original German edition
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Life pulsates on the floating markets of the Far East. The junks lie tightly together, loaded to the bursting point with exotic goods from all over the world. Merchants and their assistants move busily from ship to ship over narrow wooden planks, in order to buy for the markets of the city. Each of them wants the most lucrative transactions and therefore must be at the right junk at the right time. Loading crates, ensuring the supply of goods, and taking in money: all of these are important, but you have to make up your mind. Only one action may be taken each turn. Only the player who coordinates their actions most skillfully will become an outstanding merchant.
Despite the fact that there are many tricky decisions, this is really a simple game since the clearly structured rules allow a smooth start up. Whoever loads the most loot by the end will win this exciting game.
My group recently played Dschunke and we enjoyed it a lot. It has a mid-light feel to it, with ample room for a bit of role play, some psychological gaming and long term planning. The review above was right on target. We also tried a random start for the merchant-trainee(s) just to experiment a bit...this made for some variation in the overall play (we used a multi-sided die to determine the start positions of the merchant/trainee(s)).
Dschunke is a decent introductory German game to newcomers; it can be explained reasonably quickly to newcomers (about 15 min), plays just as the box describes, timewise, and is sufficiently fun and challenging for a replay.
While Dschunke might not be described as 'brilliant' it is certainly a decent addition to one's gameshelf. My only minor gripe is the teenie size Yuan notes - something a bit bigger would have been easier to handle - but the graphics and bits otherwise are fine.
To win with the most money after 10 rounds, you need to catch the right boats. Merchants represent an action to be performed on the boats on which they currently stand; they move clockwise to the adjacent boat each round. Choose one and execute its action: (a) Load goods in your color, partly or completely covering any beneath; (b) take merchandise cards; or (c) take money. The merchandise or money you acquire depends on how many of your goods are visible on the boat. Auctions follow, with everyone simultaneously selecting cards of only one kind of merchandise. All bid cards are discarded, with whoever bid most either earning the current market value (randomly decided by a faceup card) of the merchandise, or selecting one of the Privilege cards that offer a host of advantages. Fast, fun, and not at all junky!
The information on the net is staggering and so much so that there are hardly any surprises any more. There are just times to watch out for. One of these is the Nuremberg trade show, which is the prelude to the faster beating of hearts for the period between the show and the release dates. With so much available on the Internet to consider, the English summaries provide you with enough to whet your appetite, but insufficient to know whether the game will be a dog or a gem.
So, with much of the hype surrounding Puerto Rico, perhaps heightened by the prototype being available at Essen 2001, Dschunke had a quieter pre-launch and when I first played it, I had only minor expectations. The designer has a whole host of games behind him, mainly good, so there was some positive aspects built in. But since several of his games, such as Knights, were on the easy to play side, I was unsure of the level of complexity I would find in the game. Generally, I favour more complicated games, but many games are more elegant for their lack of complexity, such as Michael Schacht's Web of Power (Kardinal & Knig), so where does this game fit?
Well, the theme is about Asia's floating markets, where junks are tightly packed and teeming with life. Among this humankind are merchants and their trainees conducting their trades. The board features a close up of this market, with five junks linked by a ring of footbridges. Three merchants are placed on separate junks and will move clockwise to the next junk once per round, so you can always predict when each merchant will reach a particular junk. While at the junks, each merchant will offer his services. These enable you to load cargo onto a junk, to earn money from the crates thart are on board or to take goods cards.
The basis for each action is always the number of cargo strips that are visible at the junk where the merchant is located. The cargo strips are 3 by 1 strips in the player colours and they are laid out in sets of three one way, then 3 in a perpendicular direction. As the latest set is always laid on top of the previous one, the number of squares of your colour can be anything up to nine and it is these squares that are used to determine what benefit a merchant provides. For example, the money merchant provides one Yuan (the unit of currency) for each square visible at the junk where he is present. There is also a minimum benefit (usually 3 of the merchant's benefit) that you can always get. The goods merchant allows you to take a goods card for each square visible, the type of goods depending on where the merchant is located. There are four types of good - fish, rice, spice and vegetables. One of the junks allows you to choose any of the goods. The cargo merchant allows you to load 2 cargo strips at the junk where he is currently working. Each player gets to choose an action of any merchant that has not already been taken and in order to make the game balanced, the turn order changes at the end of the round. Two trainees (in games with 4 players) are simulated by being available in much the same way as the merchants, but they are not associated with any junk and are instead shown at the top of the board. The downside to using them is that they are not as skilled as the fully-fledged merchants and provide a smaller game benefit. For example, the cargo trainees may only load one cargo strip, but this can be played on a junk where the merchants are not present, so the tactical opportunity may be better than the available merchants. Like merchants, each trainee can only be used once per turn.
Having played a merchant or trainee, the players use their supply cards to replenish their hand of goods. The reason for this is that the final player action of a turn is to barter for the right to sell their goods. Each turn a market card displays the amount of Yuan that the market will pay for the supply of goods. This ranges from 1 to 4 Yuan, and as each Yuan scores a victory point at the end of the game, these are worth earning. The mechanism used is that all players place face down a number of cards of the same type of good. The winner is the person who supplies the most of that good and they earn the reward in Yuan. The problem is that all cards are discarded, even those of players who lost. You get a pretty good idea of which cards have been picked up and who is hoarding what, as well as a visual clue about the number of cards left in the stock for each good. However, you can easily bid too much (such as a bid of 8, when the nearest is 3), or too few by bidding 6 and losing to a bid of 7. If any of the goods have not been bid for in an earlier round with this market condition card, players may then bid for that good as well. So it is possible, although unlikely, that one person could win all four colours and pocket a sizeable quantity of victory points.
Some of the market cards display an "S" on one of the goods. This means that the person who wins the bid for that good, receives a different benefit. There are 30 special cards that provide different game benefits. These include game end benefits such as extra victory points if specific conditions are met by that player, or one-off benefits such as the ability to exchange goods cards during each round. They reminded me of the cards in Princes of Florence, and serve a similar purpose in allowing adjustments to the rules of the game and uncertainty of standings in victory points. We found during play that the selection of these at different times was well worth the cost in goods cards.
A round ends when the bidding for that market card is over. The merchants move round to the next junk and first player marker moves one to the left.
What I liked about the game was the clarity of options, combined with the difficulty in choosing the best one when there were several available. Not only do you have to find a merchant who can deliver a good benefit to you, but also avoid a opponent gaining a larger benefit through the use of a merchant elsewhere. The noble sacrifice can be the best play for the game balance, but what about maximising your own position? The presentation is good and I have thoroughly enjoyed my early games of Dschunke. Like most games that have a regular mechanism, some may find the options force you to be programmed into making specific decisions. I didn't feel that way, even when your options are limited, as they are when you are last in a round. Decisions don't take long to make and there is little downtime (at least in my group). The game seems balanced, as there are several ways of earning victory points and even a person who feels they are in last place can try to get cargo visible on all five junks, which will earn a special bonus of 25 Yuan.
Back to my Michael Schacht question. Is the game a simple one or more involved? I felt it was aimed at the complexity of Web of Power, with a few more options. Very enjoyable and satisfying, the way you feel when you see a good film, but don't know too much about it, or who the main actors are. Now you have read the review, you should try the game and see if you feel the same way.