From the publisher:
The players, as merchants in the time of the Hanseatic League try to carry salt from Lübeck to commercial ports and exchange them for needed products. The exchanged goods must either be brought back for domestic storage (on the storage card) or to trade offices in other harbors, in exchange for other needed products.
On the storage cards each Hansa merchant finds the products that he must in the course of the game, put in storage. Once a merchant fills his storage card, the game ends and the winner is determined.
During this time period, wares were transported in sailing ships, cogs or later holks. To reduce the risk of such a dangerous and uncertain journey, merchants formed so-called companies with one or several partners and thereby distributed valuable loads on several ships.
In this game each player shares a Hansa cog with his left and right-hand neighbors. And there are risks to the voyage on all sides. Whether it be the feared pirates, the Vitalian Brotherhood, as they were known, wreaking havoc, whether storms rage over the North and Baltic Seas, or a harbor is blocked, a thousand things can cause difficulties in the life of an honorable merchant...
- Die Hanse