Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Andreas Pelikan


No. of Players:
2 - 5

G@mebox Star



The theme of this new game published by HEIDELBERGER seems to come right from a classic Disney movie, and indeed Die Gulli-Piratten ("The Sewer Pirats") features a grumpy assembly of cute pirate-animals who want to become Masters of the Seven Sewers. Cruising the subterranean sewers channels in their selfbuilt frigates, the crews of the players are searching for all kinds of treasures like tasty oddments or lost plush toys which can be sold back to their owners, and the player who is most successful in collecting treasures will be proclaimed the King of the Pirats at the end of the game.

Each player possesses an identical crew of six different pirate-animals, but at the beginning of the game it is randomly determined which four animals will be used by all players for the upcoming game. This is determined by drawing cards on which the rat, the toad, the cockroach, the racoon, the snail and the weasel are depicted, and the four cards which are drawn show the crews available to all players in the upcoming game. Concerning other preparations, the game is ready to play in minutes. Each player receives his crew and a starting hand of random ship cards, and three ship-gameboards are placed in the middle of the table, Finally, a deck of booty markers and a deck of bonus markers are randomly shuffled, and each ship is assigned two piles of floatsam which each consist of three randomly drawn booty markers plus one bonus marker. These piles of floatsam are placed in front of the ship's prow, with one set lying directly ahead of the ship and the other a bit further off (thus symbolizing the next two groups of floatsam which the ship will find).

During the game is will be the aim of the players to collect the most valuable set of booty and bonus markers. All of these markers belong to certain groups, and as a rule the value of the markers can be increased if a player is able to bring together matching booty and bonus markers. So, for example, some booty markers show tasty rests of fries from a big fast-food chain, and each of these markers will be worth some victory points at the end of the game. However, as real Pirats like their fries with ketchup, a player can increase the value of all his fries markers if he succeeds in collecting one or two bonus markers with ketchup. On the other hand, some booty markers even may be worthless without a matching bonus marker, and an example here are booty markers with cans with food (valuable!) which can only be opened if the player possesses a can opener bonus marker for each of his cans. Thus, the players will compete to collect good combinations of booty and bonus markers.


But how can these markers be collected? Here the main part of the rules falls into place, since the players need to board the three Pirats-ships with their crews and go for the floatsam piles assigned to the ships. None of the ships belongs to a specific player, but instead the ships can be boarded by crews of different players, and it is quite common that crew members of two or more players will be on board when the ship goes on its looting expedition.

The general layout of each ship is the same, and so each ship may be boarded by three ordinary crew members and one captain. To board a ship the players need to possess ship cards matching the ships talisman-symbol, and - apart from the few cards a player possesses at the beginning of the game - these cards can be acquired through a "take cards" action. If a player decides to use his turn for this action, he may take two additional ship cards, coming either from an open display of four random cards or from the face-down stack.

If a player possesses one or more cards of the ship he wants to board, he reveals one or more of these cards and places one of his crew members on a free space on the matching ship. Here the rule applies that the ship must be boarded from the end, and the number of cards revealed by the player is used to determine how many steps forwards the crew member may take. However, if one of the spaces on the ship is already occupied, this space can be jumped at no further cost.

The crew member who succeeds in occupying the fourth and final space right at the ships prow will become captain, and the event of a crew member becoming captain will cause the ship to go to sea (eh… sewers). However, becoming captain is not that easy, because a crew member who freshly boards one of the ships may occupy any of the three crew spaces but not the captain's space. Thus, instead of boarding a ship with a new crew member a player also may opt to use his turn to move one of his crew members which is already present on a ship at the beginning of his turn, and with this move (which is also determined by the use of ship cards) the captain's seat may be taken.

However, this may sound easier than in reality, because the other players usually desire to become captain themselves, and so they will use their crew members to hamper others from becoming captain. At this point the special abilities of the crew members come into the game, since each crew member possesses a unique special ability which gives him a certain advantage. For example, the big racoon keeps bullying the other Pirats, and so a crew member who wants to jump over a space already occupied by a racoon needs to give one matching ship card to the racoon's owner in addition to the cards which are normally needed to make this move. The snail on the other hand moves slowly but irresistibly forwards, and so a player who has moved his snail may turn over one ship card from the deck after this move. If a ship card matching the snail's current ship is drawn, the snail may make a free move, and if the space in front of the snail is occupied the snail changes spaces with the Pirat in front of it.

As indicated, the ship's expedition starts once the captain's seat has been taken, and when the turn of the captain's player comes up he has to go for the looting action. Standing on the ship's prow, the captain now may claim one booty marker plus the bonus marker from the pile of floatsam directly ahead of the ship, and the other crew members in order may claim one of the remaining booty markers. All crew members (including the captain) who have gotten at least one marker then will go back to the players' reserves, whereas crew members who remained empty handed will stay on the ship and move forwards one space. Once again some special abilities of crew members are effective here, and so the rat collects not one but two booty markers, whereas the toad may opt to refuse a booty marker and stay on board.

The sense of staying on board may not be visible right away, but it is a matter of making a more profitable catch from the next pile of floatsam. The ship's mission ends when the current pile of floatsam has been distributed, and as indicated all crew members who had received at least one marker have to be withdrawn from the ship. Now the second pile of floatsam ahead of the ship will be moved closer, and this pile will be encountered by the ship on its next mission. Thus, the players may keep an eye on those floatsam piles as well, and they may try to get their crew members into a good position to catch some booty and / or bonus markers from this new pile. Finally, three new booty markers and one new bonus marker are revealed so that the ship once again faces a second pile of floatsam.

The game ends when the stocks of booty and bonus markers haven been depleted and one ship does not face any floatsam anymore, and now the players all will add up their scores of victory points resulting from the collected booty and bonus markers.

A quite interesting variant to standard play is the hiring of individual crews, and the rules for this are also included in the game. Now a random group of crew members becomes available, and they are waiting in a big tavern (backside of the ship boards) to be hired. Each player starts the hiring phase with a hand of eight ship-cards, and these cards can be used for bidding for crew members. In the end each player will have received four crew members, but these may come in quite different combinations and force the players into slightly different playing styles. In addition, players who make clever bids may be able to save the one or other ship-card, and all ship cards not used for bidding will for a player's starting hand when the game begins!!!

So far the author Andreas Pelikan has created some relatively small games like ALEA's Wie verhext!, and it seems to be his trademark that the games he designs offer interesting twists within relatively slim rules. Coming in a bigger scale box with great plastic miniatures, Die Gulli-Piratten certainly is bigger than any of his former games, but otherwise the game follows his general credo that it must be driven be an interesting yet easily understandable mechanism. Indeed, seasoned gamers might be tempted to skip Die Gulli-Piratten due to its main orientation as a family game, but such a decision would rob these gamers of a great playing experience. With the different abilities of the crew members and the optional rules for hiring mixed crews Andreas Pelikan was able to put enough variety into the game to create a rather charming tactical challenge, and playtesting revealed a great demand for instant replays when the game was on the table. Offering a moderately short playing duration of about 45 minutes, the game's great balance of interaction, luck and tactics showed a potential to fascinate even seasoned players for whole evenings! And, considering the fact that Die Gulli-Piratten in essence is designed as a family game, it seems to be a shame that it has not received a nomination for the Spiel des Jahres awards in 2012, since both the rules and the general design of the game seem to be very attractive for the target group of this awards.

[Gamebox Index]

Google Custom Search

Impressum / Contact Info / Disclaimer


Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany