Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Dan Glimne &
Grzegorz Rejchtman


No. of Players:
3 - 5



G@mebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game :

400 years ago in the Middle East … The rich deposits of tea, spices, silk and chinaware attract the European business people who began to organize in big Middle East Trading Companies at that time. As traders the players try to cash in on the prosperous transactions by visiting the Middle East and buying the goods in the towns and cities of India, China and so on.


The gameboard shows 35 spaces of a route along the coast of the Middle and Far Eastern countries. On each of these spaces tokens are placed randomly at the beginning of the game. These tokens show a type of goods and the flag of one of the five participating trading companies. Also, a Merchant figure of each player is placed at the starting space of the route, and in the game the players move along this route with the help of special shipcards that are sold at an auction phase at the beginning of each round of the game. Once a player moves to a new token, he takes it and in return places one of his wares on the corresponding collection space on the gameboard. There is only one space per company and per good. So for one unit of goods, letīs say tea, there are exactly five spaces for the wares of the players (and five corresponding tokens along the route on the board).

Only players with the most wares in a type of goods get money for that good at the end of the game. 7 different goods are available but it's no good only to concentrate on one good, because then there is no chance to get money for the rest of the goods. On the other hand it is also a risk to distribute the wares among too many goods, because then it can get very difficult to be the best in one good at all. To master the fine line between those two extremes is the way to win the game. The strategy and tactic to do so depends on the number of players. In a five player game there are naturally less possibilities to get the right tokens and so it is better to concentrate on a small number of goods, while in a three player game a wider distribution should make more sense. Because the goods have different values, various tactics can lead to victory and it is a nice challenge to find the right balance.

Now back to the movement: At the beginning each player gets 10 shipcards and 15 bills. Ships of all the trading companies and a black pirate cannon are placed on the field 0 on a special scale on the gameboard. A round of the game begins with the auction of new shipcards. For this the starting player rolls a dice and takes as many shipcards from the stack as the result of the roll. These cards are sold at the auction in bulk. Beginning with the player left of the starting player, the players clockwise place a higher bid or pass. The winner of the auction takes all new shipcards and divides the bills of his bid among the other players. Through this continuous circulation of money a very good balance is created and all players can participate in the game at all times. It should be mentioned that the winner of the auction is the next starting player and also begins the next phase which can be a huge advantage, too.

In the next phase of a round the players do their turns. They can either play shipcards from their hand or they take two new shipcards from the stack. In the first case, the players may only play a card if they have or can achieve a majority of cards of one of the five trading companies. Cards are placed before the player and remain there until a pirate attack removes all cards of the leading company. So it is possible to collect cards of one company over a period of several rounds, and the players usually will be restricted in their choice as to the cards of which Trading Company's they may move. The number of cards of each trading company that is lying on the table is indicated by the ships on the scale. With the black pirate cannon the sum of all open cards is pursued. If the sum of all cards exceeds 25, the open cards of the trading company with the most cards all are removed.


After a player has played shipcards on the table (and only in that case), he may move his Merchant figure along the route to the next free token of a trading company of which he possesses the majority of open cards. In the four player play it is quite usual to possess the majority of one, sometimes of two and seldom of three companies. Remember that there are only five goods of each type (one from each trading company) in the game and the majority sometimes is reached with only two goods. So it is very important to place the right cards (if possible) in the phase before to get the majority of the company to which token a player wants to travel. Of course this is very often not possible and so it is not wrong to consider the possible moves of the opponents for the next round. Tokens of other companies that were passed by the move of a player cannot be reached by that player anymore since there is no turning back on a merchant's voyage towards the Far East.

During the course of the game, a player can change his collected tokens of the trading companies right after he took a token of a company he didn't possess before. He then may give as many different tokens as he wishes and gets money (not bills) back. With the increasing number of different tokens he gets an increasing, disproportionate amount of money. The game ends when the first player reaches the last token with the number 35 at the end of the travelling route. Then the actual round is played to an end and the final scoring takes place. All goods are scored in the described manner. In addition to this the player with the most bills, the player who reached the final token and all players with majority of shipcards of a trading company get some money. The player with the most money at the end wins the game.

Sometimes a game is difficult to describe in a review, and after reading this description of the rules you might get an impression that Batavia is a rather strategic brain-teasing game for ponderers, but in fact Batavia has all necessary elements of a successful family game. The design is very attractive, rules are easy to learn and to explain and the game is fairly balanced. This gives inexperienced players a fair chance to come into play and everybody will enjoy the game. Players with a high interest in complex games probably don't find enough strategic elements. But for a family and the average player Batavia should be a favourite on the next wishing list. Although the betting, the moving and the removing of cards are known by some means or another, Batavia composes all elements to a unique, harmonious game feeling. I am quite sure that it will be one of the hit games on the next SPIEL convention in Essen.

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Copyright © 2008 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany