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How To Play The Guild Of Merchant Explorers

The Guild of Merchant Explorers

So you’ve read the Guild of Merchant Explorers review, got super excited, and now want to play the game? Well, you’ve come to the right place!

Set It Up, Sailor

Setting up the Guild of Merchant Explorers is very simple indeed. Together players choose which one of the core maps they are going to play. Avenia is the most straightforward, increasing in difficulty through Aghon, Kazan, and Cnidaria. Each player is then given their own copy.

Then you lay out the main board where the 5 Explore terrain cards and 4 Era cards will be revealed over the course of a round (“Era”), as well as stacks of treasure cards and investigate cards. Shuffle the Explore card deck (remembering to add the Era 1 card into it) and place the other Era cards to one side.

Pile up the Towers, treasure tokens, (crystals – if playing on Cnidaria), coins, and double sided trade route city tokens in an easy to reach spot. Finally, select and display 3 (out of 6) random scoring objective cards relating to the map in play and give each player a set of cubes and village tokens in their chosen colour.

And that’s it! It’s go-explore time!

Sailing…We Are Sailing…

On the first turn of the Guild of Merchant Explorers, you’ll flip the first Explore card and set it down face up on the correct spot on the main board. Then everybody simultaneously places their first explorer cubes (one at a time) on their individual maps – the number and territory must match what is shown on the Explore card which will also show whether they have to be placed adjacent to each other or not).

Your initial placement must start on the central city space and on a territory matching that shown on the revealed Explore card. On later turns, you’ll be able to start from any of your constructed villages (or last placed explore cube) so long as you can reach the required (unoccupied) territory type hexes as shown on the Explore cards as they are flipped.

Village People

If you cover all the spaces of a particular territory type (grassland, mountains, desert) with cubes in the Guild of Merchant Explorers, you can place a village on one of the spaces. If you do, immediately take coins equal to the construction bonus shown at the base of the map (which increases as the rounds proceed). In case you are wondering why the coin values are only printed on one side you are meant to keep your coin total a secret until the end of the game (but in truth we don’t find it makes that much strategic difference – we are all going for the moves that make the most coins by Era end each turn anyway!).

Pay Day

If you place an explorer cube on a hex space with coins on it, you’ll also take those coins immediately from the bank. Similarly, if you place an explorer cube on a ruin space, you’ll take a treasure card and place a treasure token under the cube on that hex (which shows it has been salvaged). The treasure card could be an instant bonus (in which case it is taken and then the card is discarded) or an end-game bonus (so keep the card safe!).

If you place a cube on a discovery space, you’ll get to construct a tower (plus earn a big stack of coins (which also increases as the Eras race by!).

Wallstreet On The Waves

When you reach a city trading post space while playing the Guild of Merchant Explorers, you’ll want to look closely at where you go next. And that’s because you’ll get an immediate money injection equal to both their values multiplied together if you connect two city trading posts via your explorer cubes. But you must then choose one city to cover with a special token that removes the value from that spot. You can still use the space to link, but you’ll only get the value of the new trading route connected to it.

What's Going On Era

When an Era card comes up in the Explore deck, you’ll choose two Investigate cards and pick one to keep (discarding the other to the bottom of the deck). Carry out the bonus action shown on the card, and then place it next to your board at the appropriate Era spot. That will ensure it is ready to be activated when that Era card shows up in the Explore deck on subsequent rounds. And the fact that it doesn’t get discarded is very cool. Because, if you’ve picked well, that’s 4 bites at the Era 1 investigate power cherry, 3 goes at the power you selected in Era 2, and finally 2 shots of your Era 3 Investigate power pick (as they all get mixed into the Explore deck during the final 4th round!).

At the end of each Era, it’s time to reset your board. As mentioned, you’ll keep the Era card you picked and all the coins you have accumulated so far. The constructed villages, towers, ruin tokens and trading post tokens also stay on your map. The explorer cubes, however, are removed and placed back in your pool ready to be used in the next round.


As soon as you have completed any of the 3 goals, place one of your cubes on the card and take the appropriate bonus (which is higher for the first player to achieve it!).

And once Era 4 has been completed, it’s time to tot up all the coins you have collected over the course of the game. Don’t forget to check any treasure chest cards for end of game bonuses which will usually add more coins to your riches depending on what your map shows at end-game. The winner is the richest Merchant in the Guild!

I hope this helps smooth the waves of your first game of The Guild of Merchant Explorers! It has been an instant hit in our house and I am hoping you enjoy it just as much as we do!