02 August 2011

Merchants & Marauders part 1 components

This week I’m going to review my latest boardgame, Merchants & Marauders which is a incredibly fun 2-4 player game of Caribbean adventure and makes me grin like an idiot. This review will be divided into two parts, this first part will be a component breakdown and tomorrow I will post a review of the game mechanics and how it plays.

First let me start with a piece of nostalgia, because the box itself and when you open the box, smells like those hard cardboard boxes you got PC games in back in the early to mid 90’s. I just love that smell, that’s like the gasoline smell equivalent for boardgamers I suppose. And to make it even better it provided me with some childhood memories of playing Monkey Island 1 and 2, trying to figure out what the hell everyone was saying and on top of that solving those bizarre puzzles, those were the days.

Anyway, the components of this game are of a very high quality. Considering this is a Z-man game and not my usual Fantasy Flight Games-fix I was very pleasantly surprised by the content quality. And the amount of components is for once enough to match how much you can handle or may have room for on an average kitchen table.

You get excellent crib sheets with print on the front and back with pretty much all the rules you will need to know to play the game – you get 4 of these, one for each player. (As a sidenote, you also get enough zip bags to store all your components in a well sorted fashion - FFG take note!)
Coins, with rough edges to make them appear worn like pirate gold I guess, pretty cool.

Ships, 4 types of models each representing the ship types you can have in the game. 4 colors show player ships, brown ships belong to NPC’s and are placed on a small nation flag to show which nation owns that particular battleship. And 2 black ships to represent pirate vessels.

Pirate themed dice, you roll successes on a 5-6 in this game, so they have swapped those results for skull and bones. These dice are also used to determine where you inflict damage on enemy ships with your cannons.

Ship cards with statistics for 5 types of ships, Sloop, Flute, Galleon, Frigate and Man-o-War. The later cannot be bought by the player but can be captured from NPC nations that are at war if you are bold or reckless enough. Each ship has a different amount of damage points in all the important categories, those being: Hull, Masts, Cargo, Cannons, Crew .  Merchant vessels tend to have a large cargo space and the Galleon being armed to the teeth but have poor maneuverability. If you want to be a pirate  a faster ship like the Sloop or Frigate with a few upgrades is the way to go.

Captain cards, there are 12 in total, with 3 belonging to France, Holland, Spain and England. Each captain has his own set of statistics, showing how good he is at sailing, commanding, how influential he is and how well he can spot and identify ships at sea. Each captain also has their own unique special rule that you should keep in mind while playing as it is always something very good.

The statistics and the special rule on the captain cards indicate what sort of career choice your captain could pursue with greater success. Some captains are great at spotting ships at sea, making them better raiders. Other captains are great with maneuverability and influence making them better merchants.

player boards that represent everything the player is and has in the game. On this board you will stock your gold and merchandise that is aboard your ship. You will have a ship card to represent what type of ship you are currently sailing, and you will match the ship statistics on your board using small colored cubes. On this player board you will also place your captain card, mission card, rumor card and any specialist crewmen that you might have recruited during the game. Should you be raided or lose your ship – everything you have on this board will be lost!

There are treasure chests in which you can safely deposit your hard earned cash when you are in your home port. These are made of hard cardboard and are easy to assemble and pick apart between games.

The board is not king-sized, measuring 25x22” in total. And it has really nice artwork and being divided into sea zones. Each sea zone has its own special rules, ranging from all kinds of stuff like being able to hide from other players and NPC’s at sea, stocking up goods cheap or being able to attempt to overhear a rumor for free etc. The sea zones, except for the single one in the middle of the board that does not border with any coastline, also include a port location. 
Which takes me to the next set of components, as each port has two small boxes printed next to it. In one you will place a “goods” marker, to show what kind of goods are in demand in that port. And in the other you will place a ship upgrade that the dockyard in that port is providing.
Linked to the goods markers you have a deck of “goods cards”, printed on those are 3 categories of information which I will describe in more detail in part 2. But the most important symbol is the goods.
We also have Event cards that show the special events taking place each turn, these range from NPC and Pirate ships appearing on the board, storms, tropical plagues, war between nations and other things that will make a small or great impact on each player.

The mission cards are placed in the appropriate sea zone on the board, there are always 2 of them on the board, and when a player claims one mission you draw a new one. Missions are the most demanding and often the most rewarding “quest” you can get in this game. They often require certain combination of skill tests, time schedules and etc.

The rumor deck with cards that can be obtained during a port action, rumors are like missions, but with two exceptions. They can only be obtained by paying money and then rolling a successful influence check – and they can only be completed by successfully passing the requirement printed on the rumor card. If you fail the rumor was false and you get nothing in return!

The Glory deck, each time you earn a glory point you also draw one of these cards, they are filled with specialist crewmen, captain abilities, favorable turn of events and you play them during the game to increase your chances in various situations.

Two more tokens that I will talk more about in the second part are the merchant tokens which are placed in each sea zone and the bounty tokens which are used for 3 purposes but mostly to keep track of you wanted level with one of the nations for raiding their merchant ships.

Stay tuned for part two with the rules and gameplay walkthrough and the review of the game mechanics!


  1. Reminds me of Sid Meier's Pirates! which my brothers and I enjoyed and bonded over as kids.

  2. i concur. this is one great game. i played this with a buddy and we had loads of fun.

  3. Sounds quite interesting, I look forward to hearing more.

  4. Any game that makes one grin like an idiot is worth laying down the money for :) Days of Wonder's Pirates cove is our piratey game of choice, will check this out.


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