Merchants and Marauders: Broadsides is a 2-player standalone game, set in the world of Merchants and Marauders. Rather than focus on open-world exploration with multiple win conditions, Broadsides has 1 goal, destruction of your opponent through the constant pounding of your cannons.
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As well as being incredibly thematic, the Merchants and Marauders: Broadsides components take up a very small amount of table space, and while it does have several different types of components, the number of them is limited and makes it a tight package to set up and transport. The core components of Broadsides are the 2 ship boards where you track your cannons and damage received with tokens and meeples. The rest are cards, 1 set of target cards used to aim and improve your gunnery accuracy, and a set of a standard deck of playing cards with jokers, minus the court cards. (4 suits with numbers 1 to 10).
Each turn, players get to aim and carry out an action before actually firing their cannons. Most actions require discarding cards, and the more complex the action, the higher combination of cards. For example, you cannons hold multiple shots of different types. Discarding any 2 cards lets you draw a single random shot to reload into your cannons. Discarding a pair lets you draw as many shots as required to fill your cannons.
You can Hold to draw a card, or discard up to 3 cards to move that many crew around to repair your ship. You can also Sheer Off, jostling your ship around to throw off your opponent’s aim, by discarding sequentially numbered cards to discard cards from your opponent's hand or fire a Broadside, which damages your opponent's ship and discards played aim cards, by discarding a cards of a matching suit. Both the Sheer Off and Broadside actions can only be carried out a limited amount of times per game to restrict powerful actions.
Firing each turn is optional and is done by discarding shot discs from your cannons. The damage the shot does is hugely affected by your aim, with each target card subtracting from your damage total if it’s not a hit. The amount of target cards you will have is dictated by the zone in your opponent’s ship you’re aiming at, and each turn you can play cards onto the target card in order to improve the aim. Target cards have a chart, and you need to place 2 cards from your hand, 1 on the bottom and 1 on the left. The closer the number of the card placed is to the numbers required on the card, the better the hit will be.
After the first few games, there are optional card additions for making play more varied and increasing replicability. Reputation cards give you an ability to use during the game, and Dirty Tricks cards are cards that are kept secret and can be used during the game. Both of these are interesting additions, but make the game a lot more swingy, and can extend the game time.
Broadsides can be very draw dependent, and you can have some games where everything is going your way and not your opponent’s and you smash them into the ground. It can go neither of your ways, and you can feel like you’re both frantically wasting shots and discarding cards without much happening. But usually, there’s a fair amount of luck and randomness that there to keep it interesting and balanced, and after a while, you find there are a few styles of play and ways to gain the upper hand. There’s usually a race to the first effective shot or broadside, which can be difficult to come back from but is enjoyable all the same.
The Bottom Line
Merchants and Marauders: Broadsides won’t be for everyone, it’s direct PvP, it's very draw dependent, and anyone coming from Merchants and Marauders hoping to find the same open-world won’t find much similar except the setting. Broadsides is fun, it’s incredibly thematic and has some fantastic tense and epic moments if you can stick through the bad draws.
Get This Game If:
- You want a direct PvP game.
- You want a game that takes up a small amount of table space and is very portable.
- You want a great thematic feel.
Avoid This Game If:
- You don't want PvP.
- You don't want any draw dependency in your games.
- You want an open-world Merchants and Marauders game.
The copy of the Merchant and Marauders: Broadsides used to produce this review was provided by Asmodee.