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ANNO 1503


Author: Klaus Teuber

Publisher: KOSMOS 2003



Although quite a few KOSMOS-games had been adapted to the computer in the previous years, quite less computer games had been adapted as boardgames. With the new Klaus Teuber game Anno 1503 KOSMOS had set to the task of adapting the rather successful computer game Anno 1503 by Max Design, and I was quite eager to see how this rather new kind of a symbiosis between a computer game and a boardgame might work.

The new boardgame offers a lot of similarities to the computer game (not last because of the 1:1 graphical design of the game which uses graphics from the computer game), but also because of the choices available to the players during the course of the game.

A player must have fulfilled three out of five victory conditions to win the game, and these conditions are:

  • The possession of 30 Gold.
  • Owning 4 Tradeposts.
  • Having signed 3 Trade Contracts.
  • Having built 4 Public Buildings.
  • Having developed 3 Pioneers into Merchants.

At the beginning of the game each player will receive his own playing board for his home island. This island actually will be the focus of most of a player's actions, since this will be the place where a player may place new Pioneers and develop them and where a player places Public Buildings and furthermore also the production values of each player are printed on his island. For preparation, each player will receive one Pioneer and one Settler (a Pioneer which ad been developed) and he will places these at the starting positions on his building track. Furthermore, each player will receive one resource of stone and wood (The following resources exist in the game: stone, wood, tools, linen, spice and tobacco.

There also exists a main board for the game, and here a number of island markers are randomly distributed face down in order to be discovered by the players during the course of the game. Each player gets to place one of his ships on the mainboard at the beginning, and during his turn he will be allowed to move around with this ship and discover the different islands on the board.

The game then may start, and in turn the players now will try to improve their colony by their actions so that it will fulfil 3 of the 5 victory conditions. The first thing a player does in his turn is that he rolls a dice to find out the production for himself and all the other players for that turn. Each player compares the result of the dice-roll with the production values printed on his island and takes a corresponding resource card. At the beginning, the choice of this resources is limited, since some of the resources only will become available through harvest if a Trading Post can be founded on one of the islands on the mainboard.

The next phase will be the player's building and development phase, and by paying certain resources a player now can build new ships for the mainboard and he can also develop his Pioneers into Settlers, and these may be further developed into Citizens and Merchants.

Apart from building and development, a player may also use his resources for turning them into gold by selling them to the inhabitants of his isle. He may sell one resource per turn to each of his inhabitants, and these will buy resources depending on their current status of development (the Merchant, for example, will buy tobacco). The gold in turn may be used by a player to purchase any needed resources at a cost of 6 from the bank, giving him access to everything but at quite high prices.

After this trading phase, the player next gets to spend action points on his ship(s). He may move the ships around on the mainboard, and when a ship comes to stand next to an undiscovered island then the player may spend a further action point and have a secret look on the other side of the island marker. These markers may be of one of three different kinds: They can be Tradeposts, Trade Contracts or a Treasure. A player may decide whether he wants to take the island marker, and if he does so he may place it next to his home isle. A total of 4 Tradeposts and of 3 Trade Contracts may be placed next to the Isle, and they offer the following benefits: A Tradepost means that a player now has the possibility to gain resources which he could not get at the beginning of the game (spice or tobacco), and for each Trade Contract a player must pay one gold less to buy a resource from the bank. Finally, a Treasure is not placed next to the island, but it is turned into an advantage immediately: the player will gain either 12 gold or he may develop one of his inhabitants to the next stage for free.

Two more factors need to be told about the game: on the one hand a result of a 6 while rolling for production means that nothing is produced this turn but instead a random event is caused. This may be either Pirates or a Fire (resulting in the loss of a Tradepost or an Inhabitant if the player cannot prevent the event by paying gold), or the result will be a "Golden Year", giving each player the option to take a resource of his choice. The other rule concerns public buildings: Whenever a player adds a new Pioneer to his island he may also place a new public building next to the pioneer. Apart from counting for one of the victory conditions, these public buildings also give small advantages to their owners (preventing losses through Pirates or Fire, allowing higher sales etc).

When having a first look at the playing components I was rather irritated by the slightly unfamiliar look. It definately takes a bit to get used to see computer graphics being used in a boardgame, a fact which results in playing components with quite strong colours and a quite different drawing style than in other boardgames. However, more interesting is the question how good the new boardgame actually has adapted the playing mechanisms from the computer game, and here it must be said that Klaus Teuber actually succeeded in creating a game which comes close to the computer game but which - naturally - could not introduce all of the aspects available on the computer. Mr. Teuber designed a solid "Build & Development" game from the given components, and the game certainly can appeal to fans of the computer game and normal gamers alike. However, to my taste the rules do not offer enough variation and new elements to rise the game into highest rankings - it is a bit too much in the mainstream direction for games...

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany