Dale of Merchants 2 is a stand-alone expansion to the popular game Dale of Merchants. It is currently on Kickstarter with about one week left in the campaign. The game is designed for 2 – 4 players, ages 10 and up. It takes about 20 minutes to play and costs $27 for just Dale of Merchants 2 or you can go for the Catch-Up Pledge and get games 1 and 2 for $47 total. The game is a deckbuilder in which players take on the role of Animalfolk Merchants trying to build Merchant Stalls and becoming the city’s new Trade Master.
In the original game there were six decks of Animalfolk – Snappy Scarlet Macaws, Dealing Giant Pandas, Thieving Northern Raccoons, Hoarding Flying Squirrels, Lucky Ocelots, and Adapting Veiled Chameleons. The expansion has added the following seven Animalfolk decks – Experimenting Platypuses, Diligent Pale-Throated Sloths, Intimidating Dwarf Crocodiles, Friendly Fennec Foxes, Restless Marbled Polecats, Observant Snowy Owls, and Planning Eurasian Beavers. If enough money is raised, an eighth deck (Connected Emperor Penguins) will be added. Each Animalfolk has a unique deck of cards that reflect their personality a bit. For example, the crocodiles hinder their competitors a bit, and the beavers are careful planners.
1. Choose as many Animalfolk Decks as players, plus one deck and return the remaining decks to the box.
2. Build each player’s deck by giving them each a Value One card from each of the chosen Animalfolk Decks and enough Junk Cards until their starting deck has 10 cards total. (In a two player game, each player would have three unique Animalfolk Cards and seven Junk Cards.) 3. After building each player’s deck, put the remaining Junk Cards near the playing area to form the Junk Pile and the remaining Value One Animalfolk Cards back in the box.
4. Shuffle the remaining Animalfolk Cards. This becomes the Market Deck.
5. Place the Market Board next to the Market Deck and deal five cards from the Market Deck onto the Market Board to form the Market. (You will notice that going from right to left, each card in the Market costs one more to buy than the previous one.)
6. Each player draws five cards from their deck to form their starting hand, and the player who woke up earliest is granted first player.
Game play is divided into two phases: Action and Clean-Up.
The Action Phase allows you to perform one of the following four actions:
1. Market Action – Purchase a card from the Market using the value of the cards in your hand as currency.
2. Technique Action – Play a Technique Card by revealing an Animalfolk Card and performing the action on it. If the card has a plus sign on it, you may take another action.
3. Stall Action – Choose any number of cards from one Animalfolk set (only Beavers or only Foxes for example) and place them in front of you in your Merchant Stall. Your Merchant Stall will have eight stacks of cards with ascending value, must be built in order, and the value of each stall must be exact. (On one turn, you could build Stall One with Beavers and on another turn you could build Stall Two with Foxes).
4. Inventory Action – Discard as many cards from your hand as you wish.
The Clean-Up Phase happens after the core action and possible bonus actions.
1. Fill your hand back to five cards by drawing cards from your deck. If your deck is out of cards, shuffle your discard pile and re-form your deck. If you still do not have enough cards to have five cards in your hand, draw the appropriate number of Junk Cards from the Junk Pile.
2. Fill the empty Market slots by first shifting all cards right to the next empty slot (if possible) and drawing new cards to fill the empty slots until there are five cards in the Market.
The winner of the game is the player who builds their eighth Merchant Stall.
The artwork in the game is the first thing that will catch your eye and draw you to the game. With the mixture of colors and cute animals, it is going to attract both children and adults alike. I personally liked the Foxes the most as I tend to a little underhandedness. With the Foxes, you give the impression that you are helping others (which you are), but you are actually helping yourself more. My wife leaned more towards the Platypuses, because it was easier to build your Merchant Stall.
When it comes to deck building games, all new games will always be compared to Dominion, fair or not. It’s an unpopular opinion, but I’m not a fan of Dominion. The theme feels pasted on and there are just too many expansions. Dale of Merchants 1 and 2 scratches the same game mechanic itch with a better theme and more replay value. In the first game, you get six decks, and in the expansion, you get another seven (potentially) eight decks. In a two-player game, that means you’ll only use three of the fourteen decks. This means the next game you have eleven different ones to choose from or you can use one from the first time you play and two different ones. Either way you’re going to get a completely different game because Animalfolk Decks will interact with each other differently and give you a unique feel. You can go for a random amalgamation by blindly picking decks, or you can specifically pick and choose your decks. Why would you specifically choose? Well, some of the Animalfolk Decks are a little more nasty towards your neighbor, so if you are playing with a child or someone who doesn’t like direct conflict, you might want to pick some of the nicer Animalfolk.
So whether you are looking to try your first deck-building game or looking to replace that copy of Dominion that you can never convince people to play, in Dale of Merchants 2 you will find a game that is a menagerie of fun! The game is currently funded on Kickstarter, so all that can happen now is additional funding to make the game better by unlocking those adorable Connected Emperor Penguins.
Copyright 2016 Stuart Dunn