We had friends over Saturday afternoon/evening and one of the games they brought, unopened, was The Guild of Merchant Explorers. Players (up to four) have individual copies of a map for exploration. You start in a central city and explore from there. When you explore all of the hexes of the same terrain type in a cluster, you get to establish a settlement there. In future rounds, you can explore from the city or from any of your settlements. Some hexes contain riches (coins), and some of the sea hexes contain ruins (shipwrecks) that hold treasure. There are three randomly-chosen objectives that score extra points; these are things like "have settlements on three continents" or "explore three ruins at the edges of the map". In the remote corners of the map there are towers that you get more points for exploring.
The game mechanic is interesting: in each of four rounds players simultaneously take the same actions (plus one per), which are known in advance but come out in a random order. Actions are things like "explore two grassland spaces" or "explore three sea hexes but they have to be in a straight line". In-progress explorers are cleared at the end of each round, so one of your goals is to complete exploring regions so you can build the settlement. You know what's coming, so you can look ahead and see that you'll be able to fill those last two desert hexes or whatever -- but sometimes you're not yet in position when the card comes out, so you have to plan for that. I can see how you could get mired in analysis paralysis, but it's not a long, complex game -- box says 45 minutes, which feels about right after you learn it. (I didn't time our first game, but I know it was longer than that.)
There's one unpredictable element in each round: a special card that means you draw two cards with more powerful actions, keep one, and use it. You then keep that card for the rest of the game, so the one you chose in round 1 will come out again at least two more times. (In the fourth round, instead of drawing a new card you choose one of your existing ones to use again.) These cards usually let you explore more spaces or more kinds of spaces, like "explore one grassland and all the hexes around it" or "explore one of each type plus two sea" or "explore five contiguous desert hexes".
There are several ways to earn victory points that are always available. The three special goals add more. And the treasures you find can award victory points based on conditions, like "one per mountain settlement". You don't have enough actions to do everything, of course, so you'll choose which paths to pursue based on all of those and perhaps by what your special action cards enable you (alone) to do. The game comes with four maps, some of which have special rules we haven't explored yet, so there is additional variability. I assume this means there will be expansion sets in the future.
The game is not very interactive; what you do does not affect other players and vice versa, aside from the races to the special goals (first person to do it gets more points) and competition for treasures. This won't be enough interaction for some, but it works for me.
We all liked the game a lot. After we'd played twice one of them asked "do you like this game?" and we both said "yes, very much". He then asked "would you like this copy?" -- turns out they'd both been at the same playtesting or preview event and thus each got a copy of the game, so they were happy to pass along a gift. Nice!
On Sunday we got together with different friends to play games and took this along. We played a few times with different people throughout the day, and everyone we introduced it to liked it a lot too.