DALE OF MERCHANTS 3: The Grand Continental Railway
This edition is a stand-alone game that can, if so desired, be combined with all other available DALE of MERCHANTS goods. Designed by Sami Laakso Art by Sami Laakso and Jesus Delgado Published by Snowdale Design Aimed at Age 10+ 2-4 Players with 30+ minutes to spare. €19.95 rrp Look out for Dale of Merchants 1 €19.95 rrp and Dale of Merchants 2 €19.95 rrp and especially Dale of Merchants Collection €49.95 rrp This comes in a box designed to hold the complete game collection.
1 x 34cm x 11cm board
1 x Game specific die
110 Game cards
1 x 17cm x 11cm x 16 page (inc covers) Rulesbook
6 animalfolk decks, 15 cards per deck, comprising of:
Desert Monitors. White-headed Lemurs. Green Magpies
Short-beaked Echidnas. Snowshoe Hares. Grizzled Tree-kangaroos
This is a most pleasant, gentle but firm, deck-builder game, of sorts.
With Africa opening up, and consequentially condensing as the railway (there is a really cute picture of a wind-up train engine in the rules book) builds across the Continent, you are in competition to become the Railway Manager, the person (ie Animalfolk) in control of the expansion. You are attempting victory by being the first player to setup a completed 'astounding merchant stall'. To do this you have to be good at negotiating trades, managing stocks and learning new techniques. It may look like a small card game but it is a big challenge.
The 110 cards are a selection of six of the weird but amazing Animalfolk who are the work force under each player's control, plus the Trash they leave behind.
Technique cards are played as a Technique Action (there's a surprise) and many of them also have a Bonus Action (marked on the card as a +) which allows the player a bonus action after completing the Technique Action. Passive cards have effects that are played from your hand, read the text on these carefully as they may have actions that effect elsewhere on the table. Junk cards are Trash, but like the Militia etc in other Deck-Builders they have an intrinsic value of '1' which to begin with is very helpful in 'buying' pther cards. You may need to trash some trash but don't be too hasty about it.
The Animalfolk cards are in sets/decks/clans (call them what you wish) and you start the game with one of these for each player in the game. However each player does not own a colour coded set and in fact begins the game with one card from each of the Animalfolk clans in play, making their hand up to 10 cards by adding the necessary number of Junk cards. The Animalfolk cards given to players at this point all have the value of '1' so with the Junk cards every player has a hand of 10 cards and a total value of 10. The remaining Animalfolk cards valued at '1' and Junk cards are removed from play. The Market Deck, from which you will build your hand, is made up from the remainder of the Animalfolk cards valued from 2 through 5.
Lay out the top 5 cards from the Market Deck on the board - there are spaces for them marked +4, +3. +2, +1 and blank (0). The remainder of the deck is placed beside the board next to the +5. It is important to note that the numbers on the board sit above the cards placed in the spaces and that the + number is added to the value of the card, unlike many other Deck-Builders it is NOT the sole cost of the card beneath it. Therefore it is possible for a card under the +5 to cost less than a card under the +Zero.
There are other important things to remember when buying cards from the Market. You have drawn five cards from your personal 10 card (shuffled) deck and the value of these is your spending power, so that would be 5 on your first outing. When you purchase a card it goes straight into your hand, ready for your next Turn, whilst the cards used to purchase it are discarded. When you have bought a few cards their value will allow you to buy more expensive valued cards, however there is a twist on spending.
Using the example from the booklet you may overspend (never may you owe the Market) but you cannot choose to if you could otherwise pay the correct or nearer to the correct price. Let's say you have 5 cards in your hand valued at 5, 4, 4, 3 & 1. You want to buy a card that has a value of 7; then you must use the 3 and a 4. If you were purchasing a card valued at 8 you could pay the two 4s (8) or the 1, 3 and a 4 (also 8) but you couldn't deliberately overpay using the 5 and a 4 (9). Other players can see the cards you have to spend and they will be quick to jump on any creative accounting.
So on towards the end of the game and the winner. Throughout play you have been allowed only one Action per Turn. This will have been Purchasing a single card, playing a Technique Action, Discarding unwanted cards from your hand (to your Discard pile) or claiming a Stack of cards for your personal stall - reach 8 stacks first and you win. Sounds easy doesn't it?
Each stack you build (remember you can only build one per Turn) has to be exact in numerical value and of the same Animalfolk. You also have to build rising numerically from 1 to 8, so your first stack will have a value of '1' and therefore can be any one-valued Animalfolk card (not a Junk card). You next stack must be exactly valued at 2, so a single Animalfolk card valued at '2' or two cards of the same Animalfolk type valued at '1'. (your second stack does not have to be the same Animalfolk as your first stack and upwards etc - each separate stack has to be of the same Animalfolk but your 8 stacks do not all have to be of the same Animalfolk.
Each Animalfolk kind has different abilities. When playing for the first time the game has enough for you to learn and remember so be thoughtful, if you are not using every Animalfolk type, about which of them to include. For example the Superstitious Snowshoe Hare (Blue with White Bunny icon) get to roll the [special] Hare die (not Hair Dye) which, because of their Rabbits feet is Luck based. This die adds more fun to the proceedings but is probably best left out of your first game - this isn't a rule or essential, it just makes life a little easier while learning the basics.
DALE of MERCHANTS 3 is a thoroughly enjoyable game. It has players trying to balance collecting and building - it is easy to leave yourself with very little in the way of useful cards by building Stacks quickly and then although it may look like you are speeding ahead, other players who have balanced and planned better will/can/may catch up and pass you.
One of the mini expansions for DALE of MERCHANTS (note: not just DoM3) is the Systematic Eurasian Beaver deck €4.95 rrp. This is a deck of 15 Beaver cards plus 8 junk cards (the Junk cards are of the same '1' value as the Junk cards in DoM3 but with a different illustration) which greatly influence play once you add them into your game as an Animalfolk type - meaning they are available for everyone. or at least they are up for grabs in the Market (the 1s being the exception as usual).
The Beaver cards are valued 1 through 5 with each similar value having the same text (effect) except that the 2 x 5s which are 'Order of Chaos' and 'Practice' two entirely different cards. These cards shouldn't be introduced until you have a good few games under your belt as they can be totally awesome when combined with certain other cards (again, not just in DoM3).