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Subject: Merchants & Marauders review 14 rss

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An Hava
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A game where you can be a pirate? When I saw the back of the box I knew I just had to own this game.

Introduction

Merchants & Marauders casts you as the captain of a ship in the Caribbean in the "Golden Age of Piracy". It's a sandbox game that allows you to play as a pirate or a merchant. Or whatever. If you just want to see the world then that's fine too. Though I guess you can only see the Caribbean, you'll have to buy a different game for the rest of the world. Players take turns and can perform three actions every turn.

At First Glance

The ships! The game comes with a fleet of ships! They look pretty good, as far a plastic miniatures go. Every player also get's a treasure chest, which is a neat little addition. The board looks great. The cards are a little small for my taste, but it's not that big of a deal and you get used to it pretty quick. The gold coins all look the same, and I would have prefered the different values to be of different shapes. But again, not that big of a deal.

Gameplay

Each player can perform up to three actions each turn. Actions include sailing, scouting for another ship (either player, npc or 'merchant') and port actions. Port actions can be several different things at once; selling goods, buying goods, repairing your ship, hiring crew, eavesdropping for rumors in a tavern.

At the start of each round an 'event' card unfolds. Which can be a storm, forcing players to take cover in a port, a declaration of war between two nations (Spain, England, France and the Netherlands), or it can put an NPC into play (pirate or navy).

If you play as a merchant you'll likely spend the game sailing from one port to another, buying sugar where it's cheap and selling it at a city where there is a particular demand for sugar. Using the profit to improve your ship or buy a new ship to make even more profit.

If you play as a pirate you'll raid merchants and (hopefully) other players. This can cause you to be unwelcome in certain ports (attacking a Spanish merchant will ban you from Spanish ports).

Battles between players, or between players and NPCs(though not merchants) is based mostly on dice rolls. A strong ship makes a lot of difference, but so does a skilled captain. Your choices are somwhat limited, but a sea battle can nevertheless be exciting.

You score points for a lot of different things. Selling goods that are in demand, a profitable raid on a merchant, defeating another ship, completing missions, etc. When a player reaches a certain number of points, that player wins the game.

What's good about it?

Pirates! You can be a pirate! Which ofcourse is fun. And threatening to attack another player is even more fun.

But making an honest(ish) living as a merchant is pretty statisfying too.
And when you're a merchant with a towering ship, most pirates wouldn't even dare to attack you. Which allows you to laugh in their face and talk freely about the giant load of gold in your holds.

There is a lot to do in this game, and you can try different things each game. And not just the merchant/marauder pahts differ. Sometimes you just have to know whether or not you can take that French admiral and his huge ship. Another time you'll enjoy chasing rumors around the Caribbean.

What's not so good about it?

You are assigned a captain at the start of the game with different values in four different skills. This limits you in a lot of ways. Ofcourse you can each choose a captain, but the first two skills (seamanship and scouting) in particular dictate for some part how you play. If your seamanship is low, you can forget about battles, as you'll be blown to pieces. And without a decent scouting rating you run the risk of not being able to find the ship you want to raid as a pirate. Though all in all the chance element is acceptable in this game.

The interaction between players is limited. Ofcourse you can try to raid someone's ship, but as you have only a few actions each turn, and scouting for a ship take up one action, players will have trouble catching up with each other. the threat of piracy is always there, but it's not very hard to avoid. But I have to admit I've not played this game with four players, which might make it a lot harder.

The suggested point limit (10) is too low in my opinion. But the rules do state that you can play for however many points you wish. Not that you couldn't think of that yourself. But is shows the creators at least knew that it might be too low for a lenghty game.

Conclusion

Merchants & Marauders ia a fun game. Obviously! You can be a pirate!

But if you're not that fond of pirates, being a merchant is fun as well. The game feels a little like the PC game 'Port Royale', and the creators were likely inspired by it.

If you want a really deep strategy game, you probably won't enjoy it. There's too much chance involved for that. But if you're looking for a lighter game, to maybe play with a few drinks, you'll probably find what you're looking for here.

One thing I would advice you to do, is attack another player just for the fun of it. If you play two hours without ever firing a broadside at another player, you lost the game;)
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Darrell Hanning
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We will meet at the Hour of Scampering.
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Quote:
The game feels a little like the PC game 'Port Royale', and the creators were likely inspired by it.

Considering how much more closely the boardgame resembles the PC game, Sid Meier's Pirates! (1987), I think that was probably the greater inspiration.
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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DarrellKH wrote:
Quote:
The game feels a little like the PC game 'Port Royale', and the creators were likely inspired by it.

Considering how much more closely the boardgame resembles the PC game, Sid Meier's Pirates! (1987), I think that was probably the greater inspiration.
Agreed, which is why this game is so fun

-shnar
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An Hava
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I've never played Sid Meyer's pirates. Well not since I was old enough to understand the game anyway:D

But I guess I was wrong then. My credibility shot...:(
 
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Tyson K
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anhava wrote:
I've never played Sid Meyer's pirates. Well not since I was old enough to understand the game anyway

But I guess I was wrong then. My credibility shot...

I like your review, I agree with most points. This game does need to be house ruled a little bit bit more than most games but is still a lot of fun. I think it gets better with repeated plays. Also, check out the new version of Sid Meiers pirates, it's really good too
 
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