Daniel Wilmer
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Helpful Pirate Survey from the back of the review booklet wrote:

Do you like Port Royal?

Did you get anything out of Just One More Contract?

Do you like Oh My Goods and was pleasantly surprised and excited by the changes made by Longsdale in Revolt?

Have you found joy in anything designed by Alexander Pfister?

Do you keep tight control of your purse strings?

Do you like some progression to mechanics and sprinkle of story in your games?

Do you like games that reward repeated plays, yet remain fun for new-comers?

Do you have an interest in exploring games solo?

The louder and more frequently you shouted 'yarrr' to the above the more you're going to appreciate Port Royal: The Adventure Begins...


Prelude

As most reading this will already know, Port Royal puts you in charge of a harbour or a section of harbour at the infamous Port Royal - a mecca for pirates, colonists, traders and adventure on the high seas. The aim is to race to be the first player to generate 12 prestige/victory points - becoming the best/most efficient/prestigious harbour master in Port Royal. Each round one player allows people and ships into the harbour one at a time and can continue to let in as many as they like, with one wrinkle - if that player lets in two of the same type ship, the Port becomes closed to any further trade as they sort out the log-jam of that player's greed. Once a player safely stops letting people or ships in they get to take one cards from the display. If they take a ship, they trade with it and take money, or they can hire crew to work the harbour, repel ships or go on expeditions (high victory point objectives). To encourage players to fill the harbour with more cards, the active player can take more cards from the display if they have four or more ships of different types (there are five types). Once a the active player has taken their card(s) the next player also has the option of taking one card from the display, but if they do so they have to play one coin to the active player for the privilege.

In short Port Royal is light and accessible push your luck game competitive game.

When the expansion Just One More Contract was released, this added contracts (i.e variable goals) and a few other ships and crew that encouraged you to do more within a game other than gather victory points, forcing different strategies and allowing for both solo, co-operative and competitive play. It was a natural progression the mechanisms of Port Royal, and was interesting as a beat-your-own-score solo experience, but made competitive more of an obstacle to teach and cooperative options perhaps more difficult to explore for new players.

Another in the series Unterwegs is a stand alone stripped down version of Port Royal I do not own. I'm aware that extra cards can be added to Adventure from both One More Contract and Unterwegs but Mr Pfister has noted elsewhere it will make the game a bit harder. I've not felt the need to do this with the cards from One More Contract expansion.

Chapter 1: Meet the protagonist


The first chapter cards


The adventure begins is, as you might of surmised, a story based campaign for Port Royal. Utilising a fixed order campaign deck similar to legacy games, players progress through a story of five chapters (55 cards total). Each chapter is one 'game' of Port Royal and has a set of staggered branching objectives that alter depending on relative success of players at certain points. These branches change some elements of the story within a chapter but each chapter ends the same. To keep players on their toes an event deck (similar to the time mechanic in One More Contract and very similar to the one in Longsdale in Revolt) gives a set number of rounds before the next section/objective of a chapter. The event deck begins small, but with each exhaustion of the deck a new event is added at random to the top of the unshuffled deck.


The Ares Pirates - Darrrstardly Devils


Each chapter also adds new cards to the game (39 in total). The first set of new cards are the occult 'Ares Pirate' ships, giving a total of 6 ships different ship types, and if you're brave enough to get one of each ship type you can now draw 4 cards from the display instead of one (two or three)! Without being too spoilery new cards are added every chapter and they add new strategies and interactions each time.


Character example with crowns tracking card


Also new to this expansion are unique player characters and crowns. There are 10 characters included who start with varying amounts of gold. Initially the player card is 'blocked' by 4 objective cubes. Achieving an objective (or spending money at certain points in competitive mode) removes a cube; the first removed enabling a special player power, while subsequent removals can allow players the right to win (in competitive mode) or give extra crowns. This gives a sense of levelling up that can direct player strategy. Crowns are a new currency that principally gives you more victory points but can, depending on cards and events, be exchanged for money or fulfil certain objectives. I like to think of this resource as the influence you have with the royalty of Port Royal.

Chapter 2: Supporting crew

The adventure begins preserves the options of solo, cooperative and competitive play offered in One More Contract.

Competitive play is, as the base game, a race to get 12 victory points, but also to have removed two out of four objective cubes from your player card. The event deck continues to build in this mode but each time it runs out, players have the opportunity to play to remove a cube from their card for money so games are not overlong. The story creates the backdrop for the objectives that still branches but does not restrict players progressing to the next stage. Also there are objectives specifically for a competitive game that will differ to those in a cooperative game.


Cooperative victory conditions and example of a final cooperative objective


In solo and cooperative play winning objectives are shared and vary by player count. An overview card lists the requirements of a cooperative victory. In all cases each objective (of four) must be completed by at least one player, plus all players must have placed as many objective cubes and gained as many victory points as the overview card dictates. If any of these are not achieved by the time the event deck runs out a fourth time the chapter is failed and restarted with 3 bonus coins to be distributed among players as they see fit. These bonus coins are cumulative for each failed attempt. Unlike One More Contract there is no ranking for a specific score, but the 'crowning achievement' is to play through all five chapters without having to restart any of them.


The variable competitive 'starred' objectives


The last play mode is the variable competitive game. Similar to the 'all in' mode for Longsdale in Revolt, once the adventure is completed players can remove 15 of the story objective cards that are starred. They can be used to create a random draw of 4 objectives that allow all 39 extra crew/ship cards to be used. While this might also work cooperatively (and still limiting to four cycles of the event deck) it will probably be much easier as the 15 objectives tend to be the competitive objectives which are easier to complete than their cooperative counterparts.

An important point here is max player count is now 4 down from 5. I suspect this a combination of card requirements and keeping components to 120 cards. A fifth player is going to need another crown card and 5 cubes. Also some guidance on clarification on how many starting event cards (which can be increased but leaves less other events to be added in a game) and in cooperative play new targets for points and completed objectives. This is not insurmountable but I can see why player count might have been reduced. Mechanically I think it would cope with five players with no real difficultly past the above. There will be a lot more shuffling though!

Chapter 3: Map and compass

Every good adventure needs the right equipment. The box and rulebook take the same box size, insert and folded A3 sheet format as Port Royal. The rules are generally clear and well structured with a helpful reference page on the back. Card quality is perfect and the same tone and card quality to the original. I've never felt the need to sleeve these cards. In total you'll be looking at 240 cards with base game and expansion. I keep them in their original boxes with minimal fuss. A quick quality of life comment I couldn't fit elsewhere. Shuffling the 170+ playing cards can be a pain, but it happens once or twice a game solo, so not too bad. However that will be much more often at higher player counts.



Broadsided!


Some subtleties in the rules to be aware of:

Task 50: An objective that requires you to decide if you want to complete the objective when you pay tax. Anyone can complete this if they have to pay tax. The objective card lists tax as being 12+ cards but there are some new tax cards that only 'tax' you when you have 16+ cards.

Innkeeper: A great and powerful new card. The English rules state it activates when there are 4 or more cards in the harbour display. However this should be 4 or more people cards in the harbour display, as confirmed by the German rulebook. Another key point is you cannot use the innkeeper (or governor, jester, admiral) on the turn you get recruit them.

Task 52: This is the only 2 stage objective (co-op only). On the first stage it is considered not completed but a cube is still placed there. At this point my assumption is, if this is the first cube taken off the character card, that that character ability is not yet active despite the cube being removed, until the second stage is completed.

Chapter 4: Buried Treasure?

For the price, this expansion breathes a lot of life into Port Royal. It changes it from a light filler to a light campaign or even a session game; variable player powers, variable objectives, new card mechanics. All what you might expect.

The biggest win compared to One More Contract is the story structure. All the new rules and cards can be too much but to start the story, you just need to know how to play Port Royal, and how to win and how much money the character starts with and to expect an event each round whose order won't change. The rest are easy to explain as you go; when new cards get added explain those, when new objectives get added explain how to achieve it, the reward to expect and that the first one achieved gives the player a new power.


Chapter one ready to go!


The chapter mechanics and new cards are well balanced and do make for a different feel to the game. And just as Longsdale in Revolt, the way the objectives are structured force the game in a different directions that helps players understand not just the new mechanics but, particularly in cooperative/solo play, a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms. I loved this in Revolt and it clearly influenced my purchase of Adventure. It works well in Adventure too but, as you might expect from a lighter game, there are fewer mechanisms to explore.


Spread of the Event cards


I'll say now, the event deck is my favourite element of The Adventure Begins. This I feel is even better than the event deck of Longsdale in Revolt. As it builds, gets flipped and then reused, players can tailor their game to take advantage of something predictable in the sea of luck. If you know priests are going to boost your income, it might be worth keeping one around rather than sending him off to that expedition straight away. Good hearty stuff yer land lubbers!

The player characters are also a welcome addition that invests players more in different strategies, which can only be a good thing. I've found with repeated plays that the chapter objectives have the strongest influence on plays, followed by the events, followed by character powers. Just the right balance in my book.

Longevity is another consideration. While the story arc may be one and done, the replayabily stems from the event deck, objective branches within the chapters and player characters. There is also some extension of the game life with the competitive variant using all the new cards. For cooperative, the challenge is to get through each chapter. This is not easy and I've played 20+ games for those 5 chapters solo before success. And I get to do it all again with 9 other characters if I want to . The 'crowning achievement' is to get through each chapter on the first try, something that is going to take some effort! Not bad for a small cheap treasure trove.

Epilogue


Are you ready for an expedition? Then come back when you've grown a moustash!


So the adventure begins and my review concludes. If it gives you more insight on what to expect from the expansion and helps you decide if you're interested then my work here is done. How many questions did you answer 'Yarr' to the survey above anyway? Take an extra point if you shouted them out while quaffing some grog.

Yarrdometer wrote:
0 yarr's - Yer scurvey Lurk Lubber!

1 yarr's - Call yerself a pirate?!

2-4 yarr's - Find the nearest fella or dame tha' harbour's a copy 'n commandeer 'em to see how she sails!*

5-7 yarr's - Yarr really ought to check this out, hand over yer pieces of eight!

8+ yarr's - Join me in tha' hope t' adventure continues harrr harrr!

*The copy of the game not the not the man or woman noted


EDIT: Small typos, more typos and a fix to the yarrdometer scale... too much grog I fear
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Alexander Pfister
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Thank you Daniel for your time and effort of writing up an excellent review!
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Daniel Wilmer
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AlexP wrote:
Thank you Daniel for your time and effort of writing up an excellent review!


My pleasure Alex, you've provided me many hours of gaming entertainment so it was the least I could do to give a little back. So glad you liked it
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Jon S
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When will this expansion reach Canada/US?
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/|\ Roland /|\
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jsaah wrote:
When will this expansion reach Canada/US?


Yes, this is perhaps the most important unanswered question. arrrh
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Daniel Wilmer
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I didn't realise it wasn't widely available. The English version was released in March 18 and I picked it up at the UKGE this year. Hope it gets the distribution it deserves.
 
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Patrick Fournier
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Great review, thank you!

I'm a huge Port Royal fan, so picking this up was a no-brainer. We finished Chapter 3 today and we enjoy this tremendously, despite the difficulty. Very nice twist on an excellent game!
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