So, I think I see a big option disparity between merchants and pirates, that skews the game from early on. I was taking my merchant opponent on at his ports from round 1, while he couldn't get at the treasure sites I had secured. The reinforcement disparity was set in stone from round 3. A speed-bump for pirates would have made it more even. The pirates can attack the ports, the merchant player's early-game bonus zones, at any time from their ship, the merchants have to slog across intervening land from the ports to obstruct the pirates, forcing them to chew through a bunch of neutral forces to get at their enemy. I think the early game would be a lot more balanced if pirates couldn't attack ports directly. Suggestion:Maybe add a fort to each port, and force the pirate to go through that to get at the port proper, or attack across land.