Yesterday was National Talk Like A Pirate Day. So I bet a bunch of you played Pirate themed games last night. I didn’t play any pirate games last night, but I did watch a show about the industrial age and now I have an amazing game design concept which I’ll be keeping quiet about for now. Never-the-less, due to all the Pirate-y goodness I am reviewing a fantastic game called Merchants & Marauders. Let’s get to it!
For those of you who enjoy Pirates and everything involved with that genre and history, then this is the pirate game for you! In the game you take on the role of a captain who is exploring the open seas of the Caribbean. During the game you have the option to be a merchant and pick up goods and deliver them to other ports, or you can be a pirate (marauder) and raid other ships and plunder gold. But the game goes so far beyond just that. There are rumor cards to fulfill (for example: you could get a rumor card that says there is hidden treasure off of Cartagena… if you prove the rumor to be true, then you are rewarded with gold!). There are mission cards to complete for bonuses. There are different types of ships you can own. There is so much to this awesome game! If you feel the desire to plunder some booty, then hop aboard and sail the open seas with me!
Here’s what the game looks like on the table:
So each player is a different captain in control of a ship. On your turn you can choose from several different actions depending on whether you’re in open water or at a port. If you choose to be a merchant then you’ll want to go from port to port picking up and delivering goods for a boatload of booty! If you attack someone, then you are automatically considered a Pirate. This is a more high-risk venture but it can also bring big rewards. But, as they say, “Once a Pirate, Always a Pirate!”
During the game other ships also begin sailing the seas. You have to watch out for these ships. If you are a merchant you’ll have to stay away from Pirate ships, and vice versa. The whole time you are trying to obtain money. The game ends when someone gets to 50 doubloons.
Here’s What I Be Liking:
Artwork: This artwork is absolutely sensational. It is a pleasure for my eyes to look up the game board and player mats. The colors are vibrant. The art style is impressive. And there is nothing to dislike when viewing this game! I am typically influenced by the art on games and this is no different. It’s amazing!
Sailing the Open Seas: This game let’s you sail around as you wish. You are a captain and you have full control of the helm. Nothing guides your strategy in this game and you are free to do as you please. I love having that openness, knowing that I am fully responsible for the actions I take in the game. There are not many games that really immerse you the way this game does!
Many Options: In this game you constantly have many options available to you. You can do numerous things when you are in a port. You can choose to become a pirate by raiding a ship. You can attack your enemy. You can try to complete missions or determine if rumors are true. Overall there are a lot of things you can do! It really feels like you are guiding a vessel around the Caribbean!
Here’s What I Be Disliking:
Downtime: The only complaint I have is that when the other players visit a port it can lead to a lot of downtime where you just don’t do anything. With four players all taking port actions on their turn it can lead to a long time to wait between turns.
Length of the Game: I love Merchants & Marauders. But it takes a long time to play. I group it into the same game length category as Eclipse. It the game didn’t take so long to play it would make the table a lot more often.
Designer Perspective – What I’d Be Changin’:
One thing that seems a little off is that being a Pirate is really hard. I’d like piracy to be a more viable option for players. While the game makes being a pirate have about the right feel, I would rather have the game be a little off theme to make piracy more fun. So I would either make the pirate ships more evasive so that they can plunder and run or present more options for pirates to obtain booty. This isn’t that big of a change and could make it more fun to be a pirate.
The other thing I would change is to add scenarios to the game. I know that the rumor cards give players to work toward, but I would prefer some cooperative scenarios for the game. Imagine all players playing as Pirates and trying to plunder a fleet of merchant ships that are controlled by the game. That would be a lot of fun!
While a big jug of rum would be the ideal beverage pairing for this game, I will pick a beer anyway. And I can’t think of a more fitting beer for sailing around the Caribbean than Jamaica’s finest, Red Stripe.
I have to wonder if they didn’t choose the bottle shape so that it felt more like a jug of rum. It’s not a typical shape for beer bottles. But I suppose that’s fitting since Merchants & Marauders isn’t a typical pirate game. It’s better! I haven’t played it in a while, but now after posting this I really want to get it to the table again!
I love this game. I love imagining myself sailing the Caribbean with a crew on board who are ready to deliver goods or plunder another ship or suck down some rum. The theme and artwork are so capturing that they really bring me in. Plus, there’s the really cool cardboard treasure chest where you can stash your doubloons. I want to play again and I am rating this game a 9 out of 10 on the Board Game Geek scale: