Merchants of Amsterdam / De Veilingmeesters van Amsterdam
Design: Reiner Knizia
Number of players: 3 to 5
The Merchants of Amsterdam / De Veilingmeesters van Amsterdam
1 gameboard, an auctionclock, 120 counters (24 per playercolour), 84 cards, 3 disks, 1 big pawn, 5 creditcounters and playing money.
Introduction: The gamesetting is the 17th century in which Amsterdam was a rich tradecity. The players represent merchantfamilies and try to profit from the growing wealth by trading with the oversea colonies. At the trademarket sugar, precious stones, spice and silk are traded. The players try to dominate the trademarket by building storehouses in Amsterdam and tradeposts in the colonies. During the game at different points money is earned by the best merchantfamilies in the different areas. The game uses a special auctionclock. The price is dropping until one of the players think it's the right price.
The goal: At the end of the game the richest player wins. The money earned during the game has to be invested again to earn more.
Preparation: A fixed starting line up determines the colony, the storehouse in Amsterdam and the starting trademarket for each player. All cards are shuffled. Each player gets all 24 counters of his colour and a starting amount of 400.000 florins.
A gameturn: One at a time the players have the mayor in their family. The mayor gets the 3 disks and the auctionclock. One at a time he draws cards from the deck. If it's an hour-glass-card, then a special action takes place. If it's not an hour-glass-card, then the player has to put the card on one of the (empty) disks. As soon as all 3 disks have a card, the actions are executed.
The card on this disk is discarded unused. So it's important to make the right choice. Because the cards are drawn one at a time this is not very easy.
The played card gives the player the right to place or move some counters on the gameboard. He can build tradeposts in new colonies, build storehouses in Amsterdam or expand the power on the trademarket.
The played card is auctioned with aid of the auctionclock. The clock is wound up and starts counting down. The first player to stop the clock, buys the card for the showed price. If the clock stops without any player interaction, the card is discarded unused.
The auctionclock: The auctionclock has a wind-up-mechanism and operates without batteries. The prototype was not strong enough, so we can assume that the new clock is. The weakest part seems to be the hand.
the new auctionclock
The gameboard: In the middle of the gameboard you see four districts in old Amsterdam, separated by the canals: Nieuwe Zijde, Oude Zijde, Grachten en Lastage. Around Amsterdam you see a world map with four areas: East Indies, Far East, Africa and America's. At the bottom of the gameboard there is the trademarket with four goods: sugar, precious stones, spice and silk. The other 3 sides of the gameboard form a timetable from 1579 to 1666. (At the end of the gamerules there is a summary of the special occasions in those years). The big pawn is moved from year to year along the timetable if an hour-glass-card is drawn and a special action is activated.
The cards: The cards can be divided in four groups:
The pawn is moved along the timetable and sometimes special actions are executed. For example the players can get or loan extra money, start or remove tradeposts or scoringturns occur.
With this card you can expand your power on the trademarket 3 positions. You can freely choose which markets, but it has to be at least 2.
With this card you can build a tradepost according to the conditions shown on the card. You can build in the shown area (left) or for the shown good (right). You also move along on the trademarket.
With this card you can build a storehouse in Amsterdam according to the conditions shown on the card. You can build in the shown districs. You also move along on the trademarket.
Scoringturn: Eigh times during the game there is a scoringturn. On three different areas you can earn money and at the end of the game even on all three of them: the trademarket, the storehouses in Amsterdam and the tradeposts in the colonies. On each of these areas the players compete on 4 parts. The 2 best players in each part earn money. For example you earn money if you have the most tradeposts in the Far East or if you are the dominator in the sugarmarket. In Amsterdam there is a special, but not unimportant, rule: the biggest group storehouses determines the best player. Storehouses belong to a group if they are adjacent to each other. Only the biggest group of each player counts.
Extra earnings: During the game the players can make extra earnings.
The end: As soon as the year 1665 is reached and all cards are used, then the pawn is moved to 1666. One big scoringturn takes place. All players pay their loans and count their money. The richest player wins.
Valuation: The game looks good and has sufficient possibilities and a little unpredictability. It looks to me at first sight a mixture of Stephenson's Rocket and Union Pacific. The auctionclock makes it of course more interesting. I think this can be a great combination. I've played the game once and it felt good ! The game plays rather quickly, so there is almost no down-time. In everyone's turn you participate during the auction. The place where you put the auctionclock is a bit difficult, because the gameboard is in the middle of the table. The game is suitable for family and experienced players. It offers sufficient tactical possibilities and still isn't complex. Great.
Gamecomponents: The gamecomponents look fine. The box size is handy and the same as Mind Power. The cards look good, but are a bit small. The counters are cardboard, but feel good. The gameboard is divided in four parts and is not extreme big. Why is chosen for 3 disks in stead of a little extra gameboard is not clear to me. The auctionclock works fine and makes a rattling sound. The gamerules are well readable; the extra earnings part looks like it is added afterwards. There is no mentioning of it on the gameboard. They forgot to mention in the gamerules that you have to multiply the value on the auctionclock by 1,000 ! The playing money isn't well-divided and you have to change it a lot.
Strategy: As expected from designer Reiner Knizia you have to divide your attention to many areas and you can do so little each time. The scoring is a lot more obvious than in his other games: just get the majority. A nice touch is the forming of groups in the Amsterdam districts, but you also have to look for the bridges to get extra earnings. Those extra earnings stimulate you to divide your attention to more areas than you really want to. It looks like the trade-market is the most important. Not only does it have one extra scoring round, but also the first scoring-round, so you can invest the extra money a lot sooner. The prizes on the auctionclock don't often drop below 140 because it is worth the investment. Don't pay a lot more than 240, because you won't earn it back. Remember that you have to take back some counters at the end of the game. Sometimes you have to choose between giving up an extra earning you had or lose a majority. The special rule for Amsterdam about the storehouses in a group is not that important, because the number of storehouses is limited. Not very often you will suffer from it. Most of the time you compensate it with the extra earnings for building on both sides of a bridge.
Thanks to Jumbo for a review copy