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Compete to become Master of the Hanseatic city-states during the 14th Century. Criss-cross the Baltic Sea in a merchant ship, always on the lookout for a chance to acquire valuable wares.
Set up networks of market booths within the cities, which allow you to resell the goods at the right time, thus increasing your wealth and power.
End the game with the greatest profits to emerge the winner!
All copies come with the Compass expansion. Before starting the game, place the compass, on edge, on a smooth surface and spin it like a top. When the compass has stopped spinning, place it, without changing its orientation, onto Gotland. The face-up side of the compass determines whether the merchant ship follows the routes either in the direction of the arrows or against the direction of the arrows. This counts for all ship movements during the entire game!
I very much enjoyed Hansa. The first game we played lasted over one hour. After the learning curve was passed each game lasted less than an hour, perhaps closer to 30 minutes.
As usual, I won't rewrite the rules in my review, others are much better at that sort of thing than I. But I will say, in a turn a player is able to do only a few things, as he is limited by scarce money. The trick is to figure out how to make the most of the money you have. There is a moderate screwage factor, mainly by leaving the ship in a port that will cost your opponent extra money, or placing more market booths in a city he has grown accustomed to thinking of as his own. There is no direct interaction between players which is normally a big negative for me. I will overlook that fact for much the same reason as for Puerto Rico, Hansa is a very good game.
Hansa has a well written, short rule book. It is four pages long, much of which is examples and pictures. Hansa is simple in mechanics, but is a little to strategy heavy for non-gamers to enjoy.
Hansa may be at its best with two players, yet it shines with any number, and by any number I mean 2, 3, or 4. Solid game, good components, destined to be a classic. I have no doubt.
Hansa is yet another example of a solid European-style game with simple and easy to learn mechanics that nonetheless provides a variety of both strategic and tactical options, constrained just enough to keep play balance on a razor's edge at all times. Though new players may find it challenging to keep up with more experience players at first, there are no 'secrets' and the few big mistakes (notably making unnecessary moves or forgetting to take free goods tokens) are easily avoided.
Plays well with two players and is highly recommend as a 'couples' game.
Michael Schacht's games always cause me to approach them warily. I always expect too dry, too dull. It's not that they aren't well designed, but they just lack a sparkling fun-factor for me. But with the release of Coloretto last year (which quickly became my favorite 'filler' game) and now this gem, Hansa -- I think Schacht is becoming one of my favorite designers.
The game board has a nice atmosphere: a map done in earthy tones displaying the Hanseatic states circa 14th century (think modern day Scandanavia, north Germany, Russia, Estonia.) Cities such as Copenhagen, Kalmar, Riga, Stockholm, and five other cities are connected to each other but a web of one-way arrows that represent sailing routes through the Baltic. A wooden Ship piece is placed in Copenhagen, and then goods (colored discs with 1-3 barrels on them) are distributed throughout the board. Cities either have room for 1 or 2 goods, and paths to 1 or 2 other cities (except for Copenhagen which goes to 3 different cities.)
Players are given 3 'Talers' (the currency of this game, which are essentially action points) to start the game. Then in turn order, each player may add two markets to a city until each player has put 3 sets of 2 markets (a total of 6 markets) into 3 different cities. And heeeeere we go...
At the start of your turn you get 3 Talers income, then a player has 4 simple options:
1. Move the ship. Cost: 1 Taler. This allows the player to move the ship to another city by following one of the one-way arrows that leads out of the present city to a new one. You will be moving a LOT because a player can only do one action in each city. Those actions are as follows...
2. Buy a Good Chip. Cost: 1 Taler, payable to whichever player has the most markets in the city. If it is a tie among several players, or no one is in the city, the Taler is paid to the bank. Chips are always useful, but especially useful when sets (2 or more chips in a color) are made, allowing the player to...
3. Sell Goods. Cost: 0 Talers. Players simple take one or more sets of Goods and then flip them upside down as end-game victory points. Those chips them have no further use to the player. The catch is that you can only sell goods in a city where you have markets, AND you lose a market in a city when you sell goods. BUT when you sell a set of Goods, any player(s) that have Goods in that color must discard one of that color! Mwa-ha-ha! So, how do you get markets?
4. Establish markets. Cost: 0 Talers, but 1 Good chip. Each player gets to put 3 sets of 2 markets (6 total) into 3 different cities at the start of the game. But since that isn't going to get you far, you're going to need more market presence on the board. Each player has 15 markets and getting most, if not all, of them on the board is important. All a player has to do is get to a city and discard a single Goods chip. However many barrels that Good has is how many markets the player may add to that city. At the end of the game, each city you have markets in is worth 2VPs, and if you are the only player in a city, you get 4VPs. All the more reason to have markets spread out.
5. Restock the board. Cost: 1 Taler. And you actually have to do it before you start your turn. This actions fills every blank goods circle on the board. The catch is that everyone can benefit from you taking this action, but at least you get first shot at the goods.
So, that's it. At the end of your turn, you must get down to 3 Goods, and 3 Talers. Sound boring? Sound too Schacht-ish? Ah, my friends, herein is a sign of master game design: this game is far more than the sum or its parts.
Sure you only have possible 5 actions to choose from in the game, but rare is the game that makes such a simple combination of action so enticingly difficult. You may get to a city want to buy a good. But an opponent 'owns' the good (most markets) and already has 3 coins, and you don't want him to clean up the board on his next turn. Should you buy it? Suppose you race over to Stockholm to buy a good with your last coin, but by leaving the Ship there you set your next opponent up for big points. Where do you leave the Ship at the end of your turn? Do you set your self up between two turns and go for a big set to use your markets efficiently? What if someone sells Goods in that color and you lose a chip? You have to learn when to lose a market lead, when it's important to tie for markets in a city, when is a good time to sell, when it's a good time to save. You will have your hands full!
And all this in a game that takes 30-60 minutes to play! This game may be simple as far as actions go, but few games of this 'simplicity' are so confoundedly tricky. If Michael Schacht keeps making games like this, you'll see a lot of his games in my closet! This game lookds good, plays well, has a good theme, and is easy to teach.
A couple notes on the number (and type of players.) This game is one of few that actually plays spectacularly with 2 players, and also with 3. But with 4 players, it starts to drag on a bit and gets a lot more chaotic. Furthermore, analytical players could easily kill this game. In a 4 player games, I have seen situations where a player takes a very long time to decide how to spend all the Talers he's saved up. So bewars. This game is simple, addictive, tricky, but with the wrong players could bog down a bit.
Don't let that scare you though. The process of the game not intimidating, nor is the theme, nor are the rules. It usually plays at a good pace (with 2 or 3 players), and has a great luck/strategy balance. I for one, am very impressed with Hansa. It bears a passing resemblance to Web of Power in the decisions and balance in the game. But where I found Web of Power to be dry and abstract and difficult to get excited about, Hansa just cruises seamlessly with a blend of simple mechanisms and addictive gameplay. Michael Schacht, you have come a long way from Blindes Huhn...
When breaking this one out to newbies, they always have a look of trepidation...like "how fun can this be?" It takes a few minutes to get the rules down, particularly what pays for what in relation to what. A few turns in, you'll see your guests agonize over some challenging decisions. This game has far more depth than it first appears, and I think the theme works well. It's also rare in that it plays wonderfully with any number of players, especially two.
The only knock I had on the game, was that the scoring seemed a little light -- meaning I didn't feel enough was scored at end of game. However, you can pull down the official expansion for Hansa off Board Game Geek, and it plays like a whole new game. This game has quietly and ever so slowly become our favorite game lately. Highly recommended.
I currently own three games that deal with the Hanseatic League; Die Hanse, Kogge, and Hansa. By far Hansa is the cleanest of the three. As Michael Schacht did in Paris Paris, ease of play, speed, down time between turns and a bit of player involvement are paramount. Players set-up businesses (markets) across the board, and utilize them to buy and sell comodities. As described in the previous review, buying, selling, establishing markets form a triangle business relationship. Without maintaining all aspects of the business triangle, you will fail in winning the game. The 'chicken' aspect of who's going to spend the buck to refill all the cities offers a bit of player chicanery as well.
Boardgamers of Reno has played 'Hansa' three times so far, and all were quite close. We found all three games to move at a good pace, even when teaching it to two new members. Clean game board graphics, standard bits, clear rules make 'Hansa' a great starting game for new European board gamers, and an easy 'filler' game for veteran gamers.
Four stars and rated as a 'good' buy.
ps - there is a scoring expansion device from the author at Boardgamegeek. We have not added it to the game yet.
I have played this a couple of times with my wife and it's a battle down to the last move. Game play flows smoothly!
Uberplay continues to produce some of the best new board games. Hansa's rules are well written with very good examples of proper play. I could see five stars if the price was a bit lower.
This is a deceptively simple game, with only four pages of rules. There are only three basic actions one can take, with a pyramidal interaction: purchase goods (requires cash), set up a market (requires goods), and sell goods (requires goods and a market). You can also perform only one action in a city, so you need to move the ship to another city for each action (requires cash). Unlike most business themed games, cash does not count towards victory - victory points are awarded for goods and for markets. Other things to consider are interactions with your opponents (buying goods gives your cash to the player with a market majority in the city, selling goods forces the other players to discard a good of the type sold), and the trade routes (the ship can only move along a few specified paths). All of these factors give the game a considerable strategic depth in spite of the simplicity of the rules, requiring a delicate balance to optimize your limited resources with the possible actions.
There is a fair amount of srtategy packed into this rather mid-sized game of trading. The author of this game did a great job by greatly restricting movement and giving a small list of choices for every turn, yet creating a ton of tough decisions. A classic German game where you need to do about seven or eight things and can only afford to do about three or four.
If you are a fan of games in the company of Puerto Rico, Prince of Florence or even Acquire this is a purchase you want to make. It may be slightly more simple to teach to newbies then the for mentioned games as well.(But don't take that for any less strategic or less of a brain buster) Many also liken it to Web Of Power with more balance.
A game has to have a "soul" for me to enjoy playing it. This "soul" is hard to define, I generically call it the "fun factor" - but it's necessary for a game to be played multiple times. A game may have great mechanics and be, on paper, a game that works well. Yet, if there is no desire to play the game again, or worse yet, the game receives the dreaded adjective "boring", then why play it? This is why New England fell flat for me. For myself, fun is more important than mechanics, and perhaps that's why I'm not too fond of Hansa (Uberplay, 2004 - Michael Schacht).
The ideas work well, the game plays smoothly, and I couldn't find any problems with it. In fact, some of the mechanics were innovative, and the game simulated buying and trading fairly well. It just wasn't interesting to me. When playing games of Hansa, I often found my mind wandering, thinking about the next games to play - never a good sign. And it's not as if I need yet another game about trading goods in ancient Europe! There was just nothing that screamed "play me"; the game appears to have appeal only to those who enjoy analytical struggles.
(Struggling not to talk about placing the board on the table... ) Hansa includes good chips, with one to three barrels shown on them, and in one of six different colors. These chips are shuffled face down (one or two colors are removed from the game if less than four players are playing), and one is placed in each empty warehouse next to each city (one or two for each city.) The rest are placed in equal piles on five supply stacks. A merchant ship is placed at a central city - Copenhagen, and each player receives a large moneybag tile, in which they place three Talers (currency). Players also get fifteen market booths in their color (same as their moneybag tile). The rest of the money is placed in a bank, and players make their initial setup. Each player, in turn order, places two market booths and places them in a stack in any city except Copenhagen. This occurs three times, with players having stacks in three different cities. The game then begins, starting with the start player, and passing clockwise around the table.
On a player's turn, they take three Talers from the bank, and place them on their bag. The player will use these Talers on their turn basically as "action" points. The current player then checks the table to see if any empty warehouse is currently on the board and may fill them with the top goods from the first stack of face-down good markers. The player must pay one Taler to do this but may fill ALL the empty warehouses. The player then can perform different actions, using as many of them as they wish. The player may do these actions in any order but may only do one action in a city, and only in the city in which the ship is currently harbored.
The actions a player may take are:
- Move the ship: A player may pay one Taler and move the ship along a route (marked by a one way arrow) to another city. Each city has multiple routes leading from it to the other cities.
- Set up market booths: A player may build one to three booths in the city where the ship is, and instead of costing any Talers, the player must discard one Good marker they have face up in front of them that has at least as many barrels as booths put into the city.
- Purchase Goods: The player may pay one Taler to buy one of the goods in the city. They pay the money to the player with the most booths in the city (in case of ties, the bank gets the money; if the player has the majority, they get it for free).
- Sell Goods: The player may sell goods if they have BOTH a market booth in the city, and they have at least two goods marker of the same color. To sell the goods, the player removes a booth from the city and turns over the goods markers they are selling face down - a position they stay in for the remainder of the game. Once the player sells goods, each other player loses one good marker of the just-sold color.
After the player is done taking the actions they can/want to complete, they must make sure they only have 3 Talers and 3 face up Goods markers. If they have any extra, they must discard them. Play then passes to the player on their left. Play continues until a player decides to fill the empty warehouses, and they use some of the Goods from the last of the five stacks. The current round (up to the last player) is played out, and victory points are totaled. Each player gets one point for their face up goods markers and one point for each barrel on the face down goods markers (1-3 points). Players also get two points for every city they have a market booth in, and four points for each city they have a monopoly (the only player to have booths). The player with the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game...
1.) Components: Without a doubt, the wooden ship piece is the coolest in the game. While the wooden disc market place tokens are useful (odd colors, though: gray, yellow, purple, and white), and the cardboard tokens are of good quality, it's just fun to sail the ship around the board. The board, which is fairly easy to read - the arrows and cities stand out against the background - seems a bit drab, which certainly fits the theme of the game, but hurts the mood. I did enjoy the clever use of the money bag counters; they were not only a good place to store money, but also an easy recognition of what color each player was (frankly, though, I've rarely seen a player who has managed to get all of their booths on the board. The box is long but thin and is an easy one to store because of this).
2.) Rules: The full-color rulebook (with illustrations, hints, and examples) is laid out quite well - with a summary on the back, and basically explains the game in a simple, clear manner. The game isn't too hard to comprehend, but it's one that I have to show a couple things in action until players fully understand. Selling goods and setting up market booths aren't intuitive, but once explained, the game seems to work well with them.
3.) Strategy: One thing I can't argue against Hansa, and that is the game's system in allowing good strategies. While the ending is a little less varied than I'd like, it does allow players to try different tactics. During the game, should a player sell every good they can, or should they work hard to get as many market booths on the table as they can? In the games I've played, the points for having booths in cities were a deciding factor, yet many players get caught up in the buying and selling of goods. Having a monopoly of booths in a city is huge, and players must be careful not to allow this.
4.) Coins: I'm not sure I'm a fan of the coin system. It works well in the game mechanics but doesn't work very well theme-wise. If a player spends money to buy goods and spends money to move the ship, why don't they receive money when selling goods? Mechanically, I understand this; but when explaining the game I often get queries about this, and thematically, it's just not simple to explain. Still, if you can look past this oddity, it works well; and players have to be canny, knowing when to spend the extra coins. At first, each player essentially has six coins to use on their turn, but using more than three means fewer options on other turns. Yes, a player can get more coins from other players, but in the games I've played, it didn't happen all that often. Knowing when to use all six coins is a key to winning the game. If your opponent leaves the ship in a spot that you can get a lot done, then why not take advantage of that fact?
5.) Theme: Hansa joins a cadre of dozens of other trading games in olden days; and while the theme works, it's basically nonexistent. Players who need at least the hint of the theme won't enjoy this, because the game's mechanics simply don't fit well. The "bla" theme of the colors (with the exception of the good chips) doesn't help. An almost dreary feeling pervades the room when I have the game out.
6.) Fun Factor and Players: The game actually works fine with two players - it's probably my favorite way to play it (less downtime - quicker game). But honestly, the game just leaves me with such a bland taste in my mouth, that I really don't enjoy it much. Some players take too long deciding what to do on their turns (there's not much of a way in preparing, you don't know where the ship is going to start), and I just felt restless when playing.
I'm sure that there a lot of players who will really enjoy Hansa, as it is a fine game of analytical reasoning, and the mechanics seem to be flawless. But when you read people's comments on the game, the words "dry", "boring", and "bland" keep recurring. There's a reason for that, and that same reason keeps me from enjoying the game. Exciting mechanics, like in Maharaja, can help me ignore a nonexistent theme. Good, solid mechanics, like those in Hansa, don't. Many people will enjoy this dry, dusty game, just probably not with me.
"Real men play board games"
I recently bought Hansa based on its impressive award performance and the reviews on this site.
We have only played it once, and it will probably be a while before we play it again, because it was just not a lot of fun.
There is an interesting mechanism in the ship movement, but it is not enough to save this game.
There are an extremely convoluted 2 paragraphs at the end of the rules which seem to address the one of the two central problems of this game, which is that players will want to sit and think about their turns, do them halfway, and then change their minds and want to redo them some other way. These two paragraphs sort of say that while in principle this is not OK, in practice it should be allowed.
We do not like games that promote too much analysis paralysis.
The other big problem with this game is that there is absolutely nothing to do unless it is your turn. Given that the board is very dynamic, you don't even have that much to look at and think about while other people are taking their (cumbersome) turns.
The extreme scarcity of resources in this game seems to be a way to force it to be simple enough to be manageable, but in practice one often ends up skipping every other turn in order to have enough resources to do a really meaningful turn.