Dale Yu: Hansa Teutonica Big Box

Hansa Teutonica Big Box

  • Designer: Andreas Steding
  • Publisher: Pegasus Spiele
  • Players: 3-5
  • Age: 12+
  • Time: 45-90 minutes
  • Review copy provided by Pegasus Spiele

Hansa Teutonica has always been a favorite game of mine, since its initial release back in 2009.  I know that I have reviewed the game in the past, but it appears to have been lost to the sands of time – as it was before the era of the Opinionated Gamers, and I cannot find it here on nor on the remnants of Boardgamenews.com.  In any event, I know that I liked it very much – the proof of which is the fact that I still have my copy of the twelve-year-old original version, having survived multiple moves and even more frequent gameroom purges.  It is a common complaint of Steding games that they can be dry and abstract.  Hansa Teutonica embraces both of those qualities – it is unapologetically a cube-pusher of yore.  Though it is twelve years old now, I still find it hitting the table every year or so (at least the base game).  My copies of the Eastern and Britannia expansion were lost in a basement flood a few years ago, so I’m happy to have another chance to play these.

So, what is in the Big Box?  In short, all of the expansions to date (minus one frivolous one found in 2019’s Pegasus Super Power), and nothing new.  So, if you already have all the expansions, you don’t really need this one unless you want the new box.  The Big Box honestly, isn’t even that big.  It has the same footprint as the original, but now is 2.75 inches thick as opposed to the original’s 2 inch thickness.  The big box contents are:

  • Hansa Teutonica Base Game  (originally released 2009)
  • East Expansion (2010)
  • Mission cards for the base game (2010)
  • Brittania Expansion (2014)
  • Emperor’s Favor (2016, in the Brettspiel Adventskalender)

As far as I can tell, this appears to be a straight reprint of the boards, writing desks and tokens.   The Big Box does include a scoring pad which serves as a helpful player aid for scoring.  The cover art is a little different as the trader on the Big Box no longer has the “porn stache” of the original.  And perhaps, most important to me, the new edition is multilingual and comes with a EN/DE rulebook.  (The game itself is language independent, but it’s nice to have a professionally printed ruleset).

The Big Box nicely contains everything you need, and I really like the fact that the Big Box actually isn’t that big.  It really looks like a normal sized box and the three boards are easily encased within.  The expansions have been somewhat hard to acquire, so this is a great way to get the whole series of games at once.  I have not been an Brettspiel Adventkalendar person, so it’s also a good way to get the Emperor’s Favor tiles at a reasonable price.  The base game remains one of my favorites, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a challenging and tight strategy game.

Though nothing is new, I would still like to outline our thoughts on the game (some of which has been written in the past) – as there are surely gamers new to the hobby that haven’t yet been introduced to this gem… I will borrow from some of the other OG authors as we do this.

Hansa Teutonica – Base Game

The board shows 27 cities on a generic landscape of the Hanseatic League of Cities (because again, this is admittedly an old-school cube pusher with a theme lightly pasted on), with the routes connecting them made up of 2 to 4 spaces. 

Each player gets two actions a turn at the start, although this number can increase over the course of the game – this information can be found on the player board (called a writing desk). The actions include placing cubes on the board onto empty spaces, moving pieces already placed (two or more at a time), kicking out opponent’s pieces (although this can wind up helping both of you as the player who is displaced gets to move their piece somewhere else on the board), establishing routes (after you occupy all the spaces between two cities), and reclaiming used pieces.  There is a difference between a player’s stock and his personal supply. Only cubes and discs in the personal supply may be placed onto the board directly, and once used (to claim a route or displace someone else’s cube), they go to the stock. You can always activate more cubes on your turn, of course, but it costs an action, and the number of cubes you get is based on how far you’ve advanced that track on your writing desk.

The principal way of scoring is by establishing routes, which Larry Levy termed “popping the route”.  When you pop a route, you usually claim one of the two end cities; the next time someone pops a route next to that city, you’ll score a point. Alternatively, some of the cities allow you to improve one of your capabilities (like increasing the number of actions you can take a turn); rather than claim the city, you can pick up that ability.  Furthermore,  some routes have Bonus Markers attached to them (they look like dinner plates) – these have special powers that can be played at any time on your turn to do things like advance a track on your player board, remove any 3 cubes from the board, get extra actions, or put an office into a city even if it’s full.

The game ends when either one player reaches 20 points, you cannot place a new bonus marker on the board, or when 10 cities are completely filled with offices. Players then score end-of-game points based on how many cities they control, the number of offices they have connected in a chain, how many bonus markers they have collected, and points for each track they completed on their player boards.  The player with the most points wins.

My thoughts on the base game (written in 2010) – 

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  a 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, this hasn’t stopped my enjoyment of the game, and we still play it often and love it each time!

Hansa Teutonica – The East Expansion – as reviewed by Valerie P in 2010

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.

Thoughts about the Mission Cards (Also Valerie P, 2010)

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.

Summary of the Brittania Expansion  (Dale Y, based on one play a few years back)

The Brittania expansion has a map of… Britannia. The 3p map has England and Wales whereas the 4-5p map also includes Scotland.  This version of the game uses the same basic rules of HT, but adds a few twists.  The different countries on the map each have their own color as well as a “main” city.  In England, you can place your own pieces or displace an opponent’s piece freely. However, in Wales and Scotland, you need to have permission to do those actions.  Permission is granted in Wales by having the highest valued trading post in either Cardiff or London.  Permission for Scotland is granted by having the highest valued trading post in Carlisle or London.  There are also some sea routes with give you special bonus markers when you claim them.  Scoring has an additional bonus for controlling the most cities in Wales and Scotland.  

The need for permissions makes it much trickier to get cubes into Wales and Scotland – and the endgame bonuses for cities there makes it a very important part of the game.  I remember finding it challenging and much more complex. The games seemed to take longer, and I preferred the base game, so I didn’t go back to this map (and then I lost it in a flood, and then obviously couldn’t go back).

IT should be noted that ther is a misprint on the 4-5p side of the Brittania board. The bonus marker on the route just to the east of Southamton (yes, also a spelling error as it’s missing the “p”) – it should have both the colors for Scotland and Wales on it.   Pegasus is aware of the issue and has provided a graphic with which to print a sticker: https://pegasusshop.de/media/pdf/15/e6/ed/HT_BB_board_britannia_Bonusmarker_NEU.pdf

Description of the Emperor’s Favor tiles (I’ve not yet played with them!)

Setup:

At the start of the game shuffle all Emperor’s Favour letters face down and then randomly pick as many letters as there are players and place them face up next to the game board

Rules:

To buy a favor of your choice, you can decide at the beginning of your turn to pass and lose all actions. In addition to that, you have to pay two of your unused bonus markers. The paid bonus markers are turned face down. Their special abilities can’t be used anymore but you still get prestige points for them at the end of the game. The purchased Favor is placed face up in front of you. For the rest of the game its effect is in place for that player

You can only purchase one Favor per turn.

The six possibilities are:

  • When you are displaced, you replace on ANY trade route, not just adjacent routes
  • When you are displaced, you get 2 cubes from the reserve instead of 1
  • Gain an additional action per turn (in addition to your allotment on your board)
  • When another player takes the Income action, you get a cube from the reserve and place it in your supply
  • At the end of the game, score 4 pts (instead of 2 pts) for each city where you have the most trading posts
  • At the end of the game, score 7 pts (instead of 4 pts) for each fully developed skill on your player board

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Matt C.  I’m quite enamored with Hansa Teutonica.  I worry at times that my high rating is the subject of nostalgia but the mechanisms continue to work for me.  In most games, players race to set up their scoring engine first.  In HT, players must decide between mechanics upgrades and scoring opportunities right from the start.  Some upgrades look clearly superior to others, until part-way through the game and one is desperate to pick up ones they’ve missed.  Even the “take that” part of the game is pleasing.  The rule about budging another player out of the way is brilliant.  You rarely ever truly “ruin” someone else’s plan, but you can sure annoy the heck out of them.  I’m generally not a huge “take-that” fan but somehow HT manages to present it in a very palatable style.

Mitchell T: HT is one of my all-time favorite games. It combines networking, brinkmanship, and area control (who controls the cities) in a seamless way. Although the two player game receives no love, and multiple players is much better, we enjoy the revised two player rules that come with the Britannia map and find that map works reasonably well at the 2 player count. Still, the game needs at least three to shine and two-player is more of a chess-like cat and mouse affair. HT is deserving of it’s reputation as a classic design.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Dale Y (mostly based on the base game, but I’d play any of the maps), Matt C (based on base game), Mitchell T (two player gets an “I like it” rating and only for Britannia), James Nathan
  • I like it.
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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1 Response to Dale Yu: Hansa Teutonica Big Box

  1. norkle says:

    What’s not to love? If you’re new to the game, it’s easy to play (ok, following the rules on what the cubes are called based on pool/reserve/stock Rudd is confusing), as you play more you learn every move counts. And the game is so quick, it leaves you wanting more, so why not play another time?

    Some comments on the Big Box. The first printing has an error on the permanent bonus on the board for Britannia 4-5 players (reportedly being corrected in future printings), the cubes and discs return to the size prior to 3rd printing (so a little smaller and less satisfying, but I got over that quickly) and the blue and purple player colours are annoyingly similar if playing in anything other than very good lighting.

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