Luca Bellini (designer) dv Giochi (publisher) For 2-4 pirates of 8 year olds and up
At first glance this looks like it is going to be a run of the mill card game using colours and numbers in the style of the great Reiner Knizia, and during setup and read through of the rules this does seem to be the case. BUT! It soon becomes apparent that behind the colourful façade there is a thoughtful strategy game.
So let’s take a step back and look at this game from the components onwards. The game arts consist of 88 cards, a pencil and paper pad, and a solid plastic card tray separated into two sections. This tray has two purposes, to hold the cards in and to prevent the box being damaged; the latter being most welcome as card game boxes are often of softer or thinner card than boardgames and thus more easily crushed in transit.
The 88 cards: There are 15 Treasure cards; 12 Pirate cards; 48 Beach Towel cards; 3 Summary cards and 10 Special cards (for use in the advanced variation). The backs of each card type Crossbones on Treasure; Playa Pirata on player’s card sets - Pirates and Beach Towels - coloured as per the player ID colour and Brown for the 10 “specials”. The rules are in two leaflets, one Italian and one in English.
Each player is given, or chooses, a set of single colour cards comprising of 12 Beach Towels and 3 Pirates plus they are then dealt a number of Treasure cards (5, 4 or 3 depending on the number of players). One of the remaining Treasures is placed face down in the centre of the table and the others are put aside and not used. Once they have these cards the players each place one Treasure card face down on the table. It isn’t made clear but once you have placed these Treasure cards face down on the table they are no longer your cards, they are “Buried Treasure” that can be dug up by anyone. There are three treasure types, one that is a single number valued 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7, one that scores zero for one card but 10 for two or 18 if you own all three, and one that multiplies the number of Beach Towels played on it to a value of 8 maximum.
There are two Actions for each player turn and two phases for the first Action; Play a Treasure card face down onto the table or play a Pirate card – each of the three Pirate cards has a one-off special ability: Peek at a buried treasure, turn one treasure card face up and claim one treasure. The second Action is to play one or more Beach Towel cards (on one or two Treasures), you must do both Actions each turn, though there may be a time nearer the end of the round where you cannot play Beach Towels.
The playing of a Claim Pirate means that the Treasure you have claimed is yours and cannot be grabbed by anyone else and you can only every actually claim one treasure each game. To currently own, and to be able to claim, you must have showing one of your colour Beach Towels on top of the treasure. Beach Towels are valued 1, 2 or 3 and to claim a treasure with a Beach Towel on top you must play Beach Towels above the value of the top card. If, for example, the top card is a 3 you need to play 4 or more to be able to claim the treasure. This can be 2+2 or 1+3 or even 2+3 though it must be remembered that when playing multiple cards onto a treasure the lowest value card must be placed on the top; so beating a 3 with a 1+3 means that the next player only has to beat a 1.
The game continues until all players have used their Pirate and Treasure cards with any remaining Beach Towel cards scoring one point each no matter what denomination they are. Any experienced games player will immediately notice that the player going last will have the advantage, if they have been fairly prudent in their Beach Towel use, of being able to see what is available to claim without any fear of being usurped. They will also deduce that the player who went first is quite likely to be virtually wiped out, exception the Claim Pirate, as far as treasures go. To try to counter this, the designer has included two special rules; one that allows the player who went first to play as many Beach Towels as they want on one treasure only in a last ditch attempt to make a claim, and the second being that you should play as many games as there are players, so that each player begins and ends a game; scoring as you go.
The 10 additional cards for the advanced variant can be introduced once you have played the basic game and know how the mechanic works. This mini deck is shuffled thoroughly and the player to the left of the first player is given as many cards from it as there are players, plus one, so 4 cards in a 3-player game. This player regards these cards, takes one and adds it to their hand and then passes the others on to the next player. The final card is discarded and now each player has a special card that they can play according to the text on the card, some being played during the game and others assisting the scoring at the game end. These cards add a little spice to the basic game without throwing it off-balance, but you must still play one game per player to keep it balanced and fair.
This may appear like a family game with possibilities for gamers to explore, but after several most enjoyable plays my view is that it is a gamer’s game the nuances of which may be lost to family play.