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



Jules Prick


No. of Players:
2 - 6



"Dice Ho!"

Arrr…. me hearties! In the grand old days of piracy an X usually marked the spot where a treasure could be found, but in our modern days many hidden gems can be found buried under the big "K" of KICKSTARTER. Well, there always have been some swabbering voices straight from Davy Jones' Locker, warning about the quality of games which seem to need KICKSTARTER-funding because they hadn't found a publisher, but from my own experience these fears can be fed to the fishes. I have contributed to crowdfunding campaigns of more than a dozen boardgames, and so far each campaign provided a nice piece of booty. Of course, KICKSTARTER-projects sometimes lack the degree of perfection found in published games, but on the other hand almost every crowdfunded game has its own charm and leaves a rather unique impression. So, come on you landlubbers: Show your colours and join me on yet another KICKSTARTER-expedition!

Can anybody tell what kind of topic today's review will deal with? Of course - it's all about piracy! In the new Pirates! Card Game Cap'n Jules Prick sends 2 to 6 players onto a trip to the Caribbean, sailing off with small sloops in search of fame and treasure. The player's starting ships are fast and filled to their brink with a motivated crew, but that's all the players have to start their career as a pirate - they do not even have some cannons! Bigger ships and cannons only can be gained by successful capture, and so the players will try to seize more powerful and valuable ships crossing their course…

During his turn, the active player will reveal the top three cards of a deck of Adventure cards, and these cards show possible target ships and other adventures for his upcoming turn. Quite often ships will be shown, and the active player may chose one of these ships to attack with his own ship. Later during the game - when a player has more than one ship - a target or other adventure may be chosen for each ship in his fleet, but at the beginning of the game the player will only be allowed to take one action because he has just one ship.


When a target ship is chosen, a sea battle will take place, and that's the point where each ship's statistics and a hand of special dice comes into play. A battle begins with a comparison of the ships' speed, and the active player's speed is adjusted by the roll of a wind dice. If the combined result of the dice roll plus the initial speed of the player's ship is at least equal to the speed of the target ship the battle will continue, but otherwise the target will be too quick and outdistance the unlucky player. If the attack can proceed, each ship now will fire a broadside, using all cannons on board. Once again, dice will be rolled, and now a crew member will be lost for each Cannon-symbol rolled by the opposing ships. Finally, if both ships still have crew, the ships will crash and the crews will fight in boarding combat, once again resorting to rolling a hand of dice. Each Crew-symbol on the dice now will eliminate a member of the opposing crew, and the battle will continue in this fashion until the crew of one ship has been fully eliminated.

As can be seen, there is a chance that the active player may loose a battle and his ship, and in case of his last ship this player will be eliminated from the game. So, it well pays off not to take a suicidal risk, since otherwise a bounty expedition may well turn into a visit at Davy Jones' Locker. However, in most cases the active player will win the battle, allowing him to add the defeated ship to his own fleet. Depending on the size of the ship the player will receive some crew tokens which he may distribute among his ships, and each ship also has a value of one or two Pirate Points - seven of these are needed to win the game.

As indicated, the deck of Adventure cards also contains some adventures like treasure maps, and if a player wants to pursue such an adventure he may assign a ship to it and roll two dice. If an Explorer-symbol is rolled, the player will gain the card plus some crew, but if no such symbol is rolled he will loose a crew member and may chose either to roll again or to fail the mission. If the treasure is found, the card will provide the player with a Treasure-symbol, and the player with most Treasure-symbols will take control of a Treasure Cave tile which gives him one additional Pirate Point as long as he stay in possession of the tile.


To spice the game up, there also exists a deck of Pirate cards which can be used by the players for different functions. A player receives two Pirate-cards at the beginning of the game and three additional Pirate-cards at the beginning of each of his turns, and while some of these cards may be used once to gain crew, steal a card from another player etc, some of the cards also show inventory which can be fitted to one of the player's ships to permanently boost the ship's abilities. Finally, this deck also contains some cards which can only be used during a battle, and these cards may come in quite handy to bolster a player's chances to win a battle. However, the players are faced with a maximum hand-size of 5 Pirate-cards, and so they must chose carefully which cards they should keep and which cards they should better play right away.

As can be seen, the game mostly focuses on the active player going through his turn while the others will be watching him for the outcome, but some player interaction is reached by the fact that the active player may chose to attack a ship of another player instead of the just revealed adventure cards. Such a battle may be costly, especially if a ship equipped with some nice inventory cards is lost, but especially in the second half on the game such direct inter-player combat turns out to be an interesting option to keep another player from winning. Of course, such a mechanism may have its limits where a higher number of players is involved, and in case of the Pirates! Card Game it can well be conceived that the successive attacks of a full cast of 5 opposing players may be quite enough to send the leading player's hopes of winning right to the bottom of the ocean. Thus, apart from the downtime between a player's turns, a six-player game of the Pirates! Card Game becomes less predictable than a game with a cast of three or four players. But on the other hand, it is exactly the high influence of luck which keeps the other players interested in the fate of the active player, and if all participating captains indulge in the general light spirit of the game there will be a lot of swearing and hornswaggling!

In essence, the Pirates! Card Game is a rather good example of a modern dice game where a fast pace and direct player interaction are joined by a fitting background theme. The world of pirates and scoundrels has been skillfully illustrated with some rather unique inked artwork, and taken together all these elements provide for a rather charming gaming experience. Cap'n Jules Prick has created a game with heart and spirit, and that's everything needed for a good pirate story and a successful KICKSTARTER-project!!!

Check Pirates! Card Game on KICKSTARTER!


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Copyright & copy; 2014 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany