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A Derk appears from the mists...
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This game was one of the first from Alea, which also produced Ra about the same time and with the same bookend box. The game never did get reprinted in English, but the components aren’t very German intensive. The game centers on establishing businesses (tiles) on properties on the board. Some people have referred to the game as Monopoly, only without the movement track. That isn’t a bad explanation. Players draw pools of business tiles and property cards and then trade the pieces to make larger businesses. The game is only six turns long, so it can be played in about an hour, with experienced players. Each of the turns ends with a pay out for the businesses you’ve acquired and the amount is based on the number of tiles in each business.

There are four basic types of business tiles: threes, fours, fives and sixes. The number indicates the number of tiles that must be connected (orthogonal) to construct a finished business. A finished business pays out a little higher, but having several (three or more) connected tiles earns a fair profit too. Each of the basic types is further differentiated by a certain business type, such as Pharmacy, Detective Agency, or Antique Shop. The idea is to make the most money over the course of the game, so players are given an interesting option regarding businesses. Smaller businesses grow quickly, but their size (and profit) is limited. The larger businesses pay out handsomely if completed, but often times it won’t happen until right at the end of the game.

A turn starts with the players drawing property cards. There are six different blocks of properties, with about eight properties in each asymmetrical section. Players are given a number of cards, which they keep most and discard the rest to be recycled. The cards that the players kept are marked with a possession token, and removed from the game. Then a set number of business tiles are given to the players and the trading commences. Players are free to trade their tiles, properties, or cash to make deals. The game is rather free-form at this point, because getting what you want from the other players is key to this game. Sometimes you need to trade for tiles (especially with larger businesses), or properties, and often you can earn a ton of cash by ransoming something someone really needs. It’s also where the game has many variants.

I prefer to draw a set number of cards, and discard a couple of them (as per the rules). Follow with marking properties and then business tiles drawn face-down. The trading round has a little more interest if player tiles are kept secret, but having to discard properties before trading is a delicious decision. Also we prefer to use the ‘street access’ rules, which allow for a nicely balance of long/short-term strategies. With this variant, each business needs to have access to a street or a sidewalk in order to generate income.

At the end of each of the rounds, a random card is pulled from a special deck which will give a small bonus to people for owning certain basic types (three’s or six’s, for example) of businesses. Personally, I don’t think this little deck isn’t too unbalancing, but some choose to skip it in their games.

The scores in this game are usually fairly even, which is almost always a surprise to me. The spread (from first to last) will often times be ten to fifteen thousand dollars, which isn’t bad considering a single business tile scores a thousand dollars just for being there. Admittedly the game is rather formless during the trading round, but the profits are little more easily calculable which helps players ponder possible trades (unlike Metropolis, for instance). Plus is does have playing time going for it, which really is quick. The game is usually half over before you realize it, because little large (or difficult) trading occurs until the final three or four turns. Additionally, this game is probably best with four, and five could probably pull it off but the game will be over even quicker. If your group enjoys negotiation games, then this interesting little game could appeal to you.
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