Posted by: gschloesser | August 3, 2011

Hamburgum

Design by:  Max Gerdts
Published by:  Eggertspiele and Rio Grande Games
2 – 5 Players, 1 ½ hours
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser 

 

Two years ago, Max Gerdts introduced a clever and original mechanism in his game Antike.  This mechanism became known as the “rondel”, and was a method whereby players chose the action they desired by moving around a “wheel’.  There are constraints based on distance, which prevents players from repeatedly taking the same action in quick succession without paying a cost.  The mechanism was unique, and has since become the staple in his game designs. 

His latest design to utilize the rondel mechanism is Hamburgum, a game which challenges players to build the great cathedrals and churches in 17th Century Hamburg.  Players produce and ship goods, purchase materials, buildings and ships, and help construct the churches.  Victory comes to the player who garners the greatest prestige in the city.

The large board is dual-sided, depicting the cities of Hamburg and London on opposite sides.  Each city is divided into six districts, each with a central church.  Five of the districts have space for numerous buildings to be constructed.  A network of roads, which largely regulates which buildings a player can construct and how players may expand on the board, connects each of these buildings.  An abundance of other information and charts is also depicted on the board, including the rondel, goods market, depot, ship docks, church donation, buildings and the victory point track.  In spite of all of these charts and holding areas, the board remains relatively uncluttered.

 Players take turns performing actions, which are determined by their movement on the rondel.   Actions include: 

Sugar, Cloth, Beer.  These three distinct actions allow the player to produce the corresponding commodity.  Players have a base production of one commodity each time they perform this action, but can increase the quantity produced by constructing the appropriate building.  For example, if a player constructs two breweries, each time he selects the “Beer” action, he will produce three beer crates.  However, each time a factory is constructed, the corresponding commodity value decreases by one step on the price chart.  It is a matter of simple economics:  with a greater supply, the price drops.  

Dockyard.  A player may construct new ships, which cost one timber apiece.  Each player begins with one ship on the first of the three dockyards.  Each dockyard has a capacity of five ships, and when filled, these ships will move down to the next dockyard as new ships are constructed.  Ships in the top dockyard each have a shipping capacity of three goods, but this capacity decreases as they are moved further down the dockyard track.  Having more ships in the dockyards will allow a player to ship more goods and, thus, generate more income. 

Trade.  Players may ship goods and/or purchase materials.  The materials purchased include brick, timber and church bells, and the total cost increases with the greater quantity purchased.  Generally, a player will ship goods and purchase materials with the same action. 

Guildhall.  Players may construct buildings, each of which costs a timber and brick.  Three types of buildings increase a player’s productions capacity of goods, while the others convey benefits such as income and new ships.  Initially, players can only build next to a cathedral where they have previously made a donation, and expand from there along the road network.  When a player completes a church, he is no longer constrained by the road network and may construct buildings anywhere on the board.  

Each space on the board depicts the specific building that may be constructed at that location, and church donations will bring bonuses for various items, including various buildings a player possesses.  Thus, players must weigh carefully their building and expansion plans, coordinating them with their church donations.  

Church.  Six churches will ultimately be constructed, each in five steps.  There is an increasing cost for each step, ranging from a solitary brick for the first step to a brick, timber, church bell and funds for the final step.  With each step constructed, the player takes one of the five church donation token, each of which gives a bonus to the player.  These bonuses translate into prestige points, the amount being dependent upon certain assets a player possesses, including the number of ships, citizens in the church’s district, specific types of buildings, and total church donations.  The more a player possesses of the specified asset, the more victory points he will earn. 

A player does not have to immediately score the church donation token, but may choose to save it until the optimal time.  Since all un-scored tokens will score at game’s end, there is generally no need to score these tokens during the course of the game.  The only exception is the token that grants prestige points for the number of ships a player possesses, as that may increase or decrease during the course of the game. 

Players may donate to any church, but the players who constructs the final piece places the church marker onto the board and receives prestige points as specified.  These points begin at eight points, but decrease down to three points as each church is completed.  As mentioned, the player who completed a church no longer has to obey the road expansion rules, and may erect buildings anywhere in the city. 

The game ends once the sixth church has been completed.  This generally takes about 1 ½ hours, and the game does tend to speed to a conclusion once the first church is completed as there is a rush to make the donations.  At game’s end, players earn victory points for all church donation tokens that have not been previously scored.  Further, they sell all of their goods and materials at 50 talents each, and earn one prestige point for every 100 talents they possess.  The player with the greatest prestige emerges victorious. 

There are certainly a variety of options to explore, and numerous ways in which to earn prestige points.  Coupling the right buildings and church donation tokens is certainly a wise path that can yield an impressive amount of prestige.  In one game, a player concentrated on the Officer’s Buildings, and managed to score an impressive sixteen points when they scored the corresponding church donation token.  However, I have also seen one player concentrate on shipping, consistently earning lots of money, then using the funds to undertake a massive church building project.  Both strategies proved successful.  The game can be kept fresh by substituting the blue official buildings, which provide different goals and prestige point options. 

Max Gerdts has once again put his clever rondel system to good use, designing a game that is both challenging and interesting.  The game is certainly lighter than both Antike and Imperial – much lighter.  Hamburgum won’t provoke the intense competition or sweeping strategies offered in his previous efforts.  While that may be disappointing to some gamers, it actually makes the game far more accessible to a wider audience.  My wife, who won’t come near the war-themed Antike and Imperial, enjoys Hamburgum, as do most folks to whom I have introduced it.  To me, that speaks volumes to the game’s appeal.

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Responses

  1. This was the second or third rondel game. I liked this one more than the earlier ones. It is more about developing your own path to victory points. It is less combative. 7/10


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