Games Talks: Pirates Games

I’ve recently got the question; which boardgames with pirates them should I play or buy ? Here’s a few ideas below …

After a last foray out to sea, the old pirates plan to retire to Libertalia. Each player has the same crew on his hand of cards, but decides himself when to bring into play the beggar or bartender, the ship‘s boy or the Spanish governor.

How these characters act and what loot they get their hands on, depends upon the cards played by the other players. Particularly in demand are nocturnal abilities that can be used as long as the character is still in the pirate cave and not yet in the cemetery. Played out over three campaigns, the final foray of the ageing pirates is a gripping gamble on the best action at the right time. The richest pirate wins the swift, cunning and easily understood game.

  • By: Paolo Mori
  • Publisher: Marabunta
  • Sales: Asmodee
  • Illustrators: Benjamin Carré and Stéphane Gantiez

This game of skill is a genuine eye catcher: a big wooden galleon rolls around on a mountainous wave in the game box. Due to its gimbal mounting, it easily gets out of balance and begins to swing to and fro. The higher the cargo is stowed in the yardarms, the sooner it will slide overboard. Who is going to be the first to get rid of all eight of his pieces, which are of different weight and bulkiness? Besides a steady hand, a grasp of tactics is required, because the place on the yardarm and the order of play are decided by cards dealt out in parallel with each round.

In case of a tie, the captain has the last word. When one or more objects fall off the yardarm, quick reactions are called for: cargo caught in this way is laid aside. Pieces that fall in the sea must later be placed back on the ship.

By: Christoph Cantzler
Publisher: Zoch
Illustrator: Michael Menzel

Not directly a pirate theme, but close enough to mention it (it’s similar to Niagara) – especially it fits also with kids and elderly. The game is called Gold Am Ornico and it’s multilingual inside the box.

On the banks of the South American Orinoco River, precious treasures are hidden in ancient ruins. Already,  prospector teams are making their way there. Unfortunately however, the gold lies on the other side of the raging torrent. To reach the other shore and collect the most valuable coins in the dense jungle, one must bravely place one‘s adventurers on logs floating downriver. The clever use of two dice determines where the team can jump onto the wooden logs and how far they will drift along in the water.

But beware: the competitors never sleep! They in turn try to position the logs so that they can snatch the most coins. Tactical considerations and a good portion of luck with the dice provide plenty of excitement for young and old.

By: Bernhard Weber
Publisher: Haba
Illustrator: Michael Menzel

Cartagena is unique in this pirate list in that there is no high seas action at all in the game. Instead, your pirate crew has been locked up in prison and the game is all about a prison break. The gameplay is really simple, play a card and move a pirate to a matching symbol on the path. The game was initially published in 2000 and you will find various versions of it in retail.

Even though the gameplay in Cartagena almost has a Candyland like feel to it, there is actually quite a bit of depth here as the leapfrogging mechanic will have your crew going in different directions. Easy to learn, but surprisingly fun.

By: Leo Colovini
Publisher: A bunch of them but most likely you’ll find one from Ravensburger or Rio Grande Games.
Illustrator: Christoph Clasen, Didier Guiserix, Martin Hoffmann, Tomasz Larek

It’s been over a decade since Days of Wonder released this Pirate themed board game. In Pirate’s Cove, each player is trying to become the most feared pirates in the seas. The game is played over 12 turns, and each turn a player must decide which of the game’s six islands their pirate will visit.

If two players choose the same one (or the one with the legendary pirate), combat ensues. Pirate’s Cove is filled with Days of Wonder’s patented easy-to-learn rules and high quality components.

Combat resolution is determined by the strengths of your ship and the results of cannon fire (dice). The goal of combat is to scare away rival pirates so that you are the only pirate left at the island. If you stay in combat too long, your ship will suffer and make subsequent turns more difficult, so there is a fine balance of when to stay and fight and when to let the bigger ship have its booty. If you flee from combat, you end up at Pirate’s Cove where you receive a small compensation for the turn. Once all conflicts are resolved, then the bounty for each island is given out.

By: Paul Randles, Daniel Stahl

Publisher:Days of Wonder and Amigo Spiel

Illustrator: Cyrille Daujean, Julien Delval, Swen Papenbrock, Markus Wagner

After a long career in piracy, Captain Henry Morgan skillfully gets appointed to be Governor of Jamaica, with the explicit order to cleanse the Caribbean of pirates and buccaneers! Instead, he invites all of his former “colleagues” to join him in his retirement, to enjoy the fruits of their looting with impunity. Each year, in remembrance of the “good old days,” Morgan organizes the Great Challenge, a race around the island, and at its end, the Captain with the most gold is declared Grand Winner.

Jamaica is a race game where the players must race around the island of Jamaica, fighting and looting as they go. The gameplay in Jamaica is quite simple. Each player has a hand of 3 cards, and the first player (captain) rolls two dice. Each die will correspond to a day or night card. The players then select one card from their hand to correspond with each die. As cards are revealed, players will move around the island, collecting loot and possibly battling each other if they end on the same space.

By: Malcolm Braff, Bruno Cathala, Sébastien Pauchon

Publisher: Asmodee and GameWorks

Illustrator: Mathieu Leyssenne

If you enjoy piles of minis and MOBA-style combat (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), then Rum and Bones is for you. Cool Mini or Not Games brought Rum and Bones to Kickstarter (I would suggest you get the version from the 2nd KS called Rum and Bones Second Tide which is more “polished” than the initial 1st KS version).

In Rum and Bones, two pirate crews face off for some ship-to-ship boarding action. Your Bosuns and Deckhands will operate under a simple AI (and mostly just be fodder), while your hero pirate crew swings about the ship destroying objectives and uses their special abilities to earn you loot and victory points.

Players will each control up to five heroes at any time, moving them across the game board in an attempt to destroy various key features across their opponents ship. Victory is obtained by destroying enough of these features. Your heroes are not alone, however, as your crew also consists of deckhands and bosuns who, while not controlled by the player, will work on a simple AI to wreak havoc on the enemy!


By: Michael Shinall

Publisher: Cool Mini Or Not

Illustrator: N/A

Rattle Battle, Grab The Loot is a unique dice game where players drop piles of dice into the box lid and see where fate takes them. Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot has some fantastic components, including custom dice, die cut upgrade tokens, and thematic artwork. Portal Games made a great production value for your money this time.

The gameplay has players playing through a few rounds of dropping dice, fighting merchant ships, and upgrading their Galleon while in port. When upgrading their ship, players use physical pieces to assemble their vessel, making each ship look different.

In the box are dozens of punchboard pieces to customize your ship. In addition to common items and crew members, there will be unique item upgrades and crew that can make your ship stand out among the crowd! Definitely unique, my favorite aspect has to be all the customization options players have for their ship.

By: Ignacy Trzewiczek

Publisher: Portal Games

Illustrator: Max Banshchikov, Grzegorz Bobrowski, Anthony Cournoyer, Roman Kucharski

In Tortuga, you are a swashbuckling buccaneer trying to safely transport your treasures to the legendary pirate haven of Tortuga before other buccaneers, your fellow players, can capture it from you. Players simultaneously roll their dice and assign them in order to put boats in the water, fire off the cannons, gather more crew, engage the enemy at close quarters, or move their treasure ever closer to safety.

Players are rewarded for their ability to adapt and their quick decision making skills – a little luck and a hint of greed never hurt a buccaneer either! The game plays in 30-45 minutes and has a low rules threshold for “new or young” players.


By: Jay Cormier, Sen-Foong Lim

Publisher: Queen Games

Illustrator: Claus Stephan

Published by the always impressive guys at Space Cowboys, Black Fleet give each player control over a pirate ship, a merchant ship, and shared control over the royal navy. During the game, players will be using their merchant to deliver goods around the board, their pirate to attack other player’s merchants, and the royal navy ships to attack other player’s pirates.

The three unique ships help to make Black Fleet both highly entertaining and also quite a unique gaming experience. Outwit your opponents with fortune cards and combos, earn money faster than they do, and pay the ransom for the governor’s daughter to win the game!

By: Sebastian Bleasdale

Publisher: Space Cowboys

Illustrator: Denis Zilber

Dead Men Tell No Tales is a co-operative game for 2-5 players. The game uses the common Action Point system to determine what a player does on their turn…with a twist. As players work together, they can pass their Actions on to their teammates in order to best utilize the assets that they have. Players will build the board as they play, ensuring that no two games will ever be alike. As they search the ship for the Treasure, they will encounter Enemies and Guards that they must battle, along with various items that will help them in their quest. all the while, battling the inferno that resulted when they took over the ship. Unique systems for tracking fire, enemy movement, and a player’s fatigue all combine into an interesting and unique cooperative gaming experience.

By: Kane Klenko

Publisher: Minion Games

Illustrator: Jason D. Kingsley, Chris Ostrowski

Merchants & Marauders lets you live the life of an influential merchant or a dreaded pirate in the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy. Seek your fortune through trade, rumor hunting, missions, and of course, plundering. Modify your ship, buy impressive vessels, load deadly special ammunition, and hire specialist crew members. Will your captain gain eternal glory and immense wealth – or find his wet grave under the stormy surface of the Caribbean Sea?

It is certainly the most complex game of this list! A big component of the game is whether (or when) to turn “pirate” or remain as a trader or neutral party. Both careers are fraught with danger: pirates are hunted by NPCs (and other players) for their bounty and blocked to certain ports while traders are hunted by non-player pirates as well as their opponents and generally have to sacrifice combat capability for cargo capacity. Although players can kill each other, there is no player elimination as players may draw a new captain (with a penalty) so it’s possible to come back from defeat.

By: Kasper Aagaard, Christian Marcussen

Publisher: Several, including Asmodee

Illustrator: Ben Nelson, Chris Quilliams


Boardgames return !

We see articles popping around on the web and in the written press (at least in Belgium) about how cool it is to play boardgames. Yes, it’s true that this activity is trendy again in Central Europe (and across the world) but how come boardgames are coming back now ?


pic1900286_mdWell, a partial answer is certainly due to the fact that some people, I am talking more specifically about the generation of computer players in their 20’s becoming adults in their 30’s and doing something else than online play; see a new life & fun in opening their homes to another type of games … namely boardgames and RPG. Yes, this generation of PC’s and XBOX/Playstation eventually grow up to move on to something else. This is my personal case, but also the case of many of my friends. We’re all around the same age and eventually have a live filled with girlfriend or wife, kids and “adult duties”. Recognize yourself in this ? Probably some of you do !

So when you go to a shop, in place of looking at the videogames section, you might take a peak at the boardgames/tabletop new stuff and realize that some videogames franchises have been adapted to a tabletop version (Like Asssasins Creed or  Gears of War to mention just 2).

Another factor is certainly the number of videos and video reviewers that grow over time. Shows like Tabletop in the Geek and Sundry network is contributing also to the dissemination of information around boardgames. They are certainly not the only ones out there, if you type in the keyword “boardgames” in Youtube, you’ll have a list of results that will keep you awake for days if you want to see all of it. The point is more about the professionalization of doing boardgame reviews, when you look at Board To Death or Watch It Played who are getting partners in and around the boardgames sector to keep up their standard of quality in terms of video delivery including the material required to deliver a good show.

Let’s also admit that in people working in the press industry, being writers/columnist or just a magazine editor, are also willing to find topics that are different that the seasonal mainstream discussions. Yes, it’s nice to have something else to say and surprise your readers with an unusual article from time to time. To do this, boardgames are an excellent source of inspiration for a simple reason: the variety of games can appeal to any public – thus your readers. Don’t believe me ? Let’s take a quick look:

  • If your reader audience is in the 50+ age category you can bring up the aspects around “training and keeping your memory active while having some fun with boardgames”
  • If your reader audience is in the 20-30’s you’ll have all types of themes to attract them (Western, Zombies, movie or videogames related characters – like Laura Croft boardgames as example)
  • If your reader audience is between 5-15 you can appeal to the vertues of education (that should resonate with parents) on one hand, while getting a good TV series franchise or comics (Marvel license for Legendary – a deckbuilding cardgame as example).

Then  of course we can also move towards the core boardgames focus of family gaming nights. Just hit to get a glimpse about a few games worth putting on the table at Sunday night !

img_0228Last factor is certainly that boardgames players are going out of their houses, caves and gaming halls or backrooms from their favorite shops. Yes, by going out and playing in public places parks, restaurants and bars and putting your boardgame on the table, it attracts people – generate interests and helps promoting boardgames in the society.


Essen 2013 – Games Selection

You will have within this post the overview of all boardgames & game editors we’re watching out for at Essen 2013, This compilation holds a list of pre-ordered games that will join the collection of Boardgame Monkeys as well as the hand-picked list of booths we plan to check out during our stay. This might inspire you for your own list. The PDF version is available here.

By the way, you can find all the hall plans from Messe – Essen here to draft your route along the 3 exhibition halls.

1-A104 CZECH GAMES EDITION T-zolkin 35 € / Galaxy Trucker HIGH
1-C124 GAME SALUTE Storm Hollow (coop game) / etc.. HIGH
1-D121 QUEEN GAMES Speculation / Via Appia / Alhambra / Amerigo / Maharani / HIGH
1-D126 GRY LEONARDO Nehemiah LOW
1-D137 MAGE COMPANY 12 Realms LOW
1-F101 STRAGOO Mafia City Addon’s LOW
1-F131 KUZNIA GIER Kingpin: Cartel add-on (8 new tiles) LOW
1-F145 JIRASGAMES Nowheresville LOW
1-F160 TREEFROG GAMES Fields Of Glory (15€) / Discworld (The Witches limited ed. 45€) HIGH
2-F136 MERCURY GAMES The capitals LOW
3-B108 + 3-K106 ASMODEE / YSTARI Spyrium / Prosperity HIGH
3-B118 KOSMOS La Boca HIGH
3-D106 EGGERTSPIELE Rokoko / Time ‘n’ Space MEDIUM
3-D109 GIGAMIC Stratopolis / Color Pop / Marrakech MEDIUM
3-E100 THE GAME MASTER Countdown: special ops LOW
3-E102 DAYS OF WONDER Relic Runners (english version) MEDIUM
3-K103 ZMAN GAMES Robinson Crusoe / Glassroad / Tash Kalar HIGH
3-M109 IELLO Andor / Steam Park HIGH
3-M110 PEGASUS SPIEL Rialto / Dokumenta Art / Mage Wars / Mars Wurfel HIGH
3-N102 INDIE BOARDS & CARDS GAMES Gauntlet of Fools HIGH
3-O101 JAPON BRAND Love Letter (version Seiji Kanai) MEDIUM
3-P118 SIT DOWN /  GROSSO MODO Rockwell / Nosferatu HIGH
3-P118 LUDONAUTE Lewis & Clark MEDIUM
3-Q114 WHITE GOBLIN GAMES Artifact / Rattus LOW
3-R109 QUINED GAMES Carson City / Homesteaders / Reef Encounters / HIGH
3-S118 PASSPORT GAME STUDIOS Ace Detective / Cast-away (naufrages) LOW

Boardgames are “Trendy Again”

Did you know that in the last 2 weeks there was a few TV coverage on national television in France and Belgium about boardgames in society ?

BGFIn Belgium we had the Brussels Games Festival review done by RTL-TVI during both the 13H00 and 19H00 television news. This was then relayed via the written press in Le Soir and La Libre Belgique. If you don’t know yet what the BGF is about, have a look at the BGF Facebook for some pictures of this successful event ! Some nice videos made by Digital Transmedia are also worth seeing over here. If you didn’t make it this year, no worries because my little finger told me you will be able to make it up most probably next year.

France2-JeuxSocieteNow also in France you have some TV news around boardgames. On France 2 there was a dedicated topic at the 13H00 news (scroll through the video at 16:48 min). In this short sequence the journalist is explaining how modern boardgames are played by individuals, a family or group of friends.  Nicolas Benoist is interviewed and specify also that the company Asmodee is generating a yearly revenue of 70 millions euros in France (with a non-communicated net-revenue). While Asmodee is looking after a revenue of 130 millions euros this year on the global boardgames market.