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Subject: My Take on Winds of Plunder - Ride that Wind! rss

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I’m probably the only person in the world who is not a fan of pirates. It certainly feels that way with people like Kayvon (who just has to put the pawn on the Pirate spot in Manila) and in particular Capt’n John (BGG ID: TheGameCzar) who is interviewed as part Garrett’s Games and Geekiness episode 69 in full piratey regalia, which I have actually seen him wear proudly and without shame in public.

In fact I typically avoid games with a Pirate theme. But for some reason I ended up pre-ordering Winds of Plunder from GMT. Why did I do it? For me, games need to be fun. But I really like it when there’s a meshing of mechanisms and theme in a way that hasn’t been tried before and Winds of Plunder, from reading the rules, seemed to meet that ideal.

In Winds of Plunder players have Wind cubes, a Compass and a Ship that sails around the board, which is a map of the Caribbean. The board is divided up into four Regions with 3 Ports in each. Next to each port is a tile that provides points as well as other items.

Winds of Plunder is played over nine rounds. At the end of the game the English navy restores law and order to the Caribbean and the Golden age of Pirates ends. Whoever has the most points at that time goes down in history as being the coolest pirate ever. Points are earned from Port tiles, Region bonuses, finding Treasure and how much stuff you’ve accumulated by the end of the game.

At the beginning of each round players secretly choose a direction on their Compass then all Compasses are revealed simultaneously. Now that the direction everyone wants to go can be seen, players secretly put a number of Wind cubes in their hand. These are also revealed simultaneously with each cube counting as a vote for the Wind direction the player chose. The Wind direction that gets the most votes is the direction the Wind blows for the round.

It may seem anti-thematic to have players be able to influence the direction of the Wind. In reality it is a compromise between theme and game play. It functions as an abstraction of not just the weather but a combination of a pirate’s ability to read the weather, know the seas he’s sailing and basic sailing skill. It does this while simultaneously allowing for the strategic desires of the players to be realized.

After the Wind direction is determined a starting player is chosen for the round and play goes clock-wise. On a turn a player can take three actions and sail. They can take those actions at anytime during their turn except for while they are sailing. The actions allow players to get more wind cubes, draw special cards or to play special cards. Players can also use all their actions to allow the Wind to blow in the direction they want for their turn only.

Cards allow players to do nasty things to other players and are one way to fight back if a player doesn’t have enough weapons to fire a good broadside.

Sailing itself is quite free form. A player has to sail and it has to be in the direction of the Wind. There is very much a feel of boats being driven back and forth by the ocean gales.

When a player arrives in a Port they get to do up to four things. The rule book, the quick start rules, and reference sheets all include varying lengthed and overly long lists of what players can do when they reach a port. But it’s just: 1) Score and replace the tile, 2) plunder an enemy pirate’s ship if the plundering player has more Weapons, 3) use a Treasure Map to find Booty and 4) gain reputation if not alone in being the weakest pirate ship in the Port.

When a tile is scored (this represents plundering/trading with the Port city) points are earned but the player can also get Weapons, Crew, Provisions and Treasure Maps depending on the tile. Having more weapons than an opponent allows the stronger player to plunder an opponent, having the most Crew and Provisions gives special powers and Treasure Maps tell where to go to get some booty. Reputation gives bonus points to players who get Reputation in every Port in a Region.

Thus in a rather elegant and simple fashion you have all the major pastimes of pirates wrapped up in a nice little bundle.

There are games that, while not being unbalanced, have elements that draw too much attention to themselves. The Jesters in Princes of Florence are a good example. The Weapon track in Winds of Plunder is one of these elements. In my experience with playing with new players a common mentality has been, “I’m not sure what to do, so I’ll grab a gun and start mugging people.” There is no risk in Plundering another player. If you land in a Port and have more Weapons than another ship there, you get whatever is on the tile, and then you get to take something from them.

I’m a bit of a masochist so every game of Winds of Plunder I’ve been in so far I mostly ignored building up my Weapons to see if I could win by completely ignoring it. I’ve actually done fairly well but I’ve never won. Particularly in five-player games having fewer guns than everyone else makes life hard since it’s very difficult to avoid other players. I am happy to say that the players who have spent the game focusing on having the most guns has never won the game.

Winds of Plunder is very much an in-your-face type of game with an interesting flow. Players should expect to get beaten up and stolen from as due process. It is, after all, about Pirates. Additionally there is a lot going on and it’s important to keep an eye on what valuables are in each Port and which direction each player intends to go. Combined with the free-form sailing and special action cards (which new players have to take time to read) a bit of over analyzing can take place. But it’s this very free-form and contentious nature that gives Winds of Plunder its unique and very thematic feel.
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Seth Jaffee
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rayito2702 wrote:
I am happy to say that the players who have spent the game focusing on having the most guns has never won the game.

IN the one game I played of this, I believe I won, and I believe for much of the game I was fighting for the top of the cannon track as well. If I remember right though I gave it up at the end in an effort to get provisions and crew.

Your review sounds fairly complimentary, so do you like the game? Last game night you sounded concerned about the certainty of combat resolution... have you changed your mind about that?

I think I like this game pretty well. It reminds me of Viking Fury, only I like it a lot better. I could see playing it again, but not frequently like Arkadia, Puerto Rico, or something like that.

- Seth
 
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Alan Newman
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rayito2702 wrote:
It may seem anti-thematic to have players be able to influence the direction of the Wind. In reality it is a compromise between theme and game play. It functions as an abstraction of not just the weather but a combination of a pirate’s ability to read the weather, know the seas he’s sailing and basic sailing skill. It does this while simultaneously allowing for the strategic desires of the players to be realized.


You could not have explained this mechanic better. That was precisely the point of this portion of the game's design. How else to put sailing "skills" into the mix?

- Alan
 
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sedjtroll wrote:
IN the one game I played of this, I believe I won, and I believe for much of the game I was fighting for the top of the cannon track as well. If I remember right though I gave it up at the end in an effort to get provisions and crew.

My memory of that game, which was also my first, was that everyone except me spent the entire time fighting for first place in guns and that it went back and forth quite a bit. Of course it was my first game and I didn’t spend much time worrying about weapons so I could be wrong. My comments were more about subsequent games where players were more familiar with the game.

Quote:
Your review sounds fairly complimentary, so do you like the game? Last game night you sounded concerned about the certainty of combat resolution... have you changed your mind about that?

Personal opinion has no place in a proper review . But anyway, I really like the way the mechanisms evoke the theme and I’ve had fun everytime I played. I just think it’s easy for new players to turn in into a gun battle. The main frustration I had in the game you are talking about was a combination of me sailing to ports that Kayvon happened to have treasure maps for, and new players just blowing stuff up to see what happened (I, as the weakest, tended to be the target of such experiments).

And it does seem odd to me that there is no penalty for attacking. It reinforces the idea that you should always attack when you can because it’s a free Weapon/Provision/Crew in addition to whatever else you get for landing in a port. My initial thought was maybe a Tigris and Euphrates style of combat using wind cubes added to the number of weapons you have would be a good idea.

The rule book includes some variants, including one using the Secret Cache of Weapons card, that may mitigate my issues with this particular aspect of the game. This variant allows you to play the card as soon as you are attacked even though it’s not your turn. I think it would be fun to take it further and say if you now excede the would-be plunderer in Weapons you can immediately counter attack. This would keep people on their toes a bit more.

It seems that everytime the game comes out, lots of people who haven’t played it before want to try it out. I would like to play a game just with experienced players to see how big an issue guns are under those circumstances.

I definitely think five player games should only be attempted when all the players have some experience with the game, unless you want a chaos fest.

Quote:
I think I like this game pretty well. It reminds me of Viking Fury, only I like it a lot better. I could see playing it again, but not frequently like Arkadia, Puerto Rico, or something like that.

- Seth

I completely agree that the games remind me of each other. They have some similarities mechanically and thematically, but both also employ what I think are very innovative design aspects that make them feel unlike anything else out there.

Al Newman wrote:

You could not have explained this mechanic better. That was precisely the point of this portion of the game's design. How else to put sailing "skills" into the mix?

- Alan

Thanks for the comments. It truly is one of the most original games I’ve played this year. And I really look forward to playing it more often.
 
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Michael @mgouker
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Well, I like the game. It's good fun.
 
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Meenki347 wrote:
Actually, your opinion of a game is the whole point of a review otherwise you might as well just post the rules up.


What if I just want to describe the game play, thematic implementation and pit falls that new players might encounter so the reader can deside for themselves if it's a game they would like?

I admit that my take on these elements will be affected by my subjective perception of the game, but it sounds to me like you are saying the content of my review would change from not having point to having a point if I had placed the phrase "I give this game a thumbsup !" at the end. This I disagree with.

My goal is to describe the play experience and let the reader decide.

(Though, you will notice that I have flip-flopped and included a "My Take On" section at the end of my most recent review because I understand that not everyone shares my opinion on how a review should be written.)
 
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Bruce Glassco
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Players should expect to get beaten up and stolen from as due process. It is, after all, about Pirates.


Actually, this feature here (and in Pirate's Cove as well) is one of the more jarring departures from theme for me. I don't believe real pirates in the Golden Age were known for stealing from one another -- in fact, I can't think of any such examples in my pirate reading. That sort of thing would get you ostracized in the main pirate ports, plus an enemy pirate would probably be armed better than a merchant ship. Now, perhaps some of the major pirate fleets may have involved a few captains who were persuaded to join rather heavily...
 
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Tony Nardo
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The Brethren of the Coast were a little less brotherly towards each other near the close of the Golden Age of Piracy. While I've yet to find an account of pirate-on-pirate boarding, A General History of the Pyrates (Johnson/DeFoe, depending on who you believe should be credited) provides an amusing tale:

"The Empire of these Pyrates ["Calico Jack" Rackham and Charles Vane] had not been long thus divided before they had like to have fallen into a civil War amongst themselves, which must have ended in the Destruction of one of them. The fatal Occasion of the Difference betwixt these two Brother Adventurers, was this. It happened that Vane's Liquor was all out, who sending to his Brother Captain for a Supply, Rackham accordingly spared him what he thought fit; but it falling short of Vane's Expectation, as to Quantity, he went on board Rackham's Ship to expostulate the Matter with him, so that Words arising, Rackham threaten'd to shoot him thro' the Head, if he did not immediately return to his own Ship; and told him likewise, that if he did not sheer off, and part Company, he would sink him.

"Vane thought it best to take his Advice, for he thought the other was bold enough to be as good as his Word, for he had it in his Power to be so, his Ship being the largest and strongest of the two."


In a different vein, Blackbeard's treatment of Bonnet isn't exactly a case of boarding, but in the end it could potentially fit the mold of treasure reduction through intimidation.

All that said, Alan's game isn't a consim. As with many Euros, some liberties have been taken to provide more opportunities to interact with each other and with the common play environment. And, as with many Euros, some will like this, and some won't. YMMV.
 
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