Taiwan Night Market
- Designer: Zong-ger
- Publisher: Good Game Studio
- Players: 3-4
- Age: 10+
- Time: 60 minutes
- Played with preview copy provided by Taiwan Boardgame Design (distributor)
“Welcome to Taiwan Night Market, the paradise for street food lovers! In this game, you play as an ambitious vendor trying to make a fortune by bidding on the best locations for your stalls and attract customers with your most delicious food. Can you outwit your competitors and be crowned the king of the night market vendors? In Taiwan Night Market, every round you bid on the locations on the map and open stalls of 4 types of food and drink. If you can connect stalls of the same type together, they will earn you more! Then, the customers will swamp in and buy the food they want at the first available stall they encounter. The locations are crucial for the traffic of customers, but bidding at the right amount is critical to win. At the end of the game, the player with the most money wins!”
I was given a chance to try out Taiwan Night Market with an early copy – the game should be coming to Kickstarter in Spring 2023. As with all previews, please note that the version of the game that I played may not be the same as the final product (heck, it might not even be the same as the version of the game shown whenever the KS launches!). I received my copy back in October 2022, so there has definitely been enough time for things to possibly change.
In setup, each player gets all the bits of their color, and player order is randomized. Each player also gets dealt 4 Customer tiles; these tiles have a color and letter on them. The board is placed on the table, and you can see the different colored paths through the market which the patrons will follow. There are different stall locations on the board are numbered. The location deck is shuffled and a number of starting stalls are flipped up from the deck; the corresponding spaces on the board are covered with the cards.
The game is played over 5 rounds (in a 4p game); each following the same pattern.
- Reveal 5 location cards and place bid cards on the corresponding stall spot on the board. If there is a star on the location card, use the more expensive yellow side of the bid card
- Reveal 4 public customers; they are placed at the appropriate entry spot on the board based on the letter found on their tile
- Each player now chooses some customer tiles from their hand to be played later in the round. They are placed facedown on the table for now.
- Bid for booths – in player order, each player makes two bids. They can bid on any available location at any price so long as they bid higher than any previous bids at that location. It is also possible to pass, but you are out of bidding for the rest of the round. When all players have bid twice, check to see if any player has both of their markers overbid; if so, they are allowed to make another bid so that all player will win at least one location (or will have voluntarily passed).
- Pay for bids – all players now pay for their winning bids; If you bid more money than you have, you must take out a loan to pay for it. You are limited to three loans per game.
- Choose stall types – again in player order, each player chooses one of the four stall types (blue, red, yellow or green) for their newly won locations. If you have two or more stalls of the same color that are adjacent, they become connected.
- Reveal hidden customers – the customer cards chosen from the player hands are now revealed an added to the appropriate entry point (based on the letter on their card)
- Customers walk through the market – In alphabetical order, walk customers from their start point through the market until they either orthogonally encounter an empty stall space matching their color or they reach the end of their path. A customer at the bottom of the board will simply walk out of the market if there is not an available stall for them to stop at. Customers who start further up will walk down the next colored line in the next round. Remember that each stall space can hold a single customer.
- Income – for each customer in your stalls, collect money. For a regular stall, get $3. For a connected stall, get $4/5/6 for a 2/3/4 size stall. All customer tiles from stalls are then discarded.
- Draw new customer cards – all players refill their hands to 4 customer cards
- Set player order – The player with the most stalls goes first, ties broken in favor of most money, if still tied, relative player order doesn’t change
Go through this process for the appointed number of rounds. In the final round, there is a special rule that the newly placed stall have the capacity for two customers per space and customers will walk all the way through the market until they reach a empty stall or the end of the final path. There is also a bonus in the final round of $4 per color, given to the player who has taken the most customer tiles of each color in the final round. All loans are paid off, and then the player with the most money at the end of the game wins. Ties broken in favor of the player with the most stalls.
My thoughts on the game
Taiwan Night Market is an interesting and challenging economic game. You have to try to figure out where customers will be moving to, and then use your acumen to bid on the stalls that will put you in the best location to accept those customers. Obviously, stalls found earlier on each line will get more customers, but using some hidden knowledge (say your hidden customer tokens) may let you get a bargain for a stall that will immediately pay off well.
The auction feels like Amun-Re where the possible bids are all visible, and you have the ability to bid anywhere you like. The bidding is a bit tighter here though as players only get two rounds of bidding and then (usually) a single compensatory bid if they haven’t won anything. This system makes you really think hard about what you want your bids to be – you won’t have the chance to continually raise your bid, so you have to choose well. Of course, you might end up bidding too much for a spot no one else wants – but you won’t know until the bids have been placed. And, of course, you might pay only a little for an out of the way stall, but if you can join two or three together, you then have a connected stall that could pay off handsomely in the later rounds; It’s important to remember that the increased income bonus applies for every space in the connected stall, so one good round can definitely pay off a long term investment.
In our first game, our group either forgot about the loans or were reluctant to use them – and I’ve since seen that it can definitely be worthwhile to pay a high price for a stall space near the start of a colored line as they will always get the first opportunity to get a customer from the associated starting space. You’re limited to only three loans over the course of the game, but service charge of $2 is really not that high. Repeated plays have changed the attitude in our group; now we often take out all our loans early on trying to get an advantageous location (which will then pay off for multiple rounds in the future).
As I have a pre-production prototype, I can not make any statements about the components. The artwork appears to be mostly done, and I do like the illustrations which bring a lot of flavor into the game. We had no issues with the icons, and it’s nice that at least in my prototype – the player colors do not match the stall colors.
The game provides a nice mix/balance of planning on known information as well as trying to be the best at predicting which stall spaces will come available, which customer tokens wil be played by the other players, etc. On the board that I have, all of the letters from a particular starting spot follow the same route, so I did ask the publisher why not just have 3 letters – and apparently, there are other boards that take letters on different routes, so they are just future proofing the game by going from A to H with the customer letters.
If you’re looking for a fun speculative economic game, Taiwan Night Market could be the game for you. Coming to Kickstarter very soon from what I hear!
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor