reprint of The Traders of Genoa
List Price: $59.95
Your Price: $47.99
(Worth 4,799 Funagain Points!)
from 22 customer reviews
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This is a reprint of the classic Traders of Genoa. It has a larger box and completely new graphics, but the important elements of gameplay remain the same.
This is a game of trading, wares, and negotiation. The players take the roles of traders in Genoa in the 16th century. They fulfill orders, deliver messages, and take ownership of buildings in the city. Of course, this is not possible without the help of the other traders -- thus, the need for clever negotiation. And that can cost money and other valuable goods! The player who earns the most in the game is the winner!
On all levels, one of my very favorite games:
For me, the key mechanism that makes this game so much fun is the following: on his or her turn, each player may determine a path consisting in five fields on the board. Most of the fields represent buildings in which different actions are possible. But the player-in-charge doesn't choose the five fields alone. He (or she) discusses the selection with the others and makes deals (you sell the actions that can be taken in the various places). In this way, it's always your turn. Everybody is always looking at the board and at her (or his) cards, trying to figure out and negotiate the best deal. A bit like Bohnanza.
If you don't have it already, don't wait any longer!
I approached this one somewhat cautiously, in response to all the mention of SO MUCH negotiation. But it turned out that I LOVED the negotiation, and it didn't nearly bog down the game like I thought it would. In fact, it turns out that negotiating IS the game. Take this simple test: when you play Settlers (if you don't, stop now and go play that first), do you consider 'the game' to be a) choosing the right places to build, b) getting lucky with the dice, or c) negotiating the best trades. With a group of experienced players, a) becomes pretty mechanical, b) is out of your control, and c) is what the game is really about. If you agree with that, you will love Traders of Genoa. If not, then you probably haven't played enough Settlers. :-)
The beauty of the negotiations in ToG is that they're all small ones. No (well, let's say very few) big hold ups working on the 'uber trade' like you can see in Settlers, or even Monopoly if you play that way. This game succeeds with gamers as well as the Monopoly crowd, as long as the Monopoly players accept that only the negotiation is the interesting part of Monopoly. Back to the point I was making... the negotiations happen every turn (multiple times per turn, actually), and are so small, that single deals aren't what make or break you (which tends to be case in Settlers when trying to make a sweet play and you don't want to want a whole 'nother round before getting to play again). It's all the negotiations added up which determine the outcome.
Two nice effects: 1) there's very little individual thinking time necessary, i.e. thinking of what you're going to do when it's your turn. 2) It's not obvious who is winning just from looking at the state of the game. Money is kept secret. You *can* gang up and spurn whoever you *think* is winning, but most people don't keep careful enough track, and often it ends up being a surprise who wins after the game is over. With all the money that changed hands during the game, it downright shocked us how close the game ended up, and how far behind the person who we all thought was winning actually was.
I wasn't sure whether I would really like a game so heavily based on negotiation. Now I am.
Game can be played seriously or lightly.
The tower movement mechanism is very unique.
Playing time is not very long, compared to older negotiation style games.
Very hard to know or figure out what a fair trade is.
The two player version of the game is pretty decent.
I like negotiation games and this is one of the best out there. Even my wife likes to play this game.
I must admit that I had some reservations about 'Traders of Genoa'. On one hand it had the elements I feel are necessary to be a great game, lots of options, lots of player interaction, and tough choices. On the other hand the game just seemed dry, and a shade too complex.
I am happy to report that my reservations were uncalled for. The game plays well and is not dry. Traders of Genoa is not as complex as the rules make it seem. (It suffers from 'Avalon Hill Syndrome', an intimidating rule book, but an experienced player can teach a new player in short order.)
However, I can foresee problems with the wrong assemblege of players. Lots of negotiation is required (that is the whole point of the game). The dynamics of a given group could make this game tedious. If one player doesn't like to negotiate and just rolls over for any offer to avoid the slightest confronation 'Traders of Genoa' would not be enjoyable. Likewise, an overly aggressive negotiator could make the game drag on for way too long.
All in all this is a great game. But, like any game, playing with the wrong players (and you know who you are) could ruin everyone's fun.
Here in Mexico we cant find this kind of game. I buy it from Switzerland and first I found it very difficult, but with time I understand it and with friends play it. Is the best gameboard I have. We spend a lot of time play it and ever is different, because we all think different. It has to many ways to win and to practice how are you in trading actions!.
I recomend it very much!
Before picking up Traders I had a lot of worries in my head, this, more than any other Alea game, seems to have divided people, and there's very little middle ground to be had, people either love it or hate it.
During the initial playing I wasn't entirely sure if I was going to like it at all. The game was typical advanced strategy, full of dense possibilities and a bit overwhelming to boot. I won that first game narrowly, with only 20 ducats more than the last place player...talk about a photo finish...but I still wasn't sure what I did more effectively than my opponents, or what I thought of the game.
The game slowly grew on me though, to be sure, it has a single-minded dedication to negotiation that takes a bit of getting used to...especially if you're used to games that have less interaction, or that have more of a mix and match variety of aspects, but once you've gotten acclimated to the game that single mindedness helps makes it stand out.
Once I got used to the negotiation aspect I started to delve more into the game itself, and the options here are broad. You can go for small orders, large orders, privileges, messages, or combinations of any and all, which is normally the best way to go.
Some games it's possible to cash in a stack of small orders, others people aren't paying attention to the privilege cards, and sometimes you can just take control of several key buildings, and watch the ducats roll in. The amount of winning possibilities make this game hard to wrap your mind around at first, but give it high replay value.
I really like the special action chits as well, they allow you to break the rules in interesting ways (taking extra turns for instance, or trading in 1 of anything for 1 of anything else) and have made for some really nasty final turns in some of the games I've played where the tower player uses a 'Start Anywhere' tile, burns a few 'Extra Turn' chits, and suddenly has cashed in a few orders and manages to go from a weak position to a very strong one all in just one turn. Similarly you can really throw people for a loop with the 'Start Anywhere' chit when you advance the round marker unexpectedly by dropping the tower into the marketplace in the late game. The game is full of these little opportunities to be creative, and it definitely rewards players who are thinking a round or two ahead.
Another aspect I like is the concealed score, I don't mind games with scoring tracks, or other obvious score keeping mechanisms, but concealed scores help to insure that the 'kingmaker' problem isn't an issue with this title, and it makes the end game tense and exciting as everyone counts up their ducats.
A final aspect that I love about this game is the zero downtime factor. Most games allow you to have a bit of a breather on your opponents turns. Sure, you're paying attention to what you're doing, and trying to read them, but Traders completely turns the notion of the 'turn' on it's head with everyone being actively involved in every turn, regardless of who's in control of the tower. As a result, even though the game can play on the long side it seems to go by quickly as you're always doing something.
Caveats? Definitely a few.
For one, I play with a relatively laid back group. We've had a few disputes, but everything is generally pretty low key...I couldn't imagine playing this game with people who haggle ultra aggressively and try to plan out the entire course of the tower before doing a thing. Negotiation has to be relatively fast to keep the game running, so if you have several players prone to 'analysis-paralysis' then don't even consider Traders.
Also, as I've mentioned previously, the negotiation aspect is central to the game, so make sure that you like playing something like Settlers before you even consider picking up Traders.
Finally, as I alluded to earlier, be aware that this is on the longer side. I'd allot a good 2 hours for a seasoned group of 4, and your initial session is probably going to be significantly longer. This isn't a game that you're likely to play multiple times in a session as a result, but it's definitely a good meaty choice to lodge between lighter fare.
In conclusion, Traders is another fine Alea game. It's dedication to negotiation, while at first a bit overwhelming, now makes the game stand out to me. The winning strategies are abundant and this title is sure to see regular play for some time in my gaming group, they don't get much better than this.
Traders of Genoa is an excellent trading game. However, one should caution those playing for the first time that they will need to be proactive in order to have a chance to win. Drawing from what has been written by previous contributors about the movement mechanics, trading mechanics, etc, this game boils down to wheeling and dealing in all manner to gain an edge over your opponents.
This constant interaction can be time consuming however, and I would strongly suggest that your group attempt to limit (in amount of time) the negotiation phases a bit. Since this is a game and not real life, maybe a 30 second bartering period would be sufficient for each major 'building step' the tower player is planning to take. Regrettably there is no easy answer to solve the time constraint problem, but my group thinks it necessary to enjoy the gaming experience. Besides, how much better a deal are you likely to get by 'yakking' or holding out for a few more ducats or trading good? Try to shave the fine edges a bit and I think you'll have fun.
We cannot wait to play again.
Games that offer the delightful element of negotiation are hard-pressed to make the dealing interesting. Not so with Traders of Genoa. The reason is that there is an immense number of items to be traded and their value is weighted differently for each player according to the players strategy in using the item. You have large orders, small orders, messages, privileges, money, and more. Variety and strategy combine beautifully here.
While Traders is often knocked for its long playing time (a healthy 2 hours), the length is variable according to the number of players and it is long enough for the development of different strategies. If people deal to get what they want rather than only holding out for that lop-sided deal where the other person gets ripped off there is no reason why games should clock in longer than 2 hours. As a general rule, dont play with stingy people if even that is too much for you.
The strategy isnt cloaked by any means. It takes some mental effort, but it's not hard to figure out. And when you do, the real fun is in executing that strategy. Only clever negoation and good judgement will keep your income rolling. Easily a gamers game.
Admittedly, Traders is not a great beginning game. The 'everybody on all the time' style of play is antithetical to most games. The multiple paths to victory are not immediately obvious. But it is these very things which make Traders so compelling. You always feel like you are still in the game.
A study in groupthink, Traders is wonderfully transparent. It is this very direct connection between players which may confound those looking for clear lines to victory. The closest you get is the priveldge cards. If someone gets the edge here, it will be hard for the rest to catch up.
Still, constant vigilance is awarded.
As you may imagine no two games of Traders are alike. Much has been made about the length of the game but through stategic play, the game can be made very tight. One location on the board, The Marketplace, simply reduces the game's duration by one turn. And in a game where every deal counts, this can make all the difference.
I have only played this game with three players so I cannot attest to how it works with more. And with a learning curve so intially daunting as the one presented here. But for my myself, it took one game to get the essence of what is going on.
Mastery is another thing entirely.
Quite simply, Traders is the most mature and deep game I've had the chance to play. While not as accessible as Puerto Rico, it more than makes up for it. Whereas Puerto Rico seems to lose some cohesion in its endgame, Traders is ever controlled. It is not over until the very end.
If there is a problem I have with Traders, it comes in presentation. I can accept the rather plain game board but the colors of the commodity blocks are a pain. But I have found this to be problematic with several games. I am color blind here people! Alittle more graduation in colors would be appreciated.
Still, I give Traders a very strong recommedation. It is a solid trade game with alot of flexibilty and buckets of interactivity.
First of all, it's high time this game gets enough votes to sneak onto the Funagain Top 50 rated games.
Now for the game, be prepared to invest some time in learning the rules...be prepared to play a LONG game...be prepared for a heated argument or two from players trying to make a trade, and be prepared for one of the most fun gaming experiences you will have.
Obviously, this game is for serious gamers (or people who simply love trading and negotiations) only. The length of the game (which we have always had come in well above the printed estimate) and complexities of each turn would drive away others.
So what do serious gamers get for their time and effort? Well, they get a game with endless strategic possibilities, unmatched player interaction, and plenty of laughs along the way. Playing 'Traders of Genoa' is almost an art form in that it allows each person to express their own personality. Are you the dominating type that ensures you get what you want (and pouts if you don't)? Are you the reticent type who holds back on most negotiations waiting for a perfect deal? Are you an aggravator who wants to drive up prices on other people in the hopes of seeing them fail? Are you the trusting sort who believes good deeds will not go unnoticed? What type of personality you fit into will effect how you play the game, and the beauty of it is that any of these types can win.
'The Traders of Genoa' never plays the same way twice, and you can choose many different paths to try to achieve victory (one good one seems to be sitting to my left). You can never look too far ahead, yet you almost always have some guidence for which moves you would like to make next. All of the buildings provide options that are great at times and useless at others, and you will constantly be surprised by opponent's moves...and, perhaps best of all, the deals you make are limited only by your imagination.
Do I have any complaints? Just a few. The board that came with my set is difficult to get to lay flat, and has had to be broken in like a baseball glove. Also, the game can simply be too long for some of the people I play with (I'm sure this has a lot to do with our style of negotiating.) All the other complaints I have had with the game have gone away after future playings.
This game is an original and reflects the excellence of the Alea 'small box' games that I have had the pleasure of playing. I highly recommend this game.
This game is outstanding. I agree with the other reviewers thay say it may not be for everyone, as it takes a little while to grok the rules. But once I figured it out, I was hooked. The fact that EVERYTHING is negotiable is what works for me. It's always a little disappointing when a new Settlers of Catan player tries to trade a Development card for a wheat, or a prexisting road for someone elses brick and wood, and having to tell them it's against the rules.
To those who have it or soon will- one thing to watch out for. Every game I've played so far, the person who goes for the Privilege card strategy wins. It's an easy strategy to beat, just start taking cards, and don't give them to the one playing the stratgey. It tough though, because you don't want to waste your action persuing an action that isn't your focus. But if one person gets all 14 cards, fugetaboutit.
Anyway, this game is highly recommended if you have any pechant for negotiation.
Traders is one of those games that keeps everyone interested for the entire span of play. The game looks amazing from the well illustrated board and cards, to the small, colored wood cubes representing the different wares. Only the 'Monopoly' style money leaves a little to be desired in its overall appearance.
Game play is unique and combines the right mix of luck, strategy and negotiation. Turns are set up so that each player is involved in each turn. There is very little down time for each player since there is so much negotiating going on at any given time.
My only note against this game is that it runs a bit long. This is not a game that you can sit and crank out in an hour or so. Be ready to sit down and get your hands dirty with this one for a good amount of time. However, if you've got the time and the desire, Traders wont let you down and you'll find yourself having a lot of fun the whole way.
Could this really be the market ALEA was shooting for? Strange. Anyhow, there are too many rules for non-gamers and the game play is too social for 'normal' hard-core gamers. So why did I give it five stars? Because I happen to be a hard-core gamer who loves being social! Weird, eh? Friends on both sides think I need to get my priorities straight. They are both right and yet the fact remains, this is a fantastic game.
It has a good theme, beautiful art, very little down time, many subtle strategies, and lots of quick negotiation concerning values that are very difficult to determine. I am sure I could play this game 10 more times and continually learn more about how to value items more appropriately. There is truly a lot of replay value to this game and it takes on a different flavor with each different group. It can be played cut throat and agressively and it can be played more casually and social. Learning how to adapt to the group is half of the key to victory. What a fantastic way to mix strategy, game knowledge, and social skills. I simply love it!
This is a great game because evrybody is involved throughout the game. No boring wait for players waiting for sombody elses turn. There are several strategies to win and a brilliant thing is you may have a plan but the rule is be lucky adapt or lose.
Another interesting feature is that the length of the games is not fixed. Ab game for meddlers and fast talkers.
The look of this game appealed to me since I first saw it at Origins this past year at the Rio Grande tables. The artwork looked a great deal like [page scan/se=0899/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Princes of Florence, which is one of my favorite games of all time (come to find out later that both games utilize the wonderful Franz Vohwinkel).
Let me tell you, though, these games are as different as night and day. Princes of Florence relies on slight, subtle interactions between players; Traders of Genoa goes right for the throat. I absolutely adore this game, from its concept to its components to its gameplay.
Remember what I said in my summary line, though: it's not for everyone. As stated in previous reviews, if you have a difficult time negotiating with others, then this game won't be your cup of tea. Otherwise, you'll have a blast at this game, wheeling and dealing for the optimal trade.
I've heard some say that a negative aspect of the game is not knowing where you stand with respect to the other players. My argument is two-fold. First, if you're doing well in your own trades with others, then it's not really necessary to know where you stand through the game. Second, the same thing happens with a game of Acquire (i.e., cash counted at the end of the game) and I don't think I've ever heard a complaint about that... why complain with Traders? This game gets my highest recommendation.
In The Traders of Genoa, each player takes the role of a 'goods runner' in the bustling streets of 16th century Genoa, Italy. The object here is simply to make more money than anyone else. However, the brilliance in the game design is that you must rely on everyone else to help you win the game; it is entirely impossible for anyone to win Traders of Genoa without giving in to the unspoken interdepence all players in the game have with each other.
By drawing cards for large orders, small orders, and messages, you are 'commissioned' by a certain building in the city to fulfill a task. On the order cards, you may have to deliver up to three different varieties of goods (such as wheat, copper, and rice) to a single household. Each card also lists the 'payment' for completing a commission; a simple delivery of a message to a building may only earn 30 ducats, while the fulfillment of a large order to Villa Ricci will earn you 100 ducats and a Special Card.
About the Special Cards: Traders of Genoa is one of those few games where every Special Card is indisputably useful, particularly the card that allows you to take one extra action. The extra action card comes in handy because on a player's turn, they can only perform one 'action' for themselves. An action can be drawing a card, delivering goods, etc. However, since a player has up to five spaces he can move to on a turn, he can travel throughout the city, and visit places where he can fulfill the actions of the other players. Therefore, much of the game is spent negotiating with the 'tower player' (the person who is taking their active turn) to get them to perform one of your actions. The tower player will entertain offers and negotiate with the other players. Agreements can be made in forms of cards, goods, and money; there is pretty much no limit on negotiation. And it is, again, impossible to do well in Traders without negotiating. Sure, the tower player may be asking a ridiculous price to deliver your large order, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices.
Ultimately, Traders feels very suspenseful, because players tend to feel a mad desperation for money. Since there are so many ways to earn money, through negotition, order fulfillment, message delivery, building control, etc., you're constantly on the lookout for the most potentially rewarding opportunities to turn a profit. You spend Traders trying to get money any way you can, and the not-always-set-in-stone turn limit makes you wary; you have to be bold and get money before it's too late. Traders is an excellent social experience for gamers looking to haggle and negotiate for a couple of hours.
The only thing I can say about this game is it deserves all 5 stars, or rather it EARNED them. I can't find a thing wrong with it. A well rounded, highly interactive game that allows for many options for every player every turn.
I like games that eliminate most of the luck and reward player skill and daring. Traders achieve this in a well thought out game. The previous reviewers tell the story, so I won't go on.
Alea continues to blow me away with the quality of their games, and The Traders of Genoa is perhaps the best entry in an outstanding line.
The cool thing about the Traders of Genoa is that there is a huge variety of ways in which the game can be won. All of the different items you can win in auctions can be combined in different ways to produce winning strategies, whether you go for large contracts, small contracts, postal routes, or Privileges. All of the 'supplemental' tiles (free actions, building ownership, etc.) are extremely useful. Plus you have to balance your turn between using your control to acquire the items you need and making the most money in deals off your fellow players. The game as a whole is amazingly well balanced, with no particular aspect too strong or weak.
Genoa also achieves a very fine balance between strategic and tactical play. On the one hand, you absolutely have to have some kind of a plan to win; on the other hand, if you don't remain flexible, you'll be hosed by the whim of the dice and the other players.
All this good stuff, and the game is *fun*, too. You get to try to cut any manner of deals with all your fellow players; the game strongly encourages deal-making, since it's set up to prevent you from getting even a fraction of what you need on your own turn. The game is good looking, and just the right length.
For my money, this is the best game of 2001 so far and highly recommended. My main advice is to make sure you play it at least twice. Most people I know (including myself) have not necessarily been hugely impressed the first time out, but it grows on you dramatically starting with the second playing. There is a great deal of subtlety to explore here.
All games are based around some type of mechanic, some basic underlying theme that dictates how the game is played. Some are war games where you try to destroy your enemy. Others are race games, where you try to reach the end before someone else does the same. There are probably only a dozen or so basic types of games, with each game being a permutation of the basic archetype.
One of the somewhat less common archetypes is the trading game. These games make player interaction an important part of the game, as players make deals with one another for various commodities. The most well-known game of this type is probably The Settlers of Catan, in which players trade various commodities in order to buy upgrades for their network of towns and roads. Two lesser-known games take the trade mechanic and take it to the next level, as the entire game is based on deal-making, namely Die Handler and Chinatown. Both are excellent games.
This similarly-named game, Die Handler von Genua, or the Traders of Genoa, ups the ante even further. In this game, almost every aspect of the game is considered a commodity and is therefore open to trade. This makes the deal-making almost limitless in its potential.
The game is set in the city of Genoa sometime in the Rennaisance, with players taking the part of merchants in the city. The city consists of 18 buildings, various streets, and a marketplace, all portrayed on a handsome gameboard. Each building has an associated action which can be taken by a player during a turn, even on another player's turn. These actions vary greatly, from acquiring various commodity tokens (such as copper or salt), to acquiring special cards, to establishing ownership of other sites in the city.
On a player's turn, they take the tower of five wooden chips and place it on a randomly selected board space. The player can only take one action during his turn, but is able to sell off actions to other players. One chip is left in each space as the tower makes its way through the buildings and streets at the whim of the player. The player can accept bribes to visit various spaces and allow another player to take the action for that space, or can take the action herself. The possibilities are seemingly endless.
So much can happen in this game on a single turn. One player may deliver a message for a small purse of ducats. Another player may fulfill a large contract which earns a hundred ducats and a special card. Another player might take possession of buildings along the road in hopes of using their activities later in the game. Another player may acquire a couple 'hard goods' in order to fulfill a contract later in the game. All the while the main player is accepting bribes from the other players for moving the tower to desired spaces.
This game is not for everyone. It is ideal for those who like a fast-paced, social game. While this game will work with as few as two players, it is suggested that either four or five be involved in order to get the full impact of the game.
This game is easily the best 'hard' trading game I have ever seen. While it did not win the Spiel des Jahres this year, it should be a frontrunner for the upcoming Deutscher SpielePreis, the award given for the German strategy game of the year.
Highly recommended for social gamers with strong bartering skills.
We first played this last weekend with 5 of us and we had a blast. It was chaotic, it was exciting, and it was fun. The tower player was constantly being pulled in 4 different directions. The haggling and wheeling and dealing was non-stop. None of us even really knew if we were getting the best deal; we all just enjoyed being part of the action. Every tower movement and action came at a steep price, and the multiple offers given were often so varied, it was nearly impossible to gauge what the better deal would be. Also, there was really no down time between turns because everyone played such an integral part of every turn. I would literally jog into the kitchen to get another beer because I didnt want to miss out on a good deal. The game took about 2 and a half hours and we were all sorry to see it end. What a perfect game night!
With that said
The very next day, three of the five of us got together again to play because we enjoyed it so much the night before. The 3-player experience was not nearly as fun. I think its because the chaos factor was gone. Everything became more predictable and mechanical. There was a surplus of actions so they went cheap. As a result, the haggling and wheeling and dealing aspect of the game was greatly diminished. 5 ducats for an action was quite common simply because there were no other offers on the table. That never happened the night before. The game still had strategy but it was no longer exciting. I guess the best comparison I could give is Pit (the card game). Pit is a great game with 8 players and a lousy one with 3 players because it requires the constant chaos of deals flying left and right to be stimulating. That, of course, is the extent of the similarities between Traders of Genoa and Pit.
So, in conclusion, this game can be a lot of fun but it comes with requirements:
1) You need 4 or 5 (preferably 5) people to make it work.
2) Every player needs to be ready and willing to negotiate their butts off for 2 hours straight.
If you have those two ingredients then this game will not disappoint.
This game is one of the deeper German games I have, but its not too complex as to be menacing. The components are nice though I find the blocks to be too similair in color sometimes, and some of the cards have the german print in the background. 2 things to keep in mind about this game is that you need to the right crowd who actively participate in negotiation, and you this game is really meant to be played with 5 people. With 5 people negotiation for actions is much more fierce especialy since the end can come swiftly with the shortened number of rounds in a 5 player game. In the end its another strong Alea title thats a lot of fun with the right group.
I initially found Traders of Genoa similar in design to Princes of Florence. Instead of bidding and presenting professions, however, you negotiate and present orders or messages.
The big problem I have with Traders of Genoa is that you never know where you stand with other players.
When they are negotiating for the right to buy an action, you are never sure if they want to simply perform that action or deliver their order or message (resulting in lots of money). There is little you can do to prevent other player's from doing so. If you are suspicious and try to make them pay more money or trade valuable commodities they simply refuse until you must accept the obligatory $5 or they use an any start space special card on their turn.
There isnt any advantage in stalling negotiations. I found the game comes down to lucky rolls of the dice for the placement of the trading tower and fortunate card pick-ups. I felt no satisfaction when the game was over, even when I won.
Negotiations are an overly repetitive process which, compounded with the length of the game (two hours +), makes Traders of Genoa painfully tedious at times.
Although this is one of my least favourite Euro-style games, I can understand why other gamers like it. There are many strategies you can employ to win (the large order strategy, the privilege strategy, etc) and some people just love the intricacies of negotiation.
Personally, I found it similar to buying a carpet in Fez. You know you're going to get ripped off no matter how good the deal sounds and you have to put up with hours of exactly the same sales pitch from 40 different dealers.
These streets are paved with opportunities for wandering traders. You visit up to five buildings each turn, one of which has actions that you'll perform for nothing. Negotiate with others to guide your itinerary ("If you want what's offered there, you'll pay me to go there!"), and auction buildings' actions to interested competitors (the winners pay you). Collect Orders that show both the goods you must purchase at a Warehouse and the Villa where they must be delivered. Buildings also offer trading privileges or markers in your color that you can place to earn commissions from visiting traders. Win by finishing as the wealthiest trader. We wouldn't swap this superlative game of negotiation for anything!
This booming city offers many ways for shrewd, industrious negotiators to become wealthy. Each turn, you can visit up to five buildings, which offer a variety of potentially rewarding benefits. You may visit just one building, taking whatever benefit it offers for free; but it is far better to listen to offers from other players, who may want something that another building has to offer. When you go to another building, an auction for its benefits is conducted, and you can accept whatever offer you like best. At some buildings, for example, you can get free extra benefits, or markers that you place in buildings to earn you money when others use those buildings' benefits. At other buildings, you draw Orders, which specify commodities you can acquire at warehouses, as well as places where the commodities can be delivered in exchange for money. The player ending up with the most money wins.
Ravensburger's Alea label has quickly become recognized as an excellent brand. They clearly take time in selecting which designs to publish, and one of their challenges seems to be in maintaining consistently high quality. If I could be critical, it would only be that they failed to make their edition of Adel Verpflichtet playable with six players, something that would have possibly encouraged more owners of the original to shell out their money. This minor nit aside, their latest full box release of Die Händler von Genoa (The Traders of Genoa) continues their string of strong original designs while fostering some similarities to their earlier titles of Chinatown and Princes of Florence.
The scene this time is the town square of Genoa, and each player takes the role of a Trader with all kinds of ways to make money. Each building in Genoa is associated with an action that can help to support these various moneymaking schemes, and the novel mechanism in the game is that each player "walks" through the town for up to five steps each turn. Where they go, where they stop, and what they do when there creates ways to generate cash or build a foundation for future earnings. The board shows 18 buildings laid out across an $8\times8$ grid, with 14 buildings ringing the edge and four more bordering the four-square town center. Empty street spaces separate these sections. Five wooden disks represent the steps, and these get dropped off one by one walks through the plaza. This visible pattern of the walk not only ensures that the proper distance is covered, but also helps to verify that certain moneymaking criteria have been met.
There are four direct ways to earn cash, each represented by a deck of small cards. The "small sale" card (blue) pays you to sell a specific good in a specific location in the city. The "large sale" card (pink) pays you to sell three different but specific goods in a specific location, paying you more in total but less per unit, but also earning you one of five special action chits. The "messenger" card (green) pays you whenever two buildings are connected in any players' walk. The "privilege" card (tan) pays off only at the end of the game, and each represents the privilege (deed) for one of the buildings. Holding the privilege for one building is worth a little, but holding privileges for adjacent buildings generates incremental profits. Each player begins with one of each type of card, and others can be acquired throughout the game.
In addition to these direct methods of raising cash, there are multiple other ways, primarily through negotiation. You see, although you can walk up to five spaces each turn, you can only take one action per turn. "Taking an action" means having the right to use the action associated with a particular building, which can also then allow the sale of goods as described above. Since you can only take one action on your walk, you can sell the rights to other players for buildings you walk through, or even let their incentives determine which way you move through the town. You begin your turn by throwing two eight-sided dice to determine where you'll take your first step, then walk up to four more steps. Since buildings are adjacent along the outside edge of the board, you can generate up to five separate actions to be used by the players if you start and stay on the edge. If you start in the center or walk to the center, you will walk through some empty street squares, but in Genoa even these can create value.
To understand this concept, it is necessary to understand the actions associated with the buildings. The four cards mentioned each have buildings associated with them. The "action" in the Rathaus, for example, is to take two of the blue small sale cards. The action of the Poststation is to take two green cards, and in the Gildenhalle is to take a single pink large sale card. The brown privilege cards can be taken in each of the four villas, but the villas also have an additional use. Each very valuable pink card can only be sold in one of these same buildings and once there you can either take a privilege card or cash in a pink card, but not both. Four spaces near the corners represent warehouses where goods are acquired. Each of these holds two types of goods; by taking the action in that building you take one of each. So, if you have a blue card that allows you to sell silk in the Park, you need to first acquire a silk cube either by trading for it or by taking the action in the Tuchlager. Later on, then, you need to get to the Park to take the action and cash in the blue card with the silk.
Using just the basic cards and the goods, here is how a typical player's turn may look. I begin by rolling the dice that start me in the Rathaus. "Anyone interested in me going left or right?", I ask, trying to gauge interest to maximize this walk's earnings. Larry tells me that he wants some wheat, so if I could get to the Getreidelager (where wheat and rice are housed) he would be willing to deal. Marcia prefers the other direction, since getting more green cards at the Poststation intrigues her and she makes that known. Christian then makes a firm offer for the current building, offering me one of the two blue cards he would collect there. Since he has made an offer, my only choices now are to accept, get him or someone else to pay me more, or take the action myself. Doug offers the same, and since I don't need to take the highest offer this could be a better deal depending on the game situation. Christian adds five ducats to his offer, and I say okay. We split the cards, and then I ask Larry to clarify his intent with the wheat. Since the action of the Getreidelager is to take one wheat cube and one rice cube, he offers me the rice if I give him the action. Marcia can't match this free good so I agree, step into the Getreidelager. Larry takes the action (collecting one wheat and one rice) and gives me the rice as my payment. I still haven't taken an action yet during this walk, but since Christian and Larry have they are out of it for now. I use my last steps to hopefully collect money or goods in exchange for selling the actions off to Marcia or Doug and of course taking one of the building actions for myself. When my walk is over, I pass the stack of five walking disks to the next player and he begins his walk. "I'd like the pink card if you can get to the Gildenhalle", I say...
Not too complicated if all the game had were the four card types and goods associated with them. But, the depth of this game cannot be underestimated as there are two other key features that, combined with the above, allow for the creation of some very detailed and clever trades. The first of these features are the special action chits. There are five of these, and each has a building or buildings associated with them. One allows to choose where you begin your walk rather than roll dice, very valuable to ensure that you get to the place you need to cash in that pink card or pick up that needed good. The second allows you to take any good off the board and use it as part of a sale or trade. The third lets you take an extra action on a walk. So, I can take two actions on my own walk or buy a second action on someone else's. The fourth is a great concept: the 1:1 trade. With this chit, I can trade one of anything for one of anything else on the board, except for cash of course. Simply, I could trade a cube of silk for a cube of copper to better match my cards. Or, I could trade one type of special action chit for another, or for a blue card. Anything for anything, and this can be very useful.
The fifth special action chit, the "building chit", is associated with the second special feature mentioned above. Each player has "possession markers" in their color available at the side of the board. The action of the Kathedrale building is to take two of your markers and place them in front of you. These could also be acquired through a trade with another player or with your 1:1 chit. At the end of each walk, starting from the walking player, players can place their possession markers on buildings adjacent to steps taken in the empty street spaces. These markers have three distinct values. First, the bank pays you 10 ducats when anyone else takes the action in that building. Placed early on an important building, this can generate good income throughout the game. Second, every possession marker on a building at the game's end is worth another 10 ducats. Third, when used in conjunction with the fifth action chit, you can take the action of the building you possess even when you're not there, as long as you've taken the action somewhere else. Let me explain this. Say earlier that I placed one of my possession markers on the Taverna, which allows a player to take a 1:1 action chit as the action. On someone's walk, I purchase the action in the Villa Colini, which gives me a privilege card. But, before ending up my action, I turn in a special building chit (gained earlier through trade or actioning the Palazzo building), and take a 1:1 chit, since my possession marker is on the Taverna and the building action chit allows me to exercise my right of possession.
The combinations of primary cards, special actions chits, possession markers, and an "everyone can take an action on each player's turn" mechanism create an extremely dynamic and interactive play. You cannot rest in this game and stay on top of things, as a winning strategy usually results from a series of small individual decisions about what to bid for, what to keep for yourself, how to creatively trade, and who to trade with. The negotiations in this game can be both simple and complex. Only two-player deals are allowed (fortunately), but even with this constraint the options are quite varied. Splitting items at the buildings where two are earned comes up often, as do simple "cash for this action" offers. More interesting, though not always more profitable, are deals involving changes in possession markers, swaps of privilege cards to possibly give someone a larger string of connected buildings, or swaps of special action chits. It is not uncommon to be in a position of being offered very different things from two people for the right to action the same building, so understanding how each helps them and which offer is better for you has be made quickly and decisively or the game bogs down.
Bogging down can be an issue. With five players, this game can take from one and a half to three and half hours based on the level of detail allowed in the negotiations and the number of options considered before moving on. We've found that it works best when everyone tries to push his or her walk along and not spend too much time trying to evaluate the complete matrix of decisions and steps possible. The game officially ends on the last player's turn when a round marker hits a predetermined spot (which varies based on the number of players). This marker advances each time everyone has taken one walk, however it also advances if a walk begins in the center of the plaza, represented by four grid areas. As a result, the game can randomly move ahead faster through the right dice rolls, or be forced ahead by a player choosing to use a special action chit to begin his walk in the center.
Comparisons to Chinatown are fair in that negotiation is the heart of this game. In Chinatown, however, while you cannot predict what businesses or land spaces will be drawn in future turns, you can often accurately calculate the value of what you get versus what your dealing partner gets in a deal. In Genoa this is much more difficult, because one can't be exactly sure why someone wants that pepper cube and if in fact they'll get to the building needed to sell it in time. The reward gained is not as straight forward in many cases and where it is, a wise player will try to extract much of the value from you.
Like Princes of Florence, a game that shares the artwork of Genoa but feels nothing like it, there is no sure-fire strategy that wins this game but there are multiple ways to consider. In our group's games, people have made significant advances by concentrating on "messenger" cards (the green ones); by collecting connected strings of privilege cards; by using possession markers adroitly; by being highly selective about who to deal with when possible; by making multi-step maneuvers after gaining the action -- maneuvers that involve special action chits and selling cards; and by helping to control the flow of the game by forcing advancements on the turn marker track. There are likely many more subtle and obvious ways as well. Another sign of the strength in the game is the fact that often the final scores are quite close. It is only after several plays that you begin to truly appreciate that paying 20 versus for an action that could have been had for 10 can have real consequences.
I don't believe that Die Händer von Genoa will be as popular as some of the earlier Alea titles, especially Taj Mahal and Florence. It is a very deep and robust game, and in many ways more difficult to get your arms around than the others. Chinatown's mechanisms are much simpler, Florence's objectives are easier to define, and while reading other players' signals is imperative in Taj Mahal its effects are not as cumulative as in Genoa. It does provide a great gaming experience for those who like this style game, and brings a level of sophistication and true strategy that sets a new standard for games using negotiation as their principle mechanism.