Date: September 18, 2003
Attendees: Dan, Doug, Ed, Helen, Jeff S., Jon, Mark, Rick, Robert, Roxana, Susan
Reporter: Susan Rozmiarek
Talk Like a Pirate Day, tonight's theme was pirate games. Aarrr!!! One group set off to find Buried Treasure, while another group of Corsairs went off to search the seas for galleys loaded with loot. Ed and Dan, not feeling pirate-y at all, spent the entire evening fighting for Liberty.
Corsairs: Doug, Jeff S., Robert, Susan
In this simple game, players are fighting for galleys. The galleys, along with the provisions they are carrying are depicted on tiles that are laid, six at a time, on the table. Players get dealt cards that match these provisions, corsair cards, or cards depicting both. On their turn, they can lay up to three of these on any of the galleys on the table. Once they have laid down provisions that exactly match those on the galley, they may attempt to board and take the galley. Each galley has a number on it that they must equal or beat by rolling dice and adding the number of corsairs they have played alongside or on the provisions cards. If they aren't successful, they roll two special dice that have different colored sides matching each provision color. They must discard a played provision card of each color rolled if present. If they do successfully board, each other corsair present at that galley can try to challenge them by playing the necessary provisions to board and then rolling a higher number. The winner takes the galley and a new one is placed on the table. Galleys are worth varying points. There are other actions a player can take instead of playing cards, including discarding cards to search and take one or two cards from the discard pile or to try firing a "broadsides" at another player which allows you to steal provisions from him if successful. The game ends when the piles of tiles is exhausted with the winner being the player with the most points.
I thought this game was cute when it came out a few years ago, but the charm has faded with time. There is, of course, a heavy dose of dice-rolling and luck which accounts for some of my dissatisfaction. That's not necessarily bad in some games, but after several plays the fun has worn off of this one. My kids like it, which will save it from my trade pile, but I doubt I'll ever suggest it again for our adult group. Well, maybe again next year for Talk Like a Pirate Day, but then again, there are better pirate games out there like the following game, Piratenbucht.
Results: Doug 36, Jeff S. 28, Susan 21 Robert 14
This was my main course for the evening. I'd played once before and was eager to give it another go. In this game, you are a pirate captain trying to win fame points by finding and burying treasure, beating other pirates in battle, and telling the best Tall Tales. Each round, players secretly choose an island on the board to sail to and then the selections are revealed. If a player is the only one on the island, he gets to take all the goodies there and optionally upgrade a particular part if his ship. The goodies are depicted on a card, with a new card being flipped each round. Goodies include fame, gold, treasure and Tavern cards. However, if there are other pirates present, a battle ensues until there is a lone winner. Blackbeard, the most dreaded pirate of all, sails from island to island each round and is difficult to defeat but gives much fame to the pirate(s) who manages to defeat him.
Players have a mat depicting their ship in front of them, with various parts that can be upgraded with gold. The hull determines how much treasure the ship can carry, crews and cannons determine the number of dice rolled in battle, and the sails determine speed (initiative) in battles. In addition, there are Tavern (action) Cards that provide flavor to the game. These include Tall Tale cards which give additional fame points at the end of the game and cards that affect combat and give temporary improvements to parts of a player's ship.
The last time I played this my strategy was to upgrade my hull any time I got gold, and to focus on going for treasure and burying it. I was careful not to get greedy and often was the single pirate on an island. I won that game. This time I tried something new. I focused on getting gold and upgrading my ship with the hope of getting fame by defeating my fellow pirates and eventually taking on the big bad boy, Blackbeard. I was helped in this by getting the Veteran Crew card early. Unfortunately, my opponents kept going for my weak hull and sending me limping back to Pirate's Cove. I never was able to build my ship back up enough to try to take on Blackbeard. Meanwhile Doug was shuttling treasure back and forth to Treasure Island and racking up the fame points. Mark was kept in check as he hardly ever had an island to himself and got pounded in battle every turn. Mark and I were fairly close at the end until I plunked down several Tall Tale cards I had luckily drawn from the Tavern deck, shooting me into second place.
I really like this game, despite the fact that it has a fairly heavy luck element and lots of dice rolling. It has one of the best marriages of theme to mechanics in any German-style game I've ever played. I enjoy the bluffing element of the simultaneous action mechanism. Although many people, including some in my group, scoff at this mechanic and proclaim it simply blind luck, I'm really starting to see it more as an art, as long as the other players are thinking and not just randomly making their choices. The rules seem a tad lengthy and daunting at first, but the game flows fairly smoothly once players have played a few turns. The Tavern cards provide the most confusion but they are fairly self explanatory with most questions clarified in the rules. The game can also go a bit long, especially if there are lots of conflicts, but fortunately in our game we kept it moving and finished in just over an hour, a very reasonable time. A spiffed up English version of this game called Pirate's Cove is being published soon and I'm really tempted to splurge and upgrade even though my original is quite nice. I think this is a game that can be enjoyed by families and gamers alike. It's not deep but it's a whole lot of fun.
Results: Doug 40, Susan 26, Mark 22
Other games played: Liberty, Buried Treasure, Cartagena, Zoff im Buffalo.
For more pictures from this gaming sessions and others, see our Gaming Picture Gallery.
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