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From the team that brought us El Grande and El Caballero, this beautifully-made game is a pleasure to behold. In Die Hndler, players buy goods as cheaply as possible, negotiate to transport the goods to market, and try influence prices and sell when the price fluctuates upward. Make the most of the business opportunities you are dealt, making profitable deals (at your opponents' expense) and rise in status and wealth.
Average Rating: 4.7 in 15 reviews
This one is so good I am back for an encore. My group dusted off my copy and went at it with a vengeance. Since we have all played Traders of Genoa and Puerto Rico several times, we had 2 like games to compare DH with. Hands down, this is a winner. It has some of the elements of PR (role selection, though only one but with a farther reaching impact) and the intense negotiations of T of G. What we really enjoyed was the deal making (and back-stabbing). Of course, bidding 'fer the wagons' produces significan angst. But afterwards, bartering for the right (privilege?) of shipping goods, well, here is where the amusement begins. Not only can one make monetary offerings, but one could also agree to ship in consideration for a vote on a price increase for a commodity - or to toss a '3' chip for wagon number X or agree to move wagon Y briskly towards Paris...there are no limits, really (just time to avoid AP)
The fine balancing act between profits, guild dues and social ladder-climbing also keeps everyone's attention. And DH is a game where it is easily possible to overtake an early leader (of course, with the money tokens in the bag, sight unseen, who knows who is really leading and who may be saving up for a rainy day) - yes, the status board is fully visible, but it costs to hobnob with the upper crust.
In short, Die Handler is an absolute winner and in my opinion, should occupy proudly a space on any gamer's shelf next to PR and T of G.
Pity the English-speaking nations that couldnt grasp this intelligent game. Either they have something against wood or they have something against sophisticated games. Or maybe they couldnt foot the price tag. But this one is well worth the price of import.
My favourite aspect of Die Handler (and underemphasized among reviews) is the power struggle for wagon control. There is a constant power struggle over everything in the game, but it plays itself out most prominently in the fight to be wagon master. If you bid high enough, youll take control of a wagon. And then its a matter of symbiosis: you need other people to jump on your bandwagon to get them to cover your cost of winning the bid plus the more people you have on board, the more support youll have in getting your wagon across town. And they need YOU to accept their goods so they can get them transported. But at the same time, having lost the bid to you, they would like to see your wagon run into the ground. And the thought of not shipping their own goods to make you suffer more than they is a frequent consideration in this game. If all this isnt taxing enough (and this is only one of six basic mechanics of the game!), Kramer peppered this element of the game by allowing the wagon master to load three goods onto the wagon but they must be all of one type. The other riders are limited to just two goods and they cant be of the same type as the wagon master (but the two goods dont have to be the same).
One of the smartest things Kramer did for the game is mandate each step of the social ladder to be paid twice. In other words, you have to pay to move up the ladder a step, but once there, on the next turn, you have to pay that cost again just to maintain your position AND THEN if you have money left over you can advance farther up the ladder. The set costs of moving up in ranking accelerate and this slows down leaders somewhat.
Because there is so much interaction involved in each phase of the game, you cant outsmart your opponents all the time before they catch wind of your strategy. Ultimate victory will depend on your ability to help and receive help from others, while maintaining your distance as aggressive competitors. This, in itself, is a rare achievement in board games. Kramer, youve raised yourself up the ladder again.
I want my own copy of this game, but it is from an elusive breed. I dont need another twelve playings to know Die Handler is a winner. I got my hands on the correct rules translation unlike the many vocal detractors who reviewed this game negatively, and Ive seen the beauty of this game. Much of it lies in the theme: as merchants, you must be figuring out which goods to buy, getting them loaded onto wagons (for a good price), transporting them to neighbouring towns and then selling them for a profit. Add to that the escalating cost of maintaining your social status and youll feel the pressure mounting as every decision becomes more consequential.
The bits are so good Queen could rival Rio Grande in terms of production values. The map, the goods, the wagons, the money theres a lot to be said about how great pieces can bolster the fun of a game.
There are tweaks we utilize to suit our taste. In addition to removing all the influence cards (theyre in German anyway) and creating a whole new card system (I had fun with that), I suggest:
1) The Shrewd Purchaser may buy 1 good at the current price and receive two more goods of the same type for free. Therefore, each different good bought in one turn will be bought at the regular price (i.e. to buy 2 wine and 1 salt: buy 1 wine, receive 1 wine free, then buy the 1 salt a regular price).
2) To suppress the price fluctuations a little, only players who have delivered a good may influence the price changes. If someone only has 1 good on the wagon, he can only move one arm of his price wheel. 2 goods allow you to move both arms.
Die Handler has a very imaginative design, but the mechanics of the game whether youre negotiating with a wagonmaster or carefully selling goods amidst a turbulent market all make sense. If youre looking for a game with attractive pieces, attractive theme and one that will get repeated playings, Die Handler makes the most sense.
it is a bit like puerto rico, but more aggressive. The game play speeds up rather unexpectedly. Too late you may discover you cannot pay your bills, and then you have to get a loan in which case you always lose no matter your status (unless you can pay the loan back).
The rules are very easy to learn.
The first few times it is completely unclear what to do and why, there are no dice, it is quite perfect for me.
Playtime is very short, 45 minutes or less.
However the middle ages atmosphere, as other reviewers write, is nonsense.
Very dynamic game. I wonder how the 2 player version will be - i can't imagine it to be fun.
but i'll let you know.
Hard to say if it is 4 or 5 points worth, i'd say 4.7 which makes it a full 5!!
Buy it if you know, play and like Ra, Tigris, el grande, and puerto rico. It is not very recommendable for basic catan players (too difficult for them i'd wager).
We played this game for several times, and all of us say this is a 'heavy' boardgame, why?
During the game, this is very little luck -- only 5% of the game requires luck -- before the game starts, each player needs to randomly choose two special ability to be used in the overall game, this is one lucl. Another luck comes out when choosing action cards -- you need to take the top action card to your hand and this requires luck. The rest of the game requires no luck and you need to use lots of strategy to play this game.
The playing time of this game is about 2 hours and I suggest this game not for beginners, players of this game should have some experience in playing others games, so that he knows what strategy to be used in the game.
Component for this game is very great, as it contains some wooden cars, and a wooden block horse, and many small blocks representing the goods.
If your game team needs a 'heavy' boardgame which requires very little luck, I suggest you to play this game.
Before I purchase a game, I try to research the game as much as possible to see how others view the game. Funagain reviews, Boardgamegeek.com, rec.games.board and other sources provide a wealth of information to help any potential game buyer. From this I can usually determine whether I will like or dislike a game. My initial research for this game found mainly negative reviews and it took a couple years before I ordered this one.
Many have described the mechanisms of the game. I will just point out a couple items.
First, the game is beautiful. From the top quality produced game board, wooden carts and Courier piece to the beautiful artwork you expect in many of the imported games these days.
Second, what is most enjoyable to me is that while money is important in buying/selling goods, controlling cart movement, etc. it all boils down to social status. At the end, whoever has climbed to the highest social status wins. Money doesn't count in the end (although it is used to break ties). This is nice, especially since players spend so much energy focused on optimizing choices based on the limited money they have, and still, it boils down to social status.
If you haven't checked this game out yet, research it a little further. This is one I wished I had picked up a while ago.
This first-rate game has been done a huge disservice by a horrendous Counter review. To be honest, the review was so bad I am horrified that Funagain would even republish it on their site. But I digress....
I guess mainly I'd just like to add my voice to the choir of praise here. Die Hndler is a true gamer's game, with all kinds of stuff to balance. I think the main thing that appeals is that it is an economic game without the 'exponential growth' problem; that is to say, that more cash does not in and of itself lead to more revenue opportunities, and with the rapidly rising cost of social standing, cash is very tight all game long, and you'll have to do a very good job of managing it consistently.
The various player special powers and special action cards add some flavor and excitiement, and are generally extremely well done. The whole bidding mechanism (bid for the right to load cargos, and then turn around and sell that space to the players you were bidding against) is very intruiging.
Anyway, a lot to like here, and probably Queen's best game in my opinion. It's more involved than most Eurogames and as such will probably appeal to the Tigris & Euprates/El Grande crowd. Highly reccomended.
I have finally given up on trying to give my reviews clever titles. The other reviewers just seem to have a better handle on this than I do. In light of that decision, let me get right to the point about Die Handler. This is a very, very good game, and well worth considering for your game collection.
This is a game that is not for all tastes, and perhaps should be marked down a little for that, but what game does suit all groups? None that I can think of, so I give it full marks. Die Handler is from the same very clever design team that gave us the classic El Grande, and I believe that it stands up quite well in the comparison.
As mentioned above, this is not a game for all tastes. It is definitely a gamer's game. There can be some very nasty dealings with other players, and if you suddenly send the selling price of a commodity plummeting just as an opponent is ready to sell it, you can expect retaliation. If that player becomes the loading master of the wagon next turn, don't expect to see any of your goods on the wagon!
Surprisingly for a negotiation game, this works rather well with only two players. My wife and I played last night, and it was a very satisfying experience. Use of the special abilities came into play frequently, as she stocked up on the courier cards, and I blackmailed her a couple times by threatening to drastically reduce her selling price by using my special price-fixing ability unless she allowed me free loading the next turn. I can see how negotiations in a 3 or 4-player game could get even more convoluted.
The components of the game are worthy of note, as well. The board is huge, and there are lots of nice bits, like the chunky wooden wagons, the brightly colored commodity tokens, and the sacks in which each player hides their money. This is definitely a class act.
Keep in mind that this game is not intended as a market simulation, but rather a game that tries to cover a lot of bases. It has strategies based on movement, on secret bidding, on negotiation, on market manipulation, and more. It may not be elegant, but it is a very rich, tasty stew. Highly recommended.
I've read reviews of this game on many different websites including the boardgamegeek.com and the gaming dumpster (neonate.org) and elsewhere, and frankly can't understand why there is such polarity in the reviews. If you give this game at least one chance, and be open minded about spicing it to taste in subsequent games (vis-a-vis optional rules modifications) then you will have an incredibly enjoyable and thought-provoking business game with extremely high quality components. I believe even the 2 player version is great.
The first time you play it, you won't be able appreciate the value of the 'special abilities' cards until it's too late, and therefore have no clue as to how to go about bidding for these. This might leave a bad taste in your mouth... a feeling like 'you've been had'. But chalk the first game up to learning and give the game a second chance and you might be surprised.
Many critiques abound concerning the balance of the special ability cards, which leads me to my own rules modification: Perhaps these special ability cards should be randomly distributed or auctioned at the beginning of EVERY round or every other round. That way no one will hold a too powerful card for very long, and give everyone a chance to move the courier and grab their share of the 'special action' cards that people seem to covet so immensely.
Another optional rule could be that all players should be allowed to move the courier one space during their turn no matter what. The players holding the +1 and +2 courier movement bonus 'special ability' cards simply apply their bonus to their base movement during their turn. That way, everyone has a more balanced chance to earn thier fair share of special action cards, probably through some cooperation among the 'non courier bonus card' players. This also would give the non-courier bonus card players an opportunity to thwart the bonus card holders from amassing huge piles of special action cards.
If you research the game enough, you will no doubt find some great optional rules. Even though I find nothing greatly disturbing about the original rules, there is lots of room to customize this game to suit yourself. So don't be hesitant to order the game for fear of the original rules. Besides, like all games, I think it's all about who you play it with. You have to find people who enjoy negotiation and hard business decisions. The 'wheeler dealers'. If you can't find people who can get into the spirit of this great game, don't blame it on the game itself.
In summary, I love this game, because each phase of the turn keeps you thinking fast and/or negotiating in different ways. The purchasing decisions, the bidding, the second guessing, the wagon/courier movement calculation, the cost-benefit analysis of special ability cards and 'wagon boss' privelages, and that almighty game winning social status purchase feasability decision. Weee dogies, it's wunderbar!
I must admit that I am more than disappointed to read how Die Handler was savaged by Counter Magazine. Some reviewer out there needs to not let his bias for certain kinds or styles of games to get in the way of a fair review.
My group has played DH nearly a dozen times. This game has so many good points. There is almost no down time between turns because everyone has to do something in each round.
There are numerous opportunites for light hearted back stabbing, deal making and profiteering which makes for a very enjoyable gaming session with DH. Maybe the reviewer from Counter Mag has so little stamina that he can't maintain his thought levels for more than 15 minutes without passing out from exhaustion. DH will keep you busy... you cannot take your eye off the ball.
Our group really likes DH because it recreates the flavor of what trade might have been like during the 1700 or 1800's in medieval Europe. One can imagine the towns waiting impatiently for goods to arrive (and thus the townsfolk are willing to be a premium for these goods - hence the bonuses in those cities) or with various guild members having some 'connection' that bestows an advantage upon them, but with shrewd competitors trying to neutralize those advantages in some fashion.
You will enjoy DH if you are a 'wheeler dealer' type... if you like to mix things up during a game, make deals that leave your opponents wondering what hit them (and thus causing them to focus more on what they are doing), calculate potential profits and opportunity costs while at the same time keeping your fellow traders happy (or at least, foster the illusion that everything is going their way!!!, think of imaginative ways to gain advantages over your opponents... well, I can't say enough about this game.
I am just really sorry that Counter Mag ruined the reputation of Mr. Kramer and Mr. Ulrich and probably cooled Queen Games from attempting such a magnificent presentation again such as DH.
I urge you to give this game a try... play it, enjoy it and after a bit of experience, start 'pulling out all the stops' when you begin the various negotiation phases of DH.
An elegant game? No. Pushing the envelope of interactive gaming? Yes! Die Handler falls within the elite company of Tikal, Serenissima, El Grande, or Medieval Merchant as a fun decision making game. But is Die Handler too much of a good thing? Be forewarned: There is tons of stuff crammed into this game! Once you digest the rules, youll go, 'Wha?'. When you play, youll go, 'Aha!'.
Each player represents a trader and transporter of commodities attempting to increase his status through shrewd wheeling and dealing. Before play begins, there are eight Special cards that are auctioned off and provide considerable powers to the holders. The big problem is, they are all great! From changing prices of goods, to bonus movement. Choices, choices. The winner of the game is the player with the highest prestige/status, but getting there is an interesting challenge of mastering the six phases of a turn:
- Buy goods: Each player may buy up to three of the six goods in any combination at the current market price, and place them in any of their warehouses in any of the six cities.
- Auction wagons and load goods: All three wagons are auctioned off in a closed fist bid with the winner becoming the wagonmaster, enabling loading three goods for free and charging the other players any agreed upon amount for loading their goods.
- Wagon and courier movement: Each player selects one of four movement chits (numbered 1 to 4) to move a wagon. The players with the Special courier cards can move the courier (who delivers powerful Influence cards).
- Price adjustments: Each player secretly selects one or two goods he wishes to increase in price.
- Selling goods: When a wagon has arrived at a city, players collect the selling price of each good delivered, with bonuses collected for goods not native to that city.
- Social status: Players must pay a designated amount to maintain their current status, and may pay a further fee to increase their status.
The above abbreviated sequence of play only scratches the surface of the intricacies of this game. The components of the game are top notch, with the only hassle being that it helps considerably if you create a sequence of play and card description translation for each player to refer to. Regardless, a superb offering that demands repeated play.
This game really keeps you busy! Each player is a trader who attempts to buy goods as cheaply as possible, transport them as quickly as possible, sell them for as much as possible, pay 'annual dues' to maintain one's status as a trader or merchant and spend even more money to elevate your status to rarified levels!
There are six phases in each turn in this very absorbing game. In phase 1 everyone in turn buys goods from an assortment of six different types (and based on the limited supply available on a given turn). The purchased goods must be stored in a warehouse in one of six cities that may produce those goods (each city produces 3 items in a variety of mixtures on the board). There are 3 wagons available for transporting the goods to a marketplace. In phase 2 everyone makes a 'closed bid' (a feature I like which avoids the mind numbing auctions some games have where two clowns keeping raising the bid by 1 unit for 20 boring minutes while the other players wish they were somewhere else!) in a clever way; each player's money supply is in the form of 'gold coins' (ok, they are cardboard, but what else is exported from Germany's forests?) and your gelt is kept hidden in a gold sack. Each player takes the amount they wish to bid in a closed hand and reveals their bids simultaneously--high bidder wins; ties go to the player who is the starter or in clockwise rotation to the left of the starter. The 'wagonmaster' gets 2 privileges: he gets to load up to 3 similar items on the wagon at no charge and then gets to charge other traders whatever traffic will bear to load up to two different goods (not the same as the wagonmaster) aboard for transport. Here deals are struck and usually quickly as players calculate not only the hoped-for future price of the sold goods, but they also must consider that their money is tied up in inventory while the wagon is on the road. After each wagon that is in a city is auctioned and loaded, wagon movement begins. Each player has 4 chits with a number from '1' to '4' on them. Each players selects a chit and a wagon and moves that wagon along the paths on the board (no reversing allowed at junctions - a key point). There is a 'courier' galloping along the paths that can (after catching up to the wagon) deliver a special privilege card that can be used at some phase in the game.
After everyone has played a chit (and after those who may have special movement privileges have decided upon them) phase 4 begins. All players secretly decide how many votes to cast upon 0, 1, or 2 commodities (using a wheel similar to El Grande)... all choices are revealed simultaneously. Each cast vote moves the buy/sell price of that commodity up one space on the price board. Special privileges allow specific players to raise or lower prices. Phase 5 is the selling of goods that have arrived in a city - each city can also pay bonuses for goods in high demand (not produced in that city and this bonus goes up every turn that a wagon of goods does not arrive, up to a certain maximum). Phase 6 requires everyone to pay their 'dues' to keep their exalted trade status and then decide if they wish to pay a higher 'honorarium' to move themselves up the status chart (bearing in mind that your dues increase also). The price of success climbs as the game progresses, based on the number of times a wagon stops in a city on a given turn. As players gain wealth, they must, because of the increased amount of money flowing into the game, pay more to keep or raise their status or they will be left behind by their opponents.
The game ends after a certain number of wagons have arrived (which increases with an increase in the number of players).
Die Handler really keeps you hopping. You must keep an eye out for bargains, place goods in strategic warehouses, bid effectively for the privilege of being a wagon master in order to be able to charge exhorbitant prices to your opponents to take their goods on board, then attempt to outfox those same rivals to establish prices that will benefit you as well as the other traders not only for profits, but for future buying opportunities.
Die Handler offers tremendous opportunity for wheeling and dealing, backstabbing, profiteering, monopolizing and collusion yet so far no one in my group has felt like they were being left out. There are too many rounds of play and shifting supply and demand considerations that just do not allow one to totally exclude an opponent throughout the game. Your 'broken promise' or attempts to gouge others will not be forgotten when it is time for you to strike a bargain, so one has to temper your natural inclinations of greed. This is an outstanding game, perhaps not one for the family because adults would slaughter younger players who were not adept at negotiation skills. But for grown ups who wish for something beyond Monopoly this is the game to own.
The production standard is very high with marvelous medieval graphics, long wearing components, the usual collection of wooden and cardboard bits and, a nice touch, a sheet of spare stickers for the wagons and courier piece in case one gets damaged by the pet cat. Die Handler is a masterpiece.
This game received a very mixed reception when it was first released in late 1998. It is from the respected design team of Richard Ulrich and Wolfgang Kramer, and while it was enthusiastically accepted in Europe, it got quite a hammering amongst the English speaking world. A pity, really.
In this game, the players are traders who are also social climbers, trying to improve their standing via amassing vast amounts of cash. Beginning the game with a meagre 5000 in gold, players become purveyors of fine goods, buying low, transporting quickly, and selling high in order to maintain their cash flow. Cash is everything in this game--it is required to purchase more goods; ensure wagon transportation; maintain your social status; and finally to purchase advancement in status.
The game is gorgeous. A large board shows six cities connected by a simple road network. Three large wagons (huge hunks of wood with wagon stickers pasted on them) are placed in the three starting cities. These wagons have grooves machined out of them to hold player's goods when they are being transported to another city. A myriad of game 'bits' are also included, representing goods, counters for the player's actions, El Grande-like wheels, money, and so on.
The game is played in turns, with each turn having six phases:
The turn structure appears rather complex on first reading, but after playing the game for a couple of rounds, it becomes apparent that it really isn't complex at all. You purchase, load, move, sell--it all feels quite natural and logical. This isn't a complex game to play. However, there is a lot of information to track, and that is where the complexity arises. Die Haendler reminds me of Die Macher, with its various mechanisms all pointed towards the one goal of making money (or in Die Macher's case, earning votes).
A couple of sturdy decks of cards are also present in the game. One deck consists of eight cards which give the players specific abilities at various points in the turn structure. These are auctioned off at the beginning of the game, with each player able to pick up two of them. Some are quite powerful, and they have been appropriately seeded with differing minimum bids. The abilities are:
- Moving wagons extra spaces.
- Moving the courier piece.
- Adjusting the price index table.
- Selling goods out of a warehouse without having to transport.
- Purchaing goods for $100 total.
The Courier is interesting. It is represented on the board by another hunk of wood with a horseman sticker on it. Each time the Courier meets a wagon, the moving player can draw an influence card. Influence cards are further rule breakers that allow very nice things like instant sales, cheap status advancement, stopping a wagon from moving, and so on. The players with the Courier abilities receive a lot of these cards, while those without typically have to sit back and watch. While it appears the players with the Courier ability have an advantage, in fact it is very well balanced.
The winner of the game is the player who has advanced highest up the status ladder by the end of the game. The game end is triggered when the eighth wagon has arrived in a city (the mistranlated rule had the wagon arrival marker incrementing once per turn if any wagons arrived, instead of once per wagon).
The game is a good one. There is a lot of information to keep track of and some tough decisions to be made. I found it quite easy to slip into the role of a merchant--cornering the market in a commodity, haggling over a wagon loading price, directing the wagon in a direction I wanted it travel, and so on. While the game has received criticism for having different mechanics that don't click with the theme, it didn't bother me at all.
Queen should also be applauded for catering to different tastes. They have included variants to make the game friendlier (fixed loading prices, take out the 'Broken Axle' influence cards) or nastier (all out negotiation on everything). The 'friendly' rules are suitable for family play, while the 'nasty' rules are for the hard-core gamers. The variants do make a substantial difference to the feel of the game.
The game is listed as 2-4 players. I had my doubts about the two player game, however it does work. The auction elements are not as tense, and watching rather empty looking wagons rumble across the board is a bit strange, but the game does hold together.
In summary, I like this game. It looks good, the theme appeals to me, lots to think about, and you can tune the rules to your game group's tastes. With hidden cash, it is hard to tell who is doing well and every game I've played has experienced very close finishes. Die Haendler came in a respectable 5th position in the Deutscher SpielePreis 1999, behind Tikal, Ra, Union Pacific, and Samurai. I would have placed it 2nd, behind Ra.
Die Handler is a game that I have had sitting on my game shelf for about a year. After getting it and reading the rules I knew that I would need to have a learning game before playing with my wife. She hates playing games that we are just learning. She is very competitive, and wants to understand every detail of the game before starting, including strategy. Die Handler had too many mechanics going on for me to get my brain around without first playing a game.
Well, I have finally had a chance play a learning game and a couple more besides. I was underwhelmed. Of course I had very high expectations. Die Handler was a good game, but not that much better than average. Had I played it before buying it I would not have shelled out the money for it.
There are lots of different mechanics going on in different phases of the game. I wont rehash all the mechanics, those are available in previous reviews. Let me just add that after all the mechanics are discussed you still havent got to the heart of the game. The game is scored on a Status Track (social status). That is where the game is won and lost. Everything else, every other mechanic at work in the game, and there are lots of them, are just means to earn money. Money is then spent on social status in phase 6 of each round. I think that is freakin brilliant.
I really do.
The game just didn't grab me. Seemed like a lot of chrome tacked on to a simple concept. Seemed like phase 6 might have originally been phase 3 but after they settled on a theme to tack on they needed a bit more to make it less abstract and more appealing.
I played two games with pre-teen children. These are kids who can hold their own with adults in adult games and frequently win. They really liked Die Handler. The kids liked it, so I know that I will be playing again. That is fine with me. I do not think that Die Handler will have the ability to interest them for more than dozen plays. That is also fine with me. Before I get any hate mail let me clarify that I also played with adults. I think they liked the game better than I did but it wasn't in their top 10 either.
You don't see too many non-glowing reviews in Counter magazine but I have to second Alan's final analysis reprinted above, I don't think the game is as unbalanced as he does but it still falls short of expectations.
Gotta go with my never before utilized 'play before buying, but play as soon as you get a chance' rating. I can see the appeal this game has for gamers, my guess is that 70% of you who found your way to this website will love it. Another 20% will like it.
I love Acquire, Settlers, Space Hulk, Through the Desert.... meaning I love most games... but somehow, the whole group that played DH, didnt see where the excitement was.
We cant explain it, but we found the pace slow, actions of others did not seem to have earth shattering impact on our fate, and the carts seem to be headed to the same towns since there are so few towns.
We did not feel the anticipation of Acquire, tension of Space Hulk, resource challenge of Desert, nor the excitement of Settlers.
So I must assume we are missing something? Seems to be a hit with all others that reviewed.
Buy cheap. Bid highest for a departing wagon, load your goods, and negotiate fees to carry others. Set out for profitable cities, while trying to earn privileges en route. Everyone secretly increases the price of two items each round. Merchandise pushed beyond maximum value reverts to lowest. "Everyone's into cloth, but not all should vote for it. Should I leave it alone? Will they? Hmm!" Sell when your wagon reaches another town. Rounds end with each player paying to maintain his current Status, and optionally buying more. Highest Status wins after all wagons arrive. Another Kramer masterpiece has arrived.
When a game comes from the double act of Wolfgang Kramer and Richard Ulrich, the pair behind El Grande, you expect a good game with interactive clever systems. Couple this with an excellent presentation (wonderful board, well-designed components, good player aids) and your pulse, like mine, will be running fast with expectation. The delay in getting a rule set was satisfied by A.S. Fischer set from the rules translation set from Frank Branham's site neonate.org and away you go!
The game is played in rounds, with each player representing traders, who are trying to improve their prestige. The substantial board consists of 6 cities connected by trade routes. Each city has four warehouses, one per player, where goods are stored after being purchased and also has a marketplace where three of the six types of goods are produced.
There are three wagons used to transport the goods. In keeping with the high quality of the products, the wagons are substantial blocks of wood with spaces for three goods from each player.
Game play is over six phases, starting with purchasing goods. Each player can buy goods from a city. The limitations are that you can only buy up to 3 goods and you have to store them in the warehouse in the cities where the goods were bought. In the next phase players bid to own the right to put goods on a wagon. Since the wagon owner will control the wagon, he can allow other players to load their goods, but they cannot be the same type as he has loaded. Other players can only do so having negotiated a fee with the wagon owner and only two goods can be loaded. So there is an advantage in being the wagon owner. The price paid for this is determined by a secret ``in the fist'' bid and in practice we found that this price was recovered from the fee charged to other players loading their goods.
Players use one of four movement chits (numbered 1 to 4) to determine movement. A wagon loaded with three players goods could move 12 movement points, which is more than enough to move a wagon from one city to another.
Prices are determined by using a grid on the board, with players ``voting'' using wheels with two hands. This moves the price of goods indicated up by one. However, if you go too far, instead of getting the top price, you may end up with the lowest price. Goods that have just reached a city can now be sold at the prices realized in the last phase.
The final chart on the board shows the Status Table. In order to rise up this table, you need to pay a fee that increases each round a wagon reaches a city. There is also a maintenance cost that rises as the players climb the social ladder.
So the summary of the game is: buy goods and get them transported to cities where you can sell them for profit. This allows you to climb the social status amongst the traders and win the game.
There are additional game systems added which add some chrome and also introduce some chance cards. We found one extraordinary: in the later stages of the game the cost of rising up the status ladder is high and this card gives you a substantial discount. This seemed out of keeping with the planned progress of the rest of the game and is a piece of chaos gaming that I would exclude from future games.
The game works, as you would expect from this design team and there is a sense of an improving situation, with games being determined by the rate of improvement. Cash flow is difficult to monitor. If wagons with your goods do not arrive at the right time, you can be short of cash. Grabbing a loan with tide you over, but you can't move up the social ladder. This is a sensible rule and a good game balance.
My overall disappointment was hard to swallow. There is a sense of expectation built up by seeing quality components and well-respected designers. I desperately wanted to enjoy the game and without some of the unbalancing cards would have enjoyed the play better. Nonetheless there is a sense of disillusionment that the design does not generate sufficient enjoyment. Trading games are amongst the games I enjoy most. The tone of the comments from other game players was consistent. Pedestrian was one comment. I hope someone can point out what I am missing and rejuvenate the game. I will play this again, in the hope that I have missed some subtle nuance, but it is not as clever as El Grande and follows a more processional form than their other excellent games.