Before I begin, I was sent a prototype of this game, and will receive a copy of the final product in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid preview. If you would prefer to watch a you can check it out below. You can learn more about the game here.
Oh look another game about aliens landing. Joy. Ok, so what is the schtick? They are taking over? They are here to steal our water, even though they are deathly allergic to it? They want to probe us with impunity? Wait? In this game they are friendly, and just want to trade with us? OK tell me more!
Merchants of Qultah is a dice placement game. Your dice represent your “best offer” to each of the alien merchants. On each turn you will choose which alien you want to deal with, and roll your dice. If your dice are higher than any one else’s, then their dice are discarded and your’s take over. Additionally, each merchant has powers that activate based on the dice that you roll. Some merchants might hate 6’s. So if you roll one it gets discarded, or perhaps they know a buddy of theirs loves 5’s. So if you roll a 5, then you have to swap it with another. Once all dice are played then you collect the crystals the aliens are offering.
Swap out some of the merchants, and do it all again and then the game is over! Whoever, has collected the most crystals wins.
So what do I think?
I really enjoy the simplicity of the rules of the game. It is quite simple to play, and it plays very fast. However, what I like the most is how the powers on the merchant cards work. There is really a lot to think about as you play, as you try to set up different chain reactions with the dice. I also really appreciate the way the numbers work. Rather than just be straight numbers, it is done with decimals. So if you roll two dice and get a 4 and a 1, your number is 4.1. This makes it much more interesting when you are trying to outbid the other players, now I don’t know if it actually makes it easier, but it feels like it does.
I also really appreciate how varied the different merchants are. Depending on how you set up your market each day you can have extremely simple and straightforward merchants, or you can have ones that are very challenging to place dice on.
I like that art. The aliens all have their own personality, and almost all of them are a delight to look at. It is fun to try to look at them and the powers that they have and start to develop a story in your own mind of what their deal is.
I also really enjoy that all of the backgrounds are places around Vienna, which is ostensibly where the aliens have landed. That is a cool little easter egg!
Merchants of Qultah is a game that can be pretty vicious. So if you do not like the idea of people stealing your deals out from under you, then this might not be a game for you. I also wish that the player’s characters were represented in some way. I think it could be great fun to have different human merchants that you could play, each with some kind of minor player power.
Bringing it all together
Merchants of Qultah is a fast, simple to learn dice placement game. The game can get a bit cutthroat, and while the merchants all have great variety, it could be fun to have some kind of variety amongst the various players as well. The art is good fun, and the game itself works well with two but gets better and better with more players. The large number of merchants makes for good replay value, and good difficulty variations.
Dude. You expect me to read all that when they are aliens to trade with?!
* Fast, simple game
* Good art, with cool easter eggs for those that know Vienna
* Game is stronger with more players, but it also gets significantly more cutthroat
* Could be fun to have some individualized player powers
* Mechanics are clean and fun
* Awesome to have an “alien invasion” theme that does not end in the apocalypse