Review: Hansa Teutonica East expansion

Designer:  Andreas Steding
Publisher:  Argentum Verlag; Z-man games
# of players: 2-5
Ages: 12 and up
Time: 60-90 mins

Review by: Valerie Putman

At the 2009 Spiel in Essen I picked up a nice looking Eurogame now affectionately referred to as Hansa T.  The board had a certain Thurn and Taxis look to it and the 10 minute description I had at the booth sounded promising enough.  Shortly after the fair I had a chance to play the game in full and OMG—this was no ordinary Eurogame.  I spent the next year teaching the game to everyone who would tolerate my obsession, even playing Hansa T nine times in one weekend at the Buckeye Game Fest.  More than a year after playing the game for the first time I still want to play it above all other games.

While this is a review of the new expansion available at Spiel 2010, not the original, I should take a moment to explain what, for me, makes this game so special.  At first glance, players are vying over territory and increasing abilities to become more efficient, all in the name of victory points—nothing particularly new.  The key to the uniqueness of Hansa T. is the direct player interaction.  Many Eurogames have some level of conflict, but it is usually costly to the attacker, punishing to the defender, and generally intended to be a last resort or a suboptimal strategy.  In Hansa Teutonica it is actually beneficial to be “attacked.”  There is some cost to the attacker, but it is not inhibitive.  More importantly, though, the compensation to the player who was attacked is substantial.  Players often spend their entire turns trying to get in each others way, hoping to be knocked aside.  The net result is a Eurogame with far more interaction, tension, and adrenaline than any other that I have played.

Does it need an expansion?  Of course!  In fact, since Hansa T. plays on a map, it is exactly the kind of game that I find best suited for expansions.  The other games that I happily collect expansions for are primarily map based games like Power Grid, Age of Steam, and Ticket to Ride.  You get to take a game you already love with most of the same rules and with a slight twist achieve an entirely new experience.  The Hansa Teutonica East expansion does come with a new map but also a separate card based expansion as well.  In either case, the original game is also needed to play.

Hansa Teutonica—the new map expansion

Imagine playing your umpteen thousandth game of Risk, but suddenly there is no more Australia.  Whatever group think has emerged about the best strategies must be thrown out the window.  It is a fresh start.  For me, a good expansion map for any game has all the familiar strategies available that you know and love, but suddenly new options tempt you as well.  The next dozen or so games can be spent comparing the value of these new paths to glory with your tried and true methods for earning victory.

The new Hansa T. map still has all of the same special cities, so players will continue to vie for control of those cities as a way to rack up early victory points.  Their locations on the board differ completely, though, so players who used to combine this technique with a large network of cities for endgame points will find the task more difficult.  Also, the most popular cities to inhabit (associated with gaining actions and increasing the number of cubes you can move from your inactive to your active play area) are now combined.  On top of that, you must claim a separate route on the board to move into the uber-city and there is no limit to the number of players who can move in.

The new board has several routes that require at least one round marker (merchant) to claim and also have a permanent bonus action (like the plates) associated with them.  There is also a large section of the board (the lower right hand quadrant) with many connected cities that merely require a white privilege square to claim and little to tempt competition, making a pure network strategy a new option.

Overall, the new map was everything I had hoped for.  It still feels like the Hansa T I know and love and yet feels fresh and new all over again.  I consider the new map a must buy for anyone who has played Hansa Teutonica often and wants to continue to play it often a year later.  On the other hand, if Hansa T is a game you are happy to play only once or twice a year, you might still have plenty of replay value left in the original before you really need a second map.

Hansa Teutonica—the new card expansion

I was surprised to discover a 2nd expansion included in my purchase of the East expansion.  It does not combine with the new map—instead it is a new twist for the original map.  Players are randomly assigned a secret destination card (there are 9 available) which lists 3 cities on the map.  At the end of the game, players reveal their secret cards and earn a point for each city where they have a presence (a Kontor).  If they have control of all 3 cities on their card, they earn an additional 5 points.  I like this option.  The strategy of connecting the two “red” cities (available on both maps, though the cities are located in very different places) is one that hasn’t been achieved in most of the games I have played.  I think the cards give this kind of strategy more opportunity because other players don’t necessarily know when they need to block you.  On the other hand, it really changes the nature of the game.  The original and the new map both offer perfect information to all of the players.  Some players might see the hidden nature of the cards as a benefit, others might not.  In general, I didn’t find it as exciting as the new map, but once I’ve played the new map a dozen or so times, I might be ready to explore the cards further.

Rating:  I love, love, love it!

Opinions from Other Opinionated Gamers:

Rick Thornquist: I’ll basically second Valerie’s opinion.  Hansa Teutonica is a great game and the map expansion is great as well – it is indeed a must-buy.  I haven’t played the card expansion yet, as it looks somewhat less interesting, and I’ve been having too much fun playing the new map.

Andrea “Liga” Ligabue:  I really like Hansa Teutonica since it is a simple, tense and well balanced games. The road to victory are different and there is a lot of interaction. Playing Hansa T. you have the permanent feeling to have much to do and not enough actions. I’m a thematic games lover and my only little concern is that, after all, Hansa T. is a quite abstract game. Anyway, I agree with Rick and it is a must-buy. I haven’t yet played the new map enough to have a clear opinion but, of course, it goes in the direction to increase the game longevity.

Greg Schloesser: One of the big decisions to be made when attending the Spiel in Essen is which games to acquire and which to pass over.  There are so many booths hawking so many games that often a few get overlooked.  That is what happened to me with Hansa Teutonica back in 2009.  I briefly stopped-by the booth, took a glance at the game, and quickly decided to pass.  It appeared very abstract and seemed to epitomize the definition of “Euro-Game cube pushing.”  Bad choice.  HT is an excellent game filled with tough choices and high tension.  Like nearly all games, I don’t get to play it enough, but that is not a statement on the quality of the game, but rather on the sheer volume of games being released.  I echo Val’s sentiments about the original.  I likely won’t get around to playing the expansion, as I rarely acquire or play expansions.

Dale Yu: (>10 plays – only of base game) — My comments are only about the base game.  I never managed to pick up a copy of the expansion at Essen last year, and I haven’t yet had a chance to play the new board!

The base game is one of my favorite games around, probably safely in my Top 5 All-time. Why?  It blends together almost every element that I like in a game.  First, every action choice is full of tension.  Whether you have 2 actions or 5, you’re almost always going to want to do at least one more thing than you have actions for!  Trying to figure out what you’d like to do now is constant process in this game.  Second, there are truly multiple paths to victory.  I’ve seen people win by maxing out the number of actions per turn early and simply doing more actions than everyone else.  Conversely, I’ve seen people win only having the capability of taking 3 actions per turn.  I’ve lost to someone who built an awe-inspiring interconnected web on the board with lots of keys, and I’ve been sucker-punched by a player who managed to get a cube in a few choice areas (the city where you gain actions or where you increase your color-scale) and get an early win by triggering the endgame condition before anyone else could get an engine going.  Third, there is a fair amount of interaction between the players – trying to “block” someone with your cube placements, getting the benefit of being kicked out, or racing to a particular space on the board.  You always have to be cognizant of what everyone else is doing to succeed.  Finally, the game plays at a fairly fast pace for such a “meaty” game.  In my group, a 4p game will usually take 60-75 minutes, which is a short time for a game of this complexity.  The only downside would be that the board is fixed, and the only that changes is the random placement of the bonus plates.  However, the addition of the board and the card expansion alleviate my fears that the game would ever become programmed.

Ratings summary of Hansa Teutonica (the original) from the Opinionated Gamers:

Love it! (12)……..Valerie Putman, Dale Yu, Ted Alspach, Greg Schloesser, James Miller, Tom Rosen, Andrea “Liga” Ligabue, Brian Yu, Mike Siggins, John Palagyi, Rick Thornquist, Doug Garrett

Like it (4)………Jonathan Franklin, Larry Levy, Patrick Korner, Craig Massey

Neutral (2)……..Frank Branham, Patrick Brennan

Not for me (4)….Joe Huber, Mary Prasad, Melissa Rogerson, Stephanie Kelleher

Ratings summary of Hansa Teutonica East expansion from the opinionated gamers:

Love it! (3)……..Valerie Putman, Tom Rosen, Rick Thornquist

Like it (1)………Larry Levy

Neutral (1)……..Ted Alspach

Not for me (0)….

About Valerie Putman

I'm a prof. I'm a gamer. I'm an animal behaviorist. I'm a girl. But the one word used to describe me most often? "Enthusiastic."
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2 Responses to Review: Hansa Teutonica East expansion

  1. Curt Carpenter says:

    No comments from Ted, the lowest opinion provided?

    I was really bummed that the cards were only for the old map, and not also for the new. That seemed like a weird choice. How many cents would it have cost to also make cards for new map? And yet, the players I played with all expressed concerns about the cards anyway, given that it’s really fair for some players to have collisions on their cities, and others not. It seems like it would have been better if the cards were designed in a way that you could guarantee equal amount of player collision.

    In theory I would have liked the cards, as I tend to like games a bit more that have at least some random element in them, even if just a secret goal.

  2. Katie says:

    I thought the new map from the East Expansion is for 3-5players, can’t be played with two & is single-sided, right? Please clarify. Mine is in the mail.

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