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Subject: [WIP] - Merchants: A card game on trading rss

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Utku Tonel
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Hey everyone!

I am currently working on a card game with a focus on trading. You, as a medieval merchant try to dominate the market by buying and selling, and trying to profit. Game includes trading as well as bidding to get the best spot in the market place. It requires a single deck of cards and some coins.

Print & Play Version

Tabletop Simulator Mod

I would be more than happy to hear your comments on this. Thanks in advance.

Merchants is a trading card-game in which you play as a medieval merchant trading to own the majority of the goods you’re a trader of, while using capital to expand your business and make more profit.

Tools of the Trade
To play Merchants you need the COMMODITY DECK and the COINS.
The deck consists of 72 commodity cars, with each commodity numbered from 1 to 6. (Cards with value (1) are left un-numbered.) The commodities are ALE, DRAPERY, FISH, JEWELRY, SPICE, and STONE. There are two copies of each card and one of the two copies is marked with a coin symbol. Why this matters will be discussed later on in the gameplay section.
There are 36 coins.

The setup of a new game is quite easy:

Separate one copy of each commodity card with a value of (1) from the rest of the deck. Make sure these cards do NOT have coin symbols.
Shuffle those six cards and hand one card per player. These are the ROLE-CARDs. Whatever card a player gets, shows what kind of a merchant he is –his objective in game. (e.g. If you receive a JEWELRY card, it means you’re a jewelry merchant and your objective is to buy as much jewelry as possible.) You place your role-card right in front of you.

Once every player gets a role card, the remaining cards are shuffled back into the commodity deck.

Shuffle the commodity deck and hand 6 cards per player.
And you’re ready to play.

After the initial setup, you’re ready to play.

A. Bidding
A new day begins and the top six cards from the commodity deck are placed at the center of the game table with faces up. This is called the MARKETPLACE. And those six cards represent the goods in the market available for trade in that particular day.

After marketplace is open, starting with the first player, (the youngest person in the game is the first player, the second youngest is the second player, etc.) every player places the commodity that they are willing to trade that day, from his hand to the right of his role-card. This is called the STALL. There can only be one card on the stall at a single day. If a player is not interested in any goods in the marketplace in a particular day, they are free to skip this step. In that case, they cannot trade in that day.

Opening up your stall in a day gives you the chance to participate in that day’s trading. And the goods (the card) you place in your stall decides your turn in buying from the market.

You can think of this as a bidding phase –to be able to be the first merchant to buy. To decide who plays first, initially players check the value of the cards in the stalls. The player with the highest value card in his stall plays first. In a case where the values are equal the type of commodity is considered. From first to last commodities go as: JEWELRY, SPICE, DRAPERY, ALE, STONE, and FISH. In a case where the commodity as well as the numerical value are equal, the player with the card with a coin symbol on it, plays first.

B. At the Marketplace
After the bidding phase ends, players start trading. Trading is simple in MERCHANTS. There are two ways you can trade:

Play a card from your hand, at least of equal value to the card you are buying off the market.

EXAMPLE: Alice places her JEWELRY (6) on her stall. She wants to trade her card with the FISH (6), which is on the market. So, she takes FISH (6) off the market and places her JEWELRY (6) on the marketplace.

Play a card from your hand with a value lower than the card you’re buying off the market. In that case, you have to pay coins equal to the numerical difference between the two cards.

EXAMPLE: Bob places his DRAPERY (3) on his stall. On his turn, he wants to trade his commodities with the STONE (4) which happens to be on the market. So, he takes STONE (4) off the market and places his DRAPERY (3) on the marketplace, and pays the difference in coins, so he places (1) coin on the DRAPERY (3) card.

Note that you need to have coin(s) to trade in the second way described above.

Actually, there’s a third way for trade. You can play a card with ha higher value than the card you’re buying off the market, but that’s not a smart move, trade-wise.

After your daily trade is complete, you place the card you bought off the market on the left of your role-card, face down. This is your STOCKPILE. Stockpile consists of goods you bought off the market and at the end of the game, only the goods you are trading (according to your role-card) are added to your score, so buy wisely.

C. Clean-up
After all of the players who chose to trade on that day complete their trading the day ends. Players might choose exchange, stockpile or leave any unsold card in their stall. After all of the players played their turn, any goods left on the stalls can be:

exchanged: if the leftover card on the stall has a COIN symbol on it, you can exchange that card with a coin, and add your leftover card to the commodity deck.
stockpiled: you can decide to add that card to your stockpile.
left (untouched): you can leave the card where it is to use for the next day’s bidding.

Each player receives one new card from the commodity deck before the start of the new day. And if any exchange happens after the marketplace is closed, the commodity deck is shuffled.

In the second day, bidding phase starts with the player who played the first in the previous round and follows the previous day's order.

D. The Hard Coin

Whenever you trade a card with a coin symbol on it with another card off the market, you make profit. So, you receive a COIN. The amount of coins you have at the end of the game is added to your score. But you can also use your coins for trade as explained above, to pay up, so that you can buy the goods you need off the market.

Alternatively, you can exchange your leftover card on your stall for a coin after the market closes.

Whenever someone buys a card off the market with la card which has a lower value than the one he’s buying (second method of buying above) he needs to pay up with coins. And those coins the player paid up are left on the traded goods at the marketplace. Whoever buys that card, gets the coins as well.

EXAMPLE: Bob places his DRAPERY (3) on his stall. On his turn, he wants to trade his commodities with the STONE (4) which happens to be on the market. So, he takes STONE (4) off the market and places his DRAPERY (3) on the marketplace, and pays the difference in coins, so he places (1) coin on the DRAPERY (3) card.

Next, it’s Claire’s turn and she has ALE (3) on her stall. She decides to buy DRAPERY (3) off the market so she takes DRAPERY (3) card and puts it into her stockpile and gets (1) coin and adds it to her treasury.

Whenever you want to buy a card with a coin symbol on it off the market you pay one coin back to the MINT. (put it back in the pouch where all the other coins are kept.)

E. Expanding Business
Also, a player can use coins to expand his business into other commodities. If a player pays (6) coins off his TREASURY and has a value (1) commodity card which is other than his role-card, he can expand his business into that commodity. In such a case, that player gives away his (6) coins, and places that value (1) commodity card on top of his role-card. Thus, whatever cards he might have in his stockpile from the second commodity will be added to his final score at the end of the game.

Winning Conditions
The game ends when no cards are left in the commodity deck. After the end of the last day, players look up their TRESURY and count the coins. They also count the commodities in their stockpiles which their role-card(s) indicate. Add the total value of the related cards to the number of coins, and you get your final score.

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Corry Damey
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Twin Falls
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I really like the theme of this game, no matter how much it has been done and I appreciate the simplicity of the design. It seems very streamlined and your rules make it very easy to envision gameplay. I do have a couple questions/comments:

1. Is there a hand limit?

2. You explain that a player may trade commodities with those in the market of equal value. You also explain that they may trade commodities of lesser value with those in the market that have a higher value by paying the difference with gold. Any thoughts about trading a high value good for multiple low value goods from the market? Or perhaps offset the difference by taking gold (this approach might lead to players exchanging 6's for 1's in an attempt to gain massive amounts of gold, though...)?

The only problem I see with the omission of how to attain smaller cards, is that there is no incentive (or ability, it seems) to take anything of lesser value, which will quickly clog up the market.

I don't know if I can think of anything else until I get a chance to play this, which won't be for a while, unfortunately. I'm subscribing to see your progress! Thanks for sharing!
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Utku Tonel
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I'd be happy to answer those questions to the best of my ability:

1. No, there's not a hand limit. I believe being able to buy only one card and receiving a card after a day's market ends, limits the exxxtra size hands. Also, now that I realize once you asked it, it's not stated in the rules but a player can actually add cards from his hand directly to his stockpile --if hand gets too big to manage, or he happens to receive goods which his role-card suggests he should buy.

2. Before settling with one-player-one-trade rule, I've experimented with multiple-trades in single round, multiple stalls, but those either made the game more complicated (I am aiming for a swift gameplay) or added more 'bookkeeping' (who got what and in what order etc, I don't like rules-heavy games) So in the end, this was the best opinion I had.

3. The incentive to buy smaller value cards: that was another problem I encountered. First I didn't think it'd be an issue but the inital testplays showed that all the 1s and 2s and 3s were left aside -without anyone to buy them.

Some of the testplayers suggested 'contracts' to make them more appealing, also another suggestion was to have a bank and victory points. So I decided to combine all of these into coins --hoping that 'invisible hand' would fix it all.

So first, I came up with the 'coins' idea, but initally gave them only to 1s and 5s and 6s (and all copies of them). But this time 2s, 3s, and 4s were left aside. So in the end; I decided upon distributing the coins evenly and adding 6 extras making up to 36 coins in total.

This is the most evenly-balanced way I could come up with; attaching some sort of 'profit' to all cards, thus making them ALL necessary in one way or another to win the game.
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