Dale of Merchants Collection Review

Dale of Merchants Collection is a game by Sami Laakso, published by Snowdale Design. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will take on the role of animalfolk merchants as they attempt to complete their merchant’s stall. Players will need to learn new techniques, trade goods and manage their stock if they hope to be the first to finish their stall, thus becoming the greatest merchant of all time. In the end, the player that is able to fill their stall first will be declared the winner.

To begin, players choose a number of animalfolk deck equal to the number of players plus one. Players may then decide to use the optional trap cards and/or character cards. For more information on how to include these during setup, please check the rulebook. Players will then create the bank and supply by placing gold and tokens that the chosen animalfolk decks require. Each player will create their starting deck by taking one card from each of the animalfolk decks that are valued at 1. They will then add a number of junk cards to their decks until they each have 10 cards. Each player will then shuffle their deck. Any of the unused value 1 animalfolk cars are returned to the box, not to be used. The remaining 2-5 value cards are shuffled together to form the market deck, which is placed face down in the middle of the play area. The market board is then placed next to the market deck. The top 5 cards are drawn and placed face up one by one on the board starting with the last space on the right of the board and then moving toward the left. This creates the market. The remaining junk cards are placed face up near the board to create the junk pile. Each player will now draw 5 cards from their deck to create their starting hand. The first player is chosen and play now begins.

The game is played in a series of turns, with each player’s turn consisting of 2 phases; the Action phase and the Cleanup phase. The first phase is the Action phase. In this phase, the player is allowed to perform one of four actions. Those actions are a market action, a technique action, a stall action or an inventory action. The market action allows the player to buy a card from the market by paying it’s price using the cards from their hand and/or any acquired gold. Each card has a cost that is equal to it’s value plus any added cost printed on the market board above the card slot. Once a card is purchased, it is placed in the player’s hand and the cards used to purchase it are placed on the player’s discard pile.

The next action is the technique action. For this action, the player is able to play a technique card from their hand by simply showing the card and then performing it’s effect. The technique card will then stay in front of the player in their schedule, until they are fully resolved. Once this happens, the card is then placed in the player’s discard pile. If the clock is being used, then the clock’s hand is advanced one space clockwise. If the technique card has any bonus actions, these are performed at this time. These bonus actions can be any of the four usual actions.

Next there is the stall action, this action allows the player to build a stack of cards in their stall. Each player’s stall has room for 8 stacks of cards with ascending total values. This means that each stack must be 1 number higher than the one to it’s left. So for instance, the first stall must be exactly 1 card. The next stall must be 2 and so on. To build a stack, the player chooses a number of animalfolk cards from a single set in their hand whose values add up to the required amount. These cards are then placed in front of the player in their stall. Only cards of the same type may be placed in each slot. This means that you can’t use 2 different types of animalfolk cards for a specific stall.

The final action is the inventory action. For this action, the player may discard any number of cards from their hand, including 0. This will make it possible for the player to draw more cards during the next phase.

Speaking of the next phase, that would be the Cleanup phase. This phase consists of 2 steps. The first step is for the player to draw cards from their deck one by one until they’ve reached their hand size. If a player has more cards than their hand size, normally 5, then they do not draw any extra cards nor do they discard the extras. Once a player’s deck runs out, they will shuffle their discard pile to form a new deck. If both a player’s deck and their discard pile run out at the same time, then they will simply draw junk cards from the junk pile to fill their hand back up to their hand size. Once this has been completed, they will move on to the next step which is to move the cards in the market to the rightmost empty slot one by one, starting from the right. The player will then draw a new card from the market deck for each empty slot, filling it with the drawn card. If the market deck runs out of cards, then the market discard pile is shuffled to form a new market deck. If both the market deck and discard pile run out at the same time, then the market will only be filled with whatever cards are available. Once this has been completed, play passes to the next player in turn order.

The game continues until one of the players builds their 8th stack in their merchant stall. At this time, the game end immediately and that player is the winner. It should be noted that some character card’s effects may make a player ineligible to win, even after building their 8th stack. In this case, if the player is able to get rid of the condition preventing them from winning, then they will immediately win the game.

COMPONENTS
This game comes in a very large box that has lots of room to add all of the different expansions and versions of the game along with promos. It’s also got plenty of room for future expansions. The insert holds lots of stuff and has places for each and every piece. This particular collection comes with 8 different animalfolk decks and a large stack of additional cards. Each animalfolk deck has 15 cards in total. The other cards include junk cards, deck selection cards, trap cards and specialty cards. There are also some extra large cards that include character cards and specialty cards. The artwork on all of these cards is quite nice and each card has a linen finish to it. The artwork has the look and feel of a painting. Each design and animal on the card is presented in a very warm way with a touch of country charm. If you’ve ever read Wind in the Willows or saw a movie based on it, then you’d probably get that same vibe here. The game also comes with several tokens and coins designed in thick cardboard with the same linen like finish. Also in cardboard there is a large cardboard clock that is used by the mongooses and bats. The game also comes with a couple of green dice, the double sided market board and some card dividers for keeping things sorted out inside the box. The dice are engraved wood and are in 2 shades of green, a light colored die and a dark colored one. The market board isn’t all that large and has a single fold right in the middle of it. On one side is a normal looking market and on the other is more of a night time feel. The card dividers are just like the cards and have a linen finish like the cards. Honestly it’s hard to find anything that looks bad with this game. Each piece is well designed and is very high quality. The artwork looks amazing and the theme really comes through in each piece. Needless to say, this is one that looks and feels great. I love it.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
This games comes with a really well designed rulebook, as well as an extra animalfolk compendium. Both are really well designed on thick heavy shiny cardstock. The rulebook contains instructions on each of the entries into the Dale of Merchants series, including Dale of Merchants 1, 2 and even the unreleased third version, as well as the Systematic Eurasian Beavers mini expansion. Each card type is explained in thorough detail as is each piece used in the game. New rules exclusive to this collection are highlighted in green boxes with green text throughout the book. Everything from setting up the game to step by step instructions on playing it are all explained in great detail. The rules also include a section for playing a 4 player game where players are on teams. It also explains how to use the optional trap cards and/or the character cards. The book also includes a section on keywords used in the game. There are also plenty of pictures and examples throughout the book to help you really get a feel for the game. As for the animalfolk compendium. This book is basically just 2 pages front and back that explain each of the different animalfolk decks as well as explaining keywords and the clock. This is really a nice player aid that is quite useful when playing the game. Unfortunately there are no pictures in this little book, but that’s ok. It’s not like it really needs any anyway. Both books are very easy to read through and understand the instructions and basics of gameplay. Overall I’m quite pleased with both and think that they both look very nice.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
If you’ve read either of my reviews on the first or second Dale of Merchants games, then you’d know that I found them to both be quite refreshing and a very interesting take on the genre of deck building. This collection simply adds more content and some new keywords and animalfolk to use in your game. It does introduce new concepts of trap cards, character cards and even the clock, which introduces a day and night mechanic. The main concepts of the game where players need to build their stalls and be the first to finish all 8, is still present. I really like how that each deck gives the game a different feel. It’s very interesting to see how the cards play off of each other and how that you really have to consider each play of the cards. I like that some decks will have a lot of player interaction, such as the Gulls and the Tasmanian Devils, while others like the Tuataras simply rely on what you can do yourself. I also like the interaction with the clock used by the Mongooses and the Bats. I like that during certain times you’re able to do more things, that time being daytime for the Mongooses and night time for the Bats. I also really like the optional character cards which can be used to more specialize your play style. Of course I haven’t quite worked my way up to using the ones with the more complex abilities yet. I’m still messing around with the green and yellow ones so far. Needless to say, there’s a whole lot to like about this collection, especially if you have or at least have played either of the first 2 Dale of Merchants game. This is one that fans of deck building games that are looking for a new type of challenge will really enjoy. I like the additional new elements that this brings to the table and like that it can be added to either or both of the core games. This is one that has a very unique appeal to it that I quite like. It’s very refreshing and a lot of fun. I recommend this one.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Dale of Merchants Collection is a deck building game that adds to the series of Dale of Merchants games. The game isn’t a very long one. Most game sessions last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour based on the number of players. The cards and other components look really great. The artwork is very unique and captures this magical world of animalfolk quite nicely. The rulebook and compendium are both well written and do a great job of covering all the rules and giving the players everything that they need to choose decks that suit their play styles. The game itself builds onto the rules and mechanics of the first two games in the series. It adds several more decks to play with and introduces several new mechanics and ways to play. This makes the game highy replayable and a lot of fun. Fans of deck building games, especially the first 2 games in the Dale of Merchants series, will enjoy this one a lot. This is one that players can grow into with the use of character cards that increase in difficulty. Overall this is a really good game that I would recommend. Deck Building games have always been my favorite and this is one that does marvelous things with the mechanic. I completely approve.
8 out of 10

 

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Snowdale Design at their site.

http://snowdaledesign.fi/boardgames/

 

About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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