It is the fourteenth century in Europe, the time of the Hanseatic League. Many towns spread across the shores of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. For gifted merchants, engaging in sea trade can be extremely profitable. The myriad of towns are always in need of supplies. The margins you can earn supplying scarce goods is truly remarkable. The path is not always clear and there are tremendous risks to take into account. Nevertheless, opportunities are endless for a trader with a reliable ship and a small amount of savings to get started.
Ascaron’s Patrician III: Rise of the Hanse gives strategy gamers an intricate seafaring game in a quest to create the ultimate trade empire. Between complex trade structures, the ability to help with the development of towns, sea battles, and the ability to create your personal production facilities, Partician III makes for a rich gaming experience.
The game has two primary single-player modes. The campaign mode allows players to choose from a list of seven scenarios. Each of these scenarios have unique objectives that players have to complete in order to achieve victory. Depending on the storyline behind the scenario, your starting assets will vary. While the game’s tutorial will provide you the most basic information required to play Patrician III, especially the early scenarios of the campaign mode is an excellent way to hone your skills.
Players also have the option to try the ‘Single Game’ mode of the Patrician III. Through this mode, players can engage in a more free-style experience. After configuring settings like their characters’ hometown or the starting year, players can begin the game with a single ship and a humble sum of gold. It is possible to play the ‘Single Game’ mode without any objectives. However, if desired, players can also set a goal such as becoming the lord mayor within one or more years.
The core game play element is trading. At any time during the game, you will have access to one or more convoys with which you can transport goods. You will be able purchase trade goods from any of the towns you are visiting. The price of the merchandise will vary greatly from one town to the next. Simple supply and demand economics are the biggest driver behind prices. If the goods are available in large quantities, you will not have to pay too much to purchase them. As you buy merchandise from a town however, the stocks will be gradually depleted. As the goods become scarcer, their prices will increase. The opposite is true when you are selling merchandise. With each additional item sold, the town’s stocks will increase and the demand for the goods will decrease. As such, the price will the town pays for each consecutive item sold will gradually decline.
In order to profit from trade, players simply have to buy the product from a town where it is cheap and sell it to a down where it is in great demand. Of course the trick is identifying where certain goods might be obtained at reasonable prices. In general, purchasing a product from a town that produces it is the most effective approach. Even when you buy the item from the town in large quantities, the stocks will be automatically replenished in just a matter of days.
Players will also recognize that some towns have a fairly steady need for certain types of items. For instance, the town of Luebeck is a strong producer of iron goods. As such it is possible to buy iron goods from this town at a reasonable price and sell them at a number of other towns for a considerable profit. However, the production of iron goods requires pig iron. As such, Luebeck can just about always use a few extra crates of pig iron. If players can obtain the raw materials from another town at a reasonable price, they can sell the goods at a terrific profit margin in Luebeck.
The buying and selling interface is fairly straightforward. Once you initiate a trade with a town, a price chart is displayed. The chart contains a list of all the different types of goods available in the game. The alphabetized list contains a variety of goods ranging from fish and grain to spices, timber, whale oil, pottery, or wine. By default, the game will display the price of buying and selling a single unit of the product. Using the toggles at the bottom of the price chart, players can modify the number of goods exchanged with each click on the buy or sell buttons. This tremendously helps with reducing the amount of time required to buy or sell goods at large quantities. The price chart always shows the average price of buying or selling a single item. As such, if you set the interface to buy five units with each click on the buy buttons, the price chart will be automatically updated to show you the average price of a single item in a lot of five.
Each ship in Patrician III can only carry a certain amount of goods. When you select the ship, you can see the size of its cargo hold on the right side of the screen. Goods come in either crates or barrels. Each barrel takes one unit of space in your cargo hold. The crates on the other hand occupy fifteen units. Given the limited amount of space in their ships and the different amount of space occupied by crates and barrels, players will have to pay close attention to how much of their cargo holds they are using as they buy merchandise.
In towns where you have a trading office, it is also possible to store goods inside a warehouse. When a ship is docked at the town’s harbor, players can transfer goods from the vessel directly into the warehouse. It is also possible to engage in trade directly between the town and the warehouse. The ability to store a large quantity of goods in your offices can be extremely useful. To illustrate, once again consider the town of Luebeck with its steady need for pig iron. Occasionally, you may arrive at Luebeck with your ship’s cargo hull loaded with the merchandise, only to find that the town does not urgently need to goods. If you have a trading office in town, you can just transfer the goods there and wait to sell them when the transaction would be more profitable. Supplying your warehouse with the goods that serve as raw materials is also critical when you start building your own production facilities.
Travel between various towns occurs on the sea map. With the click of a button, players can leave the town view and bring up the map. Cities are marked with blue or red circles on this view. The circle that is completely filled with blue indicates the town where your home office is located. Other towns where you have trade offices will be marked with a small blue circle placed inside a red one. Finally, completely red circles denote towns where you do not have an office. Instructing convoys to travel between towns is a simple matter of selecting the convoy and clicking on the destination town. The convoy will automatically start heading in the indicated direction. If you do not want to wait for the convoy to get there, Patrician III features a fast forward feature that will come in very handy. Clicking on the fast forward button will move time rapidly until some significant event occurs. This may include anything from your ships arriving at their destination town to one of your convoys getting attacked by pirates.
In Patrician III, players improve their relationships with various towns by providing them goods. The citizens divided into three categories according to their wealth. The largest part of the population will consist of poor people. A smaller segment will make up the wealthy people. Each town will also have a relatively fewer number of rich people. Citizens will demand different goods depending on their income levels. By selling products to the town, you can improve the citizens’ overall view of you as a merchant. Providing a steady supply of basic goods such as grain or beer will improve your standing among the poor people. On the other hand, catering luxury items such as wine or wool will appease the rich people.
If the town is running low in a particular category of merchandise an icon will appear next to the town’s name on the sea map that denotes the scarce product. Providing a fresh supply of these scarce goods will dramatically improve your relationship with the citizens. However, players should be careful in using this feature. The information communicated with these icons has a time delay associated with it. Even as you hurry over to deliver the goods, another merchant might be just about to unload their cargo. If you are too far from the town when you decide to respond to the icon, the goods may no longer be scarce by the time you complete the journey.
Improving your relationship with the citizens has direct impact on the game play. First of all, after supplying a town with goods for a certain amount of time, you may be granted permission to build a trade office. Since the trade office is required to store goods in a town or to construct production facilities, these permits are invaluable for expanding your business. Maintaining good relationships with citizens also improves your ranking in the game while making it easier for you to get into a guild. You may even get nominated to serve as the town’s mayor. Patrician III is structured in many ways to create an attachment between the player and their home town. Helping your home town or even other towns prosper, you can make an income on the economy and watch the towns continue to grow. Turning a small town with a handful of houses into a bustling city can give you a great sense of accomplishment.
Patrician III allows players to construct production facilities to support their businesses. In towns where you have a trade office, you can develop various production facilities to start making your own goods rather than buying everything from the town. Since each production facility needs workers, you may also need to construct residential areas in the town. In order to create goods, you will also need a steady flow of raw materials. For instance, the brickworks and the pitch maker require timber as their raw materials. In order for these buildings to function you will have to have a supply of timber in your warehouse.
The benefit of producing your own goods comes in the form of cost management. If you can supply raw materials at a cheap price, your facilities will produce goods at a much cheaper unit costs than the prices available in each town. In addition, the residential facilities you create to house tour workers will provide you rent income. Finally, having employees who work for you will improve your status in the town.
In addition to the basic trade elements and the ability to construct buildings and engaging in town development, Patrician III has a host of other features. For instance, you will occasionally encounter pirates terrorizing the seas. When you are attacked by one of the pirates, you will have a chance to engage in a sea battle. If your ship is not equipped with any cannons, all you will be able to do is to attempt to outrun the enemy. If you do have cannons however, you can engage in real-time tactical combat. By paying attention to the direction of the wind and the speed of your vessel, you will have to carefully maneuver to get clear shots at your opponents. With successful hits from your cannons, the enemy vessels will be damaged and eventually sink. Players can also attempt to capture an enemy vessel. Capturing enemy ships involves your crew engaging in a direct fight with the enemy crew. If your sailors manage to overwhelm the enemy, the ship will be yours.
Still other features of the game include the ability to buy and sell stocks of your own company. Selling stocks in a great way to get a cash influx. However, this also means that you will have to occasionally pay dividends to your investors. From time to time, players will also be offered the services of a matchmaker to find a worthy suitor for your character. For a small fee, the matchmaker can find you a potential spouse that will bring a very handsome dowry to aid your business. Players will also have an opportunity to expand their convoys by ordering additional ships. Maintenance of your existing ships will be yet another aspect of the game. Sailing across the seas will gradually wear down your ships. As such, every once in a while, you will need to get them repaired.
If all of these features are not enough, Partician III gives players the option to join a merchants guild to participate in auctions, invoke the services of pirates to secretly terrorize the seas on your behalf, or go to church to feed the poor or support the church through donations. Players will also have the opportunity to take on special tasks such as delivering a predetermined quantity of goods to a town for a fixed price. Less ethical business opportunities will present themselves as well.
By the time you have a handful of trading offices and quite a few ships sailing the seas, things will start getting a bit chaotic. In order to help players Patrician III does have some automation features. You can set trade routes or hire trade office administrators to automatically purchase goods for your business. The automation may not be exceptional, but it may prove to be very useful when you business truly grows.
The biggest problem with Patrician III is the notable learning curve associated with the game. Players should go in expecting to spend quite a few hours simply learning how to play the game. Getting used to all the different menus certainly takes a certain amount of time. Understanding the dynamics of trading and learning how to construct buildings may take you a certain amount of time. The game does provide nice tutorials to give you the basics, but they are far from giving you all the information needed to effectively operate your business. Becoming a successful merchant takes a good deal of practice, patience, and perseverance. A better organization for the key structures would have also improved Patrician III. Critical buildings can blend in with other buildings a little too much, making it slightly, but unnecessarily difficult to spot them. Finding where you can access some of the game’s features is not always easy either. There are many different structures where you can accomplish a variety of tasks. Learning where you can find all the different options will certainly take some time and require you to click on each different building to explore the various commands available.
Patrician III is a complex game that can easily appeal to strategy and simulation gamers looking for a challenging trading game. There are many aspects to running your business that are sure to keep you occupied for a great number of hours. Between the trading goods, constructing buildings, and improving your standing as a citizen, creating your massive trade empire will be an engaging undertaking.
Patrician III is part of the Buccaneer's Bounty collection. To read about the other games that are part of the compilation, click here.