PT Guide: Miracle Merchant

By Michael Coffer 05 Sep 2017 1

To crib from David Parlett yet again, solitaire games require judgment and memory. Memory takes the lay of the land, the strategic turf in its entirety, and reproduces it as an interior vista for planning. Which cards have been dispensed with, and what colors do the final customers need? Memory can remove obstacles and reduce the influence of chance. Judgment takes this raw material and plots out a course of action, weighing their paths and outcomes against the odds of success, making executive decisions. Whether you are aiming to bolster your high score or just learn to finish the game consistently, the following tips will improve your game a good bit.

Want to know more about Miracle Merchant? Don't forget to check out our review!

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1. Play or study the game until the rules are second nature. Seems trite, but it is easy when learning to play to rush past the consequences of moves when a bit of reflection would yield many insights. To start, consider both the order of operations and position when adding ingredients, trying to guess and maximize what the score of the resulting potion will be. This calculation happens constantly during normal play, so it should be refined without too much additional fuss. Ideally one ought to estimate value at the drop of a pin, to model plans accurately before enacting them. This also means committing the recipe bonus values to memory, all the better to compare options. To go above and beyond, please note the game's own rules for setup. Namely, how card bonuses and customer preferences are sorted. Three customers will require each respective main color ingredient, and one will require spoiled ones. Ingredients will have the same amount of bonuses also spread out across all the possible colors.

2. Forget technicolor, monochrome is more the style. "Triple" to be precise, ideally in the customer's two colors. If you manage to include only the two colors listed by them, the recipe bonus is doubled. Indulging the customers over and over like this is profitable, and a reliable way to get decent points even if the bonus symbols on the ingredients are not favorable. Another savvy consequence: this recipe bonus also applies to the two customers who ask for spoiled ingredients. With some careful planning and a little luck, scoring double digits while disposing of noxious black ingredients is possible and preferable.

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3. Entertain failure, and let failure entertain you. Part of this advice is practical: the game is quick and cute, so why not be content to play it often loosely and take a load off? See how daring and unusual you can be and still finish. In principle, ekeing out a victory means obtaining a higher score, so the trick is recognizing the crossroads and stopping before the point of no return. For example, making that killer triple combo in the last quarter of the game might very well be futile and ruin the final customer's order. Experimentation means letting things go pear-shaped, sometimes even on purpose. Obviously the goal of the game is to win, but barring that, fail in an interesting, illuminating way.

4. The daily quests and recipe book can give alternative kinds of motivation or goalposts if stuck in a rut. Maybe set an arbitrary personal objective, like breaking a point threshold, clearing three games in a row while scoring over a hundred each time, or making a new triple potion of drowning or a black distillate. If the absolute goal is to improve no matter what, breaking down this overarching directive into smaller, well-defined ambitions will generate results and little sparks of estreem which will preserve forward momentum.

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5. Every now and then, I like to write out a chart of card bonuses and customers while I play. Really. I make six columns and add thirteen rows, one for each ingredient card (per color) and customer wants and needs. Then I pause and fill in the corresponding column whenever a new gameplay element is revealed. It is too painstaking by half to be proper fun, but abbreviations make the process somewhat easier, and I can't argue with the results. This might slow down my play tenfold but after going through about half the deck it becomes almost like a cheat code, giving significant insight into the endgame. It also helps make explicit the kinds of intuitive leaps and gambles I make automatically during normal, sane, non pen-and-paper runthroughs.

6. Develop a sense for danger, for when enough is enough. Two types of players with two areas for growth, the shrinking violet who would rather finish modestly than fail, and the wild thing who wants bigger numbers even if that means trashing odds of success. Whichever type simply pushes their impulses in the other direction until the risk-reward balance is in line with the game's level of challenge.

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7. Kicking a customer to the end of the line is a powerful tool. Its best-use scenarios are split into two categories: damage mitigation and combo setup. If multiple spoiled ingredients are showing, a low single-digit dud potion is all but inevitable, so booting a customer can avoid digging for a red by adding a -3 covering its stack, for example. On the other hand, if an ingredient card has a self-matching symbol, it is a valuable combo piece, especially if it can be conserved until a customer who doubles its color emerges. Lastly, kicking a customer to end gives you guaranteed information about the final potion requirements. This makes those final turns a little less stressful, provided you remember who wants what.

If you remember the above and let those guidelines structure your own experience with Miracle Merchant, both your scores and enjoyment of the game should increase. Solitaire can be competitive and grueling, especially where leaderboards are involved, but it's worth reiterating that the pursuit is gratifying and stimulating on its own, much as bike riding is pleasant and healthy outside of racing. Still, if a slot on the leaderboards is your heart's desire, it is well within reach with some persistence and ingenuity. The tips above will smooth the path considerably.

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