Merchant Prince II is One for the Books

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Merchant Prince II is a way to take the reigns behind one of the true powers in Renaissance Europe. No, not a King or Queen. Not even the Pope, but one of the rich merchant families of Venice. People tend to forget that while the Charlemagnes and Richards roamed around ruling the world, it was the Fuggers and Medicis who actually moved it. This is now your job.

The basic premise of the game is simple enough to grasp – buy low, sell high. You look at what Venice has a lot of, buy some of those, and go off exploring until you find a city that wants to buy. Then, if you find something there that Venice wants, you can set up an automatic trade route between the two cities. You explore farther and farther, setting up a network of supply and demand across the Mediterranean, amassing more wealth to build more ships and mule trains to continue the process, until you have more wealth than any of the rival Venetian families.

If it were that simple, one could master the game in five minutes. However, there are many other facets to consider. You must keep a hand in the local politics of Venice (by bribing councilmen) so that you may keep your rivals from being elected Doge, or possibly you can get elected to the post.

You must keep influence in the College of Cardinals (by buying cardinalships from the Pope and putting your own family members in them (don’t you just love 14th century Europe?) so you can influence the Papal elections as they become necessary. You even have to keep building up your villa and patronize the arts to make sure your popularity in the city stays high. Calgon, take me away!

If things aren’t going your way in town, you can always employ certain"people"who will get the"job"done, if you know what I mean. You can hire an assassin to kill a key official or religious figure. You can also hire an arsonist to destroy rival warehouses and villas. You can even hire a professional slanderer to throw the right amount of mud all over a family’s good name.

This game also has military elements. You can command forces, hire mercenaries, or even lead a crusade, take those troops and attack hostile cities (yes, some cities do not like Venice and it’s underhanded ways, and don’t allow trade there) to claim treasure and open it up to trade with you. Troops can also be used to defend against bandits, and of course protect against the troops of the other families.

In a higher difficulty settings, not every type of unit or technology is available to you right from the start. You have to use some of your hard-earned money to fund research if you want to carry more goods, and faster. The tech tree is fairly linear, and has several areas to choose from, from naval advances to mercenary research. Time is not an issue here – if you’ve got the money, you can get the advance (one per turn of course).

One unique aspect of Merchant Prince II that sets it apart from other TBS games is that you can set the number of turns, or years, the game will last, from 15 up to 192 turns, making the game end anywhere from 1315 to 1492. This allows you to decide what kind of game you’d like to play, from a get-rich-quick scramble to a long-term slow-burn economic plan. Each provides different sorts of challenges, and take different sorts of skills to master.

Merchant Prince II is a change of pace from the typical turn-based strategy game, and allows you to experience a little covered era in human history. It earns a quite impressive 4 and 1/2 GiN Gems out of 5.

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