With a name like Traders, you're probably expecting something like Elite, or perhaps a stock-market simulator. Instead it's a very odd, but mildly entertaining game for up to four players. Trading forms a major part of the game, but you would be wrong again if you thought this was all about exchanging cash. We're talking snail-trading here. Good old-fashioned barter, based on flowers, water, perfume, bugs, sapphires and... snails. Told you it was weird!
Traders is deep, and it takes a while to get used to, let alone become good at it. It's full of complex relationships between trading currencies and a host of nonsense that just adds to the confusion. In a nutshell, it's a game where the winner is the player with the most cash - but there's plenty more to it than that.
The game takes place on a planet that used to be Earth. The owner of this planet is a huge green snail called Fat Mike. He owns all the land which the four players use to make their money and grow their crops on. As a result he's entitled to a backhander (coolly referred to as 'rent') every week. If you don't pay, Fat Mike will begin 'eviction processes'.
The weirdest thing is the way you use the land you borrow. There are a number of 'cash crops' which you can barter with later on, and their success depends on the weather. The trouble is, each crop requires an amount of the other crops. For example, Polmi rabbits (one of the possible crops) require flowers every week (or they won't dig for water). If you have a good supply of Mabba Roses, your rabbits are satisfied, but if not, you need to exchange another surplus crop for the flowers you need.
The barter system is the most difficult part. At the start of a bartering session, you have to decide whether you're going to sell or buy. Then, during the exchange phase, you raise or lower your price to match that of the seller or buyer. Sounds simple, but it's done with very strange graphics, and the whole thing takes seconds. Consequently, it's easy to overspend.
Traders isn't simply about trading. There's a vast number of incidental screens and sub-games which require a bit of thought. There's a robot war section, where you can attack (and defend) plots of land in an attempt to increase your land-area. There's a space-rocket section where you send out rockets to far-off planets to retrieve snails for Fat Mike. He even holds a contest for the most prolific snail-collectors, with the prize of an extra field for your collection.
Traders is, as I've said, an odd game. The graphics are twee (they have a tacky cartoon-feel which doesn't quite work) and the music is non-descript. But there's a good deal of entertainment, especially if you're playing against three other human competitors. Traders doesn't have the appeal of games like Elite, but it's still worth a look. If there's nothing else you fancy on the shelves this month, you could do a lot worse than this.