Recap: Operation GamerWife – the Pirate Maneuver
It’s been a while since an Operation GamerWife update. Ever since baby Drake entered the home, there has been less time for boardgaming with the Wife. Slowly but surely, though, we’ve worked to establish a routine. Twelve weeks out, and things are looking better. He’s (mostly) sleeping through the night, his parents are (somewhat) less tired, and best of all, he has grandparents that love to watch him.
So, this last weekend, we took a trip to his grandparents and I sneaked along a few board games. While they took care of Drake, I enticed my wife into Operation GamerWife’s boldest maneuver yet – Pirates. You see, the Wife is a big fan of sailing and pirates. She has sailed many times and even worked for six months on a sailing vessel. So I searched a while for a good pirate game. And, since most pirate games are … not good, I finally settled on Merchants and Marauders.
Merchants and Marauders. M&M is somewhat unique among piratey games because the players can choose to be the most swashbuckling of pirates, raiding players and NPCs alike, or they can be simple merchants traveling from port to port hoping not to get involved with those dastardly pirates. And, even if you do choose the pirating route, there are plenty of NPC merchants and naval vessels to plunder without necessarily attacking a fellow player. This allows for the full on attacks necessary with a pirate theme, but eliminates any requirement of direct attacks – something that is almost always viewed as a negative with the Wife.
Our first game lasted about two hours, maybe slightly longer. I had gone over the rulebook and FAQ several times, so we didn’t miss much in the way of rules, but the game can still be fiddly in practice. A new event occurs each round and keeping track of that, your cargo, and NPC movement can be a bit of a chore. Still, with practice, I anticipate that the playtime will get down to the “45 minutes per player” in the rulebook.
However, the game was a blast to play. One of my wife’s favorite games during her video game phase was Sid Meier’s Pirates. M&M is essentially the same thing in board game form. You can travel from port to port, attack ships, get bounties, investigate rumors, complete missions, hire crew, improve your vessel, maneuver around wars, and so on. (There is no dancing mini-game, though).
Our particular game saw boarding crews, gun fights, and fortunes made through trade. We largely ignored missions, and most rumors ended up being “false” thanks to a few poor rolls. However, once we got a few stuttering turns under our belt, the game started to move a bit more smoothly. Both she and I are looking forward to another game as soon as we get some grandparents around again. The playtime is a bit lengthy otherwise. Another success for Operation GamerWife!
Rook City. To date, I had played and defeated all Sentinels villains save one: The Chairman. He and the Matriarch are widely regarded as the most difficult Villains currently available. We donned our super hero suits for a five player game and Legacy, Mr. Fixer, Expatriette, Fanatic, and Bunker went toe to toe with the criminal underworld that is battling the Chairman.
The underboss mechanic with the Chairman was phenomenal. Every time an underboss came out (which was every turn with the Operative in play), not only did the underboss do something bad, but it then summoned an associated thug to further mess with the heroes. Our least favorite was the underboss who summoned the Hit Man. Not only did that underboss increase all damage to heroes, but the Hit Man then did 2 (now 3) damage to all heroes as well. Ouch.
We began by targeting down the Underbosses in an attempt to keep things manageable. But, it became clear that the one-shots and basic powers weren’t going to sustain that strategy over the long haul. So, we focused in on the operative. By destroying her, we also kill the pipeline of the underbosses. Mr. Fixer’s grease gun and Legacy’s powers kept us alive for a few turns while we took her down. Then, since the Chairman doesn’t do much until he flips, and only flips with three underbosses in play, we had a few turns to ramp up.
And ramp up we did. Bunker didn’t really do much the whole game. All he did was play an omni-cannon and draw massive amounts of cards. By the time chairman flipped, we had enough firepower (thanks to some Obsidian Fields as well) to kill all of his underbosses and thugs that had just made him flip. Expatriette and Fanatic did enough damage to the Chairman that the Omni-Cannon’s 30 points of damage finished him off. Once he flipped, the heroes made short work of the Chairman.
The great thing about Rook City is how different each Villain is. They all play with such unique mechanics and different strategies are required for each. I’m continually looking forward to more plays of Sentinels.