Thursday, September 23, 2004

The problem with naming your ship "Revenge" is...

...that it implies you will lose the first fight.

This Wednesday was Pirate's Cove, a game of featuring pirates, plunder and players trying really hard to think of other words than "Yaaar", and "Scurvy" to help them sound in character.

Simple game in concept: 5 outer Islands (where treasure, fame and fortune can be found), an inner island where treasure can be buried and another where defeated pirates go to lick their wounds. Every turn each player secretely determines which island they will try to plunder, and if more than one player pick the same place combat occurs.

Add to this a roving legendary pirate, parrots, upgrades to ship and crew, and you have an excellent Pirate game!

I have to admit that going in I was starting to think that Days of Wonder games where largely style over substance affairs ("Ticket to Ride" was fun, but not fantastic, and I wasn't crazy about "Mystery of the Abbey"). I was happily proven wrong with this one. Pirat'e Cove is FUN. The theme is captured very well, everyone is involved at all times and it's not very long. I would say that it may be a little complicated, but not so much that most people wouldn't catch on (The game with all the variants we added, however, is a different story).

We played three games, and the last one included several variants that Kozure had found online and others that he invented himself. The first game didn't feel bogged down by learning the rules. It picked up quickly, and I had the good fortune of not getting in too many people's way (and soundly defeating Shemp a few times) and winning.

The next game, however, didn't go so well. I spent nearly the entire game fighting Luch over cannons... and ALWAYS losing. I came in last, and Shemp won handily.

The last game included many variants (ships could get boarded, duelling rules were introduced and combat could happen at treasure island). IT was quite a bloody game, with my ship getting torn to pieces and boarded quite early by Luch (my nemesis for the evening, it seemed). He took my substantial hoard of treasure and money, and I was left plotting revenge. When I got my chance, I ganged up with the Royal Navy to attack/board Luch. Ultimately, I miscalculated and killed of the army myself and Luch sent me packing once more. Later, I lost a psitol duel with Shemp! Meanwhile, kozure seemed to be the leader with a strong ship and much fame. I think he suffered quite a bit of "Kill the Leader" from the rest of us and was beaten down. In the end, it was a very tight game but Luch won by a point.

My one problem: I feel that the game rewards those who avoid conflict a bit too much. IT seemed like most of the time, the winner was the one who snuck past everyone. This is compounded by the fact that hurt players are the easiest to target (because you pretty much know they will head to the island which will heal there lowest stat), and that they are the most attractive targets since they are easy to beat. I wonder whether a rule which allowed pirates out from the cove a turn where no combat could occur, or something like that, could alleviate the problem. The rule which allows defeated pirates to draw cards helps a lot, however. Maybe the answer is simply to draw one extra card. Another tactic would be to offer fame points according to the power of the player you fought (if the defeated pirate started the fight with a stat on the 1st or 2nd space=0 fame, 3rd or 4th=1 fame, 5th or 6th=2 fame, etc).

I also think that players with cards like the parrots, etc should be allowed to replace them with another by playing the new card and discarding the old.

Still, small quibbles. Great game.



  1. Yaaaarrr...

    For a while I was doing so poorly, I considered naming my ship the "SuXXoR5".

    Yup, there's definitely a touch of kill-the-leader and gang-up-on-the-losers in this game, which I suppose is perfectly fitting for Pirates, but makes it less fun to play sometimes.

    I think the safest bet when you've been beaten up is to head for Pirate's Cove, where (under standard rules) you cannot be attacked, and bump up your stats (expensively). Either that, or try to predict a place where no one is likely to go.

    I really enjoyed this game. It's got good components, a great theme, good relation of gameplay to theme, quick game length and a fair amount of strategy.

    Just in case anyone wants to review the rules (we always seem to miss something in the first few playings) here is a link to the rules and summary sheet:

    I want to say MEA CULPA right away and note that I made a critical error in interpreting "crippled" rules, which will make future games more fun.

    When repairing from "crippled" status, you place it on the second-most ring, not the first. This obviously would've made a big difference in strategy and tactics last night.

    Otherwise, an exciting and fun evening. One of the best games I have in my collection, I'd say.

  2. PS - This is the first board game that my father has specifically requested I bring to a family gathering.

  3. Kozure,
    I think I might bump up my rating after a few more plays, especially with that revised "Cripple" rule. I also enjoyed it very much... looking forward to the next time!

  4. Had a busy week, and didn't get to comment on this one - let's just echo everyone else, say "Great Fun!" and rate the sucker:

    An Eight and a Half from Captain Shemp Cowbell of the Fine Ship Revenge.

    YarrrScurvyYarrr! I'll Keelhaul ye, chumbucket!