dan followed by a similar restocking on the final turn that gave him three markers for 10 points. This showed us that restocking gives you a chance to strike it lucky; perhaps it makes sense to restock more often than we have been doing it.
Goods Mkts Total
----- ----- -----
Eric 36 10 46
Dan 28 16 44
Rich 31 12 43
Dave 26 10 36
Eric's rating: 8. There's a tactical aspect to Hansa, but I'm seeing a strong strategic aspect as well. If you can obtain majorities in key cities, you either collect cash to finance future activity or constrain the activities of your opponents as they strive to avoid paying you. The decision of whether to spend your cash down to zero or save some for next turn is also a critical one; there's a big benefit to having the flexibility a cash reserve brings.