Gameday First Play – Merchants & Marauders
Trading and Fighting on the Caribbean Sea.
Or Trading and Running as I played it…
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, rumour 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?
You get cards representing your Captain and you’re initial choice of smallish ships. Your ships have different stats as you’d expect… your Captain has an ability, again, as you’d expect. But your Captain also has a nationality, which is actually quite important.
Your Captain also has a home port which is important too.
The goal is Glory, 10 Glory to be exact and there are many ways to get them with each of these ‘ways’ being thematically pirate-y.
A round starts with an event card being drawn that can bring on new Navel/Pirate ships, move them around and generally cause havoc with things like weather, wars and earthquakes.
On your turn you have 3 actions and these are mostly used by moving one space around the pretty cool looking board. Moving into and out of a Port is also a movement point.
As you can imagine, you have to plot your course carefully to avoid Navel Ships if you’re a Pirate, or Pirates if you’re not.
When in Port you can buy and sell Goods, repair your ship, buy upgrades and stash Gold… Stashing your Gold keeps it safe but you can also use it to buy Glory… who doesn’t like a Pirate with a bunch of treasure? This takes time, quite a bit of time but it generally won’t effect the next players turn so the game keeps on moving.
When at Sea you can attack ships or Scout for Merchants. If you Scout successfully you flip it’s token over to see what the nationality of the Merchant is… If you raid it and steal their stuff you get a bounty from that nation. That means you can’t use their ports and is a real pain…
I had a Rumour card where I could go to a port and steal a Man o War ship… But that port was British so I couldn’t get in the port to complete the Rumour! Rumours also give Glory too so it would have been nice to try.
Stealing a Merchants goods is done via a Port Royal style push your luck system where the more cards you reveal the more treasure you get… But you might end up revealing too much damage in which case you’re in trouble, or they might reveal too many escape actions and leave you loot-less.
Combat didn’t happen too much in our game and I wasn’t involved in any of it but it’s dice roll vs dice roll with damage taken of certain parts of the ship. If a part of your ship hits 0 health you’re in trouble.
NPC ships are controlled by the Event cards and the size of the ship in play and the direction of their movement are too. They’re placed on the board so you know what you’re dealing with.
One other thing worth mentioning because it’s cool, and I took a picture of it, are Wars.
Again, thematic, but warring nations can effect your game… In the below pic Spain was at War with Holland and my Captain as Spanish so I couldn’t go to Dutch ports.
Add this to my British, French and Spanish bounties and I banned from every port in the Caribbean! This is where your home port is important, you can always go to your home port.
There’s loads more to it and hopefully I’ll get to play it again and experience more stuff. I stayed small, stayed protected and picked on defenceless Merchant ships. With this I gained points by selling contraband goods at ports and stashing enough Gold to buy 5 Glory to win the game.
It’s a very thematic game. Everything in it you can relate to what we see in Pirate films and TV shows. I’d love to see this given the Black Sails licence ’cause with a few changes (mostly fewer boobs) it could be a lot more popular than it is… Not that it doesn’t M&M have it’s fans.
For comparisons I put it next to Firefly and Xia as open trading sailing/flying type games. This one is more fiddly (Fantasy Flight tokens and cards) but smoother than those games, more thematic, more appealing (theme wise) and just better all around for me.
I look forward to playing this again and trying to get involved in some combat rather than just raiding Merchants and trading goods.