Between my vacation and my recent near-death experience, I’d been out of the gaming swing for a bit. I probably could have dragged myself out last Tuesday or Sunday, but gaming usually has you in close proximity to others. Being a sniffling, coughing ball of yuck isn’t anybody’s idea of a good companion. Not so much that you might get them sick, but that you might get something nasty on their game components. Illness is one thing. Messing up their game is something else entirely. But by this point I’ve recovered enough to safely be around cardboard, so it was off to the Friendly Local Game Store to get my groove back.
Merchant of Venus — We only managed to get this one game in tonight, and not even fully at that; some games just aren’t meant for a few hours after work. But I definitely enjoyed this one enough to want to give it a full go someday when we have more time. This is actually Fantasy Flight Games’ reprint of the classic game, but, as if usual with FFG, they went the extra mile and included not only the original version of the game, but a brand new version. What’s more, each version includes dozens of counters and tokens that aren’t even used in the other version. It’s literally two games in one, but it was the classic version we tried this evening. As the title implies, the players are merchants plying their trade across the galaxy, first by making contact with new alien races, then by figuring out how they can make a quick buck off of them by selling them furniture and rock videos. Along the way there are hazards to avoid, upgrades to apply to your ship, mysteries to uncover, and a race to be the first player to accumulate a set number of credits.
There’s a neat twist to the movement where you roll a number of dice to see how many spaces you can move. But you also set aside one as your navigational die, and this determines which direction you go at certain crossroads. Problem is, if you’re going through more than one of these, that die you set aside might not get you exactly where you want to go. So zipping around the spaceways isn’t always a case of simply pointing your ship at the planet you want to reach and saying, “Go.” It really makes you think about making each trip as beneficial as possible, because you’re never sure if you’re going to be able to make it back that way again in a number of turns to make it worth the trip.
There were three new players and one who’d played before, although we were all still finding our way around the various strategies. Upgrading your ship early on seemed a good idea, letting it roll more dice to move, increasing its hold space, or upping its defenses against navigational hazards. Investing in factories also proved popular, as this netted you a 50% commission on anything bought from that factory later on. But we missed the boat on building spaceports; these make it easier to dock with the various planets and conduct business, but get you 10% of all sales made, as well as counting towards your overall wealth. We latched onto this too late to make much of a difference, but now we really want to play a game with this in mind.
I ended up third, although I did have a decent ship and some good trade routes going. I just never managed to maximize my trips. But I also managed not to cough phlegm all over my friend’s game. In my book, that makes me a winner.