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The Guild of Merchant Explorers Board Game Review

WBG Score: 9

Player Count: 1-4

You’ll like this if you like: Blue Lagoon, Cartographers, Ganz Schon Clever.

Published by: Alderac Entertainment Group

Designed by: Matthew Dunstan, Brett J. Gilbert


In a first for WBG, we are going to review a game twice. The awesome Tom Harrod has already covered this game with a brilliant review that you can read here. But after becoming somewhat addicted to this game over the last few weeks, I felt compelled to offer my two pennies too. So, strap in for some serious gushing.

I won't go into how this game plays, as Tom has already done a great job of that in his review. So, instead I will go straight into why I love this game.


Tom scored this 8/10. I have given it 9/10. The main difference between Tom and me in terms of our thoughts on this game is the lack of player interaction affects Tom's thoughts more than me. Also, Tom felt there was a missed opportunity with the lack of stuff you actually explore, as he mentioned in his review.

But for me, I love everything about this game. I agree with Tom's thoughts, he is right with his points, no question. It's just that the head-down, focus on my own little world aspect of this game is something that I love. I am ok with the lack of interaction, and enjoy absorbing myself in this world. Now, don't get me wrong, if every game was like this, I would be less inclined to rate it this as highly. It would be more of a problem. But obviously that is not the case. There are thousands of games out there. And some focus in a huge way on player interaction, and I love that. But I think that then leaves a place for a game like this, that removes the player interaction, and instead focuses on oh so juicy combos and point salad scoring loveliness. It's why most of us own multiple games. Different games for different itches.


Initiate Gushing


But, my favourite thing in this game, hands down, are the bonus cards you can draw each round. You will always have a choice of two. This will not be a case of which of the two is the best. They will both be awesome. They are all awesome! You will want them both, all the time. It's more a case of working out which one will works best for you in the current game situation you are in. But they are all incredible. I love decisions like this. I love choosing between multiple good things. So many games offer a few good things, where a player could take the best thing and leave another player with a slightly less good thing, and so on. This can leave a bitter taste. It becomes a race to be the first player. So games like this where they give everyone great things, all the time, is a welcome relief for me. This game makes everything good. It's fun. And that's what board games are about right?


Too much gushing? Oh, I'm only just getting started.

I look forward to the part in each round, which will come about every five minutes or so, when you get to choose one of these amazing cards. It's a genuine thrill each time. Even when it's cards I have had before and used recently. They are still great, and give you the chance to do some very exciting things.


An "Essential" Game


The awesome Gamecasters recently inducted this brilliant game into their "Essentials" collection. A group of games they all agree would be the perfect game in any collection, especially if you are looking to start a new collection. A game that would suit most players and play styles. I could not agree more. They only have nine in their essential line currently, it takes something to get onto this list. I could not agree more with their choice to put The Guild of Merchant Explorers into their essentials collection.


The main thing that grips me with this game is how much it delivers, from such a simple rule set. When you set-up a complex game, with lots of rules, and multiple mechanics and components, you expect to get a lot from the strategy in the game. Putting more effort into learning and setting up a game raises your expectations for what you will get out of it. Now, you may enjoy some complex games just as much as this game, but that reward comes from a much bigger give. The Guild of Merchant Explorers gives you a huge reward for a tiny ask. As such, I think it's only fair to praise a game like this when it packs so much into this incredibly simple ruleset.

I could teach this game to anyone within a few minutes. You can get started almost immediately. In order to run this game, because you are simply flipping a few cards, and then all players are taking the same action, I could play this with any new player, lead the card flipping myself, and just explain the options available as we go. You could be up and running within minutes and by the end of the first round, which would take five minutes, all players would know the game. And with only four rounds and a few cards played each round, games can be as quick as 20-30 minutes. But you will feel like you have made the strategic decision's needed in a much longer and more complex game. This game is all out the pay off. Very little effort. Massive gain.


Variety?


Each game feels very different. Despite the fact that you are always drawing the same cards. Sure, the cards come out in a different order. But the inputs into your decision making vary very little game to game. However, the outputs swing in a huge way. The four different maps help here. But I played the game on the start map multiple times now and each game felt completely different. You don't immediately need the other maps for variation. The game gives you that on it's own.

However, the other maps are awesome! And I cannot wait to get my hands on the expansion maps to see what they bring! But this is one of those games where you would welcome expansions, but it doesn't need them. It is just so clean. So well constructed. The beauty is in the simplicity. And similar to games like Ganz Schon Clever, you are happy to just rinse and repeat the same experience over and over again. This game for me is still as fun, still as appealing, as till as exciting as it was on game one.


So, onto the things I don't like.


The name. It's terrible.


That's about it.

But it is a bit of a generic, easily forgettable name isn't it, let's be honest. I regularly pronounce it wrong. Merchant Explorers. Guild of Explorers. Just a bit of a generic mouthful, with too many words.


But who cares. The game is phenomenal, and firmly on my list for a chance to be one of my games of the year.


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