Merchants Cove: Master Craft expansion sneak peek at The Pastry Chef

Merchants Cove is one of BJ and Jerod’s favorite all time games. Here is more of BJ’s inside look at the newest content for the game!

We were lucky enough to get our hands on a hot-off-the-press prototype of the brand new expansion for one of Board Game Gumbo’s favorite recent games, Merchants Cove, from Final Frontier Games. We were so excited to play the new Master Craft expansion material, that we fired up the cameras and learned the factions live on Twitch. It’s a case study of reading rulebooks and playing a game right away, almost like a miniature version of our experiences at a con like BGG CON where we teach ourselves dozens of games back-to-back.

If you follow this blog, you know that the Gumbo loves the Merchants Cove’s combination of asymmetric powers, beautiful production, amazing modular expansions (a Jonny Pac design philosophy) and elegant scoring system. Plus, the more you play the different modules, the more you get into its unique theme.

Enough blather, let’s get right into more of the Merchants Cove: MASTER CRAFT characters!

** NOTE: Any pictures or video you see are prototypes; the final versions will be exactly the standard you expect from Final Frontier Games. **

The next character that I played is Ava Shortcake, also known as The Pastry Chef. What a cool theme — we are baking goods and topping them with frosting and selling them to the hardy adventurers arriving at Merchants Cove with lots of gold.

It takes just a few seconds to realize what kind of character The Pastry Chef is, because the big player board with four interlocking gears on it sort of gives it away. The theme of this character is very strong. As designer Carl Van Ostrand said, players will put some dough in a mixer, spin it around, throw ’em in the oven, bake until they’re fluffy and plop on some frosting.

Players start with little white “batter” cubes. The goal is to move the cubes onto each of the mixing wheels. Every time players take a “mix” action, the center wheel turns which makes the other three turn in the opposite direction. As the batter progresses on the wheel, it unlocks the ability to add goods into the oven, move them down the oven rack for more baking, take off corruption, add some frosting, or improve the oven’s burners. But to do those things, a player has to take another action to move the pawn over to the “remove goods” section of the oven. That action will remove batter cubes from the mixers and take the designated action on the mixing bowl.

The theme is perfectly aligned with to the mechanics of the game. The entire time, I really did feel like I had to keep those wheels a-mixin’, moving my batter into the oven to bake. You can even “speed” up the mixer by taking the mixer action at the top, which turns the gears but gets you dangerously close to taking in even more corruption. Geaux too far, and you’ll have to take a “rest” action to slide the speed button back.

The oven itself is intriguing, too, because there’s a section of your player board that allows you to “improve” your oven’s burners. Each burner is represented by a token that can be moved up or down. (I haven’t grokked why you would move it up yet, but I am sure there is some strategy there.) I needed to move them down because that helped to get the cakes ready earlier — selling your pastries before they are fully baked gives you the same points but also adds a corruption card to your ever-growing stack.

I liked the fact that this is the rare character where you can sell your wares right from your player board. The oven serves as your sale shelf, and the only decision you make is whether to move your goods from small to large and whether to frost them up. Frosting is the best way to get bonus points, as it makes the pastries more valuable to the adventurers, and it also helps you get bonus points each round and at the end.

That’s it for our look at this particular character. We’ve got one more character to examine, The Detective, and we will have a sneak peek at it later this week. And of course, as soon as we hear details about the crowdfunding kickoff, we’ll keep you posted.

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

— BJ from Board Game Gumbo

The publisher provided us this prototype copy for review.

For more great Gumbo content on Merchants Cove:

Bradly unboxes the complete Kickstarter edition of Merchants Cove with some special surprises!
BJ and Jerod teach Mitchell from the Beans & Dice Podcast how to play Merchants Cove including a new character from The Secret Stash expansion!

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