Just to get a feel for the game, and be ready to play a four-player round next week, two of us decided to play through quickly at the end of last night's activities.
As others have said the rules included in the box are unusually hard to follow both due to the size and wording. Fortunately for the few real questions we had there was an experienced player on hand to get us through. The very first question we had I expected to se mentioned in a review but I guess it was just us: The rules, as far as we could tell, don't actually tell you to but the second cube in your starting city and to take that harbor token, and that that harbor token is active for your first turn.
We soon got the hang of it, and I quite enjoyed working out advantageous combinations of cards, setting up my play for the next turn, and dealing with the board's available harbor tokens.
Since there were only two players we did not trade at all. I realize there is a bribe for the non-active player in a trade, but partially for simplicities sake we did not explore that aspect of the game.
We pursued quite different strategies. At one point I found myself without any nearby harbor tokens - my opponent had quite deftly turned an aggressive move on my part to his advantage by sailing ahead (he had appropriate cards in his hand to do so) and methodically gobbling up the harbor tokens in front of me over the next several turns. I made the decision to concentrate on stocking goods instead of sailing hard for the next port with a token and banked some good sets.
My opponent tried to minimize his pirate stack and had only one at the end while I had eleven. I also spent my ducati more aggressively during the game and had only a few at the end while my opponent had least fifteen. Still, I made those investments pay off and in the end I won 63 to 53. Whatever else you do in the game, you cannot forget the importance of loading sets!
I adore games that reward hand-management and I quite enjoyed the "advanced Bohnanza" feel. I look forward to playing it with four players next week!
You'll enjoy this with more players. We also tend not to trade but we're going to try that option more next time.
You have one rule wrong in your review. The rules do cover the positioning of ships and tell each player to put his second cube "on the Harbour indicated by the Card on his Cargo Stack. Discard markers on these Harbours"
So players start the game with no harbour based privileges.