- Patrick Brennan(PBrennan)Australia
St Ives, Sydney
If you want to call yourself a hardcore Designer / German Gamer these days (he says pretty much tongue in cheek), there's 3 particular games you need to have under your belt. The big 3 are Elfenroads, Die Macher and Fugger Welser Medici. I finally landed the last of these on the weekend, thanks to the loan of #295 of the 1000 made from my gaming cohort in Melbourne, Roger Smith. I'm glad I've played it once, but thankfully I don't have to play it again.
Reading through the rules, the mechanisms and theme sounded appealing. You represent one of the trading dynasties of middle last millenium Europe and move your guys from town to town, buying low & selling high in three different markets. The actual movement and bidding mechanisms in themselves are quite neat, and are well explained at the Geek. And the first two hours were enjoyable as we came to grips with how to best play. But each hour after that was a sheer repeat of the earlier hour. Bid for goods at a market place. Turn over a new market card indicating which town we had to go to sell the goods we just bought. Hope it's close by so you don't have to risk losing goods by moving fast (dice roll consequences). Slowly work your way over there - you never get anywhere fast in this game. Then at the selling market, find you've been under-cut by your opponents and you're still stuck with the goods. Then find out that you can't make the next market because it's on the other side of the map. So loiter around for half an hour until the next market nearby comes up. Get there. Now viciously under-cut your opponents, making not too great a profit margin but at least you've ensured that you get a shot at rising up the nobility chart. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
To make the game finish in a reasonable timeframe, everyone has to have the desire to buy at low prices and sell at the high prices, and maximise the profit margin. Such co-operative play which doesn't win you the game however. To win the game, you want to be the one buying and selling most goods each time. So at each market, the profit margin gets smaller and smaller as each player reduces their prices to sell their goods. Which makes the game go longer and longer .. and longer.
Eventually we called it at the 5 hour mark as we were getting close to the top of the nobility chart. We simply did some dice rolls to finish it off (assuming we each sold at the next market) to see who hit the top of the nobility chart first, and then determined who had the most money left towards buying the country estate that we were originally playing towards as the end condition.
It should be noted that our game was influenced by an unusual early domination of buying cards over selling cards, meaning we were all overstocked with goods, and the undercutting to sell at the few sale markets began early. On the plus side, there was little downtime in the game. You were always on the lookout for who was carrying what to each market, or trying to work out your bidding strategy. These decision processes made the first hour or two very enjoyable.
On the downside, in such a low margin game, the luck of the cards had an unfortunately too dramatic effect for our liking. Losing a ware or two at the hands of a random robber card just lost you the proceeds of the last two markets (half an hour of play) for example.
Overall, there was no sense of rising tension or impending climax. It was simply a constant slow accumulation of cash from deal to deal, take some blows along the way, until someone had enough cash to win. And every deal was the same as the last. And the one before that. For 5 hours, or more.
As we here at the PGA have been heard to say in the past ... that was fun, let's never play that again. A rating of 5.
- [+] Dice rolls