Workers of the Hanseatic League, unite!

hansa1

This week’s group session saw five of us play Hansa Teutonica. This is a worker placement game using the theme of the Hanseatic League trading activities, which has some nice twists and tweaks that help increase and maintain player interest.

Essentially, you are trying to score points and have different ways of both scoring points and improving your abilities.

For example, at the start you have 2 actions per turn. However, by completing a trade route to one of the cities on the board, you can increase that number of actions. Another city route, if completed, allows you to retrieve more of your workers from the stock – which is where they go after completing a route. Or, if you don’t want that increase in your ability, completing a route can allow you to claim an office in the city which is one other way of scoring points. But, to get into certain offices you need to improve another ability – which you can do by completing a route to another city. And so on, and so on.

If it sounds complicated, it also sounds that way the first time the rules are explained. (I was the only one who had played it before.) However, after one or two rounds of play, for most people it clicked.

The neat player board keeping track of the various game abilities.

The neat player board keeping track of the various game abilities.

Yehuda and Elad picked it up and were always in contention. Eventually, the player order probably helped Yehuda, and he claimed the win just ahead of Elad. Rochelle was doing a fine job of building up her alternative scoring strategy, and finished not too far behind. Laurie liked it, but struggled a wee bit as she spent time on the phone when she should have been concentrating on improving her score. She finished ahead of me, though.

Confession time: I like the idea of the game, and much of the mechanics. However, I really, really, don’t like the mini-war that erupts in the game to claim (repeatedly) the route that gives you extra actions. Yehuda and Elad battled for that, and were therefore, always going to win. I do not like that in a game, and having seen it happen the one and only time I played it before, I stayed well away and developed an absolutely marvelous strategy that gave me the unchallenged grip on last place… There are lots of ways to score points, but only one real way of increasing your available actions. Clearly, more actions improves your chances of winning. I tried to see if this was a feature that had been addressed by checking the BoardGameGeek forums, but gave up. (That UI is awful...) Maybe I am missing something. I wouldn’t rush to play it again, though it was fun watching everyone else have a good time!