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Subject: The Ideal Holiday Game rss

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Matt
United Kingdom
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That's my perp! Futsie, all right - crazy as a coot! He's got to be stopped!
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The Overview

Port Royal is a card game by designer Alexander Pfister which won the Austrian Game Designers Competition under the title Händler der Karibik. This new version adds ten more cards, allowing for up to five players. Game length is about 10 minutes per player. The game is super-quick to set-up, portable and can be explained in a only a few minutes. But is there enough going on to maintain interest?

The Basics

In short, Port Royal is blend of straightforward engine-building and push-your-luck card-drafting. Players are merchants who simulate ships and passengers entering the harbour by turning up cards from the deck until they decide to stop, or get too greedy and reveal two ship cards of the same colour, which scuppers their whole turn. Once a player decides to stop, they can buy one card from those turned over, but then other players get the chance to buy cards too. When other players buy a card they must also pay an additional coin to the active player. So the active player has a choice;

arrrhReveal just a few cards and grab the best thereby reducing the chances of busting and limiting the cards available to opponents.
arrrhReveal a lot of cards, thereby increasing your buying choices and hopefully earning extra income by tempting opponents to buy cards. An added advantage of this method is that if you reveal four or more different coloured ships you get additional buy actions. The big disadvantage is that you increase your likelihood of going bust.

It is this tricky juggling act that players have to balance each turn which is the games real strength

Ship Cards

These are a great source and revenue (and heartache). Players can trade with ships to earn coins. They come in five different colours, but draw a second ship of the same colour and you bust, unless you have enough soldiers and pirates to repel it

People Cards

These permanent effect cards are at the heart of the engine-building aspect of the game. All of these abilities are pretty easy to understand, but give some versatility, allowing different strategies to be pursued.

arrrhSettlers, Captains, Priests and Jack of all Trades – are needed to claim expedition cards.
arrrhTraders give you an extra gold coin when a ship card of the matching colour is taken from the harbour.
arrrhSailors and Pirates, allow players to avoid going bust by repelling ships.
arrrhThe Admiral, gives the player a two coin bonus if there are five or more cards to choose from in the harbour
arrrhThe Jester earns the player a coin if on their turn there are not cards left in the harbour.
arrrhThe Governor gives the player an extra buy action
arrrhThe Mademoiselle reduces the cost of hiring people by one coin.

Expedition Cards

These cards are a way of earning big victory points; they remain in play until a player fulfils the card’s requirements by discarding the appropriate number of Settlers, Captains, Priests and Jack of all Trades.

Tax Cards

When this dreaded card is drawn all players that currently own 12 or more golden coins lose half of their coins- a real deterrent to stockpiling too many coins.

Similarities

Coins are printed on the backs of cards, in the same way as Bohnanza. When a player earns coins he is dealt cards face down form the deck. This is neat on two levels; the dual purpose use of cards keeps the component count down and portability high, also players are never sure which cards may actually be in play and which ones are acting as money. This makes things a little more unpredictable and interesting.

Other aspects of the game remind me of Settlers of Catan. The tight race to a low point target has always been something I enjoy. Planning a blazing last turn where you can sneak up and win the game without other player’s realising the threat is very satisfying. Like Catan the game also has harsh penalties for stockpiling too many resources


Conclusion

At first glance Port Royal looks to be a simple, generic card game with a less than inspiring bolted on theme. The cartoony illustrations are nice and colourful, but the whole package hardly sets the heart racing. However, the designer has succeeded in packing in a whole lot of fun into a deck of 120 cards. The push your luck nature of the public draft heightens interaction and ensures that all players remain interested in what is going on even when it is not their turn.
You can grab this game for peanuts, it is extremely portable and set up is instantaneous, making this the perfect game to take on holiday.
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Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
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Re: The Ideal Holiday GAme
Nice review; I totally agree with your conclusion.
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Brian Bailey
United States
Morrow
Ohio
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Just played this for the first time last night as a 3-player game, with the wife and oldest daughter. My wife said "This is a good game. I like it!" and the game wasn't even close to finishing. She then trounced us. Being the teacher of the game, I guess I let her win. whistle

I liked it too. Some good decisions to be made every turn with an ever-changing harbor display, plus it doesn't take long to play.

Our daughter also liked it. Three thumbs up!
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Terence Burnett
Wales
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We took it on holiday too.

Not the Caribbean though, unfortunately. soblue
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