In our previous previews of Merchant of Venus, we’ve examined how you get around the many hazards of the newly opened cluster 5632, how to keep your ship humming along, and the basics of barter in the galaxy. In this article, we’ll talk about what a good reputation can do for a merchant’s chances for success, and we’ll look at other ways to play and enjoy Merchant of Venus right out of the box.
Missions and Rewards, Fame and Infamy
While your main goal in the game will be the acquisition of credits through trade and transportation, some merchants can land deals based on their reputation alone. In Merchant of Venus, accruing fame and infamy can make or break the end of the game for players. Fame and infamy points are gained or lost by a number of different mechanics. At the end of the game, fame points gain a player extra credits.
Infamy is typically gained by choosing to engage in unscrupulous practices, and will subtract from a player’s total final fame score. While using some dastardly tactics can be a great way to do some damage to your competitors or earn some extra credits quickly, this can make it difficult to eke out those last few precious credits that you might have gained by walking the straight and narrow.
The first thing that any pilot can do to gain a bit of notoriety is invest in his ride. Everybody likes a fancy spaceship! A ship that’s focused on special ship upgrades as well as investing in maxing out a ship’s lasers, shields, and cargo holds will add fame points to a player’s final score. Having a skilled pilot also contributes to your fame at the end of the game, so paying to level up your pilot is good for more than just getting through those pesky piloting hazards.
Defeating pirates, transporting especially notable passengers, and completing the tasks outlined in Mission cards are other ways to make sure that the galaxy knows of your exploits.
Missions in particular are a great way for players to make some extra credits on the side. Each player is assigned one Mission card at the beginning of the game. Mission cards have a wide range of requirements. Some Missions require a player to make sure that his pilot is at a certain level while landing in a system or perhaps you’ll be tasked with venturing into dangerous territory to pass some skill checks. Completing these optional tasks gets the player a reward in the form of both end-of-game fame points and one Reward card.
Reward cards can give players extra abilities, Fame, or some can be traded in for extra credits if a player doesn’t want the card’s effects. Reaping rewards can really change the way your ship does business. Draw the right card and you can forgo worrying over a Navigation space, pick up a free Yellow Engine, or grab some free cargo from the system in which you’re currently parked.
If a player wants to double his chances at fame and rewards, then he should head to the Galactic Base to buy a second Mission card. Not only will this add to his long term possibilities, but players are immediately awarded extra fame points just for taking the initiative.
When tallying the game’s final score, your fame translates directly into cash, so rack up that reputation, and try to defame your opponents!
Other Ways to Play
In the rulebook for the “Standard Game” (Rob Kouba’s updated design), there are a whole host of optional rules that players can take on in order to put a new spin on their Merchant of Venus experience, even when they’ve become mercantile veterans.
Though there are some interesting options for tweaking the standard game for multiple players, the Solo Challenge bears special mention. For a solo gameplay experience, players utilize special Challenge cards that take effect at regular intervals over the course of the thirty turns of gameplay. Challenge cards require the player to meet certain criteria in order to remove the card’s negative effects. In addition, a Challenge card will force the player to pay a penalty in credits at the start of each turn. These fees and effects stack, so any lone spacefarer would do well to eliminate the Challenge cards as quickly as possible. If any of the Challenge cards are still in effect at the end of the game, the player loses, so work fast!
In addition to the new standard version designed by Rob Kouba, Merchant of Venus also includes everything you’d need to play Richard Hamblen’s classic version of the game. Simply flip the standard version of the board over to play the classic Merchant of Venus. Players new to the game and old fans alike can experience the classic game of exploration and trade. With solo play and optional rules for the standard game, and the inclusion of the classic version, Merchant of Venus provides endless hours of navigating both galactic clusters and complex cosmic markets. Look for Merchant of Venus to hit shelves soon!