Space merchants

The Merchant of Venus board

Noticing that I didn’t play Merchant of Venus at all in 2021 made me eager to give it a spin. It didn’t take much to convince Nooa, and we played a game last Saturday.

Since we’re experts – whopping three plays for both of us – we played to 4000 credits. It took us maybe two hours? It’s hard to say, the setup took some time, and we had to take a break in the middle. Slightly awkwardly long, in any case, so the next time we play, we’ll be shooting for 3000 or so. Nooa made it first to 4000 credits; I was at about 3000, with a couple of hundred in my cargo holds.

Based on this play, I increasingly think Merchant of Venus is good, but not great. It’s too clunky; there’s too much chrome and clumsy maths. It’s fine as a two-player game, but I’m not sure I’d dare to play this with, say, four players that would require keeping an eye on and making sure everybody plays correctly.

Some of the rules are also primarily annoying. I get why it makes sense to restrict transactions to one buy and one sell when you land somewhere unless it’s a player-owned spaceport, in which case you get unlimited trading. Of course, players need some motivation to use the spaceports their opponents built. It’s still annoying to say, “sorry, just one buy and one sell this turn!”. Also, sometimes getting from place A to place B is plain hard, thanks to the vagaries of the roll and move.

Still, it does do something that nothing else in my collection (or in my knowledge) does. Duck Dealer is a similar concept, but the execution is very different. I’ll have to see if this is a keeper in my collection or not in the long run – I feel this just isn’t going to get the plays it needs to stick around.

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