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original German edition

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Product Awards:  
Deutscher Spiele Preis
10th place, 1999

Ages Play Time Players
12+ 60-90 minutes 2-6

Designer(s): Christwart Conrad

Manufacturer(s): Goldsieber

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Product Description

Toward the end of the Middle Ages, the rise of rich merchant families helped open the cities of Europe to trade and commerce. Beginning with their homes in small villages, players open branches in nearby cities. Once branches are established, players use their income to increase their wealth or to increase their presence in the cities where they have branches. Players then can use their wealth to further develop their trading empire into new cities and regions. In the end, it is the player who has developed the largest trade empire and earned the most money in the process that wins the game.

Product Awards

Deutscher Spiele Preis
10th place, 1999

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Christwart Conrad

  • Manufacturer(s): Goldsieber

  • Artist(s): Franz Vohwinkel

  • Year: 1998

  • Players: 2 - 6

  • Time: 60 - 90 minutes

  • Ages: 12 and up

  • Weight: 1,402 grams

  • Language Requirements: An English translation of the rules is provided.

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4 in 8 reviews

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Merchants of Pain
February 15, 2003

Every choice causes pain. Wonderful pain. Do I take the fast route for more money, or the cheaper route that takes an extra turn? Do I take income or expand a city? Do I expand my empire or try to take posession of cities?

Tight, tense, tactical and strategic.

I love El Grande and always will. This one is a great contender for the throne though.

Downside for me: Picking my actions is pure torture.

Tactical thinking at its best.
December 17, 2001

Many reviews seem to want to equate Medieval Merchant with [page scan/se=0040/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]El Grande. I don't think this is really a good comparison, and I feel that MM is the superior game. Where El Grande relies on the semi-randomness of cards to change the situation on the board, MM is pure tactics and strategy. Once you make the decision to play a piece in MM, there is no turning back--no bailing out of a bad move by playing a card.

Every turn you must evaluate your situation and try to anticipate the next move of your opponent. You can never achieve all of your goals, so you must choose which moves to make and when.

I have a large collection of games, and this is the best for pure tactics--and it is not hard to learn or long to play. Possibly the perfect game!

Just a decent playable game
September 19, 1999

Medieval Merchant is an interesting game. I won't go through all the mechanics because they have been described more than adequately by others. I only would like to say that this is a good game, not great, but the kind that plays fairly fast (60-90 minutes; usually closer to 60 after everyone gains a bit of experience), the mechanics are straightforward and the game (from my perspective) is attractive to look at. The board might not strike everyone's fancy; it looks like a block-printed map with old style script, but I think it gives the game a bit of atmosphere. I would classify MM as an 'El Grande' light - it is a game about territorial occupation, but this is accomplished in a different way than El Grande. I also feel that the game has received some bad press, but that MM is much better than some of the reviews. Again, good but not great, but with good replay value and some possibilities exist for a little 'tweaking.'

Great Game. Many options available.
July 25, 1999

Business games normaly are drab, but Medieval Merchant has a quality of combat between the players! The players must constantly move (attack) into another player's city or risk being cut off. We played with (3) three players and the game came down to the last turn before a winner was determined. If you like business games with stiff competition, buy this game! The quality of the game pieces is high -- they look like little Monopoly houses.

Excellent, but not perfect
February 02, 1999

I love this game--it requires constant re-evaluation of your position and some pretty good wheeling and dealing with your opponents. The only problem is that some strategies seem to work far better than others. The only way to thwart such strategies is to have one player 'attack' an opponent to kill the lead. And this usually will undermine your position too. But it is enjoyable either way.

A suprisingly super game
January 27, 1999

My feeling is if you like El Grande, you'll love this. It's all about gaining influence and contol by opening branches (kind of like dropping Caballeros) in different cities. The decisions to take the slow cheap routes or the fast expensive routes to cities and the decisions whether to gain more influence or take income from cities creates a dynamic turn.

The blocking, thwarting, and undermining players is of course appreciated.

The board reminded me a little of Dutchland Reiser or Elfenland with all of the routes but used much differently (and if I may say so) more interestingly than those games because once you get to a city, the battle for economic and political domination begins.

Well worth it.

by Dr Jay
Grow the cities in different German regions.
January 16, 1999

My first impression of the game involved just another game to build cities. As a group of four, we were given one city to start and a town. We soon learned influence points make or break your score, achieved with town and city control.

Trier, the starting German city, in my case, proved a particularly difficult area to move from. Two other players controlled the middle of the board, and one player attempted to grab Strausberg as I was leaving Trier. Branches of guilds in each city caused particular concern when deciding where to place the little guild houses. Because we used the introductory placement, all cities were immediately placed on the board, and I suspect the game would have even more zip when players had to draw numbers and place their cities accordingly.

The spirit of the game soon became evident. You could accomplish one of the following in each turn:

  1. add a branch or receive income
  2. open a new branch in another city
  3. assign influence points or use one of your two escort orders to place two branches or take double income.

To me it was exciting to figure out the dilemma of running around the edge of the board and placing guild houses in different cities. It became a war of nerves to outguess your opponent about placement. Cologne (Koln) was particularly hard fought over for some player to have control. I stayed out of that city and tried to build in as many regions as possible with at least one guild house.

The game adds a nice dimension with each player for a four-player game receiving six guilders basic income each turn. That amount, along with your accumulated savings, allows you to pay for roads to reach other city regions. One of these roads near the top of the board cost me too much--56 guilders. I noticed some players spent almost all of their income to control certain cities and roads each turn. My objective was to move and move fast through regions, because that helped accumulate influence points.

At game's end, you total all your influence points and receive one influence point for 20 guilders of income still possessed. The game scores ended up 53-48-38-29. That shows all players were trying to reach the peak of their capability. The question throughout the game was: Do you expand or collect money? The ending became a little rough, because two players controlled the last placement of the last town to finish the game. You knew the end was coming.

I would rate the game high for dogged player determination and fun to thwart other players by moving into their regions. I also like that the player who first places a guild house and controls the city (with absolute majority) takes final ownership of the city. Goldsieber and Rio Grande Games have found another winner for the gaming public.

Quite a bit drier than you'd expect
July 13, 2003

I was enormously disappointed in this, because it seems to be a lot less about buying and selling in a medieval setting, and a lot more about arranging your wooden bits into a row before your opponents can arrange theirs into a row ...

I expected something a bit more along the lines of Union Pacific or Princes of Florence, but what I got was more like Tic-Tac-Toe. This goes back on the shelf, and probably will get sold on eBay in a year, unplayed again.

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