Average Joe reviews are aimed at the average gamer. You know who you are!
Those of us who:
1) Know what ‘Eurogame’ and ‘Ameritrash’ means.
2) Know that enjoying the game is more important than winning.
3) Don’t own more than 50 games.
4) Don’t consider their FLGS a second home (maybe a 3rd or 4th though).
5) Like to read a review without being overloaded with information.
Goal of Game:
You’re a pirate – do you really need me to tell you the goal of the game? OK!!! Using your fleet of ships, sail the seas – collecting treasure and battling other ships that are trying to do the same!
Wonderful. This is a collectable game, so you buy the game in packs. Each pack has 2 ships that you put together, a land mass (islands, icebergs, etc.), crew members and coins… plus a teeny-tiny die! The cards are fairly sturdy, almost as sturdy as a credit card – so the resulting miniature ships hold together fairly well, and will stand up to a lot of use.
Good. The basic rules are very simple, and not at all hard to figure out with one read-thru. Some of the more advance rules get a little tricky, especially since they talk about a lot of items that you most likely haven’t obtained yet (different kinds of ships, land masses or ruins)… but make sense once you do get those items, and use them in play.
Very good. It is a dice game, as you may have guessed. I am not a big fan of dice games, but I put on my ‘semi-professional reviewer cap’ in order to give a non-biased report. The heart of the game, in my humble opinion, is putting together the ships. It amazed me that somebody WAY more creative than me could devise such an idea – you punch out the pieces of the ships, then put them together… and they actually look quite good when done, not cheap-looking.
The next cool thing, as with most collectable games, is variety. There is a huge amount of different ships, crew, and treasures. There is also a large number of factions that you can build up your fleet with – such as; Pirate, French, American, Spanish, British, Viking and Chinese factions… just to name a handful. While you can play a game with just one pack of cards for each player, you will most likely have several packs of cards when you are ready to sit down and play.
Once you get a fairly good collection of ships and crew, you will be able to put together a good fleet. Each item you include in your fleet has a point cost, to which you have a set amount of points that your fleet can include (usually 40 points is the norm). You then lay out all the land masses you wish to use (islands are the normal land masses). Then put some treasures on each island (the coins). Then find your home base island, to which your ships are docked to. You are then ready to go at it!
The movements of ships are quite clever. You use the cards to measure sailing distance (long side of card and short side of card)… this is a good way of keeping measuring tapes off the table! When attacking ships, you use the dice to determine which cannons successfully did some damage to the other ships. Damage the other ships enough and you can board them to steal the loot, sink them, or tow them back to your home island. You explore islands to gain treasure, but you must get that treasure safely back to your home island for it to count. At the end of the game, the player with the most treasure wins… in a standard game. There are plenty of game variables that you can find online or just make up amongst your game group.
Playing is quite fun. You will pick up some good strategies the more you play. Strategies like: Is it better to make your ships more battle-ready, but not as fast on the water, or not able to carry more booty? Or do you go in, get the stuff and race away – trying to avoid battles? There are many variables that make this game fun for most any age (my boys, ages 6 and 11 like playing too).
Minimal. Other than the downtime figuring out what to use when creating your fleet – which should all be done before you start the game – downtime isn’t bad. If playing with 2 people, there is very little – with more players, there is some downtime waiting for your turn to sail comes around… especially if you aren’t involved in the current battles.
Not bad. You will get some people that really like to study the sea, figuring out their next move – but this is not common. Usually most moves, if not already thought of before the player’s turn, will only take a few seconds to figure out.
Very good. A 2 player game can easily be done in 30-45 minutes. Add another 15 minutes or so for each additional player.
Decent. Unless there is a huge surprise of hidden treasure amounts – you will most likely know who the winner is quite a while before the game ends. The other player won’t know what the value of your coins (aka: treasure) are, but it should be obvious who has the most coins. Of course, it is also highly possible that the entire fleet of your opponent is sitting at the bottom of the briny blue… and I guess that is a pretty obvious hint as to who the winner is!
Good. Using different fleet set-ups will develop into different playing styles, and it is good to use a variety of playing styles. Knowing how your opponent plays is also a great help, and creates the desire for the old ‘just one more game’ request. With all the variety of ships, you shouldn’t get tired of playing in the future!
Great looking ships to build
Not only fun, but easy to play
No game board needed – just a flat area (even carpet works)
Dice (which, of course, is a down-side for some people)
Collectable – meaning you can end up spending a lot of money to build your collection
Small dice included – while it is cute, the die that comes with the game is too small to easily read
Very good. I enjoy playing this game, as it is one that the younger kids can play – those same kids that aren’t ready for the strategy of euro-games, but like to play with the ‘big’ kids. I also am ready to admit that pirate-theme games appeal to the kid in me… and was the main reason for me first looking into this game. I like that you can just sit down and play anywhere, and have a lot of fun doing so.
Of course, there are dice – and where there’s dice, there’s a lot of randomness! If you don’t mind using 50% luck and 50% strategy, this game will appeal to you.
I give Pirates of the Spanish Main a 7/10
Good review - but I think you will find on further play that the 2 player game does not hold up to repeated play very well.
On the other hand, four player games can be quite challenging and have some real depth to them. PotSM shines with sizeable fleet selction and four players.
Of course, amassing that sizeable fleet collection to support four different navies was once a very expensive proposition given the cost of PotSM. However, with the passage of time, the price on the original three series of ships has fallen very significantly.
With careful online shopping, $60 to $100 goes extremely far now with PotSM - allowing you to amass enough ships for a very decent pool for four player games. Likely more than you will ever need - and enough variety that fleet construction will vary enough so that the game is unlikely to lose its charm over dozens of sessions. Spend the time to get four or five of the collector's tin releases to store your ships, too. Again, with careful shopping, these can be had for very cheap.
Final polish for the posh: add on 2 or three sets of the Gale Force Nine ceramic islands, a booty finder for movement measurement and GF9's Ocean map (the map is very cool and quite useful).