Become the wealthiest merchant prince or princess in all of Araby by establishing an entourage of merchants and allies, teaching virtues, summoning djinni, making shrewd caravan investments, and negotiating frequently.
During your turn, you'll start a caravan and then perform as many actions as you like or can afford. You'll add merchants and allies to your entourage, you'll teach virtues to your opponents, and you'll summon djinn for powerful effects.
You'll also be doing a lot of negotiating. Simply stated, everything in Merchants of Araby is negotiable for everything. You can trade gold for camel placement, cards for products, actions for promised actions, camel placement for ally tasking, cards from entourage to entourage, cards from hand to hand, something for nothing. The list is nearly endless. If you can strike a deal, then feel free to do so.
Caravans are the primary source of income and the main reason for negotiations. Each space on the caravan will hold one camel carrying a particular product and each caravan represents a journey to a distant Araby city to sell those valuable products. Player participation, bandits, and market fluctuations will affect each caravan’s payout and you do not want to miss out on getting your share of the profits.
Add camels to caravans by tasking merchants, playing a djinn card, or negotiating with other players to generate the products you need or to add their camels to your caravan. An opponent may not add a camel to your caravan without negotiating for your permission, but unless you complete at least one full row or column on the caravan card, you're not going to earn anything! When your turn ends, your caravan becomes locked to you and you may not add more of your camels to it unless the active player grants you permission to do so through some negotiation.
Your caravans depart at the start of your next turn, but be wary of bandits out to steal your goods as bandits tend to target the camels in the most lucrative caravan positions.
There are 6 card types in Merchants of Araby: Merchants, Allies, Virtues, Djinn, Caravans and Backs.
Merchants are played to your entourage, the collection of merchants and allies that you use throughout the game to get stuff done. When you task a merchant you generate a product that you can use to add a camel to a caravan, reduce the cost to play other cards, or offer up as your end of some negotiated deal.
Virtues are life lessons that show the benefits of living a life of purpose. Invoking Generosity, Cooperation, Frugality and more will bring you rewards and you may share many of those rewards with the players who have been helpful to you.
Djinn are powerful magical beings that can be leveraged to generate products, refresh allies, grant cards, and sneak your camels into caravans they're not supposed to be in...if you cross their palms with a bit of silver.
Allies are the people you surround yourself with to grease the wheels, smooth the bumps and, when they work together in subtle combos you'll be thrilled with what they can accomplish. The more allies you have, the more flexible your strategies can be.
On the back of all the cards, you'll find some very important information you'll need to resolve your caravans. Lay a card face down next to your caravan as it departs and you'll see which camel gets ambushed by the bandits and how much each remaining camel will earn depending on its location. Every card back is different and you won't know your results beforehand.
And finally there are the caravan cards, themselves. Each shows the products needed in the nine camel positions. It's your job to get as many of those positions filled as possible before your next turn. Only complete columns and complete rows pay off though, so be careful where you place your camels.
After four complete rounds, all of the players receive a final resolution card for their caravan and all the money is totaled up to see who is the wealthiest merchant in all of Araby.