Designer Daniel Solis was a busy guy in 2014, have 12 games he designed as entries in the boardgamegeek.com database. Today we are taking a look at Monsoon Market.
Monsoon Market is a set-collection based card game for 2 to 4 players set in an area of the Indian Ocean from West Africa to China during a time of peace and profit where players own port cities and are competing to build a fast fortune. The game is a race to get 15 or more seals of approval from Zheng He, a famous mariner, diplomat, and fleet admiral during China’s early Ming Dynasty, who sails along this Monsoon Market judging the ports along the way. Seals of approval are earned by accurately filling orders for goods. Goods are acquired from the market or stolen from other players. The more accurately the orders are filled, the higher the number of seals will be awarded.
How the Game is Played:
The game is very easy to set up and play. First separate the rules cards, the goods cards, and the orders cards. The rules cards explain how the game is played. Each card is two-sided, one side has rules as text, and the opposite side has visual examples of the rules. Shuffle the goods cards. These cards have various goods on them: peppers, cloth, scrolls, leathers, gems, and wood. Some cards can be either one type of good or another. Deal four goods cards face up in the central playing area to form the market display. Then Deal four random goods cards face-up to each player to form their own personal goods display. Next shuffle the order cards and deal 4 face up in the central area. These are the initial orders that players are going to be competing to fill.
In the picture above, you can see the market display, the order cards, and one player’s personal display.
To play the game, determine a start player. Play will continue clockwise. On a player’s turn there are three available actions: Steal, Buy, or Fulfill Orders. If you choose to steal, you take any 1 goods card from any display, including the market and the display of other players. However, to steal from a player, that player must have more goods than you. You then add that card to your display. You may have a maximum of 10 goods cards in your display. To Buy, you spend 1 goods card from your display to take goods cards from the market. The number of cards you take is dependent upon the number of goods on the card you spend. Each time a card is taken from the market display, replace it with a new card from the goods deck. The third action is to fulfill an order.
To fulfill an order you spend cards from your personal good display. In the card listed above, the order is looking for 2 scrolls, 2 peppers, and 1 cloth. There are different ways to fill this order. The first is bulk, where you give an assortment of goods totaling at least the entire quantity of goods on the order card. So in the card above, you can spend any cards that total 5 goods or more to fulfill this order. If you choose to fulfill an order this way, you will place the card in front of you with the lowest reward level showing. In the card above, you have a discount of 1 gem good on future orders as a reward in addition to 1 seal of approval. There is a silver fulfillment level which will give the second level of reward, in the card shown above it would be 2 seals of approval. To fulfill at this level you can spend any goods, but at least matching the minimum quantities for the order. In the card shown above, you could spend one card with any good with a quantity of 2 or more, a second good card with a quantity of 2 or more, and a third card that has a quantity of 1 or more. The third level of fulfilling orders is gold, spending the exact types of goods, each set in at least the quantities of each good shown on the order card. This will give you the best reward. In the picture above, the card would be placed in front of you in the orientation shown. All of the reward levels on the cards are distinguished by the borders surrounding them. Finally, after completing any order, you may do the bonus action listed on the card. In the card above, you could upgrade a previously filled order, meaning if you fulfilled an order at bulk level, you would rotate that card to show a silver level instead.
Each player takes their turns in a clockwise order, racing to fulfill orders to get at least 15 seals of approval. Once a player has reached 15 seals, each other player takes one last turn. Whoever has the most seals at the end of the game wins. Ties are resolved by the most of certain types of orders filled.
Monsoon Market is a light, strategic card game. In essence the game is a set collection game, but with the 3 levels of order fulfillment is what makes this game stand out. With different options of fulfilling an order, it gives the player the challenge of how best to spend the cards in their display. Obviously the best reward is to fulfill at the gold level, but there are ways to upgrade previously filled orders, and sometimes being able to fulfill an order even at the bulk level to take the bonus action may be worth it.The game places a bit of thought into the lap of the player to make their best decision each turn as to what action to take. Do you acquire goods by stealing them, or spend a good card for an order not currently shown to take other goods to fill your display? Do you spend certain cards to fulfill at a higher level to gain the best reward, or do you do a bulk fulfillment of an order to take it before your opponent can fill that order?
The game does not have a complicated set of rules, but the first time playing can be slightly confusing to some people as to how the orders are fulfilled. The goods cards have a nice large text spot describing the goods and quantity on one side and the goods symbol on the other. The artwork on the goods cards goes along with the setting for the game. The orders cards are laid out pretty well, but with larger orders, the card seems very busy. The borders around the rewards are good at showing what level they are at. Game play is very quick, with many games being finished in around 20 minutes. Thematically, the artwork of the characters on the goods cards is representative of the setting where this game takes place.
To me this is a satisfying card game that does fall into the filler category. There is a bit of depth to the game to keep players engaged, with the different decisions that need to be made each turn. Since the game plays quickly, I see a lot of replayability with this one because when played there is a challenge even though it is a race.
From a family perspective, this game does two things: 1) brings attention to the goods and culture in the Indian Ocean area of the world. The culture is shown on the character art on the goods cards. 2) The game challenges the player to make wise choices. With the order fulfillment having 3 different levels, there is no clear cut move to make, offering the player a challenge to make the best decision in that moment.
This is a very good game from Daniel Solis. Currently the game is available here –> http://www.drivethrucards.com/product/131236/Monsoon-Market?term=monsoon+market and I am hoping to see this game in larger distribution in the future.