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Subject: A light, fun Pirate game good for casual or serious gamers rss

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Stephen Sekela
United States
Camp Lejeune
North Carolina
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Hi folks! Want to know a little bit about Sword & Skull, do you? Well, I don’t write rules summaries – that’s what company websites are for, and I don’t have too much time for typing. What I’ll try to give you is a quick summary of my opinions of the game. I don’t usually write reviews – by the time I get around to playing a new game, there are usually 10+ reviews already. I was pretty surprised to find only two, so I felt it couldn’t hurt to throw in my $.002. Also, I felt the need to express my opinions on some of the criticism I read on the game in this forum…

Intro. A light, quick, and simple adventure game. Similar in some respects to Talisman. You walk around and acquire weapons, gold, objects, followers, etc to increase your power, until you’re ready to confront the Pirate King and get Her Majesty’s ship back (the old lady’s pretty pissed off that her best ship-of-the-line has been stolen!).

Mechanics. Roll dice and move around a Monopoly-style game board. What you do on a turn depends on what kind of space you land on (there’s a wide variety – fight an opponent, draw a “Fortune Card”, hire soldiers, buy items, get treasure, etc). You pretty much roam around the board trying to get enough gold, followers, weapons, etc to be able to get the Queen’s ship back. The rules and mechanics are very straightforward. The fact that you’re more or less stuck on a specified track may be considered a drawback to some, but it could be considered a nice change of pace that allows you to focus on other aspects of the game.

Board and Bits. Like most of the recent Avalon Hill releases, the game is very nice looking. Cool plastic figures, gold coins, old-fashioned looking dice, pretty cool artwork. Components are of good quality, too.

Two different characters on the same team. One of the interesting things about the game is that each player gets two different “characters” to play – a pirate and a Navy officer (the Queen has allowed her officers to pull a pirate out of prison to help find the Pirate King. After all, the best way to catch a pirate is with another pirate – kind of like a “48 Hours” in Blackbeard’s time period!). While your two characters don’t directly interact, you can share gold and your Fortune cards amongst them. This feature certainly adds a lot to the game in terms of choices, strategy, and fun!

Two ways to win! Another interesting feature is that you can win either by defeating the Pirate King in one-on-one combat, or you can amass enough treasure to bribe him into returning the ship. This certainly adds a lot of variety to the game.

Player Interaction? There is a good deal of player interaction. If you land on an opponent, you must fight them (it happens pretty regularly). Combat is quick and simple. If you win the battle, you get some gold and/or an item or follower card from your foe. Also, kind of like in Monopoly, if you land on a space that another player (or players) has laid claim to, you may have to pay them a gold or two. Bottom line – turns are short, and even on another player’s turn you will probably have something going on that requires your attention.

Don’t like feeling left out? The game is definitely designed to help keep all players “in the running” all the way through. With multiple ways to win, mild penalties for losing battles, and constant opportunity to increase your wealth/power, you won’t usually have that hopeless feeling (like the “Russia” player in Axis and Allies who rolls bad dice against an experienced “Germany” player…)

Suprises!!! I found that there is actually a lot of decision making and “strategy” in the game – more than I was expecting. Not that it’s as deep as a game of Dune or War of the Ring, mind you, but it’s not as shallow as it may seem. My group had three relatively hardcore gamers playing this, and we were very busy making our plans and adjusting our strategies. It was pretty intense competition all the way to the end – with one other player being literally one space away from winning the game as I managed to best the Pirate King!!!

Worth the $$$? That’s a tough one. I don’t buy many games myself. I either play other people’s games, or get them as gifts. Will I buy this one myself – probably not any time soon, since a close friend and regular gaming partner already has it. It’s pretty pricy at full retail (maybe $30-$40). Read below to see if it’s right for you…

Only for kids/with kids? Absolutely not. It’s a little too complex for younger kids (my 7-year old, a pretty sharp gamer for his age, was a little overwhelmed by all the different choices and cards and such). I think that ages 10+ would definitely like it, as well as casual gaming adults. Plus, who DOESN’T like to pretend to be a PIRATE?!?!?!

Don’t play this game if you’re looking for – a deep strategy game full of alliances and world conquest that will take you and your friends 4+ hours to fight and negotiate your way to victory.

Play this game if you’re looking for – a short, light, but fun and exciting game to take a break from TI3 or other heavy games. Bring it to family picnics, Thanksgiving dinner, etc. for your family and friends and other casual gamers. Break it out with the older kids to have some fun chasing pirates, having sword fights, etc.

A note on the criticism – You may see a lot of criticism about the fact that this game was published under the Avalon Hill game and was in some media portrayed by the company as a “deep strategy game”. Well, the only quotes I saw about it on the company website was that it was “a game of swashbuckling pirate action and adventure”, that it was for ages 10 to adult, and that play time was 60-90 minutes. Between reading that and seeing the pictures, I was in no way deceived into thinking that it was “War of the Ring” in a Pirate-theme. As far as what company or sub-company published it – I could care less…

Cons - The game could get a little long and a little "crowded" with more than 3 players. Also, as mentioned earlier, full retail price might be a bit steep if you aren't really looking for this kind of game. Many people may not like the roll-and-move mechanic, the "Monopoly" appearance of the board, and the style of the artwork (I personally didn't have a problem with any of these, but others may).

Final Verdict – If you like the pirate theme (it’s done very well in this game I believe), need a game that’s quick to learn yet has lots of options, and are looking for a lighter game that can be enjoyed by a wide variety of people, then this is definitely a game for you!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you find this review helpful!
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Alan Kwan
Hong Kong
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Thanks Stephen for the great review.

Zordren wrote:
Also, I felt the need to express my opinions on some of the criticism I read on the game in this forum…

The 7000-word strategy article on the official AH site will serve as the ultimate counter-argument against all such criticism.

Quote:
One of the interesting things about the game is that each player gets two different “characters” to play [...] While your two characters don’t directly interact, you can share gold and your Fortune cards amongst them. This feature certainly adds a lot to the game in terms of choices, strategy, and fun!

Well, the game engine is built around this two-figure combination. On your turn, you roll the dice and choose to move one of your two figures; this simple method gives the player options and sets this game apart from the average roll-and-move games. Might symbols (on weapons and Crew) can be collected for either figure; the type is decided by the settlement one lands on or the Item card one draws, and is independent of the figure doing the task. In other words, your Pirate (as well as your Officer) can collect Might for your Officer.

Quote:
Don’t like feeling left out? The game is definitely designed to help keep all players “in the running” all the way through. With multiple ways to win, mild penalties for losing battles, and constant opportunity to increase your wealth/power, you won’t usually have that hopeless feeling

The most important decision in the game is at the end: the timing to enter the volcano and face the Pirate King in the final challenge. The game is designed so that everyone still have some chance until the end, provided that he times correctly his entrance into the volcano. Part #2 of the strategy article will cover this in detail.

Quote:
Suprises!!! I found that there is actually a lot of decision making and “strategy” in the game – more than I was expecting.

Same for me.
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Chris B
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Re: A light, fun Pirate game good for casual or serious game
Thanks for the review, I thought about buying it but the bad rating kept me from doing so. After your review I decided to pick it up.
 
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Stephen Sekela
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Camp Lejeune
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Zwerchfell,

Glad you found the review helpful. Let me know what you think!

BUT, please don't blame me if you end up not liking it

Mind my asking how much you paid for it? I still don't own it, but if I saw it for $10-$15, I'd probably buy it. Just curious...
 
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