I first played Corsari quite some time ago at a Gulf Games. I enjoyed it, and grabbed a copy off the prize table. However, it languished on my shelf for over a year. Our group was discussing pirate games, and Jim mentioned that he had played a pirate card game at the previous Gulf Games. He said it wasn’t Korsar, so we figured it must have been Corsari. When I grabbed the game and began explaining the rules, he identified it as the game he had played.
10 suits of cards (corsairs), each numbered 1 – 11, are shuffled and twelve cards dealt to each player. Then, a number of cards varying from 7 – 9, depending upon the number of players, are dealt in a row so that all cards are visible. This row is known as the tavern, and the card at the top of the row determines the current “color” of the tavern. The remaining card from a draw pile, and one of these is revealed to begin the discard stack.
A player’s turn is very simple, and very reminiscent of many “rummy” style card games. First, a player draws a card, taking either the top card of the tavern row, the top card of the draw stack, or the top card of the discard pile. The player discards one card, then decides whether he will set sail or not. If a player opts to not set sail, his turn is complete and the player to his left repeats this sequence.
Setting sail, however, is a different matter, and also triggers the end of a round. The player divides his remaining cards into three sections:
Prisoners. These are corsairs of the same suit as the current tavern color. This is a good thing!
Crew. All cards of two different suits, but none of the values can be identical. For instance, there cannot be a purple “3” and a yellow “3” in the crew. The idea here is to select the two suits in which you possess the most cards.
Stowaways. All remaining cards. You want their total value to be as small as possible. Otherwise, you could well sink to the bottom very quickly.
Why? When a player sets sail and finishes dividing his cards into the aforementioned three parts, all other players then reveal their cards. However, before dividing their cards into these three parts, they are allowed to add cards to the crew of the “sailing” player, but must follow the same “no two values alike” rule. The players then divide their cards in the same manner described above.
Players then compare their stowaway total with that of the sailing player. If the sailing player has the smallest group of stowaways, all of his opponents will lose points equal to the value of their stowaway stacks. If, however, a player has a stowaway value equal to or less than that of the sailing player, he forces his stowaways on the sailing player, and receives a positive 10 point bonus. The hapless sailing player then suffers a 10 point penalty, as well as a penalty equal to the value of his stowaways. Ouch! The lesson to be learned is only set sail when your stowaways will be very, very minimal.
Players play a number of rounds equal to the number of players, and the player with the greatest cumulative total is named the ‘Scourge of the High Seas’.
There is a strong element of “chicken” present. Just how long will you continue to manipulate your hand? Waiting too long could well mean that one of your opponents will set sail first, and you could be stuck with a large gaggle of stowaways. Sailing too quick could result in someone else having fewer stowaways than you, with the resulting penalty points being potentially severe. The tavern aspect is very clever, and clever players can manipulate its current color to their advantage. Still, there is no denying that the luck of the draw plays a huge role, so folks seeking a strategy-heavy game should seek employment on a different ship. However, those who are seeking a fun, light game with a touch of control could well find that Corsari provides safe harbor.
Michael, Jerry, Jim and I vied to become the most notorious pirate through four rounds of gathering crews, taking prisoners and rejecting stowaways. Positive points were very difficult to find, however, as we all finished with negative points. Jerry took an early lead with a positive 10 points, but sank quickly thereafter. Jim was our second round leader, but Michael grabbed seized control in the third round and battled his way to the victory.
Round 1: Jerry, 10, Greg –4, Jim –8, Michael –10
Round 2: Jim –8, Jerry –13, Greg –15, Michael –26
Round 3: Michael –16, Jim –22, Greg –26, Jerry –29
Finals: Michael –6, Jim –12, Greg –16, Jerry –72
Ratings: Michael 7, Jim 7, Greg 6, Jerry 4