My daughter and I game together 2 or 3 times a week and she is developing into a fairly savy gamer and is always up for something new. I'd been wanting to play Plunder and decided to introduce her to the game.
After discussing the rules for a while, we got the game underway. I busted out some Wizkid's paper ships from the Crimson Coast and Kia seemed to enjoy the upgraded bits. I also got out some poker chips - there is nothing wrong with the silver and gold bits that come with the game, but there is no point in using game money of any kind if you have enough poker chips.
Kia drew the higher card and got to start first. She sailed North out of Tortuga, the starting port, and immediately sunk a ship. On my turn I sailed South and captured a fat Spanish Galleon that unfortunately for me was laden with a single piece of wood cargo.
We both put into port and we were running about the same on silver, which is important as being the first to 60 silver makes you the winner of the game. Kia sat out to the North again and expanded the playing field by adding three oceans. At the end of her movement she captured a French Frigate. Wanting cards, I followed her out and captured a smallish ship.
By now I was holding some really powerful cards and could sink Kia's ship at sea or cause her bad trouble in port. Lepp's design is a simple, but effective one - the really ugly cards are also the most powerful ones for avoiding bad things or winning combats. I was holding a solution for Kia both at sea or in port and, since we were a long way out from the game being over, I just continued to hold on to them.
So we sailed back into Tortuga, selling our prize ships and plundered cargo. Kia sailed out and added a few more cards, again captuing a middling sized ship owned by Spain. I sailed out and "discovered" a small Dutch port, fighting a Frigate outside of the newly discovered port.
Kia sailed back into Tortuga, selling her prize ship and cargo. I sailed into the Dutch port and petitioned for a letter of Marque. (Holland was at war with the French at this time.) Kia had fewer cards, so I guessed that she would not fight the petition, and I was right - I won the petition with a very low card which annoyed Kia quite a bit.
Kia sailed out, dropped an English Port and captured a smallish French ship. I was forced to stay in port - the crew demanded that I sell my prize ship and plunder, which I did.
Kia sailed into Tortuga, again selling everything. By now she was at about 37 silver and I had 44 or so. I left port and encountered a good-sized Spanish ship which I captured. It was carrying a large cargo of Spice, the game's most valuable cargo. Between the value of the ship and it's cargo, I would win the game.
Kia observed that I was low on cards and I was indeed in a bad way. So she sailed in, cannons blazing. It was an equal battle. The best card that I had was an 18. She dropped a 19. So she now could decide if she wanted to sink me or not and she wisely sent me to the bottom, taking my Prize ship and the plunder that it carried.
On my turn, I drew six new cards. I left port, but I could not get to her - I had no place to play cards and I was stuck just outside of Tortuga. I did have card called MERMAIDS in my newly drawn hand and the little bit of movement I could accomplish garnered me a STAND TRIAL card. So I captured another ship - again a good cargo and I would win if I could get her into port. At the end of my turn I played the Mermaids card on Kia - she had just one card and could not escape the Mermaids, sinking her.
Now I had to get to a Dutch port to get enough money to win. I sailed that direction, but I once again could not ditch enough cards and was stranded just one move from victory.
But I could make Kia Stand Trial, and I did, though it was probably ill-advised as She had just drawn a new hand of six cards. The Stand Trial card is pretty simple. You turn a card over from the top of the deck and look at it's number. All Kia had to do is to match or better the number. So I flipped it - a 20, which is the 2nd highest card in the game! Kia's best card was a 14. So the trial proceeded and they took all of Kia's hard earned loot away from her.
I sailed into port the next turn, cashed everything out and won the game. Kia was cracking jokes about me needing the law to win and I was humming Zevon's Layer's, Guns, and Money.
The more that I play Plunder, the more I appreciate some of the smaller design tweaks put into it. For instance, drawing six card when you return to Tortuga after getting sank seems very generous. And in the early game, it is indeed pretty handy. But towards the end of the game, it can become a hinderance as it prevents players from moving (when you move, you draw a card - if you have 7 cards in your hand, you cannot move).
Another nice tweak is the Storm card. As the deck depletes, I became increasingly aware that the storm was drawing nigh. Besides being a semi-tough card to encounter, it means that the deck gets shuffled, and it is a very nice randomization mechanism.
So did I like the game, or what? Yep, I had a good time. Did Kia like the game? She said that it was ok and that she would play again, but not one of her favorites. After finishing being moonstruck by Mermaids, becoming a branded criminal and totally broke, I can see that it might take a few more plays for her to warm up to the game
I'll also be sure to point out to her when next we play that I was pulling ahead because of the better money offered in the Dutch ports - she needs to get a Letter of Marque to maximize her profits.
Now if I can ever get more than a 2-player game together...
Sounds like y'all had fun. No one likes to lose especially a pirate. Tell your daughter not to feel to bad. I lost both games I played this weekend to my wife. I also got caught by the law too. What's a pirate to do??