From Queen games
A review by Mawihtec
King Arthur is old, oh so old. His time is drawing to a close. It is now time for a successor to be found. Which of the knights of the Round Table will be chosen? Are you the most worthy? He has tasked Merlin, the great wizard with the job of finding his heir. Merlin in turn has chosen the Knights he believes the most worthy. You are one of those chosen. Will you rise to greatness and lead the Kingdom onwards to the future? Fulfil missions, gain influence, build manors and defeat traitors. It is all in your hands now.
On first look at the box, you are greeted by some rather nice artwork. All of it promising regal shenanigans. Eagerly opening the box you will find yourself smiling at the amount of “stuff” inside,
- 1 Game Board,
- 24 Terrain Tiles,
- 2 Terrain frames,
- 4 Starting tiles,
- 55 Mission Cards,
- 36 Shields (6 per province),
- 36 Flags (6 per province),
- 36 Construction Materials (wooden cubes, 6 per province,
- 24 Traitors,
- 11 Apples,
- 1 Holy Grail,
- 1 Excalibur,
- 12 Merlin’s Staffs,
- 28 Manors,
- 16 Henchmen with Stickers (wooden cylinders)
- 12 Players Dice,
- 4 Merlin Dice,
- 28 Influence Counters,
- 4 Scoring Markers,
- 4 Knight Figures (wooden Meeples),
- 1 Merlin Figure,
- 1 Round Marker,
- 4 Castle Boards,
- 4 Favor Boards (Expansion),
- 16 Seals (Expansion),
- 4 100-point Markers,
- Rules Booklet.
When you first open the board of Merlin, your initial reaction will be one of “Oh my eyes”. This is one busy busy board. Imagine Ikea during a 50% off Kallax sale. Yep that busy. Surprisingly though This quickly subsides as you follow the straightforward set-up guide. And to be honest just by looking at the board all the myriad of tokens and cubes have logical homes that are straightforward to find. The players boards again are simple to set up and the iconography is nicely laid out. In fact once everything is on the boards and set up it is all a logical layout.
The Icons used for the central action wheel (Rondel) are reasonably clear and straightforward. So much so that they are set out as groups in the rules booklet. After reading the rule book once through without the board set up next to me I already had a good handle on the play of the game and through the first play only needed to refer to rules to check on scoring at round ends. Everything is very easy and clear to understand it all quickly flows well.
Merlin is played over a series of rounds. Each round begins with the players rolling three dice for themselves and one extra dice for Merlin himself. Starting with the first player you will select a die from the four you have rolled. The white Merlin die allows you to move the Merlin figure around the action track either clockwise or anticlockwise, the number of spaces on the die. You will then take the action for that space. All players have their own Merlin die so expect a lot of Merlin movement.
If however you select your own colour die you will be moving your Knight Meeple in a clockwise only direction and using that space action. Initially this feels very restrictive until you remember you have three dice to plan with. There are also ways to mitigate “bad rolls” you can collect apples that allow you to change a die roll. Flags you can collect which allow you to mirror your position (I.e. jump to the other side), reverse your direction and change the number rolled. All this goes a very long way towards cancelling out the bad luck of rolling with die. Yes it is still possible to get stuffed badly but highly unlikely if you plan accordingly.
So your moving nicely around the Round Table. What do you do with the actions then. Well on a basic level you will be scoring VP (Victory Points) for Flags, Construction Material and Shields, Some spaces will allow you to collect more items based on where you have gained some influence by dispatching henchmen (another space). There will also be the opportunity to build Manors on a side board randomly constructed which will score you points based on the size of the area. Scoring will take place at the end of the 2nd 4th and 6th (last) round. This scoring focuses on the size of territory you possess with Manors, The amount of influence you have in each Province and if you have been stuck with any traitors (you get rid of traitors by spending shields). There is very little chance to “mess” with other players except with the movement of the Merlin figure, increasing influence in the various regions (provinces) or by building Manors in the same territory as another player. This might sound a lot like multiplayer solitaire and in some ways it is. But at the same time it is not. Just those little bits of interaction make a huge difference
Lady of the Lake.
Overall I like Merlin. It is a nice game with some good mechanisms in place. Despite the initial look of it all and the associated Name of Stefan Feld (oracle of Delphi, Trajan, Macao, castles of Burgundy). Merlin plays quite light. Having played with both two and four players The game in my opinion is much more suited to the higher player counts.
If only because there is much more competition for the Manor territory scoring and the Province influence scoring. In the two player it is quite possible to get a bit of “runaway leader” happening although if you play carefully you should not experience this too much. I can definitely recommend this for playing by game groups and at conventions. In families with older children it will work well but younger children will find the various dice options and planning a bit much. As for me personally I will happily play if someone suggests it but thinking about my usual playing groups I don’t think it is one I will be putting on my shelf anytime soon.
- Very busy board.
- Possibly a little light for some.
- Dice options could induce AP in others.
I was provided a copy of “MERLIN” solely for review through the Board Game Exposure group. This game has now been forwarded on to another member of BGE for review. this does not affect my review or my final thoughts on the game.