Yep, it's another buying, selling, plundering and making lots of money game. If youre not averse to playing around with the odd strategy game or two, youve probably seen lots like this one. The first time you play them, you play them for bloody ages until you suddenly realise youve been buying all the wrong stuff and going to all the wrong places. At this point youll do one of two things: bin it because its crap, or say to yourself: Right, I know exactly what to do now, lets go for it from the top. Its as simple as that. Youll either end up with a game youll play to death until you win it, or youll have a couple of new floppy disks to format. When I first saw Merchant Prince I was almost convinced I would be playing it for a few hours, and thereafter Merchant and I would be going our separate ways. As it turned out, despite the dodgy graphics which I felt were almost daring me to play, I waded in and got a lot more than I'd bargained for.
Columbus eat your heart out
Your objective in Merchant Prince is to be the richest merchant in Venice by the end of the game. This is not a simple case of buying tons of really cheap stuff and selling it for a massive profit; there are three computer opponents with the same goal who you have to outwit at every turn to win. This involves manipulating the corruption inherent in the church to your own advantage, and so becoming a political power, and spreading your influence throughout the world.
You start Merchant Prince with a meagre amount of money and a couple of galleys to use for trade and exploration. To begin with, the world map is blanked out so you need to explore an area before you can see whats in it. The best approach is to use your small ships to cover as wide an area as possible, and use the large ones with a bigger cargo capacity for trading.
The game is played on a turn basis, with each of your units having a set amount of movement points each turn, so its important to establish a reasonably lucrative trade route as early in the game as possible and start building up the florins. As is the case with all trading games, the first thing to do is find out what products sell for the most money, discover the cheapest place to buy them and then locate the places willing to pay the most for them. After that its a simple matter of buying lots of ships, loading them up with the goods, and sending them off to earn heaps of dosh.
Once you know where you want your ships to go and what you want them to trade in, you can automate the routes, so all you have to do is call up the route screen for any of your ships, set the destinations and cargo type, and sit back and watch them follow your orders for each turn. Once youve got a few of these set up, your money will soon start to accumulate. When youve got enough of it, youll be in a position to start throwing your weight around in the church and political circles. Thats when the fun really starts.
A life on the ocean wave
Finding the best trade routes and taking advantage of them will certainly make you a substantial amount of money and get you started in the game, but the real money is in the church and politics. Saint Marcs Basilica is home to the Pope and all the cardinals. The cardinals can be bought and each one you own entitles you to one vote in the papal election. Get enough votes and you can become Pope and make lots of money from your rivals through the sale of cardinalships.
The Doges palace is the political centre in the game. The Doge is elected by the senate and you can bribe any of the ten most powerful senators to gain their votes so you can run for Doge and take heaps of loot from the treasury.
Much back-stabbing, slandering and murdering is necessary if you want to become Pope or Doge. Senators and cardinals get bumped off left, right and centre as each player hires assassins to attack the officials currently loyal to their rivals. For this reason its unwise to spend money in the church or Doges palace until you have enough to buy a large number of cardinals or senators so that you can run for election immediately.
Elections for Pope and Doge take place every ten turns, but if you cant wait you can simply hire a murderer and have the offending Pope or Doge taken out of the equation.
Own up you murdering rotters
The back-stabbing is not confined to the council chambers and Saint Marcs. Each player can hire mercenaries at any time. Some cities deny access to merchants from Venice, and need to be persuaded to change their attitude. Constant attacks from pirates and those unfriendly types from Genoa are another reason to bring in the tough guys. Mercenaries are expensive though, and you have to pay them for each turn you use their services so, unless you can find a group near the area youre having trouble with, youre probably better off cutting your losses and finding another way round the problem. Because of the huge variety of problems you have to deal with in the game. Merchant Prince has you juggling many variables every turn and this is what makes it so addictive. The graphics are no work of art but the gameplay is excellent and its a bastard to beat at expert level, so once you get into it youll be playing it for ages until you win.
Download Merchant Prince
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP