A crunchy roll-and-write in which you play as the merchant of an item shoppe.
In Merchants of Magick, which takes place in the "Set a Watch" universe, you are the owner of a magic item shoppe, crafting items and researching spells to sell to the Adventurers of the Watch.
Merchants of Magick is played over 10 rounds. Each round starts with the Resource Phase in which all 4 dice are rolled. During the Crafting and Research phase players chooses 2 dice to use, you can use a die to either craft new items or research new spells. Each die is associated with materials and/or energy, for example if you choose the purple die it can be used as Wood or Leather when crafting OR Elemental when researching.
When you craft or research you can craft any part of an item or spell as long as it matches the requirements. For crafting, the die you choose needs to match the material requirement (die color) and its value must be equal or higher than the number you wish to cross. For researching the die you choose needs to match the energy requirement (die color) and its value must be equal or lower than the number you wish to cross. If you cross of all numbers for an item or spell you complete it and you get the related item or spel coins as well as a potion.
Each player always has a number of order cards in front of them (depending on the number of players). During the game when you meet the requirements of an order card you may take it and it will be worth coins (points) at the end of the game. For example if you have the Everlasting Ring of the Orcs order card in front of you and you have crafted the item Ring and have researched the spells Everlasting and of the Orcs you may take that order card. You do not lose the items or spells used, they can be reused to fulfil other orders.
During the game you will be able to gain potions which let you reduce or increase a die value, you can also buy extra actions using potions to use more dice during a round. After researching and crafting The Mastery Phase happens in which players check to see if they have met the Mastery Cards requirements for extra points.
Finally the round is completed with a Customers Phase where you move all orders in front of you one space clockwise around the table. So you need to plan accordingly as the order you're aiming for might end up in you opponents shop before you can complete them.
The game ends after the 10th round when you sum up all your coins. The player with the most coins is the most prosperous merchant, and wins the game!
Roll-and-Write games have been releasing left and right. Some with more success than others. The question is, does Merchants of Magick stand out enough in this (over?)crowded market of Roll-and-Write games?
As you might know by now I'm a pretty big fan of these type of games. Their biggest benefit in my opinion is their quick setup time, which is a big plus after a long day at work. Merchants of Magick is no exception, but what makes it stand out from the rest. Merchants of Magick adds an innovatie system where order cards are not fixed but are time restrained. The orders in front of you rotate every round and you need to plan well to make sure you can fulfil as many orders before they move to your opponents. This makes you constantly check your opponents orders to see what is coming up and check your own orders to see what you can complete in time.
The art and components are absolutely gorgeous. Yes, some of the artwork has been copied from the Set a Watch games (they are from the game universe) but that doesn't bother me because it fits the game neatly. While I love the art style and components the theme does feel kinda pasted on. And with all the rows, columns and numbers it sometimes feels like you're filling in a work form or something. This doesn't make it a bad game, I just can't recommend it for its theme.
Another thing I didn't like is the fact that some players might get more lucky than others because of the order cards that are randomly drawn. Sometimes you get a new order in front of you that you can complete instantly (without having to do extra crafting or researching). And sometimes you get orders that you are nowhere near completing, all while your opponents are racking up orders like it's Christmas. I've experimented a bit with introducing a central market where you pick new order cards from, and I think I like that better. You can read more about this on BGG and join the discussion:
Overall I enjoyed my plays and the game has a relaxing feel to it. It's a great game to play between heavier games and the artwork will help get it to the table more often than some other roll-and-writes. There are a number of strategies to try out, but I do worry that after a few more plays it will get repetitive.
The rules and rulebook are all clear and detailed. I had one issue with it and that's regarding the Mastery Cards during set-up. The rulebook mentions Material Mastery and Energy Mastery cards, but it forgets to explain how you can recognise these cards. BGG helped me out and once you've played a few rounds it was already clear why they were called Material Mastery and Energy Mastery cards as well as how I could've identified them. Not to big of a problem, but definitely an oversight. If you're facing the same problem: there is a little arrow pointing up and down that match the arrows pointing up and down on your player sheet crafting and researching areas.
👍 Innovative order rotating system that adds planning and interaction between players
👍 How you use the dice is unique and I haven't seen that before in a Roll-and-Write
👍 Artwork and components are very good, the provided player sheets are also very colourful and high quality. Dice and Potion tokens are gorgeous and chuncky.
👍 Relaxing gameplay with satisfying combo's
➖ Theme feels a bit pasted on
➖ Lot of luck involved in getting the right order cards in front of you.
➖ Might lack a bit of variation when played a lot
Merchants of Magick
Merchants of Magick is a solid Roll-and-Write game with some innovative ideas and twists. The theme might be considered a bit pasted on but overall blends well with the gameplay. This is definitely a more involved Roll-and-Write and can be a good stepping stone if you like a bit more challenge compared to the lighter Roll-and-Writes.
Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)
Looking for alternatives or similar games? Have a look at Three Sisters or Fleet: The Dice Game.