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In a distant land, many and many years ago, rose a big and wealthy city: its name, now forgotten by most, was Hermagor. Commerce was the source of its richness, because from all its territory, countrymen, artisans and also adventurers brought to the city every kind of merchandise: weapons, ancient books, precious relics, and rare dragon eggs. In this city, you can buy and exchange everything. This made Hermagor famous and merchants came from afar to buy and sell all kinds of goods at the market. Some even undertook perilous adventures to acquire especially rare items. They criss-crossed this wealthy region, creating new paths and roads, adding markets to towns, but always with the aim to become the richest!
An absolutely wonderful game, with a less than wonderful rule book.
The simplest description would be 'Thurn & Taxis' on stereoids and caffeine.
After reading the rules, you would thing that the game is nothing special. You would be wrong.
If you're a gamer, you need this game.
There has been no review of this game posted to this point on Funagain, so I HAVE to break the silence after buying this game a couple of weeks ago.
Hermagor is a game that really doesn’t stand much of a chance of becoming a huge success. First of all, its’ designer is Emanuele Ornella, who won kudos for his ‘Oltre Mare’ game but doesn’t have the resume of designers like Sid Sackson or Reiner Knizia. Second, the packaging is not attractive with its’ muted brown background and nondescript cartoon castle on the cover. Even the picture of the game on the back of the box is not very attractive. And lastly, the gameboard itself is too intimidating. The map looks unorganized, and the imposition of the market place and price grids make it look like a wargame from Avalon Hill’s worst nightmare (without the hexes), and gives the impression that the game is more difficult than it really is.
My son and I would have probably passed this game over without a second glance had it not been for the shop owner quizzing us about the likes and level of our gaming group. He recommended this game highly, and we took his advice. The game is a wonderful gem that touches heavily on strategy, with just a tinge of luck. Though the mechanics are radically different than Railroad Tycoon, my overall impression is that the game is kind of a medieval version of that game, with the movement and financial aspects being very familiar. (Railroad Tycoon is my current favorite game, so I don’t have to tell you how I feel about THIS game (but I will)).
The components are sturdy, if unspectacular. The game board really could have been designed better. Novice players may have trouble keeping track of regions and dukedoms, while the picture of the product that can be sold in each village is quite small. As more people build their trade stations on a village, invariably these symbols will be covered up. The red numbers on the production chart are somewhat difficult to see. But the tiles are sturdy and, for the most part, clear. The cylindrical person tokens, house-shaped trade stations, and flat production disks are all durable wooden pieces, and easy to handle. The rules apparently suffered in ja few spots when translated into English, but careful reading of them does describe the game very accurately. Overall, they’re very understandable.
The turns are divided into three phases. In phase 1, product tiles are drawn from a cloth bag and placed in the marketplace area. This is the only time luck seems to enter the game. Since there are more tiles than spaces in the marketplace (especially in a 3-player game), you’re never sure which tiles will be drawn. Strategy takes over as you place your four buyers in areas of the marketplace to purchase the goods that you want at the lowest possible cost. Another tile is turned to determine how many actions players may take in phase 3.
Phase two begins with the ‘marketplace buzz’, which awards cash to the buyers in the market. How much you gain depends on where your buyers are placed. Each tile in the marketplace is then awarded to the player who has the most buyers surrounding the tile. There are a couple of steps to act as tie- breakers, but it’s still possible to ‘tie’ for a tile, in which case NO ONE gets it!
Phase three consists of having your merchant hit the road to sell the goods you just acquired to the villages. There are three possible actions: Move and sell, move only, and sell only. Using roads cost money (tolls), so ideally you’ll want to sell as many goods as possible in as short a distance as possible. The more products that you get from the market, the greater your options are here. If you’ve done well in the marketplace, you may be able to sell many products with minimal traveling costs. You can cut the cost of tolls in half by moving and selling on different turns, but that also gives you one less chance to sell an item.
The game ends when there are no action tiles left to turn. At that point, the final income is calculated, with each player getting bonuses for how many regions they completed, how evenly divided their selling was among the dukedoms, and how well they sold along the main road. The cash-on-hand is then counted up and the player with the most money wins. While this sounds like a daunting task, it is much easier to do with the game board in front of you than it is to capture it in words here.
So, there’s really a lot going on here…how well does it all fit together? Actually, it works quite well. The game possesses a nice balance between what happens at the marketplace and how successful you are at selling your products. A lot of the cash transactions are small, and the strategies are subtle, so a few bad decisions can make or break you. A poor performance in the marketplace, especially in one of the early rounds, can be devastating. And, while not dependent on outright ‘luck’, there is enough randomness to keep each game fresh.
Overall, this game features a fairly unique balance of the disparate features of buying and selling. It’s easy to place a premium on what happens in the marketplace, but you must be just as diligent when selling if you want to turn a decent profit. To set the game in a fictitious medieval land really adds a certain flair to it that would be missing if this were set in a modern day rural land. (On the flip side, I could probably relate more to selling wheat than to selling rare dinosaur eggs). I’m not sure at this point whether this will become one of my favorites or not. It certainly has many good points and plays pretty effortlessly once everything is set up. It may never be the next ‘Settlers’, but it is a fine game that deserves MUCH more recognition than it has received – it’s much better, in fact, than many games that are far more popular.
NOTE: This review was first published in Knucklebones magazine
Each year when visiting the big game show in Essen, Germany, there are a few small publishers that are on my “must visit” list. This is due to their outstanding track- record of producing games that seem designed just for my tastes. Among these publishers is Mind the Move, as I’ve grown quite fond of designer Emanuele Ornella’s efforts. I thoroughly enjoy both Oltre Mare and Il Principe, and was looking forward to his latest release, Hermagor.
The setting of Hermagor is familiar: a medieval city wherein players obtain goods, then travel around the countryside to sell them for a profit. Fortunately, in spite of its familiarity, the game has some unique mechanisms and feels different. Particularly, the method whereby players acquire goods seems original and is quite competitive.
The large board depicts three main areas: the country of Hermagor (which is shaped roughly like Africa), the general market, and the commodities price table. The first phase of each turn is conducted on the market, wherein players place markers, representing merchants, in attempts to acquire various commodities. Then, play moves to the map, whereupon players travel to various towns, selling the wares they acquired, earning profits, and establishing trade stations and production buildings. The value of commodities, as well as players’ production buildings, is tracked on the price table.
The market phase is the most interesting aspect of the game. The market holds twenty commodities – amulets, weapons, books, etc. – placed on a 4 x 5 grid. Players take turns placing their merchants on the indicated spaces, which are aligned in columns and rows beside the commodities. There is a cost to place these merchants, which ranges from 3 – 5 gold pieces, depending upon the location. The general rule is that the more commodities to which a space is adjacent, the greater the cost … but this isn’t always the case. A player may also opt to place a merchant directly atop a commodity token, but that merchant will only influence that one commodity.
Once all merchants are placed, each commodity is examined to determine which player exerts the greatest influence upon it. This is the player with the most merchants adjacent to it, including diagonal. If there is a tie, the one player who has a merchant directly atop the commodity is awarded the token. If no one has a merchant atop the commodity, the player who has more merchants orthogonally adjacent receives the commodity. If still tied, no one wins the commodity and it remains in place for the following turn. Each commodity is examined and awarded in this fashion.
Many commodity tokens depict a symbol that allows the player to increase the value of that commodity on the price chart. This also increases the value of that commodity’s production buildings at game’s end. In most cases, it is wise to increase the value. In some instances, however, particularly when a player has not constructed any production buildings for that commodity, it may be best to decline this opportunity.
In addition to vying for commodities, the placement of merchants also earns money. Money is earned for merchants present in each row and column on the market; the more merchants aligned, the more money earned. So, players must also weigh the potential income in addition to the acquisition of commodities when placing their merchants. Money can be scarce, so this is an important consideration.
Further, players must also discern which commodities they desire, and target these in their merchant placements. These decisions are based on the path they plan on traveling on the map during the next phase. Gathering commodities haphazardly is wasteful. Of course, opponents may be targeting the same commodities, so the competition for their acquisition is often intense.
A final consideration is that the player collecting the commodity with the lowest identification number determines the start player. This can be an important consideration, as the player moving first during Phase 3 (the map movement phase) can have significant advantages, while placing last during Phase 1 (the general market phase) is advantageous. Acquiring the lowest-valued commodity can be quite useful.
After all commodities are distributed, players take turns traveling from town-to- town on the map, paying the cost listed on the roadways they use. Towns are connected by roadways, which also divide Hermagor into regions and dukedoms. Each town depicts a commodity which may be sold there, and most regions depict one or more production buildings, which match the various commodities. If a player possesses a commodity that a town desires, he may sell it, collecting the current value as listed on the price chart. He also places a trading post on the town.
If a player successfully constructs a trading post in each town surrounding a region, he places a production building on the row of the price chart matching the production building depicted in the region, earning the amount of income depicted. Income for the first building placed is 5 gold, but reduces to zero with the fourth and final building constructed. Some regions do not depict production buildings, but rather allow the player to place a token on the nobility track, which earns instant income. This income rises with each token placed, but once the track is filled, no further income is earned. Possessing a production building on a commodity, regardless of its position, will earn more gold at the end of the game.
A player may elect to move without selling a commodity, in which case the travel cost is halved. This can be useful when attempting to position oneself in a desired location for the subsequent turn.
After each player has conducted the designated number of turns, the turn is complete and a new one conducted. After the fourth turn (five turns with 2 or 3 players), there is a final scoring wherein more gold is earned in three fashions:
Production Buildings: Each commodity is examined to determine the players who have placed production buildings upon the chart. Depending upon the value of the commodity, 0 – 9 gold is earned.
Dukedoms: Players determine which of the three dukedoms wherein they have constructed the least number of trading posts. They earn a corresponding number of gold. Thus, a balanced approach when constructing trading posts is yet another goal for which to strive.
Principal Route: The player with the most trading posts along the main road, which traverses the kingdom, earns 5 gold. The player with the least posts loses 5 gold. Again, this is something to keep in mind when constructing posts.
The wealthiest player emerges victorious.
As with the designer’s previous title – Il Principe – there is a LOT to consider here. There are numerous ways to earn victory points, and players must attempt to strike a balance between them. This isn’t easy, as once a player begins moving on the map, it is more efficient to concentrate on a logical path wherein the towns are in close proximity. This often means that certain areas of the map are neglected, which can significantly impact one’s final income and ultimate standing. Balancing all of the possible ways to earn gold is a huge challenge, and should keep the game intriguing far into the future.