My next review is for a game called Merchants & Marauders
, which we played for the first time last night:
This is a big beautiful expensive game where players pilot ships in the Caribbean Islands, earning money as a trader or robbing ships as a pirate.
I was attracted to the game based on a few reviews that described it as similar to Tales of the Arabian Nights
, one of my favorite board games. I like games that involve a narrative story and are filled with surprise and adventure and exploration.
Merchants & Marauders succeeds quite well in creating a very visceral experience of being on the high seas dealing with other ships and ports -- and is one of those rare board games that really makes you feel like you are in a living world. It's not just that it succeeds in presenting an immersive theme, but that it succeeds in making you feel like the world is actually dynamically evolving as you play.
It's a long game (I think we played for over 5 hours), and it's also extremely successful in creating a wide variety and diversity of things to do and adventures to go on, and ways to win. We barely scratched the surface of the different events and adventures and missions to go on.. And player interaction is as hands off or brutal as the players want -- which is a nice feature.
It's the area of rules where the game doesn't quite work for me. Now to be honest this is where most games fail for me. I really dislike overly involved rulesets which are difficult to keep track of. Much of the reason for this is that I don't play too many games with the same crowd repeatedly, so if a game required 2 or 3 sessions before everyone gets up to speed and can play, it's hard to have fun with new people. In board game discussions you will hear the term "fiddly", which refers to games where there are lots of little tokens and chits and counters to keep track of and do bookeeping on.
Merchants & Marauders isn't terrible in this department -- but it is on the borderline. There are a lot of little rules and tokens and bookeeping. NPC interactions and Combat in particular is overly complicated and convoluted and involves many steps which seem overkill to me. I prefer theme and flavor for combat, not all of these involved steps.
The game comes as close as any board game I have ever seen in creating something that feels like a world simulation.. but it does it at the cost of a bit to much bookeeping and upkeep work.
In the end, that's what makes the game something that just didn't quite work for me -- just too much focus on going through the motions and doing bookeeping, and too little novel surprise narrative adventure/exploration.
So I continue my quest to find the perfect fun exciting adventure board game that is super easy to learn and play and run.
- Me: 7 of 10
- Gothic: 7.5 of 10
- Traci: 7.5 of 10
Interesting elements for game designers:
- Feels like a simulation in a board game
- Nice choice of how much interaction between users
- Nice options for players to customize their way to play