Merchant Tokens are used to represent merchants that can be engaged and plundered. As the merchants are raided the Merchant Tokens are removed from the board and placed face-down on the Merchant track found on the game board.
If the track contains 8 Merchant Tokens at the beginning of a turn (prior to drawing an Event Card), then blindly distribute them face-down so that each Sea-Zone again has one.
After declaring your intent to "scout" for a merchant, you roll your Scouting skill. If successful, you remove the Merchant Token from the Sea-Zone and reveal the nation on its flip side. The nationality of the merchant is then either that on the token, or of the Sea-Zone you are in (i.e. Spanish if in the Santo Domingo Sea-Zone).
You decide which of the two, and ultimately if you want to engage the merchant at all. You may wish to let it sail away if the nations you can choose between are nations you don't want to mess with (the token is still removed and placed on the Merchant track).
Important: You can only perform a Merchant Raid if none of your ship's hit-locations are destroyed (i.e. have been reduced to zero).
Merchant Raids are performed by drawing Cargo Cards. The Cargo Cards you draw determine if the raid is successful, what cargo is onboard and how much Gold you will plunder from the ship you raid. Go through the following steps:
- Draw 3 Cargo Cards and place them face up in front of you.
- Roll your Captain's Seamanship.
- One at a time you may use each success to:
- Draw an additional card
- Discard a card or
- Exchange a card
Note that it is completely permissible to draw an additional card, and then use another success to discard or exchange the newly drawn card. Both discarded and exchanged cards are placed in the Cargo Card discard pile and are ignored.
Now determine if the raid was successful by referring to the icons in the lower right corner of the remaining cards.
Hit Icon: Each Hit Icon inflicts a point of damage to your ship. The damage is inflicted to the location written within the Hit Icon. If your Hull is destroyed your ship sinks and your Captain dies. If any other location is destroyed you survive, but the raid fails, and further hits to a destroyed location are transferred to your ship's hull.
Escape Icon: If the final number of Escape Icons equals or exceeds your ship's Maneuverability, then the merchant managed to escape. (Hits from hit-icons are still applied)
Note: half of the cards have an Escape and half have a Hit.
If the merchant did not escape or destroy one of your hit-locations, then your raid was successful.
On each of the remaining cards you will see a number ranging from 1-5 (3 being the most common value). These numbers are called “Plunder Value” and equal the amount of Gold you raid. Additionally, you may keep any of the remaining Cargo Cards you have room for.
Glory Point: If you successfully plunder a merchant for 12+ Gold you gain a Glory Point and therefore Glory Card!
Special Weapons during Merchant Raids
After rolling your Seamanship skill you may spend a Special Weapons token to convert a failed die into a success. You may spend several tokens on the same roll if you wish. It makes no difference which type of token you spend – they have the same effect when spent during Merchant Raids.
As each Special Weapons token costs 3 Gold it can be quite expensive, but they can mean a huge difference.