Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I Just Want To Pillage, Rape and Plunder. . .Is That Too Much To Ask?

Funny thing about humans…we tend to forget the atrocities that happen in life. The longer the time span the more flippant we are about it too. Certainly in our time certain events still ring true with a vibe of revulsion such as the holocaust, Ted Bundy and those sorts of things. However as time has separated us we tend to look back on a guy like Jack the Ripper and it’s not so much revulsion of his acts like it was back then but more curiosity. Going back further to the “Golden Age of Piracy” around the 1600’s and now we are idolizing these villains. We now dress our children up as them and see them as heros whereas the fearless armed forces who were out on the high seas trying to bring these criminals to justice are portrayed as the “bad guys.” How wrong is that?

Truth is I don’t care how wrong it is, I’m on board with it! I too like so many others, like pirates. So why then can’t I get a decent pirate game!?!?!? The right combination of a game that is not overly light yet not drowning in rules and fiddly mechanics. Quality components that look and feel piratey and actions that do the same. This elusive game has been haunting my desires for quite some time now…but no game company out there seems to want to bring this to me. WHY!?

In my opinion the one game that comes the closest to fulfilling this is Pirate’s Cove by Days of Wonder. I get that piratey feel I want and it’s a fun game. Clocks in at just over an hour and is easy to teach to anyone, gamer or not! As with any DoW product it looks amazing and the game play is quick and fun. Still doesn’t clock in as being a deep enough game to fit my ever empty list of “Good Pirates Games.”

Plunder (by a company called Laughing Pan Productions) is an option but here’s a game that could use a really good re-tooling. It’s just clunky enough in game play to make it not so much fun as irritating. Then comes the components. OK Great idea to have the box the same of a little treasure chest, but I can’t help wondering….if they hadn’t paid extra for that in the manufacturing process could they have then been able to afford a larger “Regular” shaped box and a mounted board? Hmmmmmm.

Swords & Skulls. Avalon Hill has a tendency to good games. Then they have a tendency to do bad games. This one isn’t so much bad as it is just dull. Great looking game but we expect no less from AH right, so no brownie points there. Theme is worked in alright and you can go “Garrrrrr, I think I’ll be moving my pawn further on down the track.” So see, neat idea but the track system kind of dumbs down the game….something that seems more common with AH games now that Wizards of the Coast bought them. (althought apparently recently dumped them again! Go figure you buy a franchise, change the style of the games it makes and it’s fan base disappears on you…fucking idiots!)

Front Porch Classics created what has to be the coolest looking pirate game ever in Dread Pirate. WOW if you get the expensive $80 version you get this awesome wooden chest, a cloth map, great pewter paws, super cool wooden dice that are aged, real heavy pieces of eight for money and well done cards too. WHEW! What did they leave out? Easy….a game. This game SUCKS! Roll dice move, roll dice whoever is higher won the fight, roll dice move….FUCK that’s not a game that’s stupidity. The components give a pirate feel but if they’d been shaped like puppy dogs and instead of attacks the towns were kids at a park it could be about getting more “pats on the head” then your opponents.

7th Seas is based on the Role Play Game by the same name and produced by Alderac Entertainment Group. Alright here we go. This is a pretty good pirate game. Cards are beautiful, theme fits so perfectly, game play is in depth but hell it’s a CCG so you know it’s not overly so. The problem is…well first it failed and is now out of print. (Go to eBay and buy someone’s entire lot of 800+ card for like $12.00…they spend $300 on it but fuck them.) Next problem is simply…it’s a CCG. It does have some neat little mechanics of it’s own but over all it plays just like all the other CCG’s and I’ve seen matches go for longer than an hour and a half which is entirely too long for a CCG. Very close but still strikes out in the long term playability factor.

Pirates of the Spanish Main ( and all the various expansions) by Wizkids is pretty cool. Neat looking little boats that when not being used to play this game can be used in a ton of other games as ships. Game plays is fair but being as they really wanted to target a younger audience there’s just not enough there to want to play this time and time again. A collectible game that has released 5 or 6 expansions so far, so the $40 I spent on boats on the initial run AND the first expansion is wasted as all the new boats kick mine’s ass…just like Magic you gotta keep investing if you want to play, which is bull

Loot by Gamewright. Oh come on, did I really bring this one up? Five bucks at your local Wal-Mart in a tuck box ($10 at online distributors if you want a nice fancy lidded box.) Another game designed by Reiner Knizia and it’s another game where you do simple math all game long and any theme could pasted onto this game. SIGH….no thanks.

Skallywags is a cute game by Bent Castle Workshop where you “build” a crew by giving them a Head/Body/Feet using different cards so you can come up with different combinations. Fundementally a matching game because you want to get similar part “types” together to get the best guys/gals for your crew. Cartoony artwork takes away from the serious aspect and overall pirate feel but it still great looking (probably the best part of the game) and fun. Little replay value here and overall not much fun, also seems like this game should be over in 30 minutes but it’s well over an hour ever damned time.

Mutiny! Currently being published by Fantasy Flight Games as part of their ever affordable “Silver Line Series” so the MSRP is only $20. Basically this is a bidding game (and I love bidding mechanics) where you fight over who gets to take the actions of five different tiles and earn these little swords. Neat game but very much non-pirate feeling. Still it’s cheap you should probably own it.

Broadsides & Boarding Parties by Milton Bradley as part of their old Game Master series is one As it is out of print and can go for $80+ on eBay and doesn’t get good reviews from gamers I tend to think this is one of those situations of people reliving their childhood. I've read the rule book and it's a very simple move and fight game. Granted the pieces look amazing a board with two giant ships manned by deckhands everywhere. Cool as crap looking but game play? Doesn't seem to be there from reading the rules and I don't feel like spending the time to actually sit through a game of it just to find out what I already know.

Cartagena is a cute little strategy game. Really it's a race game...see the story is you are all pirates imprisoned in the vile fortress Cartagena. To win you have to get all your pirates to the escape boat at the end of the tunnel. Now you do this by playing cards that take you to different ares of the tunnel like the pistol, the keys, the sword....wait a second, if I can arm my pirates with pistols, and swords and give them keys to the damned prison...why aren't we going out the front door? Bah, tis a fun little game really is, but piratey? Well the theme is just barely tacked on and not very accurate. NEXT!

Speaking of racing let's talk about Lifeboats the game that has been released in the Americas by Z-Man Games. In this one the ship has sunk and all the pirates are scrambling to survive by getting in and out of the rickety lifeboats that are headed towards the island. Because this one is played through a series of back stabbing votes to move the ships, spring leaks in the ships and throw someone overboard it's very cut throat and well....back stabby. Granted these are all fine pirate qualities and it allows for a lot of piratey table talk to be spouted in terrible pirate accents but still the game is not what you are looking for when you are looking to be a pirate.

Pieces of Eight a new game on the streets by Atlas Games. The whole game is this bunch of coins you hold in the palm of your hand and each is a character and you can only use the front and back on and it’s dumb. The idea is neat, to be a game you can easily carry in your pocket and play anywhere but the game play is not fun and very unpirate feeling. Plus it’s collectible so expect to shell out bucks to keep up with all the cool new coins that come out. Shit I hate that.

Alright now on to a game that originally was not a pirate theme at all. Armada 3 and yes in 1 & 2 the theme was just nations trading goods and with 3 it's PIRATES! I will say this for the game. The ability to attack, steal goods and yes even hijack the ships of other players does indeed make this game rich in pirateness from that's still at it's core a resource management game and you can feel the "nations" theme under it all. A good try by EuroGames and a fair game, but nothing of greatness here.

Blackbeard. Back in the hay day of gaming when Avalon Hill ruled the world with their epic war games, they produced Blackbeard, the grand daddy of all pirate games! This game has EVERYTHING that could possibly be thought of as piratey. Given that it’s an old AH game the quality is nowhere near what we are use to these days but for the game who with an imagination you can still get into it. The problem is you are looking at 3 hours to play the game IF everyone involved knows and understands all the rules…longer if not. The good news is GMT Games is looking at republishing this game called “Blackbeard: The Golden Age of Piracy” with 1. much nicer components to give us a lovely pirate look/feel and revised rules to cut down on all that fiddly AH nonsense they use to love working into their games. So there is hope here…my copy is on pre-order already.

Speaking of GMT and the hopes of a good pirate game another in the pre-staging process (but closer to completion then Blackbeard) is Winds of Plunder. I do also have this one pre-ordered and having read a ton of material online about it think this might be my “Good Pirate Game” that I’ve searched high and low for. Very nice looking game, mechanics are simple but the choices are many, actions seem to all be very pirate like and reviews so far have all been stunning. So here’s me holding my breath….maybe Winds of Plunder will fill that much needed pirate gap in my game collection.

There are still a few games on the horizon that I've not had the chance to play and wonder if I ever will. The Pirate theme is and has been quite a popular theme (even more so since Disney's little Depp film) and so the abundance is there. Some of the games that interest me that I'd like to give a shot at are; Buccaneer, Caribbean, Age of Piracy, Meuterer, Corsairs and Rum & Pirates (pretty sure this one is not going to fill the niche either but still might be a fun game.)

…oh there’s other pirate games out there but none of them that excel at juicing me up like a real pirate game should. I mean it's been several hundreds of years since there murdering, raping bastards would skin people and hang them to die in the sun on the mast of ship...shouldn't I be able to feel like one of them by now?!?