(TLDR version skip past the wall of text to the pictures...)
There's plenty of forum posts discussing Merchant Alliance in a negative light. Same sentiment from players on Reddit too. People are saying it would seem that the Merchant Alliance is poorly designed or giving suggestions for making the Merchant Alliance more engaging and I'm all for streamlining and enhancing the experience of this Trading Company but if we're being realistic about expectations they're not going to change or overhaul anything drastically at this stage in development and probably won't change something that isn't broken post launch either when they have a road map for additional content they want to add in addition to the launch content already.
I honestly don't agree with the negativity in regards to this Trading Company being overly tedious or incredibly boring compared to the others.
It's fine how it is, it's just more intricate and takes more to set up in advance. (Gotta grab excess crates/cage/coops/etc.) Sure it isn't quite as straight-forward and simplistic as the Gold Hoarder's voyages are where you just go to an Outpost, talk to NPC, buy a voyage, vote for the contract on the ship to start it and start sailing using the map or named island (riddle) that it AUTO gives to you to locate a often-not-so-remote island destination. Once you sail there you solve the riddle or find the X marks the spot and dig up the treasure chest(s) then you can return to 'ANY' Outpost on the map for your reward in gold. That is A to B then return to X, Y, Z or any. It's easy and anybody can understand that in a matter of minutes.
The Merchant Alliance voyages are a bit tedious and aggravating with how you gotta buy the voyage contract from the NPC at the Outpost, go to your ship to vote to start the voyage at the table, then go back off the ship to the merchant again to get the required items to collect the animals from the NPC and you're only able to carry one at a time so you're making multiple trips to and from your boat whereas the Gold Hoarders quest items – maps(s) – simply spawns in your inventory when you vote for and start the voyage each time.
Yeah they are more in-depth but like the complexities of them. Let me explain, I like that they do less hand-holding and require the player(s) to know the game world better. You gotta know where or what islands will spawn chickens. What Islands don't spawn animals or don't have the right ones. And trust me after just a short while of doing these voyages you will start to remember and just know which islands you wanna make a beeline towards.
How to best multi-manage these voyages is doing more than what they are asking of you. Players just have to learn how to best do them is all...
🌊⛵🌊|🌴🐔🐷🐍 Here's how you do it. 🐍🐷🐔🌴|🌊⛵🌊
Step 1 : Visit any Outpost and talk to the Merchant Alliance NPC on the dock.
Step 2 : Buy 3 Voyages from him/her.
Step 3 : Return to your ship and vote to begin one of these voyages.
Step 4 : Return to NPC and collect the cages and coops she will give you. Grab one and drop it on the dock right beside them, grab the next one do the same until no more. They only give you what the active voyage needs.
For Example: 1 Black Pig, 2 White Chickens. They will give you 1 cage and 2 coops.
Step 5 : Bring each of these back to the ship. You can only carry one at a time but work as a team and move much faster. Try to park the ship as close as you can.
Step 6 : While on the ship, vote to cancel the voyage.
Step 7 : Propose another voyage and vote for it.
Repeat this process over and over again, gathering up all the excess Cages/Coops you want or that you have enough gold for since you'll be re-buying voyages a lot.
Step 8 : Start another voyage and go to a larger island and capture EVERY animal you find. Store them on the ship. You'll eventually use them for completing a voyage.
After awhile you can start to be picky and choose your voyages.
You'll want to look at what you have on your ship first, then vote to cancel voyages and choose voyages to keep based on the stockpile of animals you have already on board your ship. Choosing based on what you already have for animals means you can sail straight to the outpost and turn it in for fast progression. Skip the gathering step. Eventually you'll need to stop at an island again to gather more animals when you run out but you should be able to chain together a couple at least. When you run out of voyages stop at any Outpost or do it when you are completing a voyage while you're already there to start over at Step 1 and refill your supply of cages too.
For Example: You know you have 2 white chickens, a red speckled chicken, 3 black chickens, 2 gold chickens, and 2 black pigs on board your ship. You propose a voyage and it requests you get 1 pink and black spotted pig, 1 black chicken, and 1 white chicken. Instead of completing this quest and going looking for the pig you vote to cancel immediately and propose another. The game randomly generates another request and now they want 2 black chickens, 1 black pig, and a white chicken. You have all of that already so you mark the map and sail to the desired Outpost to complete it.
That's how it should be done.
I prefer to do this in a sloop and sail alone. By myself I don't have any hindrance with playing with randoms that can possibly mess up my flow and efficiency but that being said if you got one friend (or 3...) that can work together effectively you could divvy out the different tasks at hand and go much faster when acquiring the animals from the islands and/or re-supplying the ship with crates at the Outpost. It can all be done solo but you take more time as it requires multiple trips.
⚓🏴☠️ TLDR VERSION ☠️🏴⚓
Vote... Vote... Vote....
Figure 1a : Make sure everyone votes to start the voyage, if your sailing alone this process goes much quicker.
Figure1b : Go back to the Merchant Alliance NPC on the dock and grab all the coops and cages from them. They only give you what you need for that one voyage that you just started. Carry them back to ship one by one or leave em on the dock and carry them back later before leaving.
Figure 1c : Return to ship and cancel the voyage. This destroys the voyage contract so you'll have to keep repurchasing more. You repeat the process by placing another one down on the table, voting to start, go back to NPC and getting the cages over and over again until you have no more voyages left to place down. Then you BUY more voyages! Yeah it's a lot of trips back and forth from the NPC to ship but this is da wae.
Figure 1d : You can only carry 3 voyages at a time. As the old saying goes... You have to spend money to make money. Don't let this deter you though. This is the best way to do it. Buy the voyages and vote them in and out by canceling. It isn't that costly. It'll run you a couple hundred gold but the few hundred you spend you'll more than make up on voyage completion. Completing a voyage gives you at least 500+ gold and at higher levels up to thousands of gold back so you make out ahead in the long run anyways.
Figure 1e : It's been brought to my attention it might be better to not purchase Promotion(s). This is due to the Level 1-4 voyages costing you 0 gold and also they only request chickens. Since the game is designed in a way (at least as of the Final Beta) that you can still progress and level up and the gold is fixed based on what animal and color it is you don't really need to promote yourself. Just grab 100 coops, go to any islands with chickens and take them ALL. Then start chaining voyages completing them left and right. Just focus on ones with Gold Chickens for the most gold and veto any voyage that isn't asking for one by canceling it and proposing another right away. No need to have a banana supply to keep pigs alive with as chickens stay alive forever.
Figure 2a : Now you got a nice big stockpile of all the different cages and coops. You're ready to go then so head for any large island nearby and start collecting animals.
Figure 2b : Next visit an island and capture EVERYTHING! not just only the ones you need for the active voyage. Grab everything there. You can save them on your ship and have them at the ready for upcoming voyages. Eventually you can vote to cancel any voyage that isn't requesting stuff you already have in your possession. Or hopefully you have 2+ of everything and then it doesn't matter.
Figure 2c : It won't be long before your Sloop or Galleon starts looking like Noah's Ark as you stockpile animals of every color on your ship. Eventually you can just chain-complete voyages one after another without going looking for the requested animal.
Figure 2d : Deliver the requested animals/gear to the specific Outpost in time.
Figure 2e : Propose and Vote to start another voyage. Now check your Quests received paper to see the Registry of Goods requested. If you don't have the requested animals then instantly vote to cancel and try again until you find one you already have in stock. (or until you find one that gives better rewards such as Golden Chickens/Golden Pigs.)
Pigs require a little more overhead than chickens to keep them alive for long periods of time since you gotta feed them bananas to keep them alive. If you're going to stockpile pigs on your ship make sure you are picking up all the 🍌bananas 🍌from the barrels you come across and try to keep at least a 30+ supply in your ship at all times.
When they start to squeal and sit down as shown in figure 3a that's when you need to feed them. This feeding process is straightforward but sometimes you will see the feed pig prompt but it doesn't work. You just need to move closer or scoot around until you see both prompts like in figure 3a and 3b in order for the game to register your feeding them. You will know it registered by the feeding animation seen in figure 3c. The squealing stops and they stand back up in normal stance as well.
Pro Tip : Banana Crates are another requested item from time to time for these voyages but they can be extremely useful to keep instead of turning them in. You can place them down anywhere on your ship for quick access to bananas. I like to keep them where i keep the captured pigs so you can feed your pigs quickly. Better yet carry and place them ashore which allows for you to transfer more than 5 bananas which was previous max you could take back to your ship barrel. This is extremely helpful for doing Skeleton Forts too! They hold 50 bananas so whenever you see barrels make sure your grabbing bananas emptying back into your ship barrel or crate.
Figure 3a : The difference between a pig who needs fed and one who doesn't. Poor banana...
Figure 3b : Move closer if feeding is not working. You need to see both the 'Feed' and 'Pick Up' prompts for it to work.
Figure 3c : Orville here is being a real pig and getting bits of his banana everywhere.
Use this map to quickly get your bearings on the Outposts and what direction to head for. Since Merchant Alliance voyages have specific Outposts to turn in at you can save time by marking them on the map before sailing away or just have this up on your phone or another screen if you got a multi-monitor set up like me. I just glance over at this map when I cant remember the location or name and it takes all of like 5 seconds to find it and know where i gotta go. Northeast to Galleon Grave Outpost. Okay got it. 👍
Also you can use this as a aid for where to look. It's not 100% but it does work a lot of the time as a list for where you can find possible locations for snakes, pigs, and chickens. Once you've played for awhile you'll start to remember what islands have what.
Generally though I've noticed the LARGER the island the more animals that i find. Most medium to large islands will have 2 animal types and plenty of them.
The small tiny islands either have one or the other or none.
For example: Tiny Island will have chickens but not pigs. Or Tiny Island will have pigs but not chickens. And a lot of the times Tiny Island will have no animals.