Board GamesReviews

Mercado Review

Bag Building, Set Collection
Rüdiger Dorn
Fiore GmbH

Mercado is a luck-driven bag builder where players will follow in that finest tradition of the wealthy - buying stuff to be better than everyone else!  The presentation is great and the mechanics are smooth, but its randomness may be a mark against it for those looking for a more strategic experience.

Team Gameosity favorite Rüdiger Dorn is at it again!  One of the newest game in the great designer’s catalog, Mercado has 2-4 players sitting down to the table as wealthy nobles, looking to acquire reputation by purchasing the most impressive pile of baubles and perfumes the land has ever seen!

Jess:  What is it with these folks, anyway?  Who can spend the most the fastest?  What sort of skill does that take?

Andrew:  Yeah, really!  I mean, I sometimes go on game store websites and just buy anything that has ‘The Dice Game’ in the title.  Hardly takes any effort and I do it all the time!

Jess:  Yeah, I’ve been going over our finances, and I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that…

Coin purses loaded, the nobles head to the market!

Gameosity received a copy of Mercado for review.  We were not otherwise compensated.

In Mercado, each player will start their spending spree with a pile of coins of various types, tucked away in their coin purse.  Each player’s purse starts with the same contents – 5 each of gold, silver, turquoise, copper, and ‘black’ – these are counterfeit coins, unsuitable for any sort of trade.

Jess:  Counterfeit coins?  My word, what will everyone think?

Andrew:  Not much – apparently everyone‘s walking around with a pile of them.


Cheap to buy and worth 4 points, but you’ll add 2 counterfeit coins to your purse when you buy it

On the other end of the capital spectrum are white universal tender coins.  These can stand in for any material coin when making a purchase.

And purchasing is what Mercado is all about.  Each turn, players will reach into their coin purse and draw out 3 coins, and must then decide how to spend them by adding them to the different goods on offer in the market.

Each good is sold for a different combination of coins – some can be paid for using any kind of currency, but most have a specific number and type of coin the seller requires.  Each turn, players can contribute their coins to any eligible good, adding to their own pile for that good.

Green is decidedly closest to finalizing this purchase

Goods are only sold when one player manages to contribute all the coins needed to make the purchase, meaning that Mercado is sort of one part auction and one part race, as players try to complete the required coin sets before their opponents in order to snag goods.

Fully in the spirit of ‘the rich get richer’, the things you buy in Mercado don’t just give you points towards victory.  Sure, they sometimes force you to add some extra counterfeit coins to your bag, but they can also give you universal tender to add to your purse, cause you to permanently discard counterfeit coins, let you draw privilege tokens which provide 1-time beneficial effects, or generally just muck with your opponents!  So strategic purchasing is about a lot more than just snagging the tile with the biggest pile of points.

Not all rewards are points.

Andrew:  That said, this is really where the randomness needs to be mentioned – the coins you draw are (of course) totally random.  So while you might know that, strategically, it would be great to grab a particular item from the market, you’re not really in control of how you get to bid each turn, only where you place the coins you get.

Jess:  On the other hand, you know the contents of your bag, so keeping track of what has gone out and what’s still in there is key to making choices.  Got 4 gold out on the board?  Well, you know there’s only one left in your purse – plan around that!

Another way you can fight the randomness of Mercado are the Head Merchant and the Coin Changer, who give you a way to purchase universal tender and privilege tokens.  Also, players can use seals to draw an extra coin on their turn, though unspent seals will be worth reputation at the end of the game.

One of the most interesting aspects of Mercado, oddly, is the scoring track itself.  While it serves the purpose of tracking player scores, there are many icons on the track that will trigger when a person lands on them.  These icons may provide white coins, extra points, or removal of counterfeit coins.  So whenever possible, it’s also important to not only score the most points but to be strategic about when you score those points, because landing on the right space can make a big difference!

Andrew:  I think people are probably going to be divided on Mercado – there’s a lot of luck in this little game.  But for myself, I had a great time with it.  Yes, it’s random and yes it’s essentially just an auction game with a delayed payoff mechanism, but there’s more strategy than their might first seem, and it plays fast and intuitively once players get into the flow.

Jess:  I totally agree.  Intense, deep gameplay?  Nah.  But whatever, it’s fun!  When you do manage to scoop just the right sale and land on one of the extra point spots on the scoreboard and zip ahead it feels brilliant, even if all you did was lay some coins on the right item at the right time.

It might sound like we’re making apologies for Mercado, but it truly stands up on its own.  The light, accessible gameplay makes for a smooth experience, and the presentation is really nice.  And intriguingly, you can add a little variety by changing where players start the game on the score track, or by using the alternate score track on the back of the main board.

All in all, we had a lot of fun with Mercado – another worthy entry into Dorn’s catalog and an excellent addition to our collection!

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Other games like Mercado

Mercado’s smooth gameplay and bag-building core mechanism are really enjoyable, and if you’re looking for a little more depth, we suggest checking out Orléans, a phenomenal bag-driven worker placement game from Tasty Minstrel Games, or Hyperborea, a really unique asymmetrical strategic game of area control and conquest (and bags).  Oh, and if you’re just in the market for another Rüdiger Dorn game, you should certainly consider the superlative Istanbul.

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