Friday, April 1, 2016

Tabletopper Friday - Merchants & Marauders (2010)

After finally learning the game of Merchants & Marauders (2010) following nearly a year of trying to find the time and folks to play, I got a second chance soon after.  Both players were new.  They play together with me regularly and even play games like Firefly: The Game (2013) where we essentially play a similar game by somewhat different rules.  I'm still loving the map-board and components of this game.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
Merchants & Marauders lets you live the life of an influential merchant or a dreaded pirate in the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy. Seek your fortune through trade, rumor hunting, missions, and of course, plundering. Modify your ship, buy impressive vessels, load deadly special ammunition, and hire specialist crew members. Will your captain gain eternal glory and immense wealth - or find his wet grave under the stormy surface of the Caribbean Sea?
In Merchants and Marauders, players take on the role of a captain of a small vessel in the Caribbean. The goal is to be the first to achieve 10 "glory" points through performing daring deeds (through the completion of missions or rumors), crushing your enemies (through defeating opponents and NPCs in combat), amassing gold, performing an epic plunder or pulling off the trade of a lifetime, and buying a grand ship. While some points earned from performing various tasks are permanent, players earn points for amassing gold, which can be stolen or lost (or at least diminished) if their captain is killed. Points due to gold are hidden so there's some uncertainty about when the game will end.
A big component of the game is whether (or when) to turn "pirate" or remain as a trader or neutral party. Both careers are fraught with danger: pirates are hunted by NPCs (and other players) for their bounty and blocked to certain ports while traders are hunted by non-player pirates as well as their opponents and generally have to sacrifice combat capability for cargo capacity. Although players can kill each other, there is no player elimination as players may draw a new captain (with a penalty) so it's possible to come back from defeat.

Once again, I avoided piracy and acted the full game as merchantly as one can.  Despite my country of origin being at war from nearly the beginning of the game and through most of it, I managed to find plenty of ways to load up my ship and trade in three in-demand trade items almost every time.  I think this game needs to stress that allowing folks to simply merchant their way to victory is something to avoid.  It becomes a race without a lot of tension once you're about two-thirds of the way along.  Next time, I will pirate like it's 1699 and we'll see what that does for me.

Mostly about card games and board games,
unless they have a decidedly wargamey feel.
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