Review: Pieces of Ei8ht

Rating: ★★★★☆

There’s nothing like a game with physical substance. True, some of the best pirate games around consist of nothing more than cardboard and plastic, but there’s nothing quite like those few games that forgo these modern substances in favor of metal, wood, and glass.

Pieces of Ei8ht is a unique game in that it features no playing board, no cards, no dice – the only materials needed are an assortment of metal coins and a small velvet pouch. And while it might sound a trifle, there is nothing quite like hearing the jingle of these coins in their bag, the smack they make when dropped on the table, or the weight of them in your hand – these factors alone make the game so much more than it would otherwise have been. Continue reading

Review: Pirates of the Cursed Seas CSG

Rating: ★★★½☆

That I’m only just now reviewing the Pirates Constructable Strategy Games (CSG) is just shameful. Not only has it been out for some years now, but what’s more, I’ve been picking up their ships from Walgreens since the beginning. I’d never actually played the game mind you, but grabbing a pack now and again and assembling the ships to display on my bookshelf was enough to give me a small thrill.

So there you have it – a game you don’t need to actually play to enjoy. But I can’t take the sole blame for not fully appreciating the Pirates CSG. Even their own publicity material admits to being unprepared for their warm reception amongst consumers – their initial game release, planned as a two year run – actually sold out a month BEFORE the official release. And their various themed series’ (Pirates of the Crimson Coast, Pirates of the Frozen North, Pirates of the Ocean’s Edge, etc. etc.) have left many at a loss to determine what to actually call the overall game (“That Pirate Game” seems to be popular, again according to publicity materials.) Continue reading

Review: Pegleg Pete’s Deck of Royal Rogues Pirate Playing Cards

Rating: ★★★★★

No matter what your lot in life, there’s surely a deck of cards out there for you. This holds true even for us pirate-enthusiasts. And this is nothing new – Disney has long been making decks of cards based on Pirates of the Caribbean (both the movies and the ride), and there’s even a non-Disney deck floating around most novelty stores that features images from famous pirate woodcuts. The problem is, the Disney decks suck. And the other deck I mentioned – it’s decent, but nothing stellar. I want a pirate deck worth owning, and finally one has arrived.

Pegleg Pete’s Deck of Royal Rogues is a proper deck of cards – four suits, two jokers… the whole shabang. It was designed from the ground up, rather than from a normal deck with pirate images superimposed here and there – the suits are all the familiar clubs, spades, and whatnot – but rendered anew with a piratey flair. The face cards are all mirror imaged from top to bottom, just like a traditional deck, but instead of the line-drawn kings and queen, it’s skallywaggs and cutthroats ranging in emotion from amused to bloodthirsty. Continue reading

Review: Dread Pirate – League of Pirates

Rating: ★★★½☆

By and large – and this isn’t necessarily a criticism – pirate tabletop games strive to emulate ship-to-ship combat, allowing players to travel between islands and blast cannons at each other. League of Pirates, however, takes a different approach.

Front Porch Classics has brought us some wonderful pirate games, with League of Pirates being from their new – more affordable – Discovery Edition line. In this game, two players face off to build their crews. Each has a board with openings representing crew vacancies, which they can fill with cardboard coins of quartermasters, mates, captains and the like. Continue reading

Review: Dread Pirate – Buccaneer’s Revenge

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Front Porch Classics has a reputation for tabletop games that are a) expensive as all hell and b) worth every penny. They bring an old world craftsmanship to their games that makes them virtual works of art, and playing them therefore seems to feel just a bit more authentic and worthwhile than it does when breaking out the more bourgeois Parker Bros variety. But alas, sometimes economy must outweigh art, and it’s in this vein that Front Porch Classics has introduced its Discovery Edition games. The quality of these sets remains high, but the metal and wood has largely been replaced with the more ordinary (and affordable) plastic and cardboard.

Dread Pirate: Buccaneer’s Revenge is the Discovery Edition’s direct answer to Old Century Dread Pirate (truly one of the most glorious pirate games on the market.) The play area and pieces are virtually identical in shape, if not material, with the only significant difference being the cards. In the Old Century version, the goal was to plunder towns and each other, and to end the game with the most booty – fairly straightforward. But Buccaneer’s Revenge has modified gameplay, sending players forth on a number of missions dictated by drawn cards. The ultimate goal is still to gather booty, and players can still bombard each other in combat, but the additional missions serve to add a bit more variety along the way. And what’s more, upon completing missions, players earn booty and skills that they can use in the future. Continue reading

Review: Age of Pirates Caribbean Tales

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆

I hate to be so blunt, especially with a game that I had hoped to love:

Age of Pirates: Caribbean Tales is an uncut diamond buried deep within a bottomless dung heap. It could have been great, it should have been great, but for whatever reason it was sent to market incomplete in most every respect, and is therefore not worth your hard-earned doubloons.

I’m an enormous fan of the original Seadogs. For all it’s quirks and bugs, it was still wonderfully fun, and easily set the standard for 3rd person pirate adventure games. Pirates of the Caribbean (Seadogs 2 before jumping on board with Disney) was also flawed – the last minute Disney changes seemed half-baked and disrupted the original intentions of the developers. But just the same, it was quite the improvement over Seadogs, and with the various mods created by fans it soon evolved into an ever-growing pirate world of near infinite options. Continue reading

Review: Old Century Shut the Box

Rating: ★★★☆☆

As anyone that’s played Front Porch Classic’s Dread Pirate knows, this is a company capable of making some gorgeous, heirloom quality games. But where Dread Pirate was full of gold and silver doubloons, lovely multi-colored jewels, and gorgeous metal ships, Shut-the-Box is surprisingly plain – a box with 9 numbered tiles mounted in it, and two wooden dice. It might cause one to say, “it’s very nice looking, but is it fun? And more importantly, what in the world does it have to do with pirates?”

Answering the second question first, while other board games are based on recreating the pirate fantasy, Shut-the-Box recreates the reality – this, in fact, is the very game many a pirate and sailor actually played during those long voyages. Whether drunk on the decks, or drunk in a tavern, some version of Shut-the-Box was likely close at hand.

So on to the second question – is it fun? Continue reading

Review: Port Royale 2

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

I never played Port Royale 1, so I can’t compare. But popular opinion has it that the first was actually the better of the two.

Port Royale 2 is primarily a game of economy – managing your businesses, expanding your influence, and instructing your captains on trade routes. You can also do a fair share of privateering on behalf of the governors, possibly even winning one of their daughters’ hand in marriage. Sound familiar? It should – a little bit Sid Meiers’ Pirates! and a little bit Tropico 2, the game doesn’t really live up to the standards of either. The graphics are decent, but I felt substandard. This I can easily forgive.

What I can’t easily forgive is the overall atmosphere of the game – in short, it has none. Many games have some sense of emersion – even if you’re looking down on a pixilated pirate ship from third person view while punching a keyboard, somehow the combination of music, imagery, strategy, and overall feel gives you the impression you actually ARE commanding a mighty sea battle. Not so with Port Royale 2. I found initial sea battles to be very tricky, but after some practice it became tedious and mechanical – send in ship, beat enemy down with chain shot, send in second ship with grapes, board. Wash, rinse, repeat. Continue reading

Review: Pirate’s Cove

Rating: ★★★★☆

Pirate boardgames, much like pirate children’s books, have the distinct advantage of freedom. They’re free to ignore the limits and dictates of history, and are at their best when they shamelessly embrace the colorful fun and mythology of the pirate life.

Pirate’s Cove does a splendid job of doing exactly that. Players each adopt a pirate ship, and then take it in turns to sail across a colorful map, plundering towns and each other along the way. The entire game takes place in twelve “months”, with each month being a full round of turns. Players secretly elect where they intend to sail by using a ship’s wheel dial, and then all display their dials at once – any player going to an island alone gets free reign to conduct their business there, while if two or more make the same landfall, combat naturally ensues. Continue reading

Review: Boulder Dash

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Now here was a fun little discovery – “Boulder Dash: Treasure Pleasure” allows you to choose your hero, either a boy or girl. You guide that hero through a number of levels of puzzles as they collect enough jewels to go to the next level. The puzzles start simply enough, but quickly become more difficult as new opponents are introduced in the forms of spiders, pirates, and weird glowing things.

There’s not really much to go into for a review, as this game is a 2-D console format, like Donkey Kong or Pac Man. The graphics are cute, the puzzles can be challenging, and you can develop your problem-solving and motor skills. I’d definitely recommend this for cabin younkers, so check out their free trial.