A week of conclusions as Merchant of Venus finally ended and it appears that the Whites (Willerd Fann and Bill Sanders) are finally giving up the struggle against the Red tide (Jon Comeaux) in Rossyia 1917. It appears they couldn't alter the historical outcome and Communism has once again poisoned Mother Russia!
ROLL CALL: Willerd Fann, Bill Sanders, Jon Comeaux, Elizabeth Gonzales, Lenny Leo, Jerry Maus, Stephen Maus, Ashton Arnold, Darren Arnold, John Moore, Eric Alleman, Greg Schloesser
I purchased this obscure FX Schmid release on my recent Adam Spielt game order as it was on 'closeout'. I knew absolutely nothing about the game or its designer, Hermann Huth. But, I'm a sucker for close-outs, so I bought a few copies, with the extras dedicated as gifts and convention prize tables.
Unfortunately, I couldn't locate English rules at any of the usual sources. Even pleas on various internet forums failed to elicit a response. Finally, a translation made its way to the Games Dumpster, so I downloaded it and was able to give the game a try. Ehhh.
The game concerns bidding for various works of art. The artwork comes in five varieties, with each player having a 'mat' allowing them to collect four varieties. These mats serve as a record-keeper, tracking the number of each type of art that the player owns (which is done using a small black cube).
The artwork is displayed on cards, with each card depicting three works of art, which can all be different or have some duplicates. Five cards are displayed and players alternate placing a card up for auction.
When a card is placed up for auction, bidding circles the table until one person ultimately wins the auction. That player pays the winning amount to the bank and then must 'distribute' the three works of art in the order they are displayed on the card.
If the winning player possesses zero to two works of an art depicted, he keeps that piece of art, moving his cube on his mat up accordingly. If he has now collected three works of one type, he receives a $30,000 bonus from the bank.
If, however, a player already possesses three or more of the type of art depicted, he must then sell that artwork to an opponent. The opponent cannot refuse to buy it and must pay the seller $20,000. If this forces the opponent to now have in excess of three works of that type, he must also pay a $10,000 penalty to the bank. It is this selling of artwork to opponents, forcing them to pay penalties, which is the only entertaining aspect of the game. Slightly nasty, but entertaining.
This process continues ad nauseum until, as the rules state, one player goes bankrupt. That never happened in our game. Instead, the game was dragging on and on, so we opted to discard 15 or so cards from the deck and just play until the draw pile was exhausted. Even with this method, the game lasted nearly an hour, which was about 1/2 hour too long for the enjoyment received from the game. If we had played through the full deck, it it was highly likely that all players would have reached their capacity (five) for each type of art, which would have meant that no one could acquire any art. Strange.
Sadly, the game is bereft of any real strategy. The bidding ceiling seemed fairly obvious each turn, as it was easy to calculate the cash one would receive from winning a card either by selling the artworks or keeping it and possibly earning a $30,000 bonus. About 1/3 of the way into the game, the bidding became quite boring as the process just had a very repetitive, rote feel to it and did not generate any excitement amongst the players. I checked the rules several times to make sure we weren't missing something, but it certainly doesn't appear that we did.
Ultimately, the game ended with a victory by Willerd Fann, but we were all just happy that it was over.
Willerd 148, Jon 130, John 84, Greg 78, Lenny 63
Ratings: Willerd 5, Greg 3, John 3, Lenny 3, Jon 2