Dale of Merchants by Sami Laakso Review

Review of Dale of Merchants, the beautiful deckbuilding card game by Sami Laakso, come and get a membership in the world’s most famous merchants guild using the unique abilities of each animalfolk race.

In Dale of Merchants, is the name of a deckbuilding game from Sami Laakso, in which animalfolk merchants live in a small town called Dale. In this town lies the greatest merchants guild, the only way to get in is winning the annual competition, this is the objective of the players become the winner and newest member in this famous guild.

Valle de los Mercaderes cartas de facción
Valle de los Mercaderes cartas de facción

To win the competition each player must negotiate, find the better items and learn new techniques to supply their Stall. The first player with eight stalls will be the winner.

Dale of Merchants is a deckbuilding cards game designed and illustrated by Sami Laakso, who gives us a colorful and beautiful game. It is worth noting that he successfully funded Dawn of the Peacemakers a very interesting game in this same world where we must be negotiators between factions in conflict.


This deck building card game is a clear example of much fun in a little box, its components are of good quality and beautifully illustrated. when we open the box we’ll find:

  • 110 cards:
    • 6 animalfolk decks with 15 cards in each
      • Snappy scarlet macaws
      • Dealing giant pandas
      • Thieving northern raccoons
      • Hoarding flying squirrels
      • Lucky ocelots
      • Adapting veiled chameleons
    • 20 Junk cards
  • 1 Market board
  • 1 Ocelot die.

What is Dale of Merchants about?

Dale of Merchants is a deckbuilding game which combines some different mechanics getting an interesting game.

In Dale of Merchants we can find 6 animalfolk especies, each one of them with their own deck, strengths and strategies which are summarized in the rulebook as the following:

Cartas de las Ardillas Voladoras Acaparadoras
Cartas de las Ardillas Voladoras Acaparadoras
  • Snappy scarlet macaws
    Hand managementMacaws help you manage your hand of cards. New players like their opportunistic nature while seasoned players use them to optimize their play.
  • Dealing giant pandas
    Market proficiencyPandas are close friends with the market keepers and benefit
    from that. They’re great for beginners and players wanting a more peaceful game.
  • Thieving northern raccoons Direct conflict – Raccoons are a great addition for players wanting some conflict. They don’t care about the definition of “ownership”. You have been warned!
  • Hoarding flying squirrels Stall manipulation – No one can set up their stall faster than squirrels. Inexperienced players like these hoarders, while experts can pull off nice combos with them.
  • Lucky ocelots Chaos and luck – Ocelots can give you an edge if luck is on your side. Add these to the game when you want to introduce a little havoc to your contest!
  • Adapting veiled chameleons Imitation – Chameleons make you play your cards as if they’re other cards in the game. They are recommended for more experienced players with long-term plans.

At the begining of the game each player chooses one faction, then add one more, avery card of every faction will be available to all players.

Set up

The set up goes as following:

Dale of Merchants Card example
Dale of Merchants Card example
  1. Build each player’s deck: by giving them one card of each chosen faction which printed value is 1, then give them as many junk cards as necessary until each player has 10 cards.
  2. Build market’s deck: put the remining 1 valued faction cards in the game box, shuffle the rest of the cards and put them next to the board.
  3. Fill the market: draw five cards and place them in the market.
  4. Draw hand: Each player draw five cards from their decks.


In each turn there are two phases:

Action phase: alternatively each player must choose one of the following actions:

  1. Example of a player's Stalls zone with six stalls
    Example of a player’s Stalls zone with six stalls

    Market action – Purchase a card from the market

  2. Technique action – Play a technique card
  3. Stall action – Build a stack in your stall
  4. Inventory action – Discard any number of cards from your hand

Clean-up Phase:

  1. Fill your hand back to 5 cards
  2. Fill empty market slots, after moving forward the remaining cards in the market.

If a card contradicts the rules always apply what the card says. Whenever a player gets its eight stall he or she will be the winner.

As you can see the rules are simple and easy, you’ll be ready to start playing in a few minutes after opening the game box.

Final Comments on Dale of Merchants

Dale of Merchants cards (spanish)
Dale of Merchants cards (spanish)

Dale of merchants succesfully mixes some mechanics, it feels original, easy and funny, which makes you change strategies according several variables like luck, other players actions and your available cards to get your stalls, knowing that using them that way will mean to lose them.

Its rules are very simple, we have played it with our nine years old boy who understood the rules immediately, almost winning the first time he played.

Of course, the art of this game is beautiful and colorful.

It is worth noting that Dale of Merchants has one stand alone expansion totally compatible with the original game, it adds six more factions multiplying the number of possible combinations increasing replayability.

I would recommend this game to any person, but I would specially recommend it to introduce people to our board gaming hobby. I might not recommend it to people in very specific niches.

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