Ferry goods through dangerous pathways filled with bloodthirsty beasts and raiding gangs in Merchants of the Dark Road, currently live on Kickstarter.
The upcoming worker-placement board game sees players assign meeples to different actions each turn in order to load their caravans with various items from the big city. They then venture into the dark roads that lead to far-off villages. Despite being a family-friendly game, Merchants of the Dark Road has its fair share of dangers, with potential encounters awaiting players including bandit raids and ambushes by monsters.
Merchants of the Dark Road begins with players assigning a die from their reserve and placing it on an action displayed on their wagon - as long as that action isn’t already covered - so that they can gain its bonus effect. The active player can move a number of spaces around the city board equal to the number shown on one of their unassigned dice, allowing them to perform actions by placing a die on the associated space.
Potential city actions include purchasing weapons and armour for the journey ahead, manipulating the price of goods and - of course - collecting commissions for deliveries.
Once everyone completes their preparations, the upcoming game has players deciding which commissions to pursue and which paths to take along the dark roads. A player must announce that they are leading a caravan and where they wish to travel to, so that other players can choose to join them with their wagons.
To provide additional protection and bonuses, players can choose a magical beast to accompany them on their journey - these can include a phoenix, an ice mouse and a fearsome snow bee.
Nevertheless, players must prepare to face encounters throughout their journey, some of which might have damning consequences. Thankfully, reaching their destination means safety and profits. Whichever wagon owner earns the most renown and money wins the game.
Merchants of the Dark Road was designed by Brain Suhre, the creator of fishing-themed games Coldwater Crown and Freshwater Fly, as well as deckbuilding game Winterborne and Shadowrun: Zero Day, based on the cyberpunk tabletop RPG.
The game is illustrated by Andrew Bosley, who has worked on for some of the best games released in recent years, such as Everdell, Tapestry and Citadels.
Merchants of the Dark Road is being published by Elf Creek Games, the company behind titles including co-op game Atlantis Rising: Second Edition and card game End of the Trail.
The Kickstarter campaign for Merchants of the Dark Road is live until June 27th, with a pledge of $49/£40 getting a copy of the base game. It’s estimated to arrive sometime in January 2021.