Review: Hansa Teutonica

Posted by James (admin) on December 5th, 2009

Hansa Teutonica had a lot of good reports during Spiel 09, and even more afterwards.  It was on my list of games to check out but, at a glance, it looked a bit dry.  However, having played it now, Hansa Teutonica has a lot of really good things inside it and should not be missed.

The board shows lots of cities and routes in between them.  Each route has spaces along it which can be occupied by player’s traders (cubes) or merchants (discs).  Merchants are less numerous, can be used instead of traders, and for some actions only a merchant will do.  [Note: I shall refer to traders and merchants as pieces unless I need to refer to one type specifically.]

Players aim to score points by building a network of trade routes between cities.  Each player can perform a set amount of actions during their turn – the number of actions as well as how much each action can do is determined by the player’s escritoire.  This escritoire is a desk that shows the player’s stats.  During the game, the player can develop these stats.

Each player starts with 2 actions per turn.  An action allows a player:

  • To place one of their pieces on any empty route space
  • To move pieces already on routes to any empty route spaces
  • To replace an opponent’s pieces already on a route space with one of their own.  (In this case, the player discards an extra trader, plus their opponent gets to place their displaced piece, plus an extra one, on any empty spaces along neighbouring routes.)
  • To add pieces to their supply so they are available for placing onto the board
  • To claim a route

When all spaces on a route are full of a single player’s pieces, that player can claim that route.  First, they remove all of their pieces from that route.  Second, the player can then place one of their pieces into one of the cities at either end of the claimed route (so long as there is space and the player is allowed to use the remaining city spaces – determined by the escritoire).  A piece in a city is called a Kontor.

If one of the cities at either end of the claimed route has a special option, the player can use that instead of gaining a Kontor.  These special options allow the player to claim points at the end of the game, or upgrade a stat on their escritoire.  Upgrades can allow a player to perform more actions, gain a merchant, add more trader/merchants to their supply in a single action, enter more city spaces, and so on.

If a player claimed a route with a bonus marker next to it, they claim this too.  Bonus markers not only give the player special one-off powers (like removing three pieces from the board) but are also worth points at the end of the game.

Some points are scored during the game.  A player who controls a city (most Kontors in it – or the most recently added Kontor if tied) gets 1 point each time a route is claimed that connects to that city.  Also, adding a Kontor to some city spaces can score 1 point too.  As soon as one player reaches 20+ points (or if 10 cities are full, or the bonus markers run out), the game ends and final scoring occurs. 

Players get points for:

  • Each escritoire stat that has been increased to its maximum (4 points each)
  • The number of bonus markers they own (variable)
  • Routes claimed leading to the special city that awards end game points (variable)
  • Each city they control (2 points each)
  • The largest number of Kontors in contiguous cities multiplied by their Kontor multiplier (a stat on their escritoire from 1 – 4)

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Hansa Teutonica.  As you may be able to tell from the description, Hansa Teutonica doesn’t really have any especially unique mechanics behind it.  There’s a bit of El Grande, even a little hint of Ticket To Ride, and lots of others.  However, it’s the combination of ideas that really delivers the great gameplay and does give it its own identity.  It’s the decisions to be made that are superb:  Upgrade abilities or create your network?  Place Kontors early when it’s easier and they could score points, or place later when they have more chance of controlling a city?  Displace a piece for your gain even though it benefits the other player?  Which stat do you upgrade first/next?  These are all difficult and interesting choices.

The board is constantly changing which makes it feel responsive.  The rule for replacing other players’ pieces is excellent – it may be expensive but it’s still an option, it means there are no total blockages to slow the game down, and it encourages player interaction.  We found we would often fill in the last space along a route already being dominated by a player just so they would displace us and we would get to add a trader for free.  I really liked that game mechanic.

The theming of the escritoire is a really nice touch too, as if the player is sending out orders to his traders and merchants from his desk.  Upgrading the escritoire’s stats is of central important to the player’s strategy.  You need to plan which upgrades and in which order so you know which routes to aim for.  Plus, you want to upgrade the stats that will most match your scoring strategy.  For example, if you are going to focus on building a network of Kontors, you’ll probably want to upgrade your Kontor multiplier as much as possible at some point.

Plus, there are lots of different strategies you could try to earn points.  You could aim for lots of small points during the game (shortening its duration) rather than focus on long-term points; you could aim to fully upgrade stats on your escritoire; you may build a network of Kontors and upgrade your Kontor multiplier.  We all felt there were lots of interesting strategies that could be used.  It seemed important to focus on one and maximise that than try to accomplish too many different strategies.

Overall, Hansa Teutonica may not be singularly original but it really does deliver a decent, deep and relatively quick Eurogame.  I was glad I had a chance to play it after Spiel, in fact, so much so that I have ordered a copy of it now too.  It was almost the one that got away.


[Played with 5 players]

One Response to “Review: Hansa Teutonica”

  1. Hélio Says:

    This one also almost got away from me, but it’s now ordered 😛
    Thanks for the review, made me even more eager to play it!

    Keep up the good work on this website!

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