TableTopTakes: Merchants Cove
A new game to review. This one has just been coming in recently from Kickstarter and is on Final Frontier Games website. Merchants Cove is an asymmetrical euro game. That means that everyone is doing something that is fairly mechanical, but what everyone is doing in the game is very different from the other people. But what does that mean on the table?
Merchants Cove Overview
In Merchants Cove, each player is playing as a different merchant on the cove. You have the alchemist, pirate, blacksmith, and chronomancer in the main box. But the expansions add in an oracle, dragon rancher, and innkeeper that can be played with as well. Each of these characters is creating their own version of large and small items to sell. Each character is creating their own goods on their own boards.
There is a main board where the players do interact slightly. Mainly they interact by adding in adventurers, think merchants, to various boats, and as boats come in, that determines what goods are going to be bought at what prices. So you can keep the prices lower by spreading out where the merchants come in at or push them higher by putting a lot of the various types onto a few boats.
In the end, the person with the most points is the winner. You get points by selling your goods as well as sponsorships. But you can also push your luck to do more and better things in the game, but you get corruption which is negative points in the end.
What I Don’t Like
This isn’t really a negative, more just a statement of fact, Merchants Cove is not the easiest game to teach. The different factions all do things differently. So while I can teach you the main board, everyone needs to learn their own character. Or I need to spend time teaching each person their own character. So that does take longer than in a lot of games.
Also, I liked this game at two and at three. However, playing with three players, especially new players to the game as we all were, that takes a chunk of time. Even with players who know the game better, for a game without a ton of story or interaction, the game will last a little while. You aren’t so much engaged on your opponents turn.
What I Like
I like asymmetric games. I always find them interesting because everyone is doing their own thing. And they are really challenging to make. So while Merchants Cove might be simpler than say Root, it is easier to get to the table and extremely well balanced. And fairly often it’s what the different groups want to do that is so different. In this game it’s even how the players are doing the things. The Oracle is a roll and write, the Alchemist is basically playing Potion Explosion, the Blacksmith is manipulating dice, the Innkeeper is doing set collection. All of them are extremely different in really cool ways.
I also like that it’s a pretty simple game. Now, when I say it takes a bit to teach, that’s because everyone is doing something different. The game play for each character itself is pretty simple. You basically have six actions and two of those actions are ones that are common across everyone. So really, you have four actions that you need to learn for your character. That makes it way easier on a new player, going back to the example, something like Root.
The interaction that does happen on the main board is good as well. Sure, there isn’t a ton of it, but what there is works well. I like that I can strategize, even on a random draw where things go. Do I push people towards the black market and taking more corruption or do I try and make my small goods as valuable as possible. It is a small part of the game, but it is a major part of how you score.
Finally, let’s talk about that scoring. I really like how it works as well. It’s a multiplier system. The more merchants of a color coming in, that is multiplied by the points on the goods you’re selling of that color. So this ties directly into that interaction. You can set it up so that you have three three point small red items and five red merchants coming in, that’s 45 points. This game isn’t shy about giving you points and I like that. Or maybe you opponent has that, can you make it so that only two are coming in so they get only 18 points instead?
Merchants Cove Final Thoughts
This is a really fun game. I get why it won’t work for everyone. This is a lighter game and while there will be some variety in how you play each time and how even a character will play each time, might be a bit more limited. But for myself and my play group, I like it a lot. I think that the different characters are interesting and I’ve only seen half of them at this point. The two I played
I think for someone who wants a big looking game to play but maybe doesn’t play as big as it looks, Merchants Cove is going to be a great option. But for a heavy euro gamer, this might feel like the choices are a bit light in what you are doing. Still, the production value is amazing on the game and the play is a ton of fun, so one I definitely recommend.
My Grade: B+
Gamer Grade: C
Casual Grade B+
Is Merchants Cove a game that you want to try?