Quick Look: Merchants of Karanor
Designer: Rémi Delaunoy
Artists: Tanguy Vayssières
Publisher: FunkyHat Games
Year Published: On Kickstarter currently link at bottom of this review
No. of Players: 2-6
Get ready for a merchant’s adventure ! Go on the roads of Karanor and become a wandering merchant in search for wealth and glory!
In Merchants of Karanor, you will try to reach 10 notoriety points before your opponents by opening new commerces, achieving quests for the locals or even buying a private villa.
During your turn, you will perform 4 actions among 6 permitted : travel, collect resources, interact with a local, open a commerce, work or realize a special action. At the end of your turn, players will receive the income of their commerce and the production of their associates.
During your travels, you will be able to gathers rewards and advantages, recruit associates, buy some illegal services to the black market or find a rare artifact to improve your character or your business activities, in order to move faster to victory.
Interactions between players are an important part of the game. Everything in the game can be traded, sold or bartered between players. Black market cards will allow you to slow your opponents in their quest for glory and bring tensions to the negotiations !
Merchant of Karanor is a Joyful family game of trades and quests. It contains enough background story to have a strong narrative support, although not being a narrative board game at all.
The king of the family trading games that most people know must be Catan, aka the friendship breaker. Catan is by far not the only game with trading between players as a core mechanic but I’ll take it as a sole example because the trading is at its core – that’s the reason why you can’t play with 2 players. Catan, being a familial game, lots of children play it with siblings, that’s been the case for my spouse’s family. When you play a competitive game with three or more players there isn’t only a winner and non-winners, you can clearly identify a winner, non-winners and a looser. Exporting that situation to a family of three children, if one knows he can’t win he might want to save the honor and do everything in his power to avoid being the looser of the game. And in that trading games are friendship killers ! The weakest siblings will associate with any of the two others be able to feed him unfairly good revenue, placing an effective embargo on trade with the third sibling. Not even talking about the thief that can be placed to disadvantage the same player over and over again. Those are some of the trading mechanism misbehaviors you should always keep in mind and see how they would translate to your playing groups before buying a game with a trading mechanism at is core. You’ve been warned :).
Trading in Merchants of Karanor is a central mechanic but the game playing from 2 to 6, depending on the amount of player, you might just introduce fair trade to all. One key difference between trades in Merchants of Karanor and Catan is also the way the resources are spread. First of all there are more, 7 of them and they are not spread evenly in the beginning, so that each player as a more or less easy access to 3 of them and close to no access to all the others. This leads in 2 player games to real “fair trade” because trading 2 resources you have and your opponent doesn’t against 2 resources where the opposite is true is just fair and economically viable for everybody. That’s one of the reasons why I’d say it directly, I’d rather play Merchants of Karanor than Catan !
Merchants of Karanor – as such
Merchants of Karanor is a competitive family game with a race to the point goal. In merchants of Karanor, each player will start in a different city on the map with a specific backstory that will determine its starting elements and revenue.
From there on each merchant wants to become the most popular merchant of all Karamor, there are basically two ways to achieve fame and glory, by opening shops around the continents or by helping the people living in Karanor.
You will decide to meet those brave people, each encounter will give you a quest. The quests are diverse tasks with small stories like, “please bring some wine to this place” or “you should get there with the material to make a fishing rod and enter the fishing contest”. In advance of all quests, you know the cost and benefits of that quests.
Building market places around the continent also comes with direct benefits, increased revenue per turn and most of the time the possibility to buy an extra bonus; These bonuses are bound to the type of store built, a stable for horses will allow you to travel faster, …
To gather the needed resources to build your merchant empire or answer the quests given by the people in Karanor, you’ll need to either wander around the whole world to get everything yourself or to trade with your fellow merchants that started in a different location and had preferential access to other resources.
This combination of both possibilities forbids players to build a real embargo on any resources which in turn lets you proceed in friendly trading and negotiations. The game being deterministic in the resources gathered, although random in the future need, you may even negotiate in advance and ask a fellow Merchant that would be near a resource if he could go get it next turn, as in a cooperative board game. This allows again for friendly interaction that the whole family could like.
Universe and Material
Disclaimer: The displayed material comes from a prototype and the final product may display small differences from the material presented.
Most boardgames could have back stories but most people that played Ticket to Ride don’t even know that the color they are using is directly linked to one of the characters on the box. That’s because most of the non-RPG, non-narrative boardgames have meaningless bakcstories.
Merchants of Karanor managed to have the opposite, with only a few well crafted elements it makes the universe support the game play. You may still skip the flavor text but you won’t. It’s too good to be skipped and small enough to keep the game rhythm.
Colorful, friendly, relaxing ! The art style radiates the type of game, the fact that you may play with your friends and family alike for friendly chatters and calm fun. It’s beautiful and special attention as been given to details.
Cards & tokens
Easy to read, well illustrated and easy to understand with numbers and pictogram, the cards of Merchants of Karanor comes in two different formats, one bigger one to include more flavor text. Both are easy to read and big enough to be manipulated with ease.
Tokens are of good manufacture and their colors help identify them, nothing special to report :).
I really like those boards ! . Modular boards are difficult to make and engineer because, if you go for jigsaws they will be damage through use and if you go for rectangles you might place them in the wrong direction at first, or they might move when slightly hit. So bonus point for not-straight edges !
One last remark
Merchants of Karanor can directly enter one of my favorite kind of games, the one I could have loved playing with my brother when I was a child, would still love playing with my wife and could enjoy with children that would be old enough ! A real family game, with beautiful colors and a game play easy to understand but that can lead to a variety of scenario.
Find out more at BGG.
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QuelqunQui (literally Someone who in French) is an eclectic who can’t stop doing more than one thing at a time.. Quelqunqui is a harpsichordist and gamer at heart that doesn’t abide by rules he doesn’t believe in. When not playing he’s traveling the world for the Belgian Air force.
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