The Patrician is set in medieval times, focusing on the trading efforts of the Hanseatic League. You (and up to 3 other players) struggle for money and respectability. You should build up sea routes between the 16 cities in the North and Baltic Sea, and your ultimate goal is to be governor of your hometown. For this you need a lot of money and high respectability. The game ends, when you are elected to Ältermann—the highest rank in this century.
You earn money by buying goods cheap and selling them for higher price. With the profits you can buy new ships (out of 4 different types) or stores.
There are also pirate battles. For these, you can buy weapons for your ships and go with ships from other traders to hunt the pirates.