Hansa is a great game to play if you want to introduce friends to European-style gaming or if you just want to play a quick, light–strategy game. Why is it a great introductory game? The rules are easy, the board and pieces are not complicated, and experienced players will not dominate the game so much as to make the game unpleasant for newbies.
The board shows the Baltic Sea and various port cities each having several goods for sale. These goods are small tokens of various colors and having values from one to three barrels. There is also a ship which will make its way around these cities. Before play begins each player will have a chance to place markers or “trade booths” at each city. These booths have three functions: 1 Having the booth-majority in a city will give you free purchases and require others to pay you when they purchase, 2. You can only sell goods in a city where you have a booth, and 3. You will earn extra victory points if you have a booth majority in a city at the end of the game.
Once play begins each player takes a turn which consists of four steps taken in this order.
1. Take 3 coins of income.
2. Optional: Pay 1 coin to replace all empty goods-circles.
3. Optional: Move ship & do actions in cities.
4. Lose all but 3 coins and 3 goods tokens (if you have excess). This is the only time you are limited to 3 and 3 at other times you may have more.
Steps 1,2 & 4 are all pretty straightforward. However step 2 is a “dangerous” move because it generally helps everyone and not just you. Step 3 is the meat of the game.
When the ship is in a city you can perform ONE of the following three actions:
1. Buy any goods token (free if you have booth majority) for 1 coin, which you pay to the bank or the player with booth-majority in that city.
2. Sell at least two same-colored goods markers, which turns them into victory points. When you sell goods, everyone else loses a marker of their choice that shares a color with what you sold. So selling goods not only gets you victory points but hurts others.
3. Convert one of your goods tokens into trade booths (1 booth per barrel).
Also in step three, moving the ship to the next city costs 1 gold and you must follow the transit arrows on the board. Why do want to move the ship? Because you can only perform ONE action in a city before moving on (of course if you had enough money you could return again on the same turn) and because you might need to get the ship someplace useful to you.
This means that gold not only purchases goods but is the limiting factor in the number of actions you can perform on a turn. Kind of reminiscent of Tikal’s action-point system. This gives an incentive for building trade booths since, if people pay you, you'll have more moves when it's your turn.
The game ends when you run out of goods markers to place (actually there are piles and when you crack the last pile the game ends after that turn). Everyone adds up the value of the goods they sold, each marker is a point with the number of barrels on the marker giving additional points, and then booth-majorities are also added in to determine the winner.
What is good about this game?
As I said before, it is very easy to explain to non-gaming people. They get the hang of it quickly. It is also fairly quick with one game lasting about an hour which leaves time for more games.
This game also scales farly well. You can play it with two and it's still fun although the game takes on a "hurt your opponent" flavor.
I also like that there isn’t a lot of luck in the game to tip the balance quickly.
What is not-so good.
People that want to have a planned strategy (e.g. “I must rule Copenhagen!) going into a game will not like this. You have to react to what is happening on the board. Other people’s moves will affect the opportunities you have and the actions you take. Because of this, people who like to think a lot will take a long time when their turn comes around which can draw the game out. You have approach the game with a quick-paced approach: think about your moves but don’t make a chess-match out of it.
The other drawback is the theme. Middle-ages trading is OK but that’s all those Europeans ever do is come up with are middle-ages / renaissance stuff. A mild complaint to be sure, but there must be a way to appease American tastes more.
So to sum up: Move boat around to buy and sell goods. Simple strategy, easy to learn, reasonably fun.
And so nice and deep game, so well designed. Hansa is just a must have for all serious gamers. I enjoy every time we playing it. Everyone in my group adore Hansa, because of it's polished playing mechanism.
Just wanted to add that i bought this recently partially on the basis that the pieces are language independtent - this matters for us UK gamers - and partially on your review.
Played it with the wife, and she really liked it. nice planning during your turn, but no demands for a long term strategy. and she likes the idea of trading more than fighting, and who doesnt like wooden ships?
This makes a good game for evenings with other couples i think.