Last night we played a memorable 5-player game of Traders of Genoa. Two of the players, Cam and Brad, were completely new to the game, my wife and I had only played it a couple of times over a year ago, and Dave, being the expert, put the teacher’s cap on and explained it to all of us. This game requires quite a bit of upfront instruction as you have so many different options on your turn and you need to get a feel for what each action does and is worth. At first, both my wife and I felt like we had never played before as Dave was explaining it to us. But after a little awhile, it was coming back to me a little bit and I was ready to play. Dave, however, and rightly so, was determined to explain all of the rules. “Patience Doug, patience…”
I ended up going first and got what I thought was an excellent roll for my first turn, Red 6 Blue 3, placing the caravan on the street between the Cathedral and the Guild Hall. The negotiations began swiftly and briskly and I looked over at Cameron and he was just staring straight ahead, stunned at the chaotic pace of the negotiations. He remained speechless through my entire turn. I quickly made a few deals with the others and finished off my turn. I vaguely recalled from my previous couple of plays the power of the Cathedral so I took my action there after entertaining some insulting offers for it from someone who will remain unnamed. (“I’ll give you 5 for the Cathedral”). I then put my two ownership markers on the Cathedral and the Guild Hall. This ended up working great for me as these two markers remained on those two buildings unchallenged for most of the game.
Throughout the game, I think everyone had different ideas about who was winning. I was convinced Brad was going to win because he seemed to be cashing in on Large and Small Orders all of the time. Dave also seemed to be doing quite well as it seemed he was constantly cashing in on Small Orders and Messages. Cameron and I were battling for the Privileges throughout the game and he ended up getting more than me in the end, so I thought he was in pretty good shape. Between the two of us, we had all of the Privileges except one or two. Beth didn’t seem to be concentrated on one particular strategy and seemed to be doing a little of everything. I was using a stingy strategy throughout the game, trying not to overpay for anything, but a few times accomplishing nothing on other people’s turns. For this reason, I thought that I was way behind.
A few highlights: On one turn, Brad rolled the dice, placed the caravan on the starting spot, and moved them onto three different buildings in about 3 seconds. He ended up taking all three actions himself as he had two “Further Action” cards of which both he used. We all figured this had to be a record time for taking a turn. On another turn late in the game, all of the negotiations were done and it was time to play the markers. Three different players had two to play and Dave played first. He played two to finally knock mine out of the Cathedral. Then Brad played his two to knock me out of the Guild Hall. And finally, Cameron came in and played his two to knock Dave out of the Cathedral. Dave wasn’t too happy about this as he paid a pretty Ducat for his two markers only to see them last for about 30 seconds.
The very last round of the game was quite boring for me. I played first, so I was also the first one to have a last turn. I had an “Any Start Space” token and played it placing the caravan on one of the Villas to cash in my Large Order. I ended up getting a little bit of extra dough marching to some other buildings for my opponents and then I basically sat through the rest of the game waiting for everyone else to take their turn. Not having another turn and without any more orders or messages to fulfill, I didn’t have enough time to do anything else. Watching everybody else working through their last turns and cashing in on orders and messages had me convinced that I didn’t have a chance at winning. However…
Have you ever played a game where you thought you were playing miserably, but end up winning at the end? This is what happened to me. The final scores were: Doug 600, Dave 545, Beth 520, Cameron 470, and Brad 430. I wondered if I had accidentally taken a 100 bill instead of a 10 or something, as I couldn’t believe that I was so far ahead of everyone. We all discussed it afterwards and someone told me they had never seen someone so upset or depressed after a win. I went to bed that night unable to stop reviewing everything in my head, but here is what I think happened.
With my miserly strategy, I can only believe that I bought small and sold high. It seemed everyone else was paying heavily for wares and new orders and apparently they didn’t make as much net profit on those orders as I thought. For example, Brad split a large order with Cam 50/50 on one of Cameron’s turns. In fact, Brad ended the game with two or three uncompleted orders. My large order didn’t cost me much as I got the wares cheaply through trades and special cards, and I fulfilled it on my turn for free. I noticed others had to pay heavily to get to their villas to complete their large orders. I probably earned close to 100 Ducats out of the Markers I had on the Cathedral and the Guild Hall. It wasn’t until late in the game those got removed and by then they had served their purpose. I also ended up getting 90 Ducats out of the Privilege cards. Cameron still beat me here earning 110 for his Privilege cards, but I was still somehow over 100 Ducats ahead of him at the end.
I’m still not really satisfied, as I didn’t feel I earned this win with a superior strategy or system. What a bizarre game when you win by a significant margin, but you don’t really have any idea how you did, nor do you have a good idea on how to repeat it the next time. I’m pretty convinced that I mistakenly took more money than I should have on a turn and that is how I got ahead. Or maybe not, I just don’t know...but I sure wish I did.