Monday, June 16, 2008

Recent Gaming: Merchants of Amsterdam

At KublaCon last month I played a game called Merchants of Amsterdam, an auction game by Reiner Knizia (who'd have though..?) which is also an Area Majority game - with 12 different areas to gain majority in! When you gain influence, you get it in 2 of the 12 areas, and there are bonuses for spreading out your influence as well.

In Merchants of Amsterdam players take turns drawing 3 cards off the deck. One they'll keep, using the action themselves, one they'll discard, and one they'll auction off. The auction used in this game is a Dutch Auction - an Auction Clock is started which counts down from 200 to 0 (by 10s), the first player to speak up with a bid wins the auction, and their bid must be the amount indicated by the Auction Clock at the time of the bid. It's a neat, different system which is a little more tense than a regular turn order auction. A similar method could be to use a blind bid, but then there would have to be some system to break ties. I guess one could argue that in the Dutch Auction system there could be ties as well, but it hasn't come up in the couple games I've played so far.

The 12 areas where you can gain influence are divided into 3 sets of 4 areas - Colonies, Districts in Amsterdam, and Commodities. Scoring of a set of areas occurs on occasion, and when it does, the areas in the set are first ordered highest to lowest with regard to total amount of player influence. Then in each area, the players with the 1st and 2nd majority score some points - more for the 'largest' overall area and fewer for the 'smallest'.

Bonuses are earned when a player has presence in each of the 4 areas in a set. This influence is put on the board as a result of the cards you are drawing and auctioning for. Each card allows you to place an influence marker in either a colony or a district in Amsterdam, and then advance one of the commodity tracks. Each card either tells you specifically which track to move (and gives you more flexibility as to where to put the influence marker), or lets you choose (and gives you less flexibility in where to place the marker).

I find the game very clever, and I'm glad I traded for it.

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