Published by: Daily Magic Games
# of Players: 2 to 4 (Kickstarter unlocked a 5th player)
Currently on Kickstarter till 9/13/2016: www.kickstarter.com/projects/dailymagicgames/merchants-of-araby
I did not play a finalized version of Merchants of Araby. Therefore I am unable to talk about the finalized component quality. The rule book that was provided gave me all the info I needed and had helpful illustrations. The card art is very appealing to the eyes and works well with the theme and gameplay. The one complaint I had about the PnP copy was the currency was in silver, gold, and red cubes and the silver and gold were impossible to tell apart. Currently on Kickstarter it shows that cardboard coins will be used and I think that will completely correct the issue I had. The wooden camels were provided and were of nice quality and worked great on the caravan cards. The components I see on what is promised through Kickstarter appear to be very good and will work great for the gameplay, which is where this game shines.
The goal in Merchants of Araby is to be the player with the most money at the end of the game. Each player will receive a starting merchant card that will be the first person in their entourage. Players will start with 5 cards in their hand and will draw 2 at the end of their turns. There are 4 of types of cards that will be in your hand. Merchant and Ally cards can be added to your entourage and provide bonuses or can be tasked for some type of effect like obtain a gem. Virtue cards are special one time abilities that can be played on your turn. Djinn are one time ability cards that can be played on your turn or another player's turn. On the back of each of these cards is important information that will be used to resolve a caravan, which we will explain a little later in the article.
Each player has 5 wooden camels that they can send on caravans. At the start of every turn besides the first round, the previous caravan card will be resolved. After that is done the player will choose a face down caravan card from the stacks and place it face up in front of them. The caravan will have a 3x3 grid with goods listed in each space. Players can spend goods to place a camel in that spot. During your turn you can place camels in your caravan or negotiate with players to gain permission to add camels to their caravans. A quick tip: You want to do your best to get all of your camels out each round. To receive goods, players will discard cards from their hand to reduce the cost of playing a card or task (turn sideways) a merchant that provides a good in their bottom action area. You can not discard a card to use as a good to place a camel. Tasking a card that produces a good can be used to place a camel or play a card from your hand. Once you have played and tasked all the cards you want, you will draw 2 cards from the 4 face up cards in the middle and refresh your entourage. I should note that you will refresh your entourage at the beginning of your turn and at the end of your turn. This happens because you can use your merchants and allies to help the other players and become key factors in negotiating. If you agree to negotiation terms, all terms during that player's turn must happen. Any terms that take place after the player's turn are up to the good will of the players.
I went into Merchants of Araby feeling unsure about this game. The theme is not something that grabs me. After playing the game the first time I immediately wanted to play again. Everyone at the table loved this game. I tired this game with gamers, spouses that usually do not play games and newer ones to the hobby. Each person loved the game. The game has some engine building, but where Merchants of Araby excels is the negotiation that takes place. Everyone is active during each players turn because they have goods and caravans to offer and hope to get a good deal for themselves out of it. You will see players beg for someone to place a camel in a certain spot in the caravan so that they can score their camels when it comes time to resolve that caravan. I have seen players make deals with each player offering that same good that they just made a deal with to the previous person. Names are called and trust is broken and then restored, but during all this, enjoyment and laughter is happening. Still not a big fan of the theme but the theme works great with the game. I still call this game Merchants of Arbys and hope someone does a spoof where the goods are various food on the Arbys menu. I would recommend this game to anyone. I am keeping the PnP copy in my collection and will only replace it with a finalized version that I will have to get for myself. Each time I played the game, someone from the table wanted to know where to buy the game. A wide age group and experience level will enjoy this. This has been one of the biggest surprises for me of 2016 so far.
+negotiating that takes place each turn
+enjoyed by a wide age range and experience level
+Very simple to teach and learn but can be complex in strategy
- Not a fan of the theme personally, but I may be in minority
- Some times it feels like there is too many options
- It is not out yet