Dale of Merchants 2: The Era of Trade Masters Game Review

Please note: Dale of Merchants 2 is a standalone game. You do not need any of the other games in the Dale of Merchants series to play it. In addition, Dale of Merchants 2 can seamlessly be incorporated with the original game or any of the expansions in the series. We ask that you read the Dale of Merchants Game Review to learn how to play the game. We will focus only on what is new to the game for this review.


The Basics:

  • For ages 10 and up
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Approximately 30 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Compete in the greatest merchant contest in the kingdom, again

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Czech writer best know for The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera, said “Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation.” In this game, it’s all about getting the goods to market and beating the competition to the punch. You must be creative, innovative, and most of all, flexible. All your plans at the moment might go up in smoke or all your wildest dreams might come true, but way too soo. It’s all about balance, supply, demand, and outthinking your opponent.

Dale of Merchants 2, designed by Sami Laakso and published by Snowdale Design, is comprised of 110 cards, one game board, and one custom six-sided die. The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card. Illustrations, also by Sami Laakso, are colorful and bright, bringing each of the animals to life and furthering the game’s theme.

What’s New

As mentioned in the heading, we will only focus on what is new since the game is absolutely the same as documented in the Dale of Merchants Game Review. In most cases, what is new is really just a refinement of the original rules, making the game better.

New Animal Friends

Dale of Merchants 2 brings six new animals to play with. Similar to the original game, each animal has its own deck and unique game style.

  • Experimenting Platypuses offers the players unique ways to control their cards. This is done by looking through decks and moving cards to locations.
  • Diligent Pale-Throated Sloths are all about taking action now but resolving the card later on their turn or their next turn. This is a great deck for those who like to plan.
  • Intimatding Dwarf Crocodiles bring hurt and harm (in game terms) by allowing players to interact with each other. And by “interact,” I mean “mess with their cards.”
  • Friendly Fennex Foxes takes player interaction to a new level by being “helpful” to everyone at the table. Of course, this help almost always benefits the player who plays the card.
  • Reckless Marbled Polecats are similar to the original game’s Lucky Ocelots. Play a card and roll the custom six-sided die to determine the outcome—great fun for those who enjoy adding a bit of chance to the gameplay.
  • Observant Snowy Owls bring to the game reactions. None of the cards can do anything by themselves but must be triggered by other cards in play. It brings new meaning to “passive-aggressive.”

Placing Technique Cards

Technique cards now stay “active” until they are resolved. Players can still only play one Technique per turn in front of them, but now players can build out a series of Techniques referred to as a “schedule.” Any Technique card in the player’s schedule is unaffected by other effects until they are fully resolved. If one or more Technique cards are triggered simultaneously, the player gets to determine the order in which they are resolved.

To put it another way, players now have the ability to set up what I like to call a “minefield.” They can play Technique cards in front of them to deter opponents or play them to use the opponent’s plays in their favor. Either way, this new adjustment to the rules gives players a lot of options.

Filling Up Your Hand

When filling up your deck at the end of your turn, taking and discarding cards can trigger a new deck. However, searching through a deck does not. This is important as several Technique cards will not be triggered as a result.

To learn more about Dale of Merchants 2, visit the game’s webpage.

Final Word

The Child Geeks loved the new animals and how the game was played by adding them into the rotation. According to one Child Geek, “The game is still easy to learn and still a lot of fun to play. The new animals don’t make the game any more difficult, but they do make you think in fun new ways.” Another Child Geek said, “I like these a lot. I played them with only the new animals and added them to the old animals, too. They all made the game better and more fun!” The Child Geeks had no concerns over how the new cards were played and enjoyed adding them to their rotations. In many cases, I had to remind the Child Geeks that they were playing with the new cards, which is a strong testament to how well designed the new cards are and how seamlessly they can be added to the original game. When all the games were over, the Child Geeks gave Dale of Merchants 2 their full endorsement.

The Parent Geeks also found the new animals and how they changed the game to be entertaining and engaging. According to one Parent Geek, “Each animal deck brings different ways to play the game. With these new animals, there are even more possible new ways to play and strategize. I’m really enjoying it.” Another Parent Geek said, “I was concerned that these new cards would change the way the game was played. They do, but in an excellent way that is easy to learn and a lot of fun. Like the original game, each animal provides the player with a new approach to the game. Although they were new, they never felt out of place.” When the last merchant stale was closed, the Parent Geeks counted and found Dale of Merchants 2 to be an excellent buy.

The Gamer Geeks still found Dale of Merchants and Dale of Merchants 2 casual, but they also still enjoyed it. According to one Gamer Geek, “I’m still not a huge fan of the game, but I have yet to play a single game that I didn’t enjoy. There are better deck builders on there, but this game and its original are solid. I’d play it again and recommend it to anyone looking for a casual deck builder.” Another Gamer Geek said, “A great game that keeps getting better. These new animals bring new ways to play that are fun, deep, and strategic. Great stuff.” When the last item was sold and the coins counted, the Gamer Geeks found Dale of Merchants 2 well worth their time.

Dale of Merchants 2 brings to the table new opportunities and new combos. You set up each game with random decks, or you can decide which animals to bring along. Either approach always guarantees some exciting and engaging gameplay. I agree with the Gamer Geeks that there are deeper and more interactive deck-building games on the market, but the Dale of Merchants series is a strong performer and has yet to let me down. Each game is interesting and has kept all at the table leaning in for more. You really can’t ask for more than that from any game.

Let’s take a moment here to discuss the pros and cons of this addition to the series. First, I believe these new animal decks build onto the original game. They fill in holes and bridge between the original animals, to a point. Think of them as an extension to what I believe to be a solid offering in the original game. As a result, you now have some exciting options, but these options come with a catch. While none of the animal decks are unbalanced, they add elements to gameplay that might not be wanted. The Alligators, for example, make the game very, very, VERY “in your face” when it comes to gameplay. Another example is the Foxes, which will cause a lot of shifting of the cards repeatedly to a point where the players might feel they never had control of their cards in the first place. But these are extremes and will never upset the game fully. It will depend on what other Animal decks are added, which might prove to be a disastrous gathering of animals or just the right amount. The fun is in figuring it out.

If you enjoyed Dale of Merchants, then Dale of Merchants 2 is a no-brainer. If you are not familiar with the Dale of Merchants series, then purchasing Dale of Merchants 2 is a great place to start, but I would suggest the original is the best to enter into the series. Dale of Merchants 2 is no better and no worse than the original, bringing to the table the same level of depth and fun. You cannot go wrong. Do play this little gem when time permits to see if it sells you on its goodness.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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