Along the frontier are risks and rewards for not only the powerful empires who explore and expand, but also the entrepreneur. In Merchants of the Federation, players take control of the businesses on the frontier who work to develop their enterprise and profit margins. They must decide where to build and invest, and how to profit from their ventures. Rewards come with great risks as fortunes are made and lost along the Federation border.
Each player manages a Federation company in the Star Fleet Universe in Y102 immediately following the border declaration by the Federation Council. The map represents the region between the Federation Starbase and the Klingon border. At the start of the game the locations and resources of the map are unknown and must be surveyed before they can be exploited and colonized.
The goal is to grow these companies by selling newly found resources, establishing colonies, and managing production on distant worlds. During the course of the game tension with the Klingon Empire increases, and players must learn to manage risk for their companies under the cloud of looming conflict between the two juggernauts. As war produces danger, it also presents opportunity.
Companies have starships which are used to explore and reveal the resources of the board, and players need to determine where the money from the frontier is best made. As the board develops players will build facilities to produce additional resources for sale in the constantly fluctuating market, to fulfill contracts available from the Federation, or plant new Federation colonies.
In the current playtest format the game contains a map, resource market, tension track, a variety of starships (Standard Freighter, Large Freighter, Heavy Freighter, Prime Trader, Priority Transport), an encounter deck (for ships exploring the furthest reaches of the border), a Federation Contract Deck (which controls market changes and available Federation work), and a number of resource cubes.