It just had to happen one day: I am a doctorate student of Colonial Spanish-American history and two of my peers are specialists for Mediterranean trade in the early modern age. One of them is even currently studying in Venice with a Marie-Curie stipendium. Which game other than Serenissima should we pull out?
We randomly assigned the powers with the following result:
I had the advantage of having played the game twice, so I made sure to give them some strategic advice beforehand. Also, and this made an important difference in the game, we played with a variant: Selling in you own port gives you 200 less than selling elsewhere!
At first, I was concerned that not being able to build another galley before turn 3 would be a huge disadvantage, but I was lucky: In a rush for the gold cities, the Spanish had captured a Genovese galley off the shores of Tripoli in turn 2.
Initially, I didn't even dare to go for the jewel monopoly in Cyrene because I feared it was impossible to hold the city and rather wanted to focus on the spice-cities. But there was the opportunity: Two very weak Spanish galleys with some gold waiting for a pirate galley - no retaliation to be feared. I sunk one and captured the other in the next turn, moving on to conquer Cyrene.
The other galley was busy making Ragusa and Corfu wharfs for new ships and then headed east with the object to secure the spices in the east. The other players had not yet understood the dimension of me building up monopolies difficult to overcome while they both sat on one gold city and couldn't do much with it.
My next fear was Sicily. The Genovese had already sold wood and iron there but did not yet control it. This is because they wanted to make more money. They got 500 for the sale instead of 100 if it had been their own port. Now there was a ship loaded with 4 sailors and a wine and I was sure they would conquer Sicily. There was nothing I culd do, no strong galley was within range. This was the biggest danger for my position. Sicily is really the gate between Western and Eastern Mediterranean and with a strong Genvese position there, I feared to lose Corfu and Venice being cut off. I was lucky. Greed made the Genovese galley move on to Tunis, selling the wine there (opening the wine market) and I was able to conquer Sicily.
Now Genoa and Spain panicked but they did not manage to build an efficient alliance - they didn't trust each other, my luck! First, the Spanish sent one galley and it was close to get the harbor. In the end, both the galley and the harbor had only 1 man left and the ship had a textile on it. They broke up the fight and sold the textile instead in the attacked port, giving them 900 (opening the market). Again, my luck: Not only did I have a complete port now, I also could pump out 4 sailors there each turn.
With the control of Sicily, no galley could pass into the Eastern Mediterranean anymore. Two pirate galleys stood ready to punish everyone who dared to go in there. By taking out weak enemy galleys I managed to build up a fleet larger than the other two combined. While the other two had no more goods to open markets, I still had my spices ready, making valuable money for the last few turns. That was the final blow - having financial reserves for the last turns, when everyone is short of money, is very powerful.
In turn 8, the Genovese made a final attempt to take Sicily with 2 pirate galleys and another one with 3 sailors. I only managed to get 1 full and one galley with 4 men in, there were 4 men in the harbor. This was dangerous but I rolled extremely well, even one of my galleys survived with a sailor.
Now Genoa had only one galley left, the Spanish had three and I had about 10-12.
In turns 9 and 10 I filled them up and managed to conquer Barcelona and Marseille from the Spanish and Naples and, finally, Genoa from the Genovese.
It was a total victory - the final outcome was:
Genoa: 8 points
Spain: 15 points
Venice: 49 points