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merchant of venus temp

There are so many good games, reviewing just one a week, much less playing only one a week can be a little difficult. However I’ve now played 4 games of Merchant of Venus and it is quite awesome. There are SO many pieces that it looks way more daunting than it actually is. At it’s heart it’s a resource trading game. There are 14 races, and each race sells one “good”. These goods can be delivered to 3-5 other races for various profits. The catch is the location of each race on the map is not only random, but initially secret. The map has a variety of hazard, and navigational problems to trip players up as well.

Setup takes about 10-15 minutes, as does putting it away, but judicious uses of baggies, can keep it closer to 10. Then there is about 15 minutes of explaining how to play to anyone who hasn’t played before. The really hard concept to grasp is the Navigation Gates… These are generally 3-way intersections with arrows pointing out of each intersection. Each turn after you roll your speed dice (generally 3d6) you pick one die to be your Navigation Die… when you hit a nav-gate you have to follow the direction that matches your Nav-Die. Doesn’t sound so bad, except that most of the places w/ nav-gates have a bunch in a row, or worse, the way you want to go you need a “2” on one of your dice and you roll every number but.

There is a LOT of luck, but it’s generally fairly well spread out. The last game we play I would have won if I had rolled 8+ on my speed roll. I failed (got a 6 I think) and wasn’t able to make it to the station where I could sell enough goods to win; on Billy’s turn he needed to roll a 6 on one of his dice to fly through the appropriate gate and win, and he got it. The third player was also nigh on a turn from winning.

There is also the “bonus cup” or in my case, bag. This has passengers, which give you a nice payout if you take them to their destination, but don’t cost anything but cargo space to pick up (and also don’t start on the board at all) and Demand Tokens which ups the value of certain goods at various destinations. Each time you sell a good you put it in the bag and draw a new token from it. If you could take 3 glorious junk to a planet that has three +c60 demand tokens on it, you’d make an extra c360 (each time you fill demand, one of the demand tokens also goes back in the bag).

The game isn’t cheap, but it’s well worth the price, even if you never play the Fantasy Flight version that has a whole mess of extra parts.

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