Hansa is one of the those good board games that occassionally slide under the radar. Hopefully this review would do the game some justice. Read on and I belive you will like this hidden gem.
Hansa is a game for 2 to 4 players by Michael Schact and published by Uberplay. In this game, players are merchants of the Hanseatic League (aka Hansa). Players get to control a ship that travels to different ports of the Baltic area. Through the trading of goods at the various ports, players gain victory points.
Despite the small box packaging, the game components are of high quality. The game board is beautifully illustrated and function well though I would prefer it to be slightly bigger.
The single sheet rulebook is simple and well layout with clear illustrations and examples.
The game bits are simple but of great quality as what you would expect of Eurogames.
The beautifully crafted wooden ship definitely gives this game its unique character.
I believe you would agree that the Thalers (currency used in the game) look just as great!
The round wooden chips represent the market booths in the game...
and of course the goods that players get to buy.
Players strive to get the most victory points and this is mainly done through selling of goods and setting up of their market booths in different ports. Players can move the ship through different shipping routes and visit different ports to buy goods.
Rhis task is not as simple as it looks. Moving the ship and buying of the goods require players to pay Thalers. However players get only 3 Thalers at the start of their turn and can only keep a limited amount of Thalers and goods at the end of their turn. Planning a good shipping route is crucial to do well in this game.
Apart from buying goods, players need to also setup their market booths. Market booths play an important strategic role in the game.
Being a market leader in any port (most number of market booths) will allow the player to get the goods for free. Other players wanting to buy goods at the port will have to pay the market leader as well.
They are also crucial for players to sell their goods. Although players can buy goods at any ports, they can only sell their goods in ports which they have at least a market booth. To sell their goods, players need to sell at least 2 of the same goods (based on the color).
Selling goods will enable player to gain victory points. The more goods (by number of barrels) you sell, the more points you get at the end of the game.
Though the gameplay sounds simple, what make Hansa really shines is that it requires players to make tough decisions.
At each port, players can only perform one of the 3 actions (buying goods, selling goods or setting up their markets). Hence players need to plan their routes well.
Each action also has its trade off. To setup their market booths, players need to discard their goods which mean that they have less goods to sell for victory points.
Similarly, selling goods at a port requires players to give up one of their existing market booth. Selling goods also mean that you have less goods that can be used to setup the market booths.
Wrestling with the decisions is what makes Hansa challenging and deeply satisfying.
I like the the trading theme in the game. The gameplay and component fits the theme well. Using the Hanseatic league is a nice touch, bringing players back the trading era of the middle ages.
The different colors of the goods work well in the game but I think having different type of goods such as corn, sugar, etc, would make the game theme even better.
Hansa is a great game which I think deserves more attention. The decision making part of the game is interesting and satisfying as players try to come up with the most effective sequence of decisions.
This is also a more tactical game instead of a strategical game. It is hard to plan ahead in this game since what you can do is highly dependent on the actions taken by the previous players. The shipping routes could also get a bit repetitive which could affect the replayability of this game.
There could also be moments of downtime as players can get stuck in analysis paralysis during their turn but it isn't really that big deal considering the quality of the gameplay that you get from the game.
So if you have yet try Hansa, it is definitely one of the hidden gems worth checking out.
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