Update: Merchants of the Dark Road has launched on Kickstarter and the campaign will run for 23 days. You may back the standard edition of the game, or the Deluxe one with upgraded components. The all-in option gets you the Deluxe edition plus metal coins, pouches, and sleeves.
Our preview post below was published on May 30.
Merchants of the Dark Road is a 1-4 player dice placement game in which itinerant merchants travel along dangerous trade roads. It will launch on Kickstarter on June 2.
Each merchant has a wagon (player board), 7 night dice, one illuminated die and one good stored in their carriage. Three of the night dice will be placed on three specific spots on the wagon, that show available actions. Merchants also receive a hero and a horse card. The main board locations are arranged in a rondel, and on each round, players will be placing dice on these locations to perform the actions of each space. Gameplay is divided in 4 phases: Plan, Move, Act, and Rest.
In the Plan phase, you select one of the night dice you placed on your wagon, bump it on the space above it, and place another die in its place. The bumped die now goes into your action pool, and you immediately perform the chosen action: a) craft an item and place it in your wagon, b) place a lantern on your wagon or place the illuminated die in your action pool, or c) take 2 coins or turn the market wheel.
In the Move phase, you choose one of the dice in your action pool and move as many spaces on the board as the die value. In the Act phase, you perform actions in the two districts that are adjacent to your wagon. Each district has a space to place your action die (you will often have only one in your pool unless you have activated the illuminated die too). In the Rest phase, you discard the dice you have used and replace any other components you may have taken.
The locations on the board are: the Great Bazaar where you buy goods, the Queen's Commissions where you acquire a contract to fulfill, the Dark Market where you can also buy goods and commissions, the Ringway Inn where you sell goods to heroes for money, and Yurg's Excursions where you can find upgraded goods or fulfill commissions for extra prestige. Traveling to Yurg's regions is perilous and may result in you gaining rewards or suffering penalties.
In the solo mode, you play against the Trader AI. The AI has a deck from which it draws a card each turn, and performs the designated actions. To win, you must exceed the Trader's score.