From Daily Magic Games
A review by Mawihtec
You have started out life learning a merchants trade. Now the chance has presented itself for you to claim the crown of the wealthiest merchant prince or princess in all of Araby. Establish an entourage or allies to assist you. Summon Djinn, Negotiate shrewdly and make clever investments in caravans. Watch out for the bandits though by trading and dealing with the other merchants. Be warned they may deal with you now but they are after the crown as well. Be ready for those deals to turn sour as well.
Inside the clever box (more on that soon). You will find,
- 5 Merchant cards (1 per player),
- 16 Caravan Cards,
- 19 Virtue Cards,
- 14 Djinn Cards,
- 27 Ally Cards,
- 5 Player Tents (1 per player),
- 25 Wooden Camels (5 per player),
- 70 Coin Tokens in 1,5,10 values.
You need to know from the outset that Merchants of Araby is a full on trade and dealing game. It is possible to play a full game without any trades or deals with other players. But you will only do it once though. As you will miss out on everything that makes this game what it is. So make sure you have your dealers hat on and get ready to trade.
You start by laying out the game board. Oh you noticed that I did not mention the board in the contents list. There is a very good reason for that. The game board is in fact the lid of the box. A magnetised fold out game board that double as the game board is a nice way of stopping the game needing a bigger box than necessary. There are spaces for caravans money drafting area and deck/discard spaces. Your tent is a self assembly affair to hide your money in. Everything else is public knowledge. You also receive a random Merchant. All the Merchant cards have a male and female side and other than the gender they are the same. The Djinns, Allies and Virtue cards are shuffled and dealt out 5 per player.
To play Merchants of Araby you will be “buying” allies and merchants to provide you with resources needed to locate your Camels onto the caravan cards trying to make the most profit possible. You will also have access to single use cards, Djinns and Virtues. Your initial Merchant Persona card is a free cost card which will provide you with one resource. Other cards will require you to pay money and/or resources to place use them. If however you do not have the correct resources available you can discard cards from your hand that match the required resource. You will frequently encounter a situation where you cannot create the resources or money to take an action. This is when trading comes into its own.
Trading in Merchants of Araby is totally free-form. There are almost no restrictions. In fact the only restriction is that you cannot trade for a resource to allow you to place a camel. Any deal you make to trade in that turn must happen straight away. Future promise deals are allowed as well. You need to be careful though as a promise of something later on cannot be enforced. So you are totally reliant on “the word is as good as the bond” mentality. If the other player decides to not fill their side of the bargain tough. That is the risk of trading.
The best way to earn money in Merchants of Araby is by sending out caravans. Unfortunately Bandits know this and target the caravans. Each turn you resolve a caravan card. Daily Magic have tried to cleverly implement a straggler gets targeted style mechanic. Any Camels that do not form a complete line (regardless of colour) are immediately discarded. Then the Bandit attacks this is done by each of the camel spaces having a number. If the bandit number matches the number of a camel, that camel is discarded. The remaining camels can then receive payouts based on risk level. Low risk payout less but are less likely to get hit by Bandits and conversely the higher risk returns face a greater chance of being targeted. Once the last caravan has been drawn. Money is counted and highest total wins.
So how does all this come together? That is a tricky question to answer. I say this because without the trading there is nothing much to the game and I would be saying “nope, don’t bother” However if you are with a group that are up for all the negotiating and deal making. You will find a fair bit of fun. Word of warning King making is possible in Merchants of Araby. In a three player game with my wife and son, My son had the hump with me because I told him off in the morning. He sat there and blatantly said “I will not do any deals with you daddy. Because I want mummy to win” and he kept to his word even making deals with her that were super generous. Needless to say my wife found this hysterical. Yes in case you were wondering she did win. But that aside there is some nice engine building and I can see it being fun in the right group.
- Nice concept.
- Interesting artwork.
- Not too long.
- Very lightweight.
- Good use of trading mechanic.
- Better at 5 player.
- Not a game if you don’t like trading games.
- King making possible.
- Not much variety to the actions.
- Not as much fun as 2 player.
I received a copy of “Merchants of Araby” through BGE to review. This game has now been forwarded onto another reviewer. I have tried not to let this influence my review.