I had this game on my list of games to check out at Essen, and I was very pleasantly surprised at how much fun it is!
Cards aren't flimsy, ships are small cardboard sheets, the "current player token" (a jolly roger flag on the mast of a sunken ship) is unnecessary, but nice, 8 standard wooden meeples do their job. Artwork on the cards is cartoony but pretty.
My only complaint is that the insert doesn't fit the ships very nicely.
It's a rather simple game, the "Splitter" draws five cards, divides them openly into two piles, the "Picker" picks one pile, plays the cards in the pile and then the Splitter plays the cards in the other pile. Then the players switch roles for the next round.
The Splitter will want to make the most fair split possible, because if one pile is obviously better, the Splitter is going to get the worse one.
Most cards are crewmembers in one of four colors and a value ranging from 1 to 5. You can place a crewmember at his color ship to add its value to your side of that ship. Whoever has the majority, controls that ship. Or if you already control that color ship, you can place the card beneath your treasure chest to score its value at the end of a game. Control of the ships is also worth points at the end of the game.
There are some action cards that add or remove value to the ships, but they can't be scored. In addition, any card can also be played face-down at any ship for a value of 1.
After 8 turns, the draw pile is depleted and whoever has the most gold becomes the new pirate king.
Like I said, it is a simple game, but there are still a lot of tough choices to make (especially for the Splitter) and it plays in just 20 minutes.
For such a simple and quick game, Jolly & Roger is heaps of fun. It's not a very deep game, but it is the perfect length for its complexity. There are tough choices to make, very little luck (though some hands of cards are just bad splits for the splitter either way) and predicting what you're opponent is going to want to do is a big part of the strategy.
As far as 2-player games go, this is a very good filler. It can't be compared to deeper 2-player games such as 7 Wonders Duel or Android: Netrunner, but it fills a similar position in my collection as, say, Patchwork.
+ Simple rules
+ Tough choices
- Bad insert