Merchants & Marauders expansion: first impressions

I blogged a few months ago about pirate themed board games. Merchants & Marauders got some treatment there. I liked the game for what it was and that is an adventure game with a little bit of strategy. The expansion for Merchants & Marauders came out recently. I bought a copy. We managed to get this to the table last week. Here are my early impressions.


1. Game box and contents

Muskegon loves Merchants & Marauders
Merchants & Marauders Seas of Glory

Merchants & Marauders: Seas of Glory is a good value. You can pick up a copy for around $25 or so. And you get tons of stuff.

There are additional cards, effectively doubling the size of three of the decks. There is additional plastic: new ships for every player and NPC. There are three additional player boards for all four players.

The art work* and quality of the components is quite good.

Overall, I am very impressed with what the components.




2. What the game adds: Modules 1 through 4

Some Captains from Merchants & Marauders
Some Captains from Merchants & Marauders

The rules for the expansion add 11 modules and several optional rules. The first four modules are simply “more” of the base game. The size of the captain, rumor and mission decks have doubled. There are additional events cards too.

*Seen here is one of the new captain cards. Z-Man games photoshopped some of the playtesters’ picture onto a pirate costume. It looks like pirate cosplay to me. I am not a fan.

The game adds several new special weapons and ship mods. So “more” of the base game. The ship mods are a really good addition. They fix some things I had a problem with in the base game. It seemed in the base game that your captain’s skills and your ship’s stats were not related in a meaningful way with ship mods. Now there is a lot more interface between the two. The crow’s nest adds to your captain’s scouting ability; the carved hull lowers your opponent’s seamanship when fleeing. This is a nice addition!

NPC ships now can have ship mods and weapons. This is an okay addition. It doesn’t add much but it doesn’t hurt either.

3. What the game adds: Modules 5 through 6

Spanish Treasure Galleon
Spanish Treasure Galleon

New plastic has been added. Everyone has an additional ship type: the brig. The brig has good maneuverability (3). This means it can do merchant raids fairly well. The brig also has good cargo (4). So the brig can also do its fair share of being a merchant. The brig only costs 20 gold making it 15 gold cheaper than the frigate or galleon. The brig does not grant a glory point, however.

This makes the brig a good ship but not an obvious choice. If you need to upgrade your flute or sloop and you can’t quite muster enough cash for the frigate or galleon, the brig might be the right choice.

The Spanish Treasure Galleon sails around the Caribbean, collecting gold. This acts as a lightning rod, attracting the most intrepid captains to take her down.

The maneuverability of galleons has been reduced from 2 to 1. This was a necessary errata to keep the decision making about which ship to buy tense.

4. Wind & Weather

Wind and weather in Merchants & Marauders
Wind and weather in Merchants & Marauders

The expansion fixed one of my problems with the base game in a round about way. There were 35 cards in the event deck; about 7 were storms. This meant you were going to get hammered by storms regularly but also randomly.

The expansion added 15 cards to the event deck–none have storms. This dilutes the storms to a much more manageable situation. And to offset this, there is a permanent storm on the board. This is much more predictable than the random events.

Players spin the wind at the beginning of the turn and move the storm accordingly. The wind direction also helps or hinders the players. Players moving with the wind get one extra action; players moving against the wind get one fewer actions.


5. Notable Locations 

Notable Locations from Merchants
Notable Locations from Merchants

The coolest addition to the expansion is the new locations. While at a sea space, you will have the opportunity to visit a location. It costs an action. And each location does something different.

Or, you may raid the location and permanently remove it from the game.

This adds a lot more strategy and tactics to the game–something the base game really needed.


6. Mitigating Luck: Modules 10 & 11

Favors in Merchants
Favors in Merchants & Marauders

There was way too much luck in the base game. As much as I like adventure games, I really need there to be some strategy in my longish games.

The expansion helps address this. The favors track allows players to bribe local officials, grease some palms and get some dice rerolls or card redraws. It’s another way to spend some money and it’s a necessary luck mitigator

The last module is f0rces players to manage the loyalty of their ships. Since you can only move up one space per port action, players will not be able to outright buy “Fiercely loyal” crewmen. And if you start and end your turn in the same port, you will lost one loyalty. This prevents turtling.


7. Final thoughts

I think Seas of Glory is an exceptional expansion. It has all the things in it that make an expansion good. It patches a few things that annoyed me with the base game. It adds replayability and strategy. It adds lots of components at a good value.


8. Interested in playing this with us?

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