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Subject: How do you play a Merchant effectively consistently? rss

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I've seen several valuable threads to learn how to effectively play a Pirate, but how do you play a Merchant effectively, consistently?

As a Pirate you can use Special Weapons to compensate for unlucky Seamanship rolls. Is a Merchant more dependant on luck? Can you also influence your luck (other than chosing the sea zones that benefit Merchants)?

With 6 cargo cards to draw in a port from 8 different cargo types, I think you can not rely on a luck strategy to enter as many ports as possible to get a draw of 3 of the same cargo type in one draw and if you get only 2 sell them at a port where the good type is in demand for just gaining some gold.

Of the 10 Glory Points that you need, only 5 Glory Points can come from stashed gold. If you buy a Galleon (or Frigate) you gain a Glory Point.
This brings the total of 'easy' Glory Points at 6.
How do you play as a Merchant to collect the other 4?
Edit: handing in 3 or more in demand goods gives you a victory point.

Do you basically keep the 2 cargo cards of one kind and visit a port where they are not in demand hoping to draw the third one? This also may fail several times in a row.

How important are Rumours and Missions in your Merchant strategy? Do you roll for aquiring rumours as often as possible?
Do you hunt for (NPC) pirates if they are nearby?
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Jeff Kayati
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If I play a Merchant, then I'm looking for a good stat number in Influence to help with getting Glory from Rumors and Missions. This is usually the case as Captains who don't make good Pirates have a 3 or better number in Influence.

You've got the ideas down to increase your odds of getting 3 Goods.

Use the board effectively, so visit Cartagena, Santa Domingo, Caracas, Havana, and St. Maarten.

Keep any pairs you find and visit ports to search for the third in demand good.

Pay attention to what goods are in demand and where.

Once you've upgraded to a Galleon, consider hunting for NPC Pirates.

Finally, do your best to not waste turns by port hopping. It's a sure way to lose the game. To assist in that make yourself a difficult target for other players by acquiring Ship Mods and Special Weapons to keep them at bay. This is especially true while you're still sailing that Flute.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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I only play as a merchant when I draw a captain that would make a lousy pirate. When that happens, my primary focus is on cashing in those 3 of a kind trade goods for glory points. Other than that, it's staying alive and paying attention to opportunities provided by rumours and missions. And yeah, if I'm strong enough, I'll kill a pirate, but I won't spend energy chasing him. If I'm too much for him, he'll know that and stay well away.
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As a merchant, my opening moves involve making money, by selling cargo in demand and adjusting my route so as to keep making as much money per turn. If I can get 3 in-demand goods, all the better, but I'll accept 2 of a kind at the start.

Once I can afford a galleon, I purchase it at once. This gives me security. I can then strap on ship mods when the opportunity presents itself. No pirate has ever taken me down from a souped-up galleon. And if my seamanship is good, I can hunt npc pirates that get too close.

One I have a galleon, my focus turns to glory points. I focus on acquiring 3 of a kind, even if I have to hold back on selling in-demand goods at lower qualities. With a cargo bay of 5, I can afford to try and collect 3 of one cargo type, 2 of another, then sell the first three goods and buy a third load of whatever else I was carrying. The 50 stash-gold practically builds itself up this way.

Also, since merchants have access to all ports (except during war), I can fulfil port rumours anywhere, if my stats support it. So I can be opportunistic and try and combine rumour locations with where i intend to sell cargo soon, or where there's a mission that I want to take.
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Ted Swalwell
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I'd also question whether you want to play a merchant consistently... One strategy I've found effective is to start out in a sloop, and make a few early raids.

Rumours seem to be quite inefficient ways to get glory, and you can't guarentee missions will fall your way, so trying to get couple of early points is nice. With special weapons you can do it with fairly low risk even with lowish seamanship, and if you can get a cargo-upgrade, then you can start turning in 3 of a kind. Go after the guaranteed spanish ship, and you can even avoid angering most of the nations.

Then, when I've got the gold and a couple of glory points, I buy a galleon at the location that let's me keep my upgrades, and swing over into full-time trading. That way, I've got the some glory 'in the bank' which means that I just need to make a few in-demand 3 of a kinds, maybe pickup one easy mission if it's on offer, and then just make it home...

Remember, if you draw 2 2 of a kinds, buy them both if you can.
 
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Puerto Rico
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Every time I read about this game I feel like I’m in the twilight zone. So many people claiming winning as a merchant is easy. I played this game about 7 times and my wife and I gave up on it. About 2 games we played were 4-player, and 5 games were 2-player. We never had a single game where a merchant came close to winning. Pirates could generate 1 glory point per turn thanks to being able to convert special weapons for card draws/replacements. This is the only boardgame I've played where I feel the word "broken" applies. Someone PLEASE enlighten me how is it that merchants can compete with the 1 glory point per turn that the pirates have easy access to by use of special weapons.
 
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Anthony
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Are you applying damage from merchant raids to the pirate ships...typically pirates cannot get a glory a turn at the start because the sloop is to fragile...normally you get some glory and some money and upgrade to a frigate while the merchants pull slightly ahead of you then with a frigate you can begin to string raids together without having to stop and repair.

Remember that any destroyed location (ie...a single hit to cannons or tw hits anywhere else) means you fail the raid and do not get the money, cargo, or glory. I often just want the early money so if I have absolutely any chance of failng my first raid I use my last card to dump a card or stand pat to ensure I at least get he money.


If this isn't it we will have to think of something else because the game is pretty well balanced but most people initially have the opposite of your experience due to the more intuitive play style o the merchant. Therefore I think the issue is a problem with one of the pirate rules making it easier for them somehow.
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Kevin 'Rocky' Robertson
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Not sure how you're getting 1 glory point per turn, you can raid a merchant with the help of special weapons, but once you do, both the Merchant & weapon disappears. Meaning you have to travel to the next district on your turn before you can raid again, and even if you're very lucky with the draws at some point you have to visit point to buy more special weapons.

As more and more merchants disappear the further you have to go to try to catch them, and if you're not careful you end up with bounties from all countries meaning your only port is your home port.

I do believe you have a rule wrong somewhere
 
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Puerto Rico
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We play the damage, and NEVER upgrade to frigate. With the high maneuverability of the sloop and having the three gimmies (special weapons) in my experience I would peg the likelihood of earning a glory point on any given raid at 90% or higher. Getting that glory point means you earned at least 12 gold per turn, plus the cargo you salvage. With that kind of profit, you can fully repair your ship every time, and in most cases have left over to restock on special weapons. To clarify, the pirate player does have to enter port and repair after every raid. So the pirate player gets a glory point at least EVERY OTHER TURN. I was wrong to say every turn. A pirate player can count of getting a glory point every other turn. And he can sometimes do even better when he lucks out on the raid and does not need to go to port to repair, but that is a rare occasion. Getting a glory point every other turn however, is close to 100% guarantee for a pirate in a sloop. The merchant player has no way to compete with this in our experience.

Are the pirates playing in your games using the initial gold to buy the 3 special weapons? I only sacrifice a special weapon if the sails or extra cargo is available. If you haven’t done so, please try that approach and then tell me how your game went.
 
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Anthony
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Ok that helps. Your every other time is much more realistic and makes me think your playing it right. Just to be sure though, your special weapons are committed prior to the rolling and they do not let you exceed your seamanship...so three special weapons does a captain with 2 seamanship no good as he can never have more than 2 successes.


Second, the metagame that has developed in your group has also made it easier for pirates. Our pirates never stay sloop anymore. We used to, but its not uncommon for our merchants to buy rigs and sales and attack sloops with their galleons or in some cases they start merchant than buy a frigate and reek havoc on sloops as well as perform merchant raids to close out the game. It appears your group doesn't see pirates fallign to other players very often and that certainly will allow the sloop only strategy.

My other preference for frigates is I can close a came out fast with merchants raids (sometimes 2 in a turn) without going back to repair if I have a captain with high scouting. (Side note: Scouting failures also disrupt Pirate glory accrual. Even with scouting of 3 or 4 i'll fail a time or two every game and that always wastes time and actions, with one or two scouting it can get very ugly).
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Yoren wrote:
Ok that helps. Your every other time is much more realistic and makes me think your playing it right. Just to be sure though, your special weapons are committed prior to the rolling and they do not let you exceed your seamanship...so three special weapons does a captain with 2 seamanship no good as he can never have more than 2 successes.

I just re-checked the rule. I don’t know why I hadn’t done so before. You are wrong in that you need to commit the special weapons before rolling. But you’ve made me realize that I was using the special weapons incorrectly. I was using the special weapons to simply add more skulls to whatever I rolled. The rule says, you can use the special weapons only substitute the failed dice. So like you said, when played correctly you could never have more successes than your seamanship. I guess now I will need to play another game and see what happens. I sure hope this makes the merchants compete with the pirates. Thanks for potentially fixing my game! I loved the theme and components but was thinking about trading it! Maybe I fixed the balance for you too by pointing out you spend your special weapons AFTER the seamanship roll?
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Anthony
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I did mess that up slightly, what I meant to say is they are committed after rolling but prior to using the successes...in otherwords you can't change one to a success...add a card, realize it wasn't enough and then use another weapon to flip another. That was clarified early on by Christian.


As to the part you missed, I think you will find that ends up being the issue. Many of the captains will be much less appealing to play as pirates for you with their seamanship acting as a cap for how much you can affect a merchant raid. You can get by with 2 but I really perfer 3 or higher seamanship to really feel safe on the raids.

Anyways, I'm real glad to hear you found a likely root cause. I hope it restores balance for you. Good luck and good hunting!
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Yoren wrote:
I did mess that up slightly, what I meant to say is they are committed after rolling but prior to using the successes...in otherwords you can't change one to a success...add a card, realize it wasn't enough and then use another weapon to flip another. That was clarified early on by Christian.

This is yet another subtlety that is NOT in the rules. So what you are saying is the Designer ruled that you can only ever sacrifice 1 special weapon per failed die. Now I really think our games will be fixed. Thanks again.
 
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Drew Gormley
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The rule book, by itself, when read properly, needed no changes or clarification in regard to the using of special weapons in merchant raids.
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Anthony
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I think there was enough ambiguity to miss the idea of having to commit them prior to using them to add cards...I personally missed that part of it till I saw one of Christian's early answers (and that assumes I understood him right as well).

The part about turning failures to successes was pretty clear, but in a game this large its natural to miss a few rules here and there. I still forget rules in TI3 from time to time and I've played it for a quite a while.
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Terry Lines
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A bump for this thread. My first post, and I would just like to say how much I enjoy this game.

Having played a couple of games, I feel like I still haven't figured out merchants. Don't understand comments about merchant strategy being easy.

PIRATES
1) sloop, and assuming 3 scouting + 2 seamanship:
2) raid every other turn, and depending on the draw either a)stick to 3 cards for a net c.10 of profit (9 gold plus 6 from the 2 cargo cards less 3 for repairs and say 2 for getting away/needing to use special weapons) or b) go for the glory point with a 50%-70% chance, plus 6-10 profit again (12+6 - 8 for repairs and specials - 4 say for merchants getting away), depending on how aggressive you are with the cards.

Basically generating 3-5 gold plus a qtr glory point a turn.

MERCHANTS
1) Flute. decent influence and seamanship.
2) Some hungover maths on buying goods:
1. 60% chance of drawing a pair
2. 35% chance of drawing more interesting (2 pairs or 3 of a kind)
3. 5% chance of singles

Plus if you have a pair in the hold, the chances of drawing 1 or more additional matching is 60%

3) Most obvious strategy (to me): buying and selling pairs for 8 gold profit, and waiting for a 2nd pair to come up (35% of the time) in order to then draw a 3rd at the next port for 3 profit and a GP (so 19 profit and a GP over 2 turns).

4) On average each port trade would generate about 8 gold plus 1/6th of a glory point.

5) Assuming you can hit it every other turn (unlikely given only two ports with your good in them) you generate 4 gold plus 1/12th of a GP.

Merchants are less efficient at the start although this changes over the course of the game, as pirates get less efficient. Big upgrade for a merchant is a galleon with an extra cargo space to make trading more efficient as you can hold a pair and three of a kind.

In the games I've played, the game's over by the time the pirate is feeling constraints and the merchant is ready to upgrade.

What could I do differently with the merchant in order to be a bit quicker off the mark? Is it all down to effectively using rumours or are there some better trading strategies?
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Einmal ist keinmal
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I find the two paths to be well-balanced. They certainly require two very different play styles, and it seems that merchanting is easier for new players.

I would dispute even the "1 glory point every other turn" prediction for pirate captains. One thing I think is being overlooked is the depletion of merchant tokens (remember you cannot scout for a merchant if there is no merchant token in the sea zone). Merchant tokens are only resupplied when there are 8+ on the track at the beginning of a round. Pirates will have to spend more actions sailing around to find merchants. Also, a smart pirate will not engage every single merchant that he successfully scouts. Managing bounties is a very important part of the game for pirate captains.

Furthermore, it is often the case (because of bounties or war), that a pirate captain cannot enter a particular port. This will mean more wasted actions to get to a friendly port in order to repair and restock on special weapons.

Lastly, pirating has a disadvantage of having more NPC ships to worry about. There are potentially 4 privateers Naval Ships hunting for them (sometimes Man O' Wars!), while merchants have only 2 potential pirate NPCs (and one of them being the fragile Sloop).

Players have to play to their captain's strengths. It's also fairly easy to switch out your captain for another. Sure, you miss a turn, but if you really don't like your captain, then it is an option.

I agree with the above posters that it's generally a good idea (whether Pirate or Merchant) to take advantage of Glory points from Rumors, Missions, and defeating other captains. And towards the end of the game, it might even make sense for a merchant in a galleon to conduct a merchant raid or two.

Overall, I find that both merchants and marauders have a fairly equal shot at winning. It's really a great game, and I like the openness it offers.
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Eric Brosius
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I've only played it once, with a group that had played it quite a bit, and they seemed to think the merchant strategy was better. It might be a groupthink thing.
 
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Robert Stewart
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Eric Brosius wrote:
I've only played it once, with a group that had played it quite a bit, and they seemed to think the merchant strategy was better. It might be a groupthink thing.


The Merchant strategy is more predictable - the only variations are which cargo cards you draw and, if you go for them, which rumours you get. The pirate strategy is more luck driven - you need to make scouting rolls, get acceptable merchant nationalities, and your seamanship roll and card draw make the difference between having to spend (at least) a turn returning to port and repairing, or staying out and bagging another prize.

When everything goes a pirate's way, they're unbeatable; when things go badly, a merchant with decent luck can win easily. Overall, they're fairly close to even, but only when the luck's fairly even and the pirates know what they're doing (Top tip for pirates: use special weapons to max out your skulls on a merchant raid - those extra successes are the difference between getting glory and being left empty handed with a hole in your ship...)
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Desiderata wrote:
Pirates will have to spend more actions sailing around to find merchants.


I don't know that this is true. Sure, pirates have to visit different sea zones in order to succeed, but merchants usually need to do this as well in order to get to those ports with the right goods in demand. Once you're in the destination sea zone, scouting the merchant token costs only one action, whereas visiting the port costs three.

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Also, a smart pirate will not engage every single merchant that he successfully scouts. Managing bounties is a very important part of the game for pirate captains.


True, but don't forget that you get some choice in which bounty to take: either the nationality shown on the merchant token or the nationality of the sea zone in which you scouted it. Spanish merchants for instance tend to be very easy to find because of this rule.
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Anthony
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Not to mention bounty management only matters for part of the game...that goes out the window if I'm only one or two points from victory as I stop considering whether I'll need to get back into those ports.
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Peristarkawan wrote:
Desiderata wrote:
Pirates will have to spend more actions sailing around to find merchants.


I don't know that this is true. Sure, pirates have to visit different sea zones in order to succeed, but merchants usually need to do this as well in order to get to those ports with the right goods in demand. Once you're in the destination sea zone, scouting the merchant token costs only one action, whereas visiting the port costs three.


I was just disputing the statement of a glory point every other turn. I didn't mean to imply that pirates are spending more actions than merchant players, just that they will probably have to spend more actions to get their points than the estimate of every other turn.

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Carsten Jorgensen
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Desiderata wrote:
I find the two paths to be well-balanced. They certainly require two very different play styles, and it seems that merchanting is easier for new players.

I would dispute even the "1 glory point every other turn" prediction for pirate captains. One thing I think is being overlooked is the depletion of merchant tokens (remember you cannot scout for a merchant if there is no merchant token in the sea zone). Merchant tokens are only resupplied when there are 8+ on the track at the beginning of a round. Pirates will have to spend more actions sailing around to find merchants. Also, a smart pirate will not engage every single merchant that he successfully scouts. Managing bounties is a very important part of the game for pirate captains.

Furthermore, it is often the case (because of bounties or war), that a pirate captain cannot enter a particular port. This will mean more wasted actions to get to a friendly port in order to repair and restock on special weapons.

Lastly, pirating has a disadvantage of having more NPC ships to worry about. There are potentially 4 privateers hunting for them (sometimes Man O' Wars!), while merchants have only 2 potential pirate NPCs (and one of them being the fragile Sloop).

Players have to play to their captain's strengths. It's also fairly easy to switch out your captain for another. Sure, you miss a turn, but if you really don't like your captain, then it is an option.

I agree with the above posters that it's generally a good idea (whether Pirate or Merchant) to take advantage of Glory points from Rumors, Missions, and defeating other captains. And towards the end of the game, it might even make sense for a merchant in a galleon to conduct a merchant raid or two.

Overall, I find that both merchants and marauders have a fairly equal shot at winning. It's really a great game, and I like the openness it offers.


I cannot help to mantion this - privateers are pirates who have been hired by a state to plunder (and so not a term to use about Naval Ships - players even become privateers when taking on the "Letter of Marque" missions).

Though I agree with all you write .
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Randor20 wrote:
Desiderata wrote:
Lastly, pirating has a disadvantage of having more NPC ships to worry about. There are potentially 4 privateers hunting for them (sometimes Man O' Wars!), while merchants have only 2 potential pirate NPCs (and one of them being the fragile Sloop).


I cannot help to mantion this - privateers are pirates who have been hired by a state to plunder (and so not a term to use about Naval Ships - players even become privateers when taking on the "Letter of Marque" missions).

Though I agree with all you write .

Good point! Corrected, thanks.
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