Merv: The Heart of the Silk Road is a 1-4 player action selection game in which you try to gain the most wealth and power in the medieval city of Merv. The game is now available to purchase in the UK and will become more widely available in retail next month.
Merv used to be a 12th century commercial and cultural capital of great renown in the region of modern-day Turkmenistan. After a destructive raid by the Mongols in 1221 that resulted in 700.000 deaths, the city never recovered. In the board game, you will construct buildings, make trade deals, and perform your religious duties while either defending the city from the raiders or collaborating with them to save your riches.
The game is divided in 3 years. The first year only has an Action and a Scoring phase. The second and third years have an extra Invasion phase during which the Mongols attack. In the Action phase, players take actions by following first a clockwise and then a counter-clockwise rondel on the board. The steps you have to take are: 1) Choose an action slot and move your meeple there, 2) Choose a Building site to activate, 3) Generate resources from your buildings, and 4) Perform an action.
The actions you can perform are: a) Gain favour from the Palace (and advance your political power), b) Deploy a soldier (to gain more influence), c) Activate the Caravansary (to take caravan cards that let you manipulate trade and influence), d) Go to the Palace and place courtiers (they earn you points), e) Activate the Library (to take scrolls and make breakthroughs), f) Go to the Marketplace (to establish trade with other cities), g) Go to the Mosque (to gain the associated benefits), or h) Build the city Walls (to gain influence).
If there is an Invasion phase, the Mongols attack the first two building sites from top and bottom in every row and column. If you have a soldier there, the building is protected. If not, you can pay the ransom to save your building.
In the solo mode, you play against the Corrupt Magistrate AI that comes with his own deck of cards. You also have to deal with the High Courtier non-player who doesn't score but constructs buildings and blocks action spaces.