The Patrician has to be the Europe-wide surprise hit of 1993. This game has dominated the German charts for longer than anyone can remember. The Patrician is set at a time of great change in Europe. The Renaissance is on its way, and all over this great continent traders are calling for some kind of agreement – a union almost – to ensure the safety and livelihood of those who carry cargo from port to port. It’s at times such as this that great ideas are born, and in this period the Hanseatic league was created. In essence it worked as the predecessor to the European community. Mayors from the main towns would oversee the running of their ports and would answer in turn to the Alderman of the league, otherwise known as The Patrician. Starting the game with a single boat and 200 Thaler to your name, you have to complete a number of tasks. Firstly, you have to become incredibly wealthy through shrewd and cunning dealing. Secondly, you need to get married. Thirdly, you must rise in public opinion to the point where you are elected Mayor of your home town. Finally you must rise even further and become The Patrician him/herself. And once you’ve reached the top, you’ll probably find that it isn’t too easy to stay there. The first thing you’ll need to come to grips with, however, is money. Thaler, the currency of the league, isn’t the easiest thing to get your hands on. The safest way to get it is to trade, and with around 40 commodities to barter with, some solid logic is needed. The position of the port and the time of year both play strong parts in the pricing of goods. Corn in summertime is plentiful in most ports, and therefore very cheap indeed. So, buying a large amount and then waiting until winter, when supplies are low, will guarantee you a good return on your investment. People will always pay high prices for spices and pepper, so when the spice ship arrives, you’d better get down to its port of call as quick as you can. Get there first and you’re guaranteed a small fortune. It’s not all thinking, you know. Pirates were rife at the time, and that’s not too surprising when you consider how much cargo was passing between the towns. As a result, one of the first things you’ll need to spend money on are some decent armor for your ship. After all, you never know when a pirate is likely to strike, but when they do, it’s bloody. What you have is a full arcade sequence, controlled by the mouse, in which you have to load, aim and fire cannons at the approaching ship before they can do the same to you. Thankfully it doesn’t happen too often. You can switch off the arcade sequences and leave the end result for the computer to work out, but it can be a nice break from all that thinking! The Patrician will absorb your attention until the wee small hours as you become engrossed in the intricacies of the game’s wheeling and dealing and you will find keeping your political head above water almost as difficult as keeping dry in Mississippi. Playing it will keep even the most die-hard platform freaks among us glued to their machine, yelling out loudly with frustration at the high price of corn in medieval Hamburg!

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