(ɹnʎʞ)
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Hello traders, merchants and pirates,


my collection is missing a "pick up and deliver" type of game in which the players take on the role as traders/merchants/pirates in a sandbox(-ish) enviroment.

So far, Merchant of Venus (second edition) looks nice to me. I have not played the first edition.

Other games I am considering (with no table experience):

Merchants & Marauders
Firefly: The Game
Xia: Legends of a Drift System


My personal preferences in games are:

Solid and streamlined gameplay
Theme and atmosphere
Rules reflecting the theme
Replay value
Easy to learn, but hard to master
Accessibility + clearness (rulebook, iconography, player aid)
Good production quality of components
No player elemination
The game works equally well with any supported number of players

A great bonus goes to games being enjoyable with 2 players. The option to play the game solo is another bonus.


I am a bit surprised to Merchant of Venus (second edition) never gets mentioned in the recommendation forum here (or at least, I never saw it being mentioned), but Firefly: The Game pops up from time to time. Is this genre too niche, or are the games not good/fun enough ? Is Merchant of Venus (second edition) just a game for the nostalgic fans of the first edition from the 1980s ? Are there any other games you could recommend ?


Thanks for your opinions !
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Stu Jones
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Clearfield
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I've played all three...

Merchants was fun enough that we didn't feel it wasted our time, but the game didn't really evolve much through the play and we felt like we were doing the same things on our turns over and over again without any tension. It got boring and we were glad to have played, but glad to be done. The good news, if you're interested, is that 2nd edition also includes the 1st edition game as well (with some minor necessary adjustments, I'm told).

Firefly is one of our most played games. The base game can start to feel a little lengthy and player interaction is fairly minimal, but it's still fun. Once you add either of the boxed expansions the game gets so much better and we have a lot of fun playing it. There are some very diverse stories/victory conditions that add a lot of replay to the game. If you're a fan of the series, it's even better, as you're constantly immersed in the characters from the show.

Xia is still fairly new to our group, but we're enjoying it. While I like Firefly better, this game does fit the "take on the role of traders/merchants/pirates in a sandbox" much better than the other two by leaps and bounds. You can definitely get away with playing, and winning, with all three roles, and it doesn't have the story-on-rails that Firefly has. It does suffer from some imbalance issues, but if you're playing for the qualities you describe, I don't think you'll notice... and hopefully they'll be erratta'd soon, anyway.
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The Tak
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I have not played the second edition of Merchant of Venus, but the original version of the game is a solid but a bit lengthy pick up and deliver game. The best parts of the game are about an hour long, then it's just however long it takes for someone to win (usually a clear winner by the end of that hour, and you're waiting for them to hit the goal). The second edition may have tweaked this some, but the first edition (which is included as an alternate rule set on the other side of the FFG board) definitely shows its age.

Firefly I personally enjoy more. Pick up and deliver with a great theme, and plenty of randomization. A bit fiddly to set up and takes up a large amount of table space. The base game comes with only five? Maybe six? stories or 'Missions', but they're fairly replayable and the expansions add a few more. With any other theme, the game would still be solid but not great. If it was a generic space-themed game, Merchant of Venus would probably win out for better game.

Merchants and Marauders is somewhere in the middle. It's a decent pick up and deliver, the play time is just right, and it's varied enough due to random set up that you won't be playing the same game over and over unless you really play the snot out of it back to back for a few weeks on end.
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jumbit
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theTak wrote:
The second edition may have tweaked this some, but the first edition (which is included as an alternate rule set on the other side of the FFG board)

This is incorrect, the Classic game resembles, but does not emulate the first edition rules.

Quote:
definitely shows its age.

This is a matter of opinion for sure. The first edition has come way down in price since the "out-of-print grail game" days, it's quite affordable on ebay, not much more than a new game these days. The fact that the game even survived the reprint process shows that it's an enduring classic that has passed the test of time.
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The Tak
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jumbit wrote:
theTak wrote:
The second edition may have tweaked this some, but the first edition (which is included as an alternate rule set on the other side of the FFG board)

This is incorrect, the Classic game resembles, but does not emulate the first edition rules.


Didn't know this, thanks! I thought at first blush it was a reprint. Good or bad emulation?


jumbit wrote:
Quote:
definitely shows its age.

This is a matter of opinion for sure. The first edition has come way down in price since the "out-of-print grail game" days, it's quite affordable on ebay, not much more than a new game these days. The fact that the game even survived the reprint process shows that it's an enduring classic that has passed the test of time.


I agree with you on the heady days of OOP grail game, and I don't mean that as a knock by saying it shows its age. Titan, Diplomacy, Republic of Rome all show their age as well, but that doesn't make them bad games!
 
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Ray Boshell
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Haleyville
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Merchants is a great game. You can look for Eric Summerer (From the Dicetower) reviews on it. He always lists it as his #1 game.

I have Firefly and it is great solo and awesome with other players. It has variety and will definitly scratch the pickup and deliver itch.
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Robert S
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All the four games you mentioned have no player elimination and nice looking components. I would also argue they all have replay value a theme and rules fitting the theme. But for Firefly much of the theme comes from the show and as I didn't know (and still don't) about the characters, it failed to grab me, the rules are solid though.
Merchant of Venus is a pure pick up and deliver and I think the original rules (and their take in the sec. edition) do them better than the new rules.
Merchant and Marauders aloes both path (merchant or pirate), but can be lengthy with full player count. I personally prefer Black Fleet over Merchant and Marauders for similar theme and less downtime. But in black fleet you are merchant and pirate at the same time, it offers fewer options than Marauders and the fighting is very simplified (auto victories).
For a truly sandbox game I can recommend Xia, because there are several path to victory (trading, mining, missions, hunting ships and exploration) although it has some downtime so I wouldn't play it with full player count (5). The game has a hefty dose of variance and luck and some imbalances, but I personally think it good that shields are stronger than weapons as this discourages PvP and you can still fight against the NPCs. (The T3 ships are also highly imbalanced but first comes first serves and the T1 ones can be picked from last to first player and the last round played out to alleviate the start player advantage). Xia also needs at least 3 players.
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(ɹnʎʞ)
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I'm still not sure... Like Robert said, I am a bit worried if Firefly: The Game would really work if I have people at the table not knowing the show, though I am pretty sure that the game can be a blast for fans of the show.

Thanks for all your input, keep 'em coming.
 
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Paul Imboden
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Friends I trust tell me Firefly is great... IF AND ONLY IF you have the expansions. Without them, it becomes long and repetitive.

Merchants and Marauders is a solid adventurey-type sandbox and easily the best pirate adventure game out there.
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Markus Weihrauch
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I've played all of them and as a big fan of P&D games I like them all with all their strengths and weaknesses.

The thing with MoV 2nd Ed. is that it is really purely a P&D game, not much more but not much less.

Firefly is built on a well-established "cult" even though the series was discontinued (cry). And here your assumption is right: you have to play it with folks who know the show, because all the references greatly back the theme. And I tend to disagree: the base game is great as it is but of course I do play with some of the expansions - but this is definitely no must in my opinion.

M&M is already a classic and I absolutely love it; for me the only real pirate game out there. Lot of replayablility with all the rumors, missions and specialists.

And Xia is currently one of my favorite sandbox games, even though it requires some houserules (in my opinion). Good thing is that it is not really founded on original IP even though it has some cool references (such as the Spice resource from Dune). Great stuff and nearly endless replayability because of the variable galaxy.

Not sure if I helped you decide but hopefull I provided some insights ;-)
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chris thatcher
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We play using the ffg standard rules. I really love it, but streamlined it isn't. Its a big ride type game. Have only played with 3 player max, plays great with 2.. Very long game tho, 4+ hours with 3.

I haven't personally tried classic.
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ronald fraigun
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Tujunga
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Tariff wrote:
We play using the ffg standard rules. I really love it, but streamlined it isn't. Its a big ride type game. Have only played with 3 player max, plays great with 2.. Very long game tho, 4+ hours with 3.

I haven't personally tried classic.


We found with the new rules that the more we played it the quicker it became. We can knock out a 4 player game in about 2 hours including setup and teardown. I love the new rules even more then the original game.

Merchants and Marauders is probably the best Pirate game I've played and found so far. I do recommend this game.

Firefly as others have said helps if you have seen the show. Still a good game but better knowing the theme.

The last game I haven't yet played sorry.
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Justin Fuhrmann
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Merchant of Venus is a great game, but personally I think the classic game is better than the new version. The tweaks that they did to the classic version fixed the overly long game that the original was though. Probably one of the best pick up and delivers out there, assuming you don't mind rolling dice.

Merchants and Mauraders is probably the heaviest on theme of the two. But it doesn't play as well with two.
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Ryan Bull
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I've heard a lot of people say Xia: Legends of a Drift System fires both MoV and Firefly, including Dice Tower's very own Tom Vasel. Undead Viking also pefers it, if I recall correctly.

Now, I've got Xia all wrapped up ready for Xmas, so maybe after the New Year dawns I can let you know if this little sandbox gem lives up to the hype.
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Ambidextrous Waffle Iron
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I own Merchant of Venus 2nd ed. and have played Firefly and Merchants & Marauders. I can't speak for Xia, but I like all of three of the games above.

Each has different appeal depending on what you are looking for.

*Warning... long spiel to follow. If impatient then skip to bottom*

Merchant of Venus 2nd ed. is really 2 games in one. The classic game is printed on one side of the game board & the revised edition on the other side. It has enough counters for both games to be played. The counters are thick cardboard & has stood up to play. I've only played to revised 2nd ed. version & like it very much. It does not have player elimination... however that being said, it does get a bit cut throat with more players. Reason being is the finite number of each commodity each alien culture has at each time. With 2 players, the game is quite leisurely. Enough commodities on the planets that each person can go their own way & have enough widgets to buy & sell to make profit and enough tech upgrades for each player. With 3 players, the game gets interesting. While there is still enough widgets for each player, much more careful planning is needed to get to where you want to go & beat out the others who may also have their eye on what you're planning to get. Managing to land & sell your cargo & cause a market shift ahead of your competition also requires more planning. With 4 players, the game gets really cut throat. There isn't enough widgets for everyone. The last player to go usually gets screwed, even with the initial credit bonus the last player gets during the start. The last guy has to fly past the first three to reach those alien home-worlds on the other side of the board to get the first contact benefits & this can be problematic if the throttle dice isn't cooperating. The classic game allows you to trade your ship in for a different with different characteristics. In the 2nd ed., you stick with one ship, but the upgrade options are much more versatile and numerous. And lastly, there are some people who complain that this game is too random due to the throttle dice determining how far you get to move during your turn. To which I will reply... Buy throttle boost & hard burn, and learn to use Jump gates.

Firefly is a lighter pick-up & deliver game than MoV. It's good for those people who are fans of the series & like to immerse themselves in the Firefly universe. The theme IMHO is very well done & the favorite characters are in there. This game does have a player v player element but no elimination. It's the pirate stuff from someone else if you land in their space & succeed in a boarding check mechanic. Unlike MoV 2nd ed., Firefly ends whenever someone full fills the victory conditions... so it can be a faster game. MoV classic wins when someone gets to be worth XXXX in credits & the 2nd ed. ends after 30 turns & tally up total net worth to determine winner. (but nothing says you can't shorten it with house rules to whatever turn limit you want)
The ship upgrades in firefly isn't as numerous as MoV, but there is the addition of crew & morale management, along with crew equipment upgrades. There's also a morality element in the side jobs that could've been developed more, but impact the overall play enough to be significant. You're also stuck with the ship you start the game with.

M & M takes place during the 1600s & uses the old wooden ships theme. The number ship upgrades is less than either of the previous mentioned games & is represented by cardboard tokens placed on places on your ship card. You can trade your ship for another in a port, or you can take a ship during a successful boarding action, although it will be damaged. Trade is done by going to port, drawing XX cargo cards to determine what goods is available at that port & then buying what you want. Then find a port that wants a type of good, goto that port & sell the good for a profit. It is possible to "die" in this game, but you just choose a new captain & a new starting ship afterwards. During the game, a player can choose to turn pirate & prey on other players or on the neutral ships which then puts a bounty on the pirate. The bounty restricts which ports will trade/provide repairs to the player & the neutral bounty hunters will begin to chase the pirate. The rules reflects the theme well enough, but I wasn't impressed.


All these games have lots of its & bits, so expect a bit of set up time no matter which one you get. IMHO, MoV has the best rules for a merchant trader game, Firefly has to best theme immersion & if you're a firefly fan or like the cowboys meets sci-fi theme, you'll be quite happy. M & M has lots of plastic ship models & would be good if you like to paint up your pieces. The theme is 17th century, so if you like the pirates of the caribbean theme or generally like to customize your boardgame, this is one that has lots of potential.

One more thing. MoV has LOTS of its & bits. If you're not the type who organizes effectively, this one may intimidate you after you open the box. But it's really fun once you get past the initial shock.
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Kevin Shillinglaw
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One of my favourite pick up and deliver without the actual moving around a board is Starship Merchants. Take a look - it might work for you.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Gamemanue wrote:
Merchant of Venus is a great game, but personally I think the classic game is better than the new version. The tweaks that they did to the classic version fixed the overly long game that the original was though.

As a guy who'll never part with the original edition, I'll take issue with that statement. The original was actually a number of games rolled into one. You could choose to play to $1000, $2000, $3000 or $4000, which not surprisingly had a huge impact on playing time. There was also an optional combat rules section, which added quite a bit of playing time.

If the $4000 game with combat seemed overly long, there was no need for you to play it. My own preference was to play without combat, which seemed more bother than it was worth as a general rule but fun to try now and then. I also leaned towards the shorter games; $2000 normally but even $1000 was fun if pressed for time. I've never played with anyone who said it was too long when played to $2000 or less.
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TTDG
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It is not quite what you want (not pick up and deliver), but I've been considering Jump Gate 3rd ed. for awhile now to act as a much faster proxy for Merchant of Venus. I don't have it yet, but theme wise I thought I should mention it. In MOV, I have 2 problems: it takes awhile to setup because of all of those chits, and slow engines can kill you sometimes.
 
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Sicaria Occaeco
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Sphere wrote:
Gamemanue wrote:
Merchant of Venus is a great game, but personally I think the classic game is better than the new version. The tweaks that they did to the classic version fixed the overly long game that the original was though.

As a guy who'll never part with the original edition, I'll take issue with that statement. The original was actually a number of games rolled into one. You could choose to play to $1000, $2000, $3000 or $4000, which not surprisingly had a huge impact on playing time. There was also an optional combat rules section, which added quite a bit of playing time.

If the $4000 game with combat seemed overly long, there was no need for you to play it. My own preference was to play without combat, which seemed more bother than it was worth as a general rule but fun to try now and then. I also leaned towards the shorter games; $2000 normally but even $1000 was fun if pressed for time. I've never played with anyone who said it was too long when played to $2000 or less.


/agree

I have not played the 2nd edition but the original is a great game. With the various goal options and with or without combat (I too prefer without) and you can adjust the game to meet your needs. One thing new players tend to do is upgrade their ships, etc. If everyone does that it can drag the game on. Sometimes these type of games it's not just what you do and when but what you don't do.

Also if you're doing the same thing over and over then you're not messing up other people's plans enough. Somebody upgrading to a high capacity ship? Take your quick smaller ship and zip around the board taking their loads before they get there. Merchants of Venus is quite tactical. You need to constantly adjust your game as it plays out.
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Marena Tiano
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I have both MoV. The reprint does allow you to play the original rules.

Another game that might interest you is Constantinoplis. This is a shipping game that you have to deliver goods but not travel to a specific destination. This is fairly easy to play but there is a lot of strategy. Several people I play with enjoy this game.

Another interesting delivery game is Jet Set. Players build routes and then claim passengers/points that want to make a specific trip.



 
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