Before I begin I was sent a prototype of the game, and will receive a production copy should it fund. This is not a paid preview. If you would prefer to watch a video of this review check it out below. Learn how to get your own copy here.
If you have been following my content then you will know that worker placement games have pretty rapidly moved up my list of game genres that I enjoy. You will also know that I am a sucker for a cool box cover! So Merchants of Infinity as a worker placement game with a cool cover was immediately on my list of games to try! The question would be is the game just another derivative worker placement game about turning one color cube into another color cube?
In Merchants of Infinity you are on the space station Mandelbrot which is located at a point in space where reality is thin. Each day it connects to a different reality, that has different goods available and not available. Over the course of 4-6 rounds you will be sending your workers out to the station to collect ship orders, resources for the ship orders, pick up odd jobs in the bar, or perform a variety of station actions (give you bonuses), or Nova actions (can give you bonuses, or attack other players.
Pretty straight forward. However, where the game differs from most worker placement games is in the beginning of each round, and in resource collection. When it comes to resource collection. Each round you use it, or lose it. That’s right, there is no hoarding of resources to make a big score down the road, and what is more, you can never collect more than three resources per round, and what’s more each resource location is limited in the number of meeples that can be on it at any given time. So immediately you are trying to make sure you can fulfill your orders, before you lose access to the resources, and if yo u fail, oh well, stinks to be you! (Not to say you get nothing, there are market mechanics to just sell your goods, and even ways you can gamble what you have to try to score big.
With the limitation in resources, and no hoarding of resources turn order becomes very important. At the beginning of each day you will play a mini game of “Cogs”. Cogs is a simple card game where you place you your cards, play them one at a time and whomever has the highest score goes first. Each round you will get to draw a new one, and there is a station action that lets you draw several more.
At the end of the 4-6 turns the player with the most platinum wins. Due to shelter in place, I was only able to play this game solo and at a two player count, so thoughts on 3+ is purely speculative based on my knowledge of the rules.
So what do I think?
The game is very attractive to look at. The art is good, the components are good, the meeples are massive. It all feels great to play with. Initially, I was skeptical about the mini game to determine turn order, but with the way turn order really can affect the ensuing turns it has an added tension, this coupled with the ability to use one of your meeples to get more cards later on makes for a very interesting balance of how will you use your limited resources on any given turn.
Speaking of the limited resources, I really like how there is no hoarding of resources. It really makes it feel unique from so many other worker placement games. Now this alone would not be so great, but with the addition of the ever changing market where you can sell the resources you have collected, or if they are not worth much that turn, you can always go to the steam lab and test your luck to see if you can get lucky and salvage your botched turn.
The last two things that really stand out to me as particularly fun, are the Vortex Bar (where you collect odd jobs that can stack with your normal resource collection), and the fractal mirror, which alters the rules ever so slightly each round of the game, just to keep you on your toes.
The station spaces. While I am fairly certain they become very useful in 3-5 player games, with only two players, there are only a few that feel particularly useful. At the same time, to me, some of them are not particularly exciting. For example. There is one space that gets you 7 platinum. Great. There is another one that gets you an extra 5 platinum on your ship orders. However, since you can only ever get a single ship order, it is really just gain 5 platinum if you are do other things too. Now yes, I do understand, that it adds a sense of urgency to claim the one before anyone else can, which is likely a big deal with the higher player counts, but in a lower player count game some of those spaces just felt lackluster.
Let’s talk about the Nova spaces. Several of them I really like the look of. They are awesome ways to get around roadblocks that can be put in front of you. However, the problem is that these (optional) spaces also include some pretty hardcore player vs player spaces. This means that without house ruling some spaces out, you cannot use those spaces if you do not want to play a game where you are directly messing with each other. There are lots of players that I play with that will never play a game where you can directly mess with each other, which means those super cool spaces are not available. Now, if you do not have this issue then it will not matter.
Bringing it all together
Merchants of Infinity is a worker placement game that truly does some interesting things with the genre when it comes to turn order, and resource management. There are so many mechanics to the game that I find pretty darn exciting. There are some others that, at least at low player counts or solo, feel less exciting. The game looks great on the table and the components promise to be quite good. The solo play rules I played are quite promising, though still in an early draft form.
Less reading more fulfilling orders!
* Does some really interesting things with the genre in regards to turn order, and resource management
* Looks great on the table
* Plays well solo or at 2 player, but should shine with more players, as this will make more spaces feel useful
* One of the interesting parts of the game is pretty aggressive, and might not be for all players
* This is a good worker placement game, that does just enough to feel different from so many others