Thursday 2 March 2023

There Be Pirates!

Pirates and yes, they are in the Caribbean….

The back of the box

Ever since I was given a copy of the Waddington’s board game of Buccaneer as a boy (pre wargaming so this would have been around 1970ish) and seeing Treasure Island - the BBC series and the Disney film - I have had a liking for the whole pirate genre. I have flirted with figures and models over the years - Peter Pig’s Pieces of Eight, Blood and Plunder and Galleys and Galleons being the main culprits but for some reason could not get out of first gear in a meaningful way. I had even toyed with building my own ships using the techniques acquired whilst building the ACW collection. 

A rather attractive map of the area of piratical operations featuring the main nationalities present - English, French, Dutch and Spanish

A potential solution came about via my recent acquisition of a secondhand board game called Merchants and Marauders produced by Z Man Games. This has the potential to tick pretty much all the boxes for me - it even has a solo system - in that it looks rather like a grown up version of Waddington’s Buccaneer. Essentially you win by acquiring Glory points and you can do this via trade, piracy or following rumours. As your renown grows so you are able to upgrade your ship making you rather more of a dangerous adversary. There are NPCs involved and game controlled events that al adds to the fun. The game is set in the Caribbean (naturally) and the game board is a lovely map of the area. Aside from all the game paraphernalia which includes gold coins and the inevitable treasure chests, there are 26 hard plastic ships depicting stylised versions of typical types from the latter half of the 17th and early 18th century. They are rather nice although the curved bowsprit may be seen as problematic to some - not I though!

The ships. There are four each of the national colours - blue, red, green and yellow and each has one of each model. They are from left to right, a galleon, a frigate, a flute and a sloop. There are also eight others that are in effect NPCs to use the old D and D term and a black frigate and sloop that represent legendary pirate characters.

There are two expansions currently available - one of which adds more detail to the base game and another which is a standalone although set in the Merchants and Marauders world. This is called Broadsides and is basically a ship to ship point blank range naval duel. It looks a lot of fun and needless to say I have a few ideas of where I could take this!

The first expansion - adds to the base game with the advantage that you only need use the sections that are of interest.

This is a standalone game set in the Merchants and Marauders world

Ship to ship, up close and personal in an Errol Flynn kind of way - no, NOT that kind of Errol Flynn way… ;-)

For the Broadsides standalone game I am thinking it would not take a great deal of work to cobble together a couple of generic pirate ships - there are plenty of large scale MDF models available for this - and in effect use the deck planes as control cards whilst moving the models as required. The Portable Pirate Wargame? Who knows?

Now to dig out my copy of the Pyrates by George MacDonald-Fraser….


Donnie McGibbon said...

That looks like seriously good fun!! I remember getting buccaneer back in the day as well and we had tonnes of fun with that, this looks like it certainly takes it to the next level and beyond! Great stuff!1

David Crook said...

Hi Donnie,

The three key boardgames of my youth were all by Waddington’s - Formula One, Campaign and Buccaneer. One other game I played a lot was called Mediterranean by Parker. I also enjoyed Escape from Colditz.

Buccaneer happened to be my wife’s favourite board game when she was young and so I got her a copy for Christmas a few years back and we have played it as a family at Christmas.

Merchants and Marauders looks like a grown up version and I am keen to run it solo but the ships are rather nice and may well be used elsewhere at some point.

Really pleased to have acquired it!

All the best,


Mark Cordone said...

Arrr! There's Piraten to be done! I picked up a used copy of the game some time ago primarily for the ships, but played it solitare a few times and it was a fun little game. It would make a good starting point for a Pirates and colonial Caribbean campaign.

David Crook said...

Hi there Mark,

My copy had been used occasionally but is in really good condition and like you my first thought was the ships! I have some solo rules - not sure where they came from, probably BGG - so am looking to give it a whirl over the weekend if I can. The map is really nice and as you say, a good starting point for a Caribbean colonial/pirate set up.

The Portable Pirate Wargame? Now there is a thought…. ;-)

All the best,


Kaptain Kobold said...

The bowsprit on the largest ship looks like it's giving everyone The Finger :-D

David Crook said...

Hello there Kaptain,

I hadn’t thought of that but see what you mean!

All the best,