Thursday, July 25, 2013

Milk Run: "Merchant of Venus"

Most of what I could say about Merchant of Venus I've already said about Dune I.E. Rex: The Final Days of the Empire.  Both games were produced by the late, great wargame publisher / Ameritrash progenitor Avalon Hill and were trapped within its dying husk when the company was assimilated by, Hasbro in 1998.  

Merchant of Venus featured in one of Avalon Hill's last product catalogs from 1997.  

Both titles were rescued from oblivion by Avalon Hill's contemporary spiritual successor Fantasy Flight.  But unlike Dune, which had to be re-skinned thanks to the jackanapes in charge of the Frank Herbert estate, Merchant of Venus was ported over largely intact.  Here's what Fantasy Flight has to say about their new incarnation:

"The galaxy is bursting with opportunities for savvy space traders to exploit, and the race to profit blasts off in Merchant of Venus!  In this exciting game of interstellar trade and exploration, one to four players each represent a fledgling merchant eager to make a name for himself.

"Following a devastating alien attack, a galactic cluster is once again opened for trade, and unimaginable wealth awaits the most ambitious merchant.  Each player begins the game with a ship and a gung-ho pilot fresh from the Academy.  From these humble beginnings, they must find the most profitable trade routes in order to deliver goods, transport passengers, build spaceports, mine asteroids, and acquire fame by completing missions and upgrading their ship and pilot.

"Merchant of Venus launches players into a galaxy full of markets hungry to discover and buy alien goods.  Space traders from four different races zip along trade routes to make contact with distant planets and uncover their key consumables.

"Human – Adaptable and generally content to inhabit any planet they run across through technological inventions.

"Whynom – A strong race of intelligent horses.

"Qossuth – Insane and bent on taking over the universe, the Qossuth often devise elaborate plans which require vast sums of money (making them good targets for trade).

"Eeepeeep – Intelligent machines descended from a single toaster that achieved sentience after being stabbed with one too many kitchen utensils.

"From your First Contact with alien cultures, to the establishment of trade routes and spaceports, your quest for cash demands that you remain on the move. Each round, players take turns declaring their heading, launching their ships, moving through space, and buying and selling goods. The trader with the most wealth wins!

"Successful traders will quickly locate fast and reliable trade routes, timing their purchases and sales with the interest in the market.  You also need to weigh your investment in your ship against the cost to your profit margin.  Upgrades to your ship may allow you to blaze through the stars, faster than ever, and they can help you bypass the various hazards of interstellar voyages, including space pirates. Likewise, your basic pilot may be good enough to take your ship on its maiden voyage, but when you’ve got a vital trade line established between multiple planets, do you want to trust your business to a rookie?

"Along your journeys, you may also pick up passengers able to pay for transit across the stars, invest in racial technology, and undertake a number of missions that can enhance your fame and profit.

"Fantasy Flight Games has remained true to the wild, intergalactic pursuit of wealth from the game’s classic 1980’s roots, and we’ve kicked it into hyperdrive with several new enhancements, including a fantastic new board and sculpted ships.

"Fans of the original version will find our implementation of Richard Hamblen’s classic game on one side of the board, and Rob Kouba's newly reimagined designed on the other. This revised iteration keeps the core mechanics intact, but boosts them with new options that enrich the game by presenting fresh strategies to players."

Looking to review the full cargo manifest?  Click on the following link to see exactly what you need to do with all of those Designer Genes and Melf Pelts!


I think Dean acquired this one as a Christmas gift, so the fact that we just got around to playing it tells me two things:
  1. It requires a bit of prep time to table.  
  2. We all own w-a-a-a-a-a-y too many games.  
Regardless (or perhaps because of) the delay, Dean, Mike and I were quite excited to try out the "Classic" version of the game when we sat down for game night back on July 10'th.


ME...Human (White)

DEAN...Eeepeeep (Red)

Mike...Whynom (Green)


Via a random roll, Mike became the first player to move out.  After chucking a 6, 4 and 1 for movement he blasted off to the spaceport orbiting Nebula Habitat and encountered Dean's people, the Eeepeeep.  He then purchased a Data Probe for his ship and took on a load of Pedigree Bolts as cargo.   Then, after scoring another great movement roll (6/6/3) he flew off to Water World, secretly checked to see what race was concealed there and then decided to keep on truckin'.  While in deep space, he Encountered a Telegate, which would allow us to hop across the galaxy as more appeared!

Dean's movement roll (2/1/1) was frightfully slim, so he spent his first turn crawling towards the nearest system.  His second roll (3/3/5) was moderately better and he docked at the Spaceport high above the Interstellar Biosphere and met the planet's custodians, the Cholos.  After this amicable tête-à-tête, Dean went on to pimp out his ride with a Variable Shield and also picked up some Designer Genes at cut-rate prices. 

My rolling was equally poor.  After throwing a 3, a 2 and a 1 all I could do was inch my way towards the Colony World.  Upon arrival (via a follow-up roll of 4/1/1) I decided to make friends with the native Dell, which, in retrospect, was kinda stupid.  Although my purchase of an advanced Yellow Drive was clutch, their export crop of Finest Dust left something to be desired.  Their proffered "Licensed to Drill" tech also did very little to tempt me, since it was more suited to the Standard game rules.

With a movement roll of 3, 5 and 2 Mike tried to get to the Nebula Habitat but fell prey to a forty-point Hazard.  He decided to change course, jetting off to the Insterstellar Biosphere to hang with the Cholos instead.  After selling his Pedigree Bolts to them for 200 credits he decided to replace this with Designer Genes as his next delivery.  

When the Speed Die produced a 6, 2 and 1 for movement, Dean motored off to the Trapped Rogue Planet but couldn't quite get there.  His next Speed Roll of 2, 3 and 1 was just enough to facilitate his rendezvous with the newly-revealed Nillis.  After selling two lots of Designer Genes to these weirdoes for 120 bones he purchased some Bionic Perfume for 80 and then went on his merry way.  

Against my better judgement, I bit the bullet and picked up some Finer Dust from the Dell and then blasted off towards the Giant Planet.  A triple-six movement score got me there in one turn, and I soon ingratiated myself to the native Wollow.  Given my limited cargo space, I quickly turfed the Dust and brought a Megalith Paperweight on board instead.          

Mike's roll of 1, 5 and 3 didn't quite give him enough juice to get to the Trapped Rogue Planet, but his subsequent movement of 6, 2 and 1 did the trick.  He sold his Designer Genes to the Nillis for a respectable 240 credits and then bought into a Data Probe Factory on the planet's surface.   

Dean used a 3, 1 and 1 roll to start navigating back towards the Colony World, arriving the following turn thanks to his first decent movement roll of 6/4/3.  He quickly sold his Bionic Perfume for 140 credits and then purchased a Spaceport, just because all the cool kids were doing it.

Even after throwing an anemic 5/4/1, I still managed to find my way back home, encountering my fellow Humans on their Multi-Generational Ship.  Delighted by the return of their prodigal son, they gave me a hefty IOU and a great deal on raw materials, enough for me to buy a stake in the on-board Shuttle Factory.  Then, "thanks" to a weak-ass 3/1/1 roll, I started crawling my way off to Water World.    

Propelled by a 5/4/3 Speed Roll, Mike struck off towards the Desert World.  Thanks to a 6/1/2 follow-up he gently touched down and then broke bread with the Yxklyx.  Fueled by an IOU dowry of 100 credits, Mike filled his cargo hold to the brim with Immortal Grease and then bought stock in the local Stasis Tank Factory.

Dean stayed put, selling his second shipment of Bionic Perfume for another 140 large.  His planetary options now tapped out, he used a 5/3/1 roll to whisk himself off to the Giant Planet.  

With my 6/4/1 Speed Roll I splashed down on Water World, bumping into the Volois for the first time.  After selling the Paperweight for a respectable 160 credits I purchased some Canned Traits to transport off-world.  Propelled by a 6/3/2 movement roll I hurtled back towards the Multi-Generational Ship in order to pawn those self-same Traits.  Now lamenting my echoey cargo hold, I picked up some Rock Videos, which, if nothing else, certainly outed the game as a product of the Eighties.      

Mike used his 4/4/1 roll to blaze a trail towards the Nebula Habitat.  Despite a decent 5/1/2 follow-up, he didn't score the required Navigation die and got stuck bobbing around out in space.  

Dean also stalled on a woefully inadequate 3/1/1 movement score.  He also Encountered a deep-space "Jump Start" Relic which gave him the ability to leap across the board via any of the revealed Telegates.  Since only one was out at that time, he decided to stick with traditional locomotion for the time being.  Not a bad call since his next roll of 6, 5 and 6 got him all the way to the Multi-Generational Ship where he sold his Fine Dust for 50 credits and picked up some Rock Videos in return.

Using my 5/2/1 roll I zipped off to the Spaceport orbiting the Nebula Habitat.  Thanks to the profits from my Rock Video sale I decided to stake my claim on the local Spaceport and pick up some of them thur Pedigree Bolts.  On my next turn I also took a, Toaster onboard as a passenger to (A) increase my earning potential and (B) heat up my blueberry bagels.  

After a disappointing 2/3/3 roll, Mike decided to change course and head for the Interstellar Biosphere.  The following turn he threw just enough pips to limp into the system where he found an eager buyer for his Immortal Grease, earning 250 space clams.  

In a clear sign of the apocalypse, Dean threw another great Speed Roll, scoring a 6, 4 and 5.  He used this turbo boost to bypass Water World and strike out towards the Desert World.  Unfortunately, his hot dice soon become a liability.  After rolling 6/5/6 the following turn Dean realized, to his horror, that he didn't have the Navigation required to take the Desert World off-ramp.  As a result, he was forced to drift around for a turn.  *Cue sad trumpet noise.*

With my 5/2/1 roll I (barely) arrived at the Interstellar Biosphere and sold my Pedigree Bolts for a cool 300 bits.  The following turn the Toaster disembarked, trying to pay me in breadcrumbs before I beat the 120 credits out of his aluminum hide.  Chafing under the yoke of a single cargo hold, I decide to re-invest my profits back into my business and bought a Transport!  

After rolling a 6 a 3 and a 2, Mike zoomed off to the War-Torn System.  He encountered the planet's overseers, the Graw, and thanks to their 90-credit IOU he bought some Junk which was even more Glorious then what he was born with.  Like an interstellar Vasco da Gama, he then spent his 5/4/3 movement roll to discover the Niks on the Polluted Planet.  After letting them enjoy his Glorious Junk for 200 credits (?) he picked up the deed for a Merchant Spaceport and then stocked his cargo hold with a bunch of creepy Living Toys.  

With a roll of 1/1/5, Dean once again found himself in limbo.  He decided to spin off to the Nebula Habitat, where he sold his Rock Videos and then dumped his Finer Dust in order to purchase Pedigree Bolts.  As if his transportation woes weren't already bad enough, he next roll of 6/6/1 got him hopelessly mired in the Nebula for a turn!  

A 6/4/1 roll fueled my journey to the Nebula Habitat where I procured another lucrative Pedigree Bolt. I wanted to head down to the War Torn System but despite a bodacious movement roll of 6/4/1 not only did I find myself lost in the dark reaches of space, I also had to pay 20 extra credits in order to maneuver around a stupid freakin' hazard!    

Speeding through the galaxy on a 5, 4, and 6, Mike Encountered a Relic Shield which he happily decided to install in order to mitigate those pesky Hazards.  He then swung past the Inhabited Moon but decided not to stop there, choosing instead to forge on to the Water World.  

Although his Speed Roll of 5/2/1 wasn't very good, it was just enough for Dean to reach the Interstellar Biosphere.  He exchanged his Pedigree Bolts for a tidy little profit and then picked up some Designer Genes to pay for his next jaunt.  Hoping to get to the other end of the galaxy in a hurry, he attempted to activate his Jump Start but with a triple 1, he barely leapt clear of the Biosphere.  

I set a course back to the Multi-Generational Ship but my 2/2/1 roll made for some pretty pokey transit.  I really needed a 1 on my next Speed Roll to get back to the Cholos on the Interstellar Biosphere, who were eagerly awaiting my Pedigree Bolt delivery.  Unfortunately I was forced to dock at the Spaceport orbiting the Multi-Generational Ship; a wasted turn for all intents and purposes.  

Propelled by a respectable 6/6/1, Mike boldly struck out towards the Desert World.  He diced up 5/6/1 on his next turn, giving him the option to divert to the Nebula Habitat facility.  Unfortunately he was also forced to pay an additional 20 credits just to navigate around all of the hazards!

With a roll of 3/1/5, Dean finally got some satisfaction out of the Telegates, ending up in orbit around Water World.  He sold his Jordache-brand Designer Genes for 240 credits and then bought a Combo Drive facilitate easier movement around the board.  With his new engines installed, the following Speed Roll of 2/5/6 got him all the way to the Interstellar Biosphere where he sold his Pedigree Bolts for 300 large.

I finally managed to reach the Giant Planet on the back of a pitiful 1/2/4 Speed roll.  Upon arrival I sold my own Pedigree Bolt for 300 big ol' space bucks.  Given the excellent return on these things, we kept picking them up until there were none left.  I then purchased a Megalith Paperweight for the return trip back to the Multi-Generational Ship but was immediately stymied by a frustratingly-low 1/2/1 roll.

Thanks to a twelve-point movement tally (6/4/2) Mike landed safely on the Colony World.  Between the regular trade value of the Living Toys and the accumulation of Demand Tokens, the Dell paid Mike 300 credits in total for his booty!  Intoxicated by these spoils, Mike decided to gamble on the high-capacity storage space of a Freighter.  But as soon as he realized that he was now stuck with only two Speed Dice he might have voiced a few regrets.  When the 5 and 4 he diced up next prevented him from escaping the system, he spent that particular turn cooling his jets on the Colony World Spaceport.  

Dean used his roll of 1/4/5 to propel his ship to the Galactic Base where he quickly upgraded his Scout Ship to a Transport.  He then engaged his Jump Start and the matching Telegate sent him hurtling half-way across the galaxy to land on the War-Torn system.  Immediately he went on the prowl for some Glorious Junk to stuff into his cavernous pod bay.  Man, what a space-trollop!

I used the 4 from my 4/2/1 Speed Roll to navigate to the Water World, paying 20 credits in added expenses just for the privilege of getting there.  My next craptacular toss of 1/1/2 was just enough to facilitate a splashdown on Dennis Hopper's turf.  After selling my Monolith Paperweights to the Volois I quickly snapped up the deed to the nearby Merchant Spaceport.     
Mike's frustration came to a head after he rolled two 6's and discovered that he was still trapped in orbit around the Colony World!  To his chagrin, the exact same thing happened to him on the following turn. Losing that third Speed Die was proving to be painful!

Meanwhile, Dean decided to take on a scumbag Arms Dealer as a Passenger.  He then blasted out of orbit with an excellent 6/6/5 roll which propelled him all the way to the Multi-Generation Ship.  Upon arrival, he quickly sold his in-demand Glorious Junk for 160 credits!  Ah, the glamorous life of a space-gigolo.

My weak-ass roll of 5/1/1 got me as far as the Multi-Generation Ship but I had eyes on another destination. Finally I get a decent Speed Roll (6/6/5) and touched down on the Polluted Planet.  Despite suggesting that the native Niks change the planet's name to something more tourist-friendly ("Fog World"!), I sold my Canned Traits to them for 280 credits.  In good faith, I also invested in their domestic Merchant Spaceport. Even though we all avoided these privatized facilities for fear of giving our opponents so much as a red nickel, Factories and Spaceports continued to be a popular investment, probably because of the tangible Net Worth they provided.

Finally, Mike got a 2 and a 5, releasing him from the apparent gravity well that was plaguing him around the Colony World.  He then became the first merchant to land on the Jungle World, meet the Shenna and acquire some Milf, er...Melf Pelts.  Continuing his quest to explore EVERY FUCKING INCH OF THE KNOWN GALAXY, he then rocketed off to the Ice World via a 6/5 Speed Roll.  Along the way he Encountered and then installed a Spy Eye Relic along the way.  This handy little device was soon put to good use, giving Mike the ability to survey Encounters before flipping them.

Meanwhile, Dean bit the bullet and parked at my Water World Spaceport, earning 120 credits for his Designer Jeans and another 40 from the stockpiled Demand.  After purchasing some Canned Traits at wholesale prices he then hurtled off towards the Polluted Planet with a 6/5/1 roll.  En route he Encountered an Autopilot Relic which would keep his ship moving at a consistent speed for the rest of the game.  After reaching his destination, Dean sold his Canned Traits for another 220 simoleons, capping two great turns in a row for him.

Looking to test the boundaries of my expanded cargo hold I took on two lots of Living Toys.  Stuffed to capacity, I rolled 6/4/4 for Speed, docked with the Multi-Generational Ship and then sold one of the Toys to my fellow Humans for 60 credits.  Even though I'd just tripled my investment, I also knew that such a sparse payday wasn't going to be competitive.

Continuing to venture into uncharted space, Mike used his 4/1 Speed Roll to maneuver through the Asteroid System.  His follow-up movement of 5 and 6 gave him a chance to duck and weave through the interstellar debris field.  After using his Spy Eye to scan an Encounter directly ahead and retrieve some Mulligan Gear, Mike instantly gained the ability to re-roll one Speed Die.  Given his limited die pool, this Relic proved to be a tremendous find.  He then docked at the nearest space station, sold his Melf Pelts for a cool 150 beans and then invested in a hot new commodity: Impossible Furniture.

Dean opted for another Jump Start, rolled 6/4/1 and ended up in the War-Torn System, I.E. the ass-end of the galaxy.  Beating Mike to the punch, he was the first person to reach the heart of the Asteroid System and establish diplomatic relations with Mike's own race, the Wynoms!  Wow, what a dick move!  He then cargo-dumped the virtually valueless Living Toys and picked up some Impossible Furniture with the Wynom's 80-credit IOU gift.  He then used his follow-up 5/4/1 Speed Roll to set a course for the distant Inhabited Moon.

Coveting the mobility of my rivals, I decided to install a Red Drive after selling more Living Toys to my fellow   With my souped-up engines I decided to make haste for the Polluted Planet via Water World.

Armed with a respectable 6/2 Speed Roll, Mike scanned the path ahead with his Spy Eye and then opted to go in the other direction.  Eventually he landed on the War-Torn system and bought the Graw's "Hard Burn" Technology which gave him a one-use, 10-point Speed bump on a future turn.

With a 5/1/1 for movement, Dean touched down on the Inhabited Moon and offered his Rock Videos to the resident Zum.  After buying some Chicle Liquor (!) from these raging intergalactic booze-hounds, he initiated a Jump Start, rolled what he needed and then "BAMF"-ed half-way across the cosmos.

Mike then augmented his 6/4 Speed Roll with a Hard Burn, getting all the way to Water World where he pawned his Impossible Furniture for a healthy 160 credits.  He then purchased some Canned Traits in exchange for 140.

Taking stock of Dean's potential hootch windfall, I cashed in my 4/4/2 Speed Roll to reach the Inhabited Moon and snagged a few skids of Chicle Liquor.  Mainly because I love saying "Chicle Liquor".  Chicle Liquor.  Sorry.  Anyway, I also picked up a Sales Passenger who would hopefully make my next run even more lucrative.

Driven by a perfectly cromulent 2/4/5 Speed Roll, Dean arrived at the Inter-Stellar Biosphere.  After selling Chicle Liquor to the Cholos (PLEASE NOTE: send your letters of complaint to Fantasy Flight c/o designers Richard Hamblen and Robert A. Kouba) for 140 credits he then bought some Designer Jeans for 60.  On his next turn he decided to stay in place so he could buy some shares in the Merchant Spaceport floating just overhead.  He also sold the Impossible Furniture collecting dust in his secondary cargo hold and then bought some more Genes in exchange.

After rolling snake eyes, Mike activated his Mulligan Gear and ended up with a 1 and a 4 instead.  He started drifting towards the Multi-Generational Ship, arriving at the orbiting Neutral Spaceport the following round with a 6 and a 4.  After wheelin' and a-dealin' with the Humans, he sold his Canned Traits to them for 140 credits and then procured a few Rock Videos with the profits.

In order to deliver Herbert Ruggles Tarlek Jr. to Water World, I desperately needed a 3 or a 6 for Navigation.  Instead I got a falking 5, 2 and 4 so I ended up stuck in a Trade Route nexus.  The crap luck I experienced simply trying to get from point "A" to point "B" really started to piss me off.  After I diced up two 5's and a 2 on my next turn I had to resist the urge to flip the table.  Frustrated beyond belief, I jettisoned my original plan and flew off to my own Nebula Habitat Starbase to sell my Chicle Liquor for a pitiful 90 credits plus a 10 credit commission.  My irritation continued to mount after realizing that I still didn't have enough money to buy those tantalizing Pedigree Bolts that the Eeepeeep were dangling in front of my face.  ""

With a roll of 1/3/3 Dean set his sights on the Ice World via the Trapped Rogue System.  Next turn's Speed Roll of 6/5/1 was enough to get him face-to-face with the last unrevealed race on the board: the Qossuth. After smoking the peace pipe with these gnarly dudes he immediately scored two stellar windfalls: 120 credits for dropping off the Arms Dealer and another 120 from his host's IOU.  As if that wasn't enough, he also collected 180 space bucks for selling Designer Genes to them.  His subsequent Psychotic Sculpture purchase for 120 bones barely put a dent in his profits.

After throwing a 5 and a 2, Mike engaged his Mulligan Gear but threw another 2.  After a bout of cyphering he noticed that he could get to the Nebula Habitat, where he ended up pawning his Rock Videos for 160 credits and then procuring the last of the Pedigree Bolts.  I stewed in silence while watching this, boiling in mute envy.  His next movement of 6 and 1 got him part-way to the Giant Planet via the Multi-Generational Ship.

I used the 2 from my 2/3/4 Speed Die result to navigate to the Colony World via the Interstellar Bioshere. On the following round, a 5, 5 and 4 granted me planetfall, where I bought the 120-value Finest Dust from the Dell.  Now that I had a reason to visit the Inhabited Moon (where Dust was in demand) I had an alternate plan in place when my trip to Water World inevitably went off the rails again.  

Dean sold his second shipment of Designer Genes to the fashionably-beautiful Qossuth for another 180 bits. Given his Exxon Mobil-like profits on every turn, Mike and I knew that Dean's victory was nothing short of a formality.  He went on that turn to invest in a Merchant Spaceport and take another shipment of Psychotic Sculptures onboard.

Blessed with a pair of 5's, Mike arrived on the Giant Planet where he sold his Pedigree Bolts to the Wollow for an obscene 300 credit payout, loading his ship up with a gross of Megalith Paperweights in return.  

In yet another kick to my space-knutz, the dice gave me two 1's and a 2 for a Speed Roll.  I barely broke orbit en route to the Jungle World, who I also noticed were strung out for Dust.

Mercifully, it was the last turn I'd ever have to fumble through.  Intent on Water World's offer to buy his Statues, Dean called a "3" on his Speed Die roll so he could Jump Start to that system.  Instead he rolled a 1, 4 and a 6, which forced him through the #4 Telegate.  This turned out to be a blessing in disguise since the Graw also turned out to pretentious art snobs with a taste for the peculiar.  After selling his first Psychotic Sculpture for 340 credits, Dean promptly declared himself the winner!

(in net worth credits) 





  • The economic engine at the heart of Merchant of Venus is simple and elegant.  Some of the cheaper goods might have a high profit margin but don't yield a big windfall while other, more expensive commodities provide a more satisfying paycheck even if they don't triple in value.  You constantly need to estimate the value of goods and how quickly you can convert them into cash.  Bonus tip: take advantage of Demand token accumulation for some easy bonus bucks.   
  • The components are colorful, clear and attractive.  The navigation arrows could be a bit easier to read, but otherwise, everything is perfect.        
  • After Dean briefed us on how to play, there were precious few trips back to the rulebook.  Having said that, I did spend the entire game laboring under the misconception that Telegates can only be used if their "matching number" is on the board.  Whoops!   
  • There's a certain dopey sense of humor inherent in this game.  The oddball alien names, generic Star Wars-ian terrain-based planets and the MTV-inspired commodities all have a charmingly-dated quality to them.  Indeed, Merchant of Venus feels just as Eighties as Pac-Man, heavy metal music and Wall Street cocaine abuse.  
  • After customizing your ship with advanced Drives, Shields and Relics it actually feels as if you're piloting a unique vessel with its own idiosyncrasies.  Upgrading to a Transport or Freighter might seem like a no-brainer, but if there aren't any lucrative goods on the board or enough money to stock your ship to capacity, it might be a needless investment.  Regardless of what ship you decide to stick with, a wise player should upgrade their Drives as soon as possible in order to improve their limited mobility.  
  • The game encourages you to be bold.  I was in the lead during the first quarter of the game because of all those early first contacts.  Thinking that I could just coast my way through the rest of the game on milk-runs, I stopped venturing to the outskirts of the galaxy.  Unfortunately,  Dean and Mike continued to boldly seek out new life and new civilizations and were handsomely rewarded with a metric shit-ton of free IOU's.  
  • The endless pattern of "pick up goods, roll to move, try to get to your destination, fail to get to your destination, roll again, finally get to your destination, sell your crap, pick up more crap" starts to wear thin after awhile.  We played the "Journeyman" game requiring 2000 Net Worth credits to win but I kinda wish we'd kept it at 1000.  Towards the end, things were starting to drag worse then your average Morrissey song.
  • The aforementioned game length wouldn't be so bad if there was some sort of mid-point accelerant or complication which screwed around with the game's global climate.  As it stands, there's not a lot of gameplay variety nor is there much hope to come back from a deficit.  Essentially the game ends in exactly the manner in which it begins. 
  • Ship upgrades do speed things up a little bit, but not by much.  In fact, for the longest time, I had Transport buyers remorse since I never seemed to have enough money to fill the damn thing to capacity.  And I know for sure that Mike kicked himself for buying a Freighter, what with that whole "only two Speed Die" thang.  Also, why don't ships add to your Net worth?  I know that vehicles depreciate over time but Holy Space Jesus, this is ridiculous!  
  • I really wish Fantasy Flight had sprung for different minis for each class of ship.  You go through all the bother of buying a new ship and you gotta keep plying around in the same ol' crappy miniature.   Lame.  
  • Words cannot do justice to the palpable feelings of impotent fury you feel when you get a great Speed Roll and then realize that you don't have the required Navigation die to where you want to go.  I know this is supposed to represent the rigors of space travel but there has to be some way to simulate this without inspiring feelings of murder/suicide.        

Like many "classic" games from the Eighties (Shogun I'm looking in your direction), Merchant of Venus definitely shows its age.  But this just makes me want to nag Dean until he tables the Standard version of the game.  I think it would be really interesting to play both versions back-to-back to see if the mechanics improved after twenty-five years of board game evolution.  Hey, it certainly worked for Conquest of the Empire.

Merchant of Venus rates four pips out of six with a gravitational tilt downward.

Looking to get fair market value for your Glorious Junk?  Click on the image below to order Merchant of Venus from Amazon and help support this blog!


  1. I loved how quickly the turns went as soon as we learned the game. However, the best laid plans were turned to glorious junk when the dice told us where to go. I'm also psyched for the Standard game

  2. Good point, sir.

    You also just reminded me of another niggling issue: the lack of player interaction and unmistakable feeling that everyone is playing in their own solitaire game.