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I recently played this game for the first time and managed to win, which I was surprised about since I was playing against four guys, two of whom are very good at these strategy games (and win frequently). So I thought I’d share a few tips about what I did and why I think I won (I’m still not entirely sure why I won, but here’s what I did during the game.)
Try to keep a balance between everything—not waiting too long to trade goods, donating to the church, and building quite a few buildings.
Build buildings, and don’t be afraid to build multiples. The buildings really helped me, and since I had three of the official building and two of another and also got the two donation tiles that got me points for those buildings. Use the guildhall often—don’t worry about having to pay for those people in the last donation phase; most likely, you’ll only have to do this a few times and you should have money by then.
While not a strategy in itself, think about where you’re placing those building people. I blocked off someone from expanding further so they’d have to donate to another church—we each had our districts of people with which we started. Most likely, it’ll take them a few turn to get to the church and then guildhall.
Donate to the church in the beginning of the game. It’s cheaper then, and you can get started with those buildings—plus, those tiles are the only way you’ll get victory points!
Pay attention to which church donation tiles you’re getting—plan ahead. If you think you can get/already have the tile that gives you points for yellow buildings, buy at least two of those.
Make sure you have at least one ship in each line, if possible. At the least, make sure you have at least two ships in the harbor. A few others didn’t do this (D. wanted to trade on his last turn and then realized he had no ships!). I kept an eye on the ships and built one on my third turn, I believe.
Don’t wait too long to ship goods. I usually made between £200-260 for shipping goods and would ship between 2-5 instead of saving them. If you wait too long, someone else might have moved the ships down.
Send the ships sailing. I believe this was my fourth turn in the game, and although most people didn’t have three goods to ship, they were working on it, and it started things off well: I could ship more goods than they.
Any comments are welcome. Keep in mind, I’ve only played this once but won with 69 points, about 9 points ahead of the person in second place. I also do not consider myself to be a strategy guru—I’m not the type of person who wins all the games, since I prefer having fun to thinking too hard. Also, this might not be the ultimate strategy, but this is what I did, and it worked for me!