Ring Side Report- Board Game Review of Battle Merchants

Game– Battle Merchants

Producer– Minion Games

Price– $50 here http://www.amazon.com/Battle-Merchants-SW-MINT-New/dp/B00LXFF56K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412045384&sr=8-1&keywords=battle+merchants

Set-up/Play/Clean-Up– ~2.5 hours

Players– 2 to 4

TL; DR– You will never have so much fun fostering warfare! 95%

 

Basics– Let’s make some money!  In Battle Merchants, you play the role of a weapon supplies for different fantasy races during a time of great war.  This game is played across four seasons.  In each season, players take turns doing one action until three new battles happen and the war begins.  Each turn you can do one of four things: get weapon skill cards, build weapons, sell a weapon, or draw a kingdom card.  By getting different weapon skill cards for each of the four weapons, your skill building each weapon type increases.  This is only important for when fights occur at the end of a season.  Building weapons allows you to build up to three weapons to sell.  Selling weapons allows you to sell weapons to a spot on the board that wants a weapon you have for money.  Each race at war is fighting on two fronts, and these fronts will require one of the four weapons for each spot on their side of the conflict.  The factions won’t buy a weapon they don’t want, so you have to diversify enough to be able to sell all the weapon types.  When you sell to a side of a conflict you get money and a token for that race.  The more tokens you have for a race, the more money you get each time you sell to them in the future.  When both sides of a battle have weapons, then a battle token is moved to the center of the board, and the next battle token is revealed allowing more weapons to be sold to the sides of that conflict.  If a conflict doesn’t have a battle token as it was moved in a previous season, then you can still sell to that battle again.  Kingdome cards give the player extra abilities and powers that provide new strategies for winning the game.  When three battle markers are moved to the center for that season, then each player get one round before the time of war.  At each battle with weapons on each side during the time of war, the weapon skill of each player’s weapon is compared and the higher skill says while the winner collects the defeated weapon as a marker of conquest and extra points at the end of the game.  Weapons that are still on the board at the end of the time of war need to be maintained, so the player who made those weapons gets extra money.  After four seasons and the times of war associated with them, just like life, the player with the most money wins.

 

Mechanics– This is a deceptively simple game that has lots of deep strategy.  On a turn, you can only do one action, so the game moves at a good clip while still having to make important decisions.  Everybody starts out on equal footing, so you have to think fast and figure out how best to procedure.  My only problem with this game is a run away victor problem.  As winners get both points at the end of the game for most defeated weapons and extra points/money for having weapons on the board at turn end, a player who wins the first battle of the game can develop an unopposed lead pretty quickly. 4.5/5

 

Theme– You do feel like a weapons dealer in a fantasy war.  The boards are cartoony enough to make it light hearted, but there is the undercurrent of making money off bloodshed.  In fact, a strategy you can take is to sell weapons to BOTH sides at one battle.  You get a win money for weapons attendance at a fight, the sale of both weapons, and defeated weapons for points.  That right there nails the theme of being a cold hearted weapons dealer. 5/5

 

Instructions– The instructions are not bad but are something you have to read very carefully to really get all the small details.  It’s a half sheet style of rules folded to make several pages in the rulebook.  The rules do teach the game well, but there are a number of fiddly rules that can really change the game.  These rules could use a bit more emphasis.  Also, some rules are presented in examples, and that would be great, but the rules are not presented before or outside the example.  That’s a pet peeve that makes the game somewhat hard to completely understand your first time through.  However, after that initial first game, you will be playing this game like a champ. 4.5/5

 

Execution-I like what comes in this box.  It’s got great cards with some fun, cartoony art.  The boards are all great cardboard.  The tokens are nice chunky cardboard.  My one small problem with this game is the weapon skill cards.  It took me ten minutes to find what the rules meant by the different colored backs.  During game set-up, you separate the spring/summer weapons cards from fall/winter cards.  What that means is some of the weapon skill cards will have colored spring/summer sections of the center season wheel, while the fall/winter will be light brown and the reverse will be true for the fall/winter cards.  It’s not a major problem by any means, but I hope it helps you understand what that means when you play! 5/5

 

Summary– This is a great game.  The theme might not be for everybody as you do play a conniving war profiteer in a fantasy setting.  However, I enjoyed being the bad guy.  The mechanics are fun; even they are not completely balanced.  I liked the art and the physical build of the game.  Overall, this is a great game that I wish I could play with more players. 95%

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