Authors: Paul Randles &
Daniel Stahl


G@mebox Star



Rumours spread that the legendary Home of plunder, the hideaway of famous pirates was found somewhere in the old Pirate's Cove. That is the reason for all those poor modern pirates - represented by the players - to set sails in the direction of Pirate's Cove to become wealthy and powerful.

The object of Piratenbucht is to become the player with the most fame points. In the game the players have to visit different islands depicted on the beautiful painted gameboard which rests at the middle of the table. At the beginning of each round the players secretly choose their target island for this round (one out of the six possible islands) on their navigation board. After the players have made their choice, all targets are revealed simultaneously.


It will now be checked if there are two or more ships which have set sails to the same island. As everybody knows, pirates are rather unwilling to share a treasure with others and so a fight at these islands is unavoidable. The result of a fight - which is explained in detail later - is always that there is only one ship left at each island. Only at the Pirate's Cove, where destroyed ships can be restored and refugees find shelter, more than one ship is allowed.

In the next phase the islands can be plundered by the owners of the ships that are left at the islands. At the beginning of each round of play a new plunder-card is drawn for each of the islands that shows what can be plundered on each island in this round. Next to the direct plunder of fame points there are dublones (money), treasures and tavern-cards which the players can collect by plundering. The fact that the amount of plunder can be seen before choosing the navigation target puts some tactical elements in the game, since players who want to avoid a fight can speculate on the choice of the other players and better sail to an island with a less attractive plunder-card. However, if all players think in this way…..

After this follows the reinforcement phase, and now the players can improve or restore their ships by spending dublones, buy more tavern-cards and exchange dublones and treasures for fame points.

[IMAGE]With the basic outline of a round of play given, let us now turn to combat which is a major topic in the game. Whenever there is more than one ship at an island, a sea-battle starts between all ships present at the island. However, apart from the players there a Black Pirate Ship whose strength is determined by a special pirate-card, and this ship sails along the islands as well and will attack all other ships. To determine the battle capacities of the players' ships, each player has his own ship map where the strength of the ship can be marked. A ship's attributes are divided in the categories sails, crew, cannons and hull, and together these values will determine the seaworthiness of each ship.

The player with the highest score in sails will begin the first round of the sea battle. He chooses an enemy ship and a category he wants to hit and then rolls as many dices as the lower score of either his ship's crew or cannons allows (cannons can only be fired if there is a man firing them). Every 5 or 6 is a hit and the chosen category of the opponent's ship is reduced by one. After the first player, all the other ships will get an opportunity to fire a broadside as well, and when all ships have fired a round of combat is over.

If a category hit by cannon fire reaches zero, the ship is destroyed instantly (there is no possibility to fire back) and its owner is forced to flee to the Pirate's Cove. A fight continues until only one ship is left, but of course there is also the chance to retreat. However, this might result in a mutiny and a corresponding loss of fame. Furthermore, tavern-cards that can be played by the players (not by the black ship) can influence the result of a fight in some extraordinary ways, so it is always a good advice to buy some tavern-cards in the reinforcement phase.

Piratenbucht is not a new game, since it was originally published by AMIGO. However, the design of the new version by DAYS OF WONDER was completely renewed and is extraordinary beautiful. Also, the rules were updated and slightly changed (and there is a summary online with the changed rules, so old game owners can play with the new rules too). Furthermore, as known from other DAYS OF WONDER games, the owner of the game gets an online account for the Days of Wonder Website that gives him the chance to get more material and extra cards for the game and which enables him to play Piratenbucht with other players online. As a real novelty, the game features a CD with interactive rules in addition to the normal rulebook. Thus, players now can turn to their computers to explain the main game mechanism - a rather nice feature that could easily become standard in future and which makes the game a hot candidate for the Essener Feder 2005.

I must confess that I am really impressed by the design of the game. Beginning with the box and continued with all its contents it is definitely one of the loveliest and most detailed developed games I have ever seen. Every detail seems to be reasoned. The game play itself is not too complex, but the average player needs some time to become familiar with the game mechanism. I would recommend to play a few practising turns which should make the rules for plundering and sea battles clear for all players, since a good understanding of the rules is essential to grasp the strategic options available to the players. To sum it up, Piratenbucht is very well balanced and - also very important - it is playable with different numbers of players. Especially the sea battles offer a high interaction between the players, and thus the game will give families with children as much fun as grown-ups, so it is really worth buying it.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2005 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Trier, Germany