Merchants of Magick: Top Seller
Most fantasy themed games put you in the role of the adventurer. Who doesn’t want to traipse around in dungeons or caves defeating nefarious villains? After your adventures, you return to town to barter your goods and perhaps buy new weapons from the local shop. But how do those shops get their supplies? How do merchants learn how to craft such wonderful and fantastical gear?
In Merchants of Magick, you are that merchant. Allocate dice and discover recipes for the items that are in demand. Merchants of Magick is a roll-and-write game in the Set a Watch universe developed by Rock Manor Games. A game takes around 45 minutes for 1-8 players ages 10+ to play.
Give each player a player sheet and a randomly selected Sponsored Adventurer.
Shuffle the Orders deck and put cards face up in front of each player. How many depends on player count.
Select one random Material Mastery and one random Energy Mastery card and place in the center of the table, along with the four dice and the potions tokens.
You’ll play Merchants of Magick over ten turns. Everyone plays at the same time, making this game flow very quickly.
First, someone rolls the four dice. Everyone writes the die results in the column near the top of their player sheet.
Then select two of these results to allocate toward circles on your player sheet. The “Crafting” side requires a die value of the listed value OR HIGHER. The “Research” side requires a die value of the listed value OR LOWER. As shown by the legend near the top-center of the sheet, different dice can only be allocated to certain columns. Denote which die value you selected by crossing it out. Fill in the circle corresponding to the row/column you’ve selected.
You can use any number of potions to change die rolls up or down – one number per potion.
At the top right of the player sheet there are six circles for extra dice. You may use up to six extra dice during a game of Merchants of Magick. The first three are free, and the rest cost two, three, and four potions respectively.
You’ll be looking to complete a combination of Crafting and Research rows to match an item in front of you. You’ll also be trying to complete the items listed on your Sponsored Adventurer.
Once you complete all circles for a row, circle the coin value at the edge of the row (far left for Crafting, far right for Research) and take a potion. You are now able to craft any items that contain this element for the rest of the game!
If you complete an Order in front of you, Claim it and put it next to your sheet. Replace it with another Order from the Order deck face-down.
If you complete an Order on your Sponsored Adventurer, gain the rewards listed near the bottom of the player sheet.
Each column represents a material or energy. If at any time you’ve completed enough circles in a column to meet the Material or Energy Mastery requirements, you receive the points from the appropriate Mastery Card. The first player gets eight points, and any subsequent player gets four.
Once all players have taken their turns, all Orders shift clockwise one card. This means your leftmost Orders card goes to the player to your left.
Finally, turn any face-down Order cards face-up.
After ten turns, tally your points using the circles at the bottom of the player sheet. Whoever has the most coins wins!
When we first sat down to play Merchants of Magick the player sheets seemed almost overwhelming. However, carefully stepping through a couple of rounds helped the game come together quickly for us. The game felt longer than Fleet: The Dice Game, which is, if you listen to our podcast, a Family Gamers favorite roll-and-write. Despite the simultaneous play helping with game flow, it still hits its 45 minute mark easily, especially with more players.
Merchants of Magick definitely has less combos than other roll-and-write games we’ve reviewed like Super Mega Lucky Box, but there’s enough happening with the potions to make the sequence of your turns important. There are also enough decisions to make with the die selection, number crunching, and sequencing to make Merchants of Magick feel nice and meaty.
The theme here resonated with us extremely well, too. We’re a pretty typical geek family; we love Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons, and all other stripes of fantasy worlds. Figuring out how to kit out adventurers and buff them with charms felt rewarding and meaningful. This continued through the endgame as well, as there was a tactile sense of accomplishment in tallying your stack of completed Orders.
Artistically, Merchants of Magick is richly illustrated. The graphic design is strong and clear, and the iconography leaves nothing to the imagination. Since there is little narrative to the game, the art sets the mood, and it does so well.
Of course, no game is perfect. There was a fair bit of luck at play in this game with the Orders and the Sponsored Adventurers. Once you start to commit die rolls to certain materials and energies, it’s possible the next few sequences of Orders won’t have any of the same elements. Similarly, we’ve seen (especially near the end-game) people flipping Order cards over and immediately completing them, as they already had all of the necessary elements completed. It can be maddening when everything is coming up the other player.
The Sponsored Adventurer cards also seem unbalanced. The coin rewards on Adventurers range from four to six, but a Grimoire for the Warrior is much harder than a Ring for the Wizard. The coin variance seems too small in this case.
Finally, the different colors of potions had us convinced they must have some kind of meaning, but they don’t. I suppose this adds some visual interest, but it was pretty confusing.
Nonetheless, Merchants of Magick has managed what I thought was impossible: supplanted Fleet: The Dice Game as my favorite roll-and-write. I certainly understand why some people might disagree. For me, the blend of number crunching, the capabilities for combos, the need to plan for future Orders, and the theme tie neatly together to create an experience I find it very easy to come back to. Merchants of Magick is the only board game I’ve played solo this year – I like it that much.
You can get your own copy of Merchants of Magick right now on the Rock Manor Games website.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Merchants of Magick from Rock Manor Games for this review.
Merchants of Magick
Number of Players: 1-8
Age Range: 10+
Playtime: 45 minutes