Map picture

An Empty Hold Means an Empty Head!

First turn strategy in Avalon Hill's "Merchant of Venus"

Part of the "Merchant..." map as rendered for my postal version of the game, 1996/97

Now we've looked at a few of these starting options, lets have a look at the immediate area around the Galactic Base, where the players will start in the standard game. We will assume a multi-player game, so that each player will have $100 or more. The player moving first should specify 'into the Cloud' as their first move. This will minimise the effects of a really crappy die-rolls, and you will of course have enough money to cope with any penalty markers while at the same time maximising the chances of picking up a useful relic. For the same reasons detailed previously, I would recommend that the player moving second also moves into the Cloud. You should be able to chose a different pilot number from the first player, allowing you to take advantage of any missed opportunities. The player moving third is in something of a dilemma.

If the previous two players have uncovered a culture each, then I would suggest moving to the Biosphere System. It is nearer than the Colony World, and you have a good chance of being able to trade with these previously discovered cultures. Otherwise I would recommend that this player also tries his chances in the Cloud. Player number 4 is in a bit of a quandary. If the previous players have revealed 3 cultures between themselves then I would suggest this player heads for the Colony System. But this is unlikely as previous players may have stopped to pick up useful relics or have been blighted by a poor run of penalties. The danger here is that with a poor roll, she may be left sucking vacuum with not enough movement points (MP's) to gain planet fall (9MP's required). But you takes your chances. Indeed, you may be in a better position if you do have a good roll for your movement you will be able to take a gander at the culture on the Colony World, then either land if it is a good one who can trade to a culture already revealed, or use this excess movement to loop around and head off towards the Giant Planet and get a head start in a little travelled area of the board this early in the game (Multi-Generation System, Asteroid System and those juicy relics), but watch out for the penalty markers.

As we come to players Five and Six, there will have been too many intangibles to offer any firm advice. Make a note of what the previous players have not done and then base your strategy on the current position. Yet here is a radical thought, one I have not seen executed in a game of "Merchant..." I have played, and that is to remember that the Galactic Base where the players start sells all sorts of ship! Why not upgrade your vessel for a clipper? OK, so you miss a turn, but it will only cost you $90, and you will still have $30 spare in a 6-player game. Now use those 4 movement dice and extra pilot number to speed your way through the Cloud and your way to your fortune in "MERCHANTS OF VENUS".

John Cudmore

First published in LiES 47, August 1996

go to