Pirates! Play Test Report

We’ve played two games already, and that was it. We want to play more. I’ve written out a lot!

Initial thoughts/experience:

Game 1: We set up, each with a sloop. Because my wife and I are wargamers at heart, we just hacked at each other. Get in close and try to shoot the other. We did take a little cargo each just for good measure, but we love to blast each other. It didn’t take long for damage to occur – that’s where the mechanic of crew application really shines. You don’t know what your opponent will do. And you see so many things you need to do, but you can only do so much. Eventually my wife won; I was taking too much water.

Game 2: We ended up using the next ship on the list, it was a hand of 7, but I forget which vessel type it was. We liked having a bigger hand. Bigger hand means more options. I think your game will be even better with the larger ships. I have some thoughts in the constructive criticism part in regards to how to manage larger vessels. We wanted a bigger hand, so we took 7 this time, and I think that ship was faster so we used the faster transparencies. I know we used the other movement gauges, not the sloop ones, because we figured those were the “fast ship” movement gauges. This game was far more interesting. We equipped ourselves to fight much better this time. I had more crew and guns, she had more crew and guns. A lot of tense fighting. Lots of surprising maneuvers. She actually first outmaneuvered me, and was able to get to my table edge. She could’ve gone off and won that way, but decided it was more fun to hunt prey. She turned around and came back to hunt me. We had a lot of really good maneuvering, getting into range, moving out of range/LOS, etc. It was a lot of cool weaving. We were able to break away to fix our ships. Eventually we came back and she got a raking shot on me. That made me toast. Took on too much water. I was able to shoot back before sinking, and I got her sails and rudder. I was sinking from water, and she was directionless at the end. I sunk and she won, but it was close. Had I been in a better positioning, I could’ve come around to sink her before I went down. It was a fun game.

Final thoughts/suggestions:


1.) It is FUN. I was a bit skeptical at first. I read the rulebook a couple of times, and it seemed simple. Almost too simple. Can something so simple provide such good entertainment? The answer was yes! The simplicity was what made it so conducive for enjoyment. The first thing I wanted to say was that this was a fun game, and really, that matters most. If people aren’t having fun, then what’s the point? I think because of its simplicity and how fun it is, it will be extremely accessible to many people. I think you’ll pull in wargamers for sure, but I think the wider board game community will be attracted to it as well. People who like Pirate stuff will like it. Even Eurogamers can like this. It’s so accessible and so fun, no matter who you are or what you like. I found it to be really fun. My wife and I laughed while playing. That’s a definite good sign. Very fun. 

2.) It is simple! I had very few questions about how to play. That is an amazing feat of this game; we’ve talked before how so many age of sail games are painfully bogged down by complex rules. This, on the other hand, was pretty self explanatory. I think graphics showing different things in the rulebook will help. I did have to google “raking shot” because I didn’t know what that was (I really don’t know much about naval combat). The first game got going pretty quick. By the end of it, we restarted immediately for the second because we knew more of what we were doing. Simple is good. But what’s even better is that your game is simple, but certainly it is not overly simplistic. It is not boring. You never know what your opponent will do. Perhaps the simultaneous movement is the mechanic that will keep this game fresh over and over. Maneuvering matters. Making those decisions matter. Do you run away and fix the ship? Or do you persist in fighting? Decisions, decisions… simple, accessible, easy to learn, yet lots of room for exploring and trying new things.

3.) It is fast paced. Quick enough to get sunk and set up for a rematch. Oh, how much I wish games were more like this, where there’s time to do a rematch. So much more fun when you can be a little carefree and take risks, knowing you can set right back up and try again! You’re not getting bogged down by anything whatsoever. It’s smooth. It flows. You move and you fight. Great things happen for you. Difficult things happen for you. Game ends. Restart!

4.) The combat is brutal – in a good way. I like having problems to fix on board. It was a bit much for my wife at first – most wargames aren’t like this, where there are internal issues as well as external threats. But I think she really came around to it quite a bit. She liked the game a lot and I did too. There’s tensions. Most of the decision making is knowing how to apply your crew; though simple, it’s a huge decision in the game. It affects everything. Absolutely everything. I really like that. Decisions are more fun with greater weight to them. I like how having more manned guns gives you bonuses. I like how combat results affect your plans. What makes a great wargame for me is if you have to react. Reacting to situations is so much fun to me. I love the chaos. So many times, I had things planned out only to lose my rudder for a turn which junked up all my plans! Delightful! I like that in a wargame! That’s real strategy and thinking, learning to adjust your plans while keeping track of the enemy!

5.) Movement is awesome. Your templates rock. I love them. My wife loved them. I don’t have more to say, it just is awesome. Setting up your little blocks and then going for it. I just love it. Took maybe one or two moves and we started getting it down super fast. We made some wrong moves; that was fun! Realizing that movement is in relation to your ship’s facing. I just loved it. Fast, smooth, it was really good.

Constructive Criticisms/Ideas for consideration:

1.) Real quick idea – Are all ships just fast or slow? Do they use the same transparencies for movement? Like, all slow ships use the slow ship one and visa versa for fast ships? Because if there’s not a difference between movement abilities of ships that are the same in terms of speed, then you ought to make a “fast” movement gauge and a “slow” movement gauge, instead of one for each type of ship. That is, unless you plan on doing special/differing movement patterns for each. You could also potentially color code the lines depending on what ship – maybe all fast ships can use the black lines of movement, but only Frigates use blue lines, and Schooners use red lines. I don’t know. Just thinking out loud. That was a practical thing. We just used the Schooner movement gauge for our second game, since it was a faster ship. But maybe they’ll all be different.

2.) Although I understand not having any misses in the deck, I might still think just a few would spice up the game a little. It’s not that I don’t want combat to be brutal, it’s that I want the strategy and tactics that are born out of a lucky incident. What if you had just a couple of miss cards in the deck? Not a lot. Like two maybe. I kept thinking, especially at the end of the second game, if I had just one miss card pulled, that would’ve given me opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Not that I minded being sunk in the end, I’m not saying that. But it’s totally awesome when that attack to finish you off didn’t in fact finish you off, and you make a little comeback! (Only to be sunk next turn!) I don’t know; that’s up to you. I like what you did. I just wonder if that would give an interesting situation tactically. It’s something to test rather than to necessarily put in the game quite yet. You could even call it a misfire, instead of a miss. Maybe it was something on the firing end that just didn’t go so well. Who knows?

3.) This is really the main and only big piece of constructive criticism we had: does it have to be cards? (I know, that’s a big question, but stick with me a bit!) We found ourselves really running out of space to handle all the water cards and fire cards and other damage cards along while checking what ship cards you have left. It just felt like a lot. I can’t imagine playing it with a ship of 14 cards – that would get nuts! The amount of damage coming your way from a 14 card ship would give you so many cards! 

On one hand, I see the way the mechanics interact and I do think it has to be cards. It’s the only way it really works. On the other hand, I just have to think there could there be a way to have a dry erase ship damage chart. Where you can check boxes off as water comes pouring in, or check boxes as fire spreads. I like the cards for knowing what damage you get even, it’s just the keeping track of how much water and fire is spreading is a little much with cards. 

That was our only thought, and both my wife and myself thought there could be a way with some sort of damage chart that would help keep track of that. It would free you up quite a bit more, and probably be even faster than pulling cards, setting them down, putting them back when things get fixed; etc. Just check a box or erase it.

I don’t know if that would work or not, but I think it would be especially helpful for the larger ships. I hate to suggest that, because your art guy just did a beautiful job on the cards, and let me even say that the cards work – I just wonder if there would come a point with the larger ships that the cards would feel like a lot. When your sending frigates at each other, or when you’re playing an 10 person game with a number of big ships, etc. 

We did play it with laying cards out on the table. So it wasn’t really secret. I’m sure you could shuffle through your damage cards in your hand secretly just fine, but I personally like seeing all the cards out before me anyway, so I’m not forgetting to patch up a water that really needs it. (Or forgetting to put another water in my hand, if it’s still leaking!) That’s where a damage chart might work better for the way I think. And maybe that’s just my preferences too, wanting a checkbox thing going on somehow to stay better organized. Anyway, the new artwork that just came in looks amazing! So I hate to even suggest this when that looks that great. But it was a thought we had.

And really that was the only main thought we had. Which is awesome. Because that’s only a matter of practicality, not a matter of mechanics and balance. Mechanics and balance are definitely exactly where they should be for this game.

You have a good game. I’m very impressed by its elegant simplicity and depth.

And to reply to your email, yes, your art guy knocked it out of the park lol. I love it!


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