Review: Letter of Marque

Posted by James (admin) on December 1st, 2009

Letter of Marque is a very light and quick bluffing game with players launching ships laden with treasure and hoping they reach port safely whilst trying to steal other player’s treasure.

Each player starts with 5 ships, 5 treasure cards and 3 cannon cards.  Two of the ships have cannons marked on their undersides (these are defended ships) and the other three are blank (which are undefended).  The treasure cards are numbered 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

On their turn, a player can either launch one of their ships, bring one of their ships home or attack an opponent’s ship.

To launch a ship, the player draws a card from the top of treasure card deck, places it in the middle of the table face up and then selects a ship (from their unused ships) to place on top if that card.  This ship is considered to be “at sea”. 

To bring a ship home, the player takes one of their ships which is currently at sea and puts the treasure card in their victory pile.  The ship is discarded without showing if it had a cannon on it or not.

To attack another ship, the player places one of their cannon cards next to an opponent’s ship.  The ship is turned over.  If it is defended the attack is foiled and the cannon card is placed in the defending player’s victory pile.  If the ship is undefended, the attacking player steals the treasure card, placing it in their own victory pile, and the ship and cannon card are discarded.

Once all players have played their ships and treasure cards, and no ships are still at sea, players add up the points in their victory piles.  Each cannon card gained is worth 1 point, but you get no points for any of your own cannons that you didn’t use. 

As you can probably tell, the game is very short as each player only has 5 ships and treasure cards.  Overall, Letter of Marque is a very, very simple game but can still offer some fun.  Our first game with 3 players was over in about 3 minutes and seemed far too straight forwards with little guessing.  However, it got more interesting with 4 players for to reasons.  First, we started to bluff a lot more and second guess each other.  In our first game, we mostly defended our high treasure cards but, in the second game, we started to try to use this thought to our advantage and defend the lower treasure cards hoping our opponents assumed we’d defend the higher treasure cards.  I know that you know that I know that you’re bound to defend the higher card… unless…  So, our gameplay did start to develop.  Second, we usually had more ships at sea to choose from on our turns so there was a bit more to consider.  I even started to hold back launching some ships so the cannon cards were more depleted too.  I must say that seeing someone attack a ship which has already been attacked and proved to be defended (still) was pretty funny too.

So, whilst it seemed too simple, it did start to develop and I can imagine more players would be even more interesting, especially after a few plays.  I’m not sure how much more depth there is to discover, but it was fun and the bluffing did start to develop.  I wish there was a little more to it, like the ships need to stay out on the water for a bit longer or different cannon cards, ships attacking each other, and that it lasted a bit longer – but those changes would make it a different game.

Letter of Marque is a fun and quick bluffing game that can have some strategy.  It is a filler game which isn’t a problem as good fillers are always welcome but the price tag of £19.99 feels a bit too high though (but then a lot of games are just more expensive now).

Letter of Marque is one of my Top 5 Games for a Family Christmas.


[Played with 3 and 4 players]

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>