After having had the chance to play a complete game of 5-player Traders last Fri at the KLGCC gaming session for NGW2005, I can now fully appreciate the various nuances and strategies related to the game. I've to say I appreciate the depth of this game a lot.
The objective of the game is simple - to have the highest ducats (ie dollars) at the end of the game which is 7-turn for a 5-player game. The ways to earn those ducats are also pretty straightforward; you have basically four revenue options (messages, small orders, large orders and privilege cards) and 2 trading options (building ownerships and trading with other traders). The way to victory is however not so clearcut - and that's the beauty of the game.
Any trader worth his weight in beans will tell you to make a profit you need to sell at a higher cost than you buy. This is the only rule you need to remember in this game. Simple ain't it?
Now the difficult part comes when you are making your purchasing decision to assemble the goods needed to complete the large order. Some of the goods you pay cash - good, you know your cost then. Some you barter with other stuff. Hmm... do you know the "value" of the barter? Some you acquire thru creative negotiation... in which case the value may be a zero cost!
With so many cost variables flying around, it's a challenge to keep mental note of how well you are doing per deal.. not to mention the fact that the bartering and trading carry on incessantly... stop to think for too long and you've just missed out on a few good deals. Phew....
There was a situation in the game during the early stages when linen (rose-colored cubes) goods were not in demand! 3 players had linen and were trying to hawk it around... but there were simply no buyer! The situation got so desperate that the players were willing to throw the goods in for free!! hahaha...
You will see all types of traders here. Some who will only deal with you in cash, nothing else. Some who is always looking for an exchange deal. And there are some who cuts you a deal that seems so nice that you spent minutes agonizing over it wondering where's the catch in that deal - or is there even a catch?
As you get familiar with the game, you shall see the various options open to you to accumulate your trading wealth and be the richest trader in Genoa. Some take the Buy Goods option.. eagerly buying goods whenever they can and then trading - or selling - them with other traders who needed some you do not need.
Some took the 1:1 trade option... trading a lower-value product for higher-value ones. Some are always on the lookout for a free bargain, snapping up goods they need on "1 ware of any type" special deals.
Then there are those who chose to own buildings and in return gets paid for businesses done on the buildings they owned.
Some even focus on accumulating privilege cards! This is not a bad strategy at all. One of the traders actually managed to accumulate a good hand of 5 privilege cards that paid her 150 ducats at the end of the game. Other players merely got 10 ducats per card, she got on the average 30 ducats per card!
In business-talk, she actually derived a return that's 200% better from her privilege cards than most traders!
She could have raised her average higher to 35 ducats/card if she could get another 2 cards and here's an example of how she can cut a win-win deal. She already has a set of 5 consecutive cards in her hand and those are worth 150 ducats. The max she can earn is 250 ducats if she can collect another 2 consecutive cards to form a hand of 7. Another trader has 2 of those cards but in a set of 3 which is worth 60 ducats to him.
He offered to sell her the 3 cards for 100 ducats (hoping to make a quick 40 ducats profit). She did not take up the offer becoz she thought it was not a net gain for her but she could have made a win-win counter-offer for both of them.
She needed only 2 cards to increase the value of her hand from 150 to 250 ducats. So basically she needs to acquire the 2 cards for less than 100 ducats in order to make a profit. The other trader needs to sell the 3 cards at a cost higher than 60 ducats in order for it to make sense to him otherwise by selling 2 cards for less than 60 ducats, he's only reducing his profit.
She could have offered to buy 2 cards from him for 75 ducats leaving him with 1 card (still worth 10 ducats). If the deal goes thru, she would now have a set of 7 cards paying her 250 ducats (earning her an extra 25 ducats) while he would have gained an extra 25 ducats also from the sale of his 2 cards to her (plus the 10 ducats on the remaining card in his hand)!
By cutting this deal, both the traders have increased the total yield from the 8 cards from an initial value of 150+60= 210 ducats to an increased value of 250+10 = 260 ducats resulting in an increased profit of 25 ducats for each trader! That's an extra 23% profit!
Now if you consider the winner of this game has made 780 ducats while the lowest score is still 580 ducats... a privilege card hand that pays you 250 ducats (ie. 1/3 of the winning amount) can be considered a significant income stream!
The game took less than 2 hours even though it felt longer than that.. Perhaps it was becoz we were gaming late into the night or perhaps it was due to the constant and intense player interaction where there's no downtime at all for all of us as each player took their turns running the trading tower!
But everyone had fun and well, as they said, we did one helluva business!!