Genoa is a game that is all about negotiation. In the ancient city of Genoa – represented here by a gorgeous board – each player starts the game with a number of orders they are trying to fulfill. Completing an order simply requires that you ensure the merchant reaches specific destinations on the board: first to collect the things you need, and then to deliver them to a certain building.
But beyond that simplicity the game becomes more subtle, as in each round it’s a different players’ turn to move the merchant, and the other players will be offering incentives – or bribes, if you will – to move him in the direction they need him to go. So at heart the game has a trade-off – how much money or goods are you willing to sacrifice in the short term to get closer to your long-term goals?
There are ways to pick up new orders during the game, and there is also a very neat end-game scoring for players who have collected contract cards – there is one for each building on the board and getting adjacent buildings is key to the scoring here. There are also tiles to be collected that give in-game advantages, such as choosing where to start your merchant (instead of the usual dice-rolling) or using a building you own even if the merchant hasn’t gone there.
Finally there is the option to buy buildings on the board – this not only gives you a money bonus if somebody uses that building, but also a bonus at the end of the game.
My one criticism of Genoa is that – for me – it’s too long. Negotiation is key in the game and that’s interactive and fun, but after two hours of it you may feel a little fatigued. However – outside of that (which can be easily remedied with a house rule) I think the game is really, really good – excellent in fact.
There aren't any spiteful moves in Genoa - but if players sense someone is in a strong position they may become reluctant to do business with them. And players are in constant negotiation to try and get what they need - so refusals do become part of the game.
Everyone is involved in every turn.
Once you know what you're trying to do, your options are reasonably straightforward.
Although it's a longer game, the fact everybody stays involved throughout gives it appeal. (And you can always agree to play less rounds than the rulebook specifies.)