and everything under the sun is in tune
The sea was black as pitch and the wind angry as a teased beaver when we four sailors set out to sea on the good ship Meuterer. The jolly jack tars were Pegleg Dave, Long Chris Silver, Pegass Al, and your correspondent, Scurvy Joe Gola.
Meuterer is a well-known Adlung Spiele game about, well, mutiny, basically. You and the other players are sailing on the single most dysfunctional ship in the navy, and just about every time the boat leaves the harbor the crew gets restless and tries to drag the captain away from the helm. It's sort of "Captain Bligh Meets the Three Stooges," if you can imagine such a thing.
It's difficult to accurately describe the game play without getting mired in a lot of details, but I'll give it a shot anyway. Players will have a hand of five cards, each of which will either be one of five commodities or a sword. On the table there is a ring of islands that the ship is going to hop around in a clockwise direction. Each turn players lay down commodity cards to sell on the island that the ship is visiting and also--somewhat inexplicably--the island that the ship had visited last turn. Most islands will accept only one kind of commodity, though there are a few "wild" islands in the archipelago that'll take any old thing. Shocking!
One of the players will be the current captain and he gets to choose which island the ship will visit next turn; however many cards he has left in his hands after the commodities are played will be the number of island that the ship moves. This means that he gets to dictate which one of the commodities will be saleable for the next two rounds, and there is also a specific victory point bonus for successfully piloting the ship to any given island.
After the players have played their commodity cards, the persons who played the most cards in the two wares currently up for trade get paid for the cards they laid down. All players score on a tie, though it will be a slightly lower number of points. When non-captain players drop out of the running, they can then choose a role card from the ones that are currently available. These are the first mate, the mutineer, the cabin boy (or something like that), the trader, and the load master. The mutineer will try to wrest control of the ship from the captain, send it to a different island, and get the destination points for that island. The first mate helps the captain and gets whatever share of the destination bonus the captain offered for the service at the start of the round (I forgot to mention that). The cabin boy helps the mutineer and gets a fixed reward for that. The other two roles get advantages related to trading which aren't worth going over in detail here.
Whether or not the mutiny is successful is decided by the number of swords played. These can be laid down when commodities are being played or else once again after all the roles have been revealed. If the mutineer and cabin boy play at least as many swords as the captain and the first mate, the mutiny is successful. The mutineer gets the destination bonus and the cabin boy gets 2 points.
The game is played for eight rounds, and the player with most points wins. There are lots of different ways to score points in the game, and the game mechanics seem to create all kinds of different and interesting situations every turn.
Chris started out as the captain, and, if I recall correctly, I helped him quash the first mutiny. Chris got tired of running things in the second round, however, and I successfully deposed his horrific reign of prudence and fair dealing.
"Clap him in irons! Twenty lashes!"
Twenty lashes later: "Hey boss, you know there's only four of us, I'm pretty sure we need Chris to help us steer the ship."
"Well...how do I know he's not going to stage a mutiny?"
"Sir, with all due respect, we're all planning mutinies. If you took the time to read the ship newsletter you might know that."
"Geez, you cancel one limbo contest and people start getting Fletcher Christian on your ass."
Surprisingly enough, I somehow managed to inspire enough fear, respect or lethargy among the crew to hold onto the role of Captain for almost the entire game. Actually I just ended up being pretty lucky in general. For the most part I had enough commodity cards to be able to make a sale every now and then or enough swords to beat down mutinies when necessary. There was only one point where I was totally adrift with a bad hand. Being still new to the game and not knowing what I should do, I figured I would just give up being captain and see what the other roles had to offer, and so at the start of the round I offered nothing for a first mate. I immediately regretted this. Why not at least shoot for some points rather than just giving up? However, because of a strange series of circumstances no one bothered to mutiny! I got four destination victory points free and clear. Shiver me timbers!
Perhaps this stumbling into points on my part led my opponents to underestimate me, because I was then able to pull off a pretty cagey plan right under their noses. The next turn I offered a whopping three points for a first mate, and this raised a few eyebrows. "The captain has gone mad..." they whispered. Little did they suspect that I had two of the four rubies in the deck, and the island I planned to sail to was just dying to get their hands on those little gems. I gave up three points for help to steer to an island that would net me two destination VPs in addition to six more VPs for the commodities I had to sell.
I ended up winning the game by four points--the four points I fell ass-backwards into, if you want to look at it that way. My opponents seemed completely dissatisfied by this outcome. It was simply not an honorable end to the game. Lucky for me we weren't really playing on board a ship or I would've been thrown over the side.
I enjoyed the game quite a bit, I think because there's a fairly rich experience packed into that tiny box. There's the card duel element, the surprise of the revelation of roles, some deduction, a little min-maxing and also some gambles to take. How to play a particular hand of cards is a fun little puzzle, because you have to take into account whether you want to try to come first in the commodities, whether you want to get out early to get your pick of roles or stay in and ditch the deadwood from your hand, and, if you're the captain or you're thinking of being the mutineer, where the ship will end up based on the cards you've thrown down. Neat! This is one of those games that I want to buy not because I think I'll play it all the time but just because I think it's a really clever design.