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Merchant of Venus (second edition)» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Merchant of Venus - going classic rss

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Merric Blackman
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Chris, Ian and I had a short (1000 cr) game of Merchant of Venus before our regular standard Magic tournament the other day. (Or Heroclix tournament in the case of Chris). I'd played a game of the Standard game the previous week with different players, but I was curious to see how the classic game differed.

In one particular it didn't differ: my initial roll was horrible, gaining me a total of 5, and meaning I was the one player who didn't get to discover a trading partner on his first turn.

Ian quickly dropped into the rhythm of the game (he played Red) and started making favourable deals with the alien races, whilst Chris (Orange) and I (Green) lagged behind.



Ian made three key purchases that helped him go ahead: an energy shield, which reduced his penalties to almost nothing, a clipper, and a hybrid drive. Expensive? Yes, but he quickly made back the money. I picked up a clipper and a yellow drive whilst Chris limped along behind.

The relics Ian and Chris found were left behind, as they were more interested in getting to their destinations than "wasting" a turn for a marginal artefact. I built a spaceport and a factory, but Ian's factory was better placed, and he kept on accelerating.



And then, all of a sudden, Ian announced that he had won. Apparently shipping expensive goods to a planet where they are in high-demand means that you make money quickly! Chris and I were on about 400 cr each, way behind the leader (although our cargoes were worth a fair amount).

I very much liked how the classic game played: a lot cleaner than the standard version. We didn't get all the rules right, but we got better with them as the game continued. I certainly need to do a lot more work on analysing the trading routes, as "floating around aimlessly" would probably best describe my game.
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Chris J Davis
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Would you mind expanding a little on your thoughts of the differences between the standard and classic versions?
 
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Merric Blackman
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bleached_lizard wrote:
Would you mind expanding a little on your thoughts of the differences between the standard and classic versions?


Sure thing.

Movement
The classic version is mostly "roll and move". Engines and Shields permit you to "move faster". Effectively. The chief difference is that in the standard version, you need to roll a die to see if you can keep moving when you hit hazards. In classic, you pay funds (reduced by shields), which means that it's a lot more deterministic how movement works in classic than standard: you can just move along without needing to worry about what you might hit. Even the random encounter chits will only cost you money (in the worst case).

Standard has a "roll a die to overcome this space" encounters, which does slow things down or can randomly end your turn.

Victory Conditions
The victory conditions in classic are "accumulate this many credits before anyone else". It's a race game, in effect. (One rule change I would make to classic is to check at the end of the full round, rather than just "first past the post". You've got a first player token, so use it!) Credits are gained by buying and selling goods, by creating factories and spaceports. The latter two give you kickbacks when they are used by yourself or other players - and are worth their face value in credits as well. It's fairly obvious what is going on.

The victory conditions in standard are "accumulate more VPs than other players in the given time" (30 rounds). It's not first past the post, but rather who can make the most over a set amount of time. The calculations are complicated by the VPs being determined by Credits and Fame Points (which are garnered through missions, passengers and special encounters). A technology, Fuzzy Dice, makes the Fame Point calculation erratic, and IMO adds way too much randomness to final scoring.

Upgrading Ships
Both systems allow you to change cargo space, ship speed, shields, etc. although they use different methods for both; in the end, the differences don't impact too much on gameplay, except that the upgrading of your ships tends to be a lot more "bitsy" in standard: each planet has a different technology chit which can be used to upgrade your ship.

Classic has "relics" in its encounter chits, which provide unique upgrades.

Changing Supply and Demand
Whenever goods are delivered/discarded in classic, you randomly draw new tokens from a bag to replenish the opportunities on the board on a 1:1 basis. These can be unique Passengers, the replenishment of Goods, or the addition of Demand tiles which cause certain goods to be worth more at particular systems.

In standard, a good is replenished at a system every three sell transactions there, and encounter cards allow all goods to be replenished. A new passenger arrives every two turns. It's a lot more deterministic than the more chaotic classic system. The selling price of goods also goes up and down on that 3 transaction cycle at a particular planet. The drawback here is that if you sell at the low price, you're benefitting your opponents, as the price then MUST improve. There's no such downside in the classic game: it benefits those who sell first at a demand site always, and it's very hard to "game" the draw of the demand tokens.

Missions
Standard adds a deck of mission cards to the game. As we managed to go through every mission card in our game, it's probably not big enough. These provide you with fame (VP) bonuses for completing tasks. This adds a large dose of randomness to the game, as one player might get a good lot of connecting missions whilst the other is extremely unlucky.

I've now played one game each of standard and classic, and my initial preference lies more with the classic game. Standard seems to have a bunch more fiddly mechanics, and some of doubtful balance. The classic game seems more skill-based (despite its random elements), and that appeals to me.

Cheers,
Merric
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Arthur Dickie
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I agree with the points that Merric makes - Classic is a much more streamlined version of the game. I don't think Standard will be played again in our household.

One thing I would add is that this extra streamlining drastically reduces playing time. Our first (4 player) game of Standard took a shade over 4 hours. Our first game of classic was around the 2.5 hour mark. Our second game was less than that. I certainly think that a 2000 point game could be completed in around 2 hours once all the rules are fixed in our heads.

In future, I may be tempted to play to 3000 pts. Ship upgrades are expensive and may be more rewarding in the longer game. I have not tried the fast set-up variant yet, but again I think this might be a good way to go.

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David Dawson
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Nice write up. I'm most interested in Classic, as well, but the Standard version looks like a nice variant to have in the box.
 
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Christopher Gnech
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I agree with almost all of the points you make in the review.

I don't like the standard game because of the reasons listed above, and just a personal bias that the Freighter game (show up, buy everything, go next door, sell everything, rinse and repeat) is a little cheesy. That's the main way to win in the new Standard game. Upgrade your pilot, max out lasers and shields (so you don't get stopped by board elements), buy holds, definitely a drive, and run around carrying 4 goods from place to place.

I do like the concept of the new Missions in the standard game, but they're really not worth anything. 20 credits. Maybe 50 if you buy the one racial tech (forget the name).

I own both games (AH and FFG), and after playing all 3 games a few times each, I think the Avalon Hill one is still my favorite.

The major difference between the Avalon Hill game and the FFG "Classic" game is the handling of factory goods. In the new FFG one, they can fill demands (making a powerful part of the game even more powerful). There are also a few small map differences, such as removing spaceports in the Cloud and MultiGenerational Ship (just southeast of the cloud), and adding a nav circle on the far left side of the board. Those didn't impact the game too heavily.
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