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Review by: Jeff Haynes
Published: December 21, 2001
Every budding entrepreneur hopes his or her business will be a success, that their company or brand will become a household name, and that their initial investments will pay off. Doggedly promoting products in stores and cities, they try to increase their bank accounts, profits, and popularity in every circumstance. In festive times, goods might be advertised as a great gift, but in times of woe, merchandise might be endorsed as a diversion from the pain and suffering experienced by the population. Times of loss are expected, but trust in their abilities gets every capitalist through even the roughest times. When it’s time to balance the books, the luckiest traders not only have empires, but also legacies they can pass on to their successors. While these facets of business hold true today, these theories were codified and proved throughout history, as intrepid merchants fought to carve out a successful business in an unsteady and often unfriendly world. Isolating one such period, Ascaron, Strategy First, and Infogrames present Patrician II, a sequel to 1992′s Amiga game, The Patrician.
Patrician II focuses on Northern Europe during the reign of the Hanseatic League in the 13th century. Founded in the middle of the century, the trade organization blossomed quickly to dominate all commercial activity in its waters for the next two centuries. Able to marshal large forces within the political realm, the League was able to influence civic elections, establish trading bases, and foster navigation. No slouch in the military arena, it protected its interests by suppressing pirates and brigands, supplying weapons to towns, and even raising trained armies to defeat marauding troops. Joining the League was usually restricted to the patrician class, a new socio-economic group whose privileges enabled them the luxury of dabbling in international affairs. Cast as a young, inexperienced shopkeeper, players are granted the protection and benefits offered to merchants in the League’s sphere of influence as they attempt to make their mark on the known world. Although some of the advantages granted to members are not immediately available, with cunning manipulation of the trade markets and shrewd planning, gamers will become barons of industry and influential members of society.
While the bygone League influenced over 150 towns, Patrician II focuses on 20 of its most important and influential cities, ranging from London and Oslo to Novgorod and Lubeck, its historic capital. Each town is broken down into three types: Hanseatic Towns, Hanseatic Offices, and Hanseatic Branches. Of the three, Hanseatic Towns are the most prolific, and the most important to players, since they can be specified as their avatar’s hometown. As such, they provide an immediate center that will always demand specific services from you year-round, giving you a stable base of operations from which to branch out. Not only will you start off in your hometown, but also you will find yourself continually returning to satisfy the needs of the people and its surrounding areas. Doing so can provide immense social and political advantages that can lead to your advancement within the guild and even governmental offices. Hanseatic Offices are the second tier of cities in terms of significance, as they can become established trading posts for clever merchants. While your political aims will never be fulfilled within these towns, the ability to found regional warehouses stocked with your goods can ensure quick and rapid deployment of products to cities desperate for items. Last on the economic totem pole are Hanseatic Branches. As the newest members to the League, these cities haven’t received the full advantages that its relationship provides. Unfortunately, this also means you are restricted to trade without benefit of personal trade offices or governmental elections.
Regardless of the town in which you find yourself, trading goods and making money remains your primary goal and concern. Twenty goods can be purchased and later resold for profit. These goods fall into four different categories: foodstuffs, consumer goods, luxury goods, and raw materials. Foodstuffs are necessary for the health and well being of the poorer denizens, although extravagant items like meat and wine can be purchased for richer citizens. Consumer goods consist of items that people typically need to survive, such as wool and timber for clothing and houses. Luxury goods, by contrast, exist solely to please upper class society members. Items like spices, cloth, and furs enthrall and delight these powerful patrons. Finally, raw materials allow a city’s industries to produce both consumer and luxury goods. Luckily, each town has specific bonuses toward the production of certain goods in conjunction with their regional location. For example, cities like Stetin produce large amounts of beer, while Oslo is rich in oil because of the number of whales that frequent the waters off its coastline. The downside is that while towns are strong in certain products, they are also deficient in other items. For instance, Stetin is sorely lacking iron goods, while Oslo’s frigid climate denies grain from growing on a year round basis. Learning how to exploit each cities’ strengths and weaknesses allows savvy merchants an advantage.
It’s an advantage that will need to be exploited, as the market fluctuates wildly based on many different factors. Aggressively following the basic supply and demand theory of economics, goods come into town markets and leave just as quickly as traders, businesses, and townsfolk purchase newly released items. However, players are not alone in their mission to fulfill the requests of the people. Computer merchants attempt to provide goods as well, forcing active observation of provincial markets to avoid being undersold. This can be done by looking at the consumption and production reports provided in each town, which can grant an idea of how often a commodity is desired within city limits, as well as which sectors of society require it and how much they are willing to pay for it. Taking the prices listed into account, wise traders can multiply their initial investments up to four times their value and walk away with gold doubloons spilling out of their pockets.
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