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Subject: Argh! I've shot me eye out! rss

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Ryan W
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I recently saw an image on BGG of "Pirates auf Schatzjagd," and I thought it looked so cool I had to have it. Luckily, Amazon carried the version translated to English, called "Pirates on the High Seas." I put in on my wish list, and my wife bought it for me and my 3-year-old son on my birthday. The following is a review of the game, including the components, the rules, and how it plays with a 3-year-old, a 6-year-old, and an 8-year-old.

Components:
When the box arrived, I was shocked at the size. It comes in a BIG box, about 3 feet by 2 feet by 1 foot. Most of the inside of the box is taken up by the cardboard inserts to stop the parts from banging around during shipping.

The game pieces really kick some serious butt. These are some of the nicest playing pieces I have seen in a kids game. The quality is higher than most kids toys, certainly better than the components in the recently released Crossbows and Catapults.

All the pieces are made from sturdy plastic, with nice paint jobs. There are 2 boats (red and blue, each about 9 inches long), and each boat has 2 masts, a lantern, a treasure chest that hides in a panel in the back, a cannon, a flag, and a tiny steering wheel. There is also a plastic tower (also about 9 inches tall), with its own cannon and two hidden treasure chests.

All of the treasure chests are hidden behind little panels that pop open when shot. The cannons are spring loaded, and the cannon "balls" snap into the cannons, and have rubber tips. These cannons really pack a punch, but as of our third game, no one was seriously injured when accidentally hit.

The game also comes with a very large play mat made out of a durable fabric (feels almost laminated), around 6 feet by 4 feet. It features a grid of squares, a harbor for each boat, two islands, and place-markers for the tower.

There are also several cardboard components. There is a spinner, some reward cards, some mission cards, some gold coins, and barrels and sacks. All of these are of adequate quality.

Rules:
The rules come in a nice glossy full color booklet. They cover two forms of play: beginner and advanced.

Beginner Play:
The object is to shoot a treasure chest, a sail, and any other object, and then return to a harbor.

On your turn, spin the spinner. It will either stop on a space with a combination of ships and cannons, or on a tower space.

If it lands on ships and cannons, the number of ships tell you how many movement points you get, and the number of cannons is the number of times you can fire.

To move, you can spend one movement point to either move your ship forward, or turn your ship in place. Unfortunately, the rules are not clear whether you can partially move, fire, and then move again. In my games, I've allowed it to be more lenient to the younger players. When you move forward, you can move either to the square directly in front of your boat, or the squares slightly to either side. Also, when you move into a new square, you are allowed to rotate your ship slightly to the left or right.

The movement rules seem liberal enough to let you get around, yet I constantly found that I could not quite get to where I wanted to be. It is a good simulation of ship movement, despite the luck involved with the spinner.

After you move, you get to shoot with either the cannon on your boat, or the cannon on the tower. This is the best part of the game. You have to choose a target with your cannon, load the cannon, and then carefully aim. The targets include: the panels on the boats and the tower that contain treasure chests, the flags on the boats and tower, the front sail on the boats, and the lanterns and bow on the boats. All of the targets are loose enough that a single direct hit with the cannon "ball" will knock them loose, so there was never a debate about whether a target was hit, although quite often the targets would pop off the boats even when you were simply moving the boat around.

If you get a tower on the spinner, you do not get to move your boat. Instead, you can move the tower to 1 of 3 spots on the map, and then you get 1 shot from the tower cannon.

Every time a player hits a target, they get the reward card for that target. Once they have all 3 required reward cards, they need to get their ship to a harbor to win.

Advanced Play:
The advanced play is almost exactly like the beginner play, except the goals of each pirate are more specific.

Each player randomly receives a mission card with three goals on it. Each goal is either one of the previously mentioned targets, or it is a barrel or a sack. The barrels and sacks are placed on the two islands on the map. If at any point a pirate ship stops its movement next to one of the islands, they get the appropriate reward.

Besides the three goals on the mission card, each player can shoot any target they want and get a reward card for it. If they already have the reward card, they get a gold coin instead. Eventually, the player can trade in 3 of any combination of reward cards and gold coins to get a reward card of their choice. This mechanism is in place so a player can still win even if they have great difficulty getting a specific reward.

The first pirate to complete all the goals on their mission card and return to a harbor wins the game.

Pros:
Great components
High "WOW" factor
Kids love it as a game, or even just as a toy
Rules provide for some strategic decision making, while adding a random factor to keep the game from getting stale
Dexterity factor in shooting the cannons

Cons:
Rules need a little clarification here and there
Boats fall apart fairly easily when roughly handled by children
Needs a lot of space to play, but a hard floor worked fine

Thoughts:
This is a really fun kids game, and it looks great. The 8-year-old loves it, and really gets into the strategy of where to move the boat, and which rewards to get. She was bored with the beginner rules almost immediately, and we switched to the advanced rules, which really aren't all that harder. The 6-year-old just loved shooting the cannon. The 3-year-old tended to just play with the boats mostly.

It's a little pricey at $70, but the components are very high quality and make it worth it.

** Edited for grammar **
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(funnier in person)
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This game, More than any other, makes me want to have kids.
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Michael Evans
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This game, more than any other, makes me want to be a kid.

As I've said several times before, kid's boardgames alway have the Coolest game-mechanics.
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