Before I begin, I was sent a copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review. If you would rather watch a video of this review, you can find it below. Get your own copy here.
There are not too many genres of game that I have not played quite a bit by now. However, the massively popular roll and write category is one. The reason for this is that often the themes of them just do not excite me, and then there is the whole destroying of the game boards…which I am not good at handling.
However, as I have admitted to many times before, if someone says “fantasy” and “board game” anywhere in the world my head will pop and I will say “Tell me more!”, often the extreme confusion of my wife and Beatrice the Board Game Dog…the cat doesn’t care. So needless to say, Merchants of Magick being set in the Set a Watch universe, which I enjoyed was certainly one I was interested in checking out.
The actual mechanics of this Roll & Write are delightful. The way it limits the dice that can be used for each bubble, and the way you have to choose which dice you are using on each turn makes for a good, but not overwhelming decision space. I also particularly like the options you have for end game scoring bonuses, and the way that the later in the game you go, the more things you can craft on any given turn. It adds a bit of engine building to the game, which is delightful.
I also, particularly like how the potions work in the game, it allows for just enough mitigation that makes dead rounds very rare.
Merchants of Magick follows the standard roll and write formula. Roll some dice, use those numbers to make some marks on your player mat, use those marks to score points. This game does not break that pattern.
In this one, however, you are filling out rows on your player mat, which in turn unlocks types of items, and ways to enchant those items that your shop has in perpetuity. In other words if you have unlocked Backpacks, Swords, and Flaming, then you can make flaming backpacks or flaming swords. Though to be fair, for $3 and backpack I, too, can make you a flaming backpack.
Adding to the puzzle is an ever rotating market of items that you are able to craft, as each turn the furthest item to your left will rotate to another player around the table, and you will have to wait and see if it returns to you. Along with that each column of bubbles has both a specific set of numbers that can fill them in, and a specific set of dice that are acceptable to use for that column.
At the end of ten rounds, you total up your points, and the high score will win.
So what do I think?
The cards, and game mats look good, and are well organized. The possible orders rotate regularly, but it can feel at the beginning of a multiplayer game that orders are stagnant, as they all stay until someone starts to make things.
I also like how the mastery cards work, but I wish there were more of them, it seems that a few more of them could have added an incredible amount of variety, making a strong addition to the game much better.
They missed a bit on the theme here. The Set a Watch world has some oomph to it, but some of the choices that they make just do not bring you into the world. Why is the Witch seeking plate armor, when there are options that are more traditionally for a “magic” character? While some of the cards show the various enchantments on them, and they pop, it is a shame that in many cases the only difference on the cards of different types is a slight shading difference, making the game feel less thematic and more like you are doing paper work.
Bringing it all together
Merchants of Magick is a fun Roll & Write that does almost everything well. It is easy to teach, quick to play and has just about the perfect amount of decision space in it. It misses the mark thematically in some cases, but is a game that if you like the genre, and you like fantasy then you will truly enjoy it.
How much for the abridged version?
* Quick to teach and play
* Perfect amount of decision space
* Fun mechanics, that create an engine as you play
* Good dice mitigation mechanics
* Misses the mark thematically
* A roll and write fan will not be disappointed with this