Archive for the ‘Board Games’ Category

Over the past two weeks, I’ve played three games of the new Zman Merchants and Marauders board game. It’s a pirate game set in the Caribbean during the 17th and early 18th centuries. Each player takes the role of a captain and tries to amass wealth and glory.

The game is a fun one. Random events cover the movement of NPCs (French, English, Dutch and Spanish warships, as well as NPC pirates). Each player gets three actions per turn (move, scout or port). Movement is from sea area to sea area. The heart of the game revolves around two mechanics; first, the cargo deck, which serves as a way for merchants and pirates to buy and sell goods at different ports. A random chit determines what good is in demand at each port. The cargo deck also serves as a way to raid NPC merchants at sea. Merchants must be scouted first; if found, they can be raided, but the treasure aboard and the damage taken by the player is also resolved by the bottom of the cargo cards.

The second mechanic is the use of special pirate dice that have the 5 and 6 replaced by a skull and crossbones. Rolling a skull is a success; anything else is a failure. So aspiring pirates wishing to scout for merchants, gather rumors, perform missions, etc., roll dice equal to their appropriate skill in that activity. These dice are also used in player vs. player and player versus warship combat.

We found that the first game took about three hours. The first player to get to 10 glory points wins the game. Glory is earned by raiding, defeating other players/NPC warships, trading and stashing gold. Subsequent play takes about 2 hours with four players.

The components of the game are spectacular. The ships (sloops, flutes, frigates and galleons) are beautifully molded. The cards are on heavy stock. The mapboard is a work of art. Even the coins and markers are attractive. We were so excited while playing the game that we instantly started thinking about how to use the board and the core search/trade mechanics as a campaign system for pirate miniatures. The new Blue Moon models in 15mm are very affordable and the ships almost match the game’s ships to a tee.

All in all, I heartily recommend this game to anyone looking for a fun game that never plays the same way twice. It is easily the best board game I have played in the past year.


Not much new to report this week…I finished the GW boards and hope to have some final pictures up soon. The water ended up being the trickiest part and will probably take another layer of resin to finish. Other projects included assembling about 30 Lord of the Rings figures (Uruk Hai and warriors of Minas Tirith). I also painted 16 of the Uruk Hai this weekend.

From a gaming perspective, we played Robo Rally and Bang! Saturday night with Skip Peterson and his family. Robo Rally is one of those games that is a blast to play, especially after several glasses of wine, which totally messes up your spatial perception. If you haven’t heard of Bang!, it is a face-paced card game of shootouts in the Old West. Skip was the Sheriff and got shot repeatedly by the outlaws and renegade. I had the unfortunate luck of being killed by not one, but two sticks of dynamite that were making the rounds. The renegade (my son Will) won the game by killing everyone else off, then putting a final round into Skip’s twitching body.

I picked up a copy of A Most Dangerous Time, a boardgame designed by Tetsuya Nakamura and republished in English by MMP. It deals with feudal Japan from 1570-1584 and the rise of Oda Nobunaga, pitting Oda’s forces against all others for control of everything. It uses area movement, innovative game mechanics, and card-driven special events to bring an incredible simulation of Japanese warfare leading up to the establishment of the Shogunate.

Back of the game box.

Back of the game box.

I have perused the game contents and rule book. At first blush, the game looks to be stellar. It utilizes cards, action chits, player negotiations, regular combat, siege combat and a host of other elements to offer an in-depth experience. It also includes optional rules for expanding the game to three or four players.

I can’t wait to play this one!

The game map.

The game map.

Smallworld from Days of Wonder

Posted: May 26, 2009 in Board Games

home_picture1I picked up a copy of Smallworld this weekend from Days of Wonder. It is basically a fantasy boardgame in which there are too many races and not enough land. The object of the game is to earn the most victory coins by conquering lands, collecting income and keeping other players from doing the same. Races have special powers that give them advantages. Races also are paired with extra powers that are randomly generated, so no two games ever play the same. There are no dice involved; everything is based on unit placement. My wife, two sons and I were able to learn the game and play it to completion in less than four hours. I found the game fun, addictive and am looking forward to playing it again. The components are very high quality and the price at $55 is at the lower end for Eurogames. Highly recommended.