Malgorzata Majkowska &
Tomasz Z. Majkowski &
Michal Stachyra &
Maciej Zasowski


No. of players:
2 - 4



G@mebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game :

We do not know if KUZNIA GIER simply tries to feast on the success of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean motion picture or if the publisher firmly believes in the quality of the game's forerunner. Anyhow, I was quite astonished when I located KUZNIA's booth at the SPIEL 2010 in Essen and laid eyes on the marvellously designed new pirate game (they had a large version of Pirates 2ed on display). Then it occurred to me that I might have missed something - at least, I did not remember coming across a Pirates 1st edition. The reason for this is that there never has been a first edition - or, more precisely, no first edition has ever been for sale in Germany or the English speaking countries. The first edition was available in Poland only and was a great success there. Thus, the publisher gathered his courage and reissued the game with revised rules.

[IMAGE]My first impression was confirmed when at the publisher's booth I finally held a copy of the game in my hands. The artwork decorating the box as well as the included material all whet the Pirate fancier's appetite for playing the game. The game board pictures ten small islands scattered across a maritime region. Shipping routes for merchant ships and huge cargo vessels connect these islands and on the islands themselves we find warehouses which store different sorts of goods. Anyone who has only the slightest idea of what it means to be a Pirate will easily deduce the aim of the game: namely, to shake the warehouses and the cargo ships down for some of their goods!

But that is not all: In this part of the world, we find extremely villainous Pirates as well as more prudent representatives of that 'profession'. Robert, the rogue Pirate has kidnapped the Governor's daughter. This iniquity strongly compromises the interests of the other Pirates travelling the archipelago - who obviously had been staying on good terms with the administration before. Thus, they decide to set sail and track down Robert's hideout - saving the governor's daughter from certain death. But, of course, it's not as easy as that: The Pirates have to get hold of a mysterious map without which they will never find their way to Robert's lair. Unluckily enough, however, this map is in pieces and it costs a fortune to obtain the fragments unless they can't be traced down by chance. This means, if the Pirates will not fail in fulfilling their noble cause, they are left with no other alternative than to plunder the warehouses and cargo ships - all for the sake of the good cause!

Before the game begins, players have to choose one of the four available characters. Gender equality seems to be a huge priority even with Pirates since there are two male as well as two female captains available. The character sheet not only features a beautifully painted portrait of the respective hero (or heroine), but also tracks the ship's armament (cannons), capacity as well as contents of the cargo hold. Furthermore, each character has a special ability which influences the gaming strategy to be followed with this character.

[IMAGE]Each player's turn divides into two phases. During the Archipelago phase, goods are produced on the islands, removed from the warehouse and merchant and battle ship set sail. All these different actions are managed by drawing one of the 55 cards which fulfil multiple functions. A symbol printed on the lower right corner of the card tells the player what to do during each phase of the game. Merchant ships may only sail along specified routes whereas battleships may be moved freely across the sea - but not more than two squares each turn. It is also possible to move a battleship onto a square already occupied by an opponent's battleship; in this case, both ships engage in combat.

Rum in particular is a favourite amongst Pirates - and, unfortunately, highly attracts Robert as well. This means, whenever a card featuring Rum is drawn, Robert's marker moves one step ahead onto the corresponding Robert track on the board. 'I couldn't care less' some players might think - but in case Robert's marker reaches the end of the track before the Pirates succeeded in tracking Robert down, the game is immediately lost for all players.

The second phase of the game is the Cruise phase. During this phase, players may sail the sea with his or her own ship, draw new cards,buy or sell goods at the islands, visit the shipyard for upgrading his or her ship and attack forts or other ships. But wait - what does that mean, buying and selling goods? Who would expect Pirates to act like honest businessmen? Well, even Pirates have to give in to the circumstances which means: At the beginning of the game, the players' ships are very ill equipped and not up to attacking harbours or mighty battleships. Thus, the players' first aim is to upgrade their ships. This, in turn, confronts them with a certain dilemma: On the one hand, cannons are very important for successfully fighting against the opponents; on the other hand, high tonnage for transporting large quantities of goods will also pay well. If players have earned enough money, they may also consider buying a fragment of the map leading to Robert's hideout. Only in case a player owns all the fragments and is thus able to piece together the map, he or she may sail towards the Pirate Island, free the governor's daughter and win the game.

Pirates 2ed has to do less with heroic fighting amongst Pirates than the title implies. Throughout the first half of the game, it is more of a merchant game, not least because of the players' ships resembling little sloops, not mighty buccaneers' frigates. This means, challenging other players' ships or forts is a risky undertaking at that time. This only leaves the players with trading goods as honest merchants. While this is quite satisfactory in the beginning, after some time you will get tired of all the drudgery. Particularly in a two player game, this 'honest merchant' phase normally lasts too long to be exciting any more. Once a player has rigged his or her ship with additional cannons, he or she is in a better position to challenge other ships or forts which makes obtaining goods much easier. This phase really lives up to what you would expect of a Pirate game. While attacking opponents is always worthwhile, even at the beginning of the game, the players have to bear in mind that there is a risk of their ship being damaged and the expensive upgrades being destroyed. And I guess nobody wants to be forced into trade once more…

[IMAGE]Even if they are busy with trading and fighting, players should not forget about the main task of the game - rescuing the governor's daughter from the rogue's grasp. Two fragments of the map are necessary in order to track down Robert, but as these fragments are rather expensive, players should not 'over-equip' their ships but put some cash aside in time.

The whole body of rules for Pirates 2ed is packed onto only four pages - but since the rules are printed in extremely small letters and the type face appears highly compressed, reading was very tiring and hence it took me quite a time to understand the rules. Moreover, if a specific problem arises during the game, it is difficult to find a rule to answer this question. Thus, more circumstantialities as well as a more reader-friendly type would certainly have done no harm.

In the final analysis, the game does not fully live up to the high expectations I derived from looking at the fine material and artwork of the game. Especially in the 2 or 3 player game, the trading phase lasts too long. Only if four players participate in the game there are enough ships on the map, so that encounters with other ships occur not only accidentally.

During the last few years, we have come across quite a few other Pirate games. Pirates 2ed definitely counts as one of the better games, but it is still rough around the edges.

We have seen a lot of other pirate games in the last years. Pirates 2ed is definitely one of the better games, but it is still rough around the edges. In contrast to some other games published by small publishers, Pirates 2ed is well balanced. The problem lies with the inertia during the middle part: You will often find yourself sailing from one harbour to another without achieving any progress. Thus, the appetite for another turn of gaming is not too high with new gamers - and this is a pity, because the game is getting better and better once all the players have learnt the rules and exactly know what to do during the respective phases of the game.

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany