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Merchants & Marauders: Seas of Glory» Forums » Strategy

Subject: On Being a Merchant AND a Marauder rss

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Simon AOEC
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I've been playing Seas of Glory for a while now, and it makes the base game, which was once one of my favorite board games, seem incredibly boring and repetitive in comparison. The explosive increase in variety is great, but the new modules have deeper strategic implications that you might not immediately see. In the base game, you pretty much had to choose to be either a merchant or a pirate. Yes you could trade in the beginning and then choose a time to join the dark side, but those who wanted to trade and raid at the same time were severely limited by factors such as the inability to get rid of bounties and the lack of a ship with both high cargo and high maneuverability. All of this changes with Seas of Glory. Now it's not only easy, but also strongly encouraged to have a dual career. Let's take a look at how the new modules blur the lines between merchant and marauder.

Ships and Mods
The Brig is the ultimate multitasking ship. High cargo makes it good for trading, and decent maneuverability makes it good for merchant raids. Once it has a few mods it can hold its own against larger ships, so with a bit of luck you can keep your Brig for the entire game, saving some gold and grabbing a wider variety of Glory Points.

Also notable is the Crow's Nest, in my opinion the strongest ship mod in the game. The protection against attackers is nice for everyone, but this mod is especially useful to captains with 2 Scouting. These captains generally have good combat stats and/or good influence, but their inefficiency in finding targets usually prevents them from serious piracy. If you find a Crow's Nest and your scouting goes from 2 to 3, you can become an absolute nightmare with no weakness, superior at both attacking enemies and peacefully hunting rumors.


Contraband
Contraband increases multitasking options for both pirates and merchants because it's easy to find and doesn't take as much cargo space. Pirates now have the ability to get Glory Points from trading without needing to find three of a kind. It's a lot easier to draw a profitable trade all at once rather than needing to search several ports, which pirates would not want to do.

Meanwhile, contraband makes it much more viable for a merchant to have a Frigate. You can now buy one Contraband and two of a kind, then sell the Contraband and look for the third, and if you don't find it, buy another contraband, etc. Before there was no reliable way to get Glory Points from trading with only three cargo spaces. Now if you buy a Frigate, you can keep trading but also have more options for fighting than if you had bought a Galleon.


Locations
The Missionary is huge. Before, it was almost impossible to get rid of Bounties because you needed specific Glory or Event cards. Now it's easy for everyone. So you can be a pirate for most of the game and then seek forgiveness if you get a great trading or mission opportunity, or if the Naval Ships are too much of a threat. Or you can be honest for most of the game and occasionally dip into dishonesty with no lasting consequences. Naval Forts make life more difficult for pirates, possibly giving them a reason to go to the Missionary late in the game.

Location Raids are especially attractive as a way for merchants to dabble in piracy. Sometimes you don't even have to take a bounty! Often you're a merchant because your scouting and seamanship are too low for merchant raids. For location raids, this is no longer a problem. Also, the Galleon is great for location raids, I would argue even better than the Frigate. The Galleon usually has enough hit points to handle every icon that you draw, even with the maneuverability penalty, and then there are plenty of cannons to deal with the occasional troublesome card. So location raids are a great way for merchants to grab quick points near the end of the game.


Favors
I don't play with favors, but it's clear that the ability to enter a port illegally greatly helps pirates take advantage of trading and mission/rumor opportunities. Redrawing cargo and rerolling Influence make merchant activities more attractive to everyone, while redrawing raids and rerolling Scouting do the same for piracy.


In summary, the base game had three main possible strategies:
1. Pure Merchant: avoid bounties, go from port to port looking for three of a kind, coordinate with rumors and missions whenever possible. Get a Flute, then a Galleon.
2. Pure Pirate: kill whatever is closest, trade or follow rumors and missions only if you're in the right place at the right time. Get a Sloop, then a Frigate.
3. Start as Pure Merchant with a Flute, then become Pure Pirate with a Frigate.

In Seas of Glory, strategy looks more like this:
4. The "half-and-half" strategy: get a Brig, Frigate, or Galleon; let trading and rumors determine which ports you visit; do a raid on every trip; and try have bounties from only one nation at a time, never more than two.
5. Do any combination of the aforementioned activities in any proportion that you like, making the most of your current situation.


Hybrid careers are so attractive that I wonder if it's ever still desirable to take only one path. Wouldn't a merchant who picks up a couple of extra points from raiding, or a pirate who picks up a couple of points from trading and limits bounties to keep more ports open, be at an advantage over one who does not? Being a Pure Merchant might still be the way to go if you have low combat ability or if you want to keep your starting Flute or if there are lots of Naval Ships out. Being a Pure Pirate might still be a good idea if you find an area with plenty of merchant tokens and few naval ships. But the situations encouraging a pure strategy have become much less common. The range of strategies has become continuous rather than binary, which is a beautiful development.

Thoughts?

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Rafael Ramus
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simonAOEC wrote:
Hybrid careers are so attractive that I wonder if it's ever still desirable to take only one path. Wouldn't a merchant who picks up a couple of extra points from raiding, or a pirate who picks up a couple of points from trading and limits bounties to keep more ports open, be at an advantage over one who does not? Being a Pure Merchant might still be the way to go if you have low combat ability or if you want to keep your starting Flute or if there are lots of Naval Ships out. Being a Pure Pirate might still be a good idea if you find an area with plenty of merchant tokens and few naval ships. But the situations encouraging a pure strategy have become much less common. The range of strategies has become continuous rather than binary, which is a beautiful development.


Probably true to some degree. My girlfriend is yet to go pirate though (she goes contrabandist sometimes, but she will always drop the forbidden cargo away if threatened). Also, she does lots of missions and rumors. I think she keeps being the merchant-explorer type.
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Achilles Last Stand
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I agree completely. My pre-expansion experiences showed being a merchant was the way to go. Piracy might've got one off to an early start but by mid game with a map full of NPCs, there were few places to hide. and if a pirate did survive a NPC, another player was close by to finish them off.

Now, it's all about a hybrid career for the reasons you mention. Having a hard time getting three of a kind? Knock off a location or a merchant raid and find one of many means to be rid of the bounty.

Why don't you use favor? I'm one of the unluckiest dice rollers you'll ever meet so I love the opportunity to spend money to fail multiple times while my friends point and laugh. Sarcasm aside, I do think the favors can help balance out the luck factor,

Crow's nest has replaced rigging as that must have upgrade.

Haven't bought a brig yet though you sell owning one quite well. perhaps I haven't yet had the right captain to mesh with that ship. Buy a brig and keep going back to St. John's for more ship upgrades.
 
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David Ward
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I had a game where I was killing it at a merchant, 3 points from win, so (in a galleon) decided to attack a pirate sloop.

I lost, with 4 Seamanship dice to 2. It cost me the game.

What has this got to do with strategy?

Well, don't rely on strategy. You need a healthy dose of luck too.
 
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Firemark .
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I agree with all your statements, we have noticed that with the random order of play in effect and starting with 2 naval ships and 1 pirate on the board slows thing back down quite a bit. It really does turn the game into, "play to your strengths" and "be flexible and seize opportunities"

Also taking out another player before they make a power move is very important.
 
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Michael Minugh
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tex_conway wrote:
Why don't you use favor? I'm one of the unluckiest dice rollers you'll ever meet so I love the opportunity to spend money to fail multiple times while my friends point and laugh.
I played a game recently where I had 4 scouting, had to use a favor to try and find a merchant. Twice. 16 dice and not a single success. 3rd scouting (not same turn obviously) I got 1 success... So that's 1/20... Yeah, the math is bloody derpessing.
 
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