The best merchants are those who understand the desires and demands of their customers long before those customers even ask. It turns, out the illegal arms trade works with a similar model. In Battle Merchants, players have to carefully manage those demands with the ability to make a healthy profit, and there are times when even the most adept salespeople don’t have a clear decision to make. To help all of us, from the novice weapons dealer to the silver-tongued peddler, designer Gil Hova offers up some basic strategy tips for he game.
Battle Merchants’ strategies can be tough to pick up for some new players. Nevertheless, everything you want to do boils down to two words: make money. Of course, there are a few different ways to make money. Here are some strategy tips that will help you play the game.
Three Basic Tips
First off: Battle Merchants is about economics during wartime, but it’s very much an economic game, not a wargame. Dominating the battlefield is good, but if your opponents sweep in on the demand you’ve created and get $7 profits on all the weapons they sell, you will have a hard time keeping up, even with all your repair and endgame bonuses.
So in general, you want to make money. Don’t be afraid to send a weapon into a losing battle if that weapon will give you an early Reward Tile for a race you need, or a big profit, or better yet, both. Even if that weapon gets swept off the board, you’ll still keep your profit. Sure, you won’t get the repair money, but there’s now demand for a weapon that you’re capable of making. Keep that gravy train running!
Second off: Don’t spend too much money in Craft. This is the number one way a new player can mess up in the game. The object of the game isn’t to have the best weapon-making potential – it’s to make money.
This is especially true early in the game. Forging and selling weapons is the main way you’ll make a profit in Battle Merchants, so at any given point, you should never have fewer than 5 coins unless you have weapons ready to sell. If you fall under that 5-coin threshold, you will have to grab Kingdom Cards to earn enough money to make weapons again. That will really hurt you!
Third: Selling to both sides of the same battle is usually a good move, so long as you arrange the battle to have a definite outcome. That way, you will get a defeated weapon and a Repair bonus. Ties are not good in the game; the single coin a tied player gets is a pity coin. I put it in because, like a low tip, it somehow feels more punishing than not getting anything at all.
Two Extreme Strategies
There are two extreme strategies you can take in the game: specializing and spamming.
Specializing is the strategy most new players pick up on first, as it has the most obvious rewards. When you specialize, you try to get to 6 levels of Craft for at least one weapon, and then start performing Master Craftsman Forge-And-Sell actions on it as quickly as possible.
If the Craft Cards agree with you, and if you handle your money well, you might be able to do this in late Spring or early Summer. The challenge is not spending so much money on Craft that it takes too long to get to the 15 coins you need to start forging Vorpal weapons.
If you can get to forging three Vorpal weapons in one action, and if you can sell them all with big profits, you will do quite well in the game.
Spamming is a subtler strategy, but in the right hands, it’s tough to beat. A spammer doesn’t concern herself with all those fancy weapons; instead, she deals in volume. Spammers cover the board with cheap weapons and collect as many Reward Tiles as they can.
If you can get to selling your Standard Weapons for 10 coins by Autumn, you’re doing very well, and will probably be able to overcome the specialists’ endgame bonuses.
Finally, remember the big advantage spammers have over specialists. Because spammers have lousier weapons, there will always be demand for them, whereas specialists must constantly scour the board for new demand since the races that have their weapons will rarely need another! It’s kind of like how there will never be an infinitely long-running battery, or indestructible pantyhose: there’s value in disposable products.
That said, there are a whole spectrum of approaches between specializing and spamming. Most successful players employ a hybrid approach. You can start as a spammer and jump on a line of Craft when the opportunity presents itself. You can bump up your Craft levels just enough to beat some of your opponents’ weaker weapons, but never have enough for a vorpal. Or you can max out on Kingdom Cards and try to press the advantage they give you.
If you’re specializing, be sure to grab Extra-Crafty early on. This can be a dangerous card, because careless use can put you in a hole. But it can also get you to Master Craftsman extremely quickly. Be careful about always having enough money to forge new weapons!
Whether you’re spamming or specializing, you will want a Localized Need card, and probably a Secret Deal for whatever race you have a lot of Reward Tiles for. Players who manage to snag two Localized Need and/or two Secret Deal cards are in really good shape.
Finally, there are some extremely powerful cards in the deck. Investment Opportunity can range from useless to insane. If it hasn’t appeared by Autumn, be worried; a player who picks it up just before Winter can make some serious bank.
Be on the lookout for Secret Council and Ancient Techniques, as they can give you some great opportunities to pick up cards other players may have forgotten.
And Drive the Workers is my personal favorite card. If you can use it to make two sales to end the season, you should enjoy the cries and groans of your opponents.
Well, yeah; there’s a ton of other stuff to explore in Battle Merchants. What Craft to pick up early? When to hop from a spamming strategy to a specialist strategy? When to press the end of the game, or sell to an older space to prolong the game? When to accept a lower margin on a weapon to make sure one player isn’t monopolizing both sides of a single region?
But isn’t it more fun to find all this stuff out yourself?
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