Review: Dead Men Tell No Tales – even pirates have to work from time to time
Within minutes, it was over. We surprised them just as they were celebrating stealing the treasure and only two men were on patrol. We destroyed even the last shake of defense. There are certainly still hidden men on the ship, who will want revenge. They know, that all they have left is the treasure to defend. There is no other choice, but to explore the burning vessel withgreat caution.
Dead Men Tell No Tales is a board game, which was created by designer Kane Klenko (Fuse) and its story invites us to an interesting pirate environment. The game development was shielded by Minion Games and illustrations are work of Chris Ostrowski. The game was created in 2015 thanks to a successful campaign on Kickstarter, but in 2018, there was second edition as a part of expansion campaign (you can also look forward to a stand-alone review of this expansion called The Kraken).
On the lid, we see the burning ship, but on that picture, its in a state, when no one reasonable would have entered on board. Players appear on the pirate ship a little earlier during their game, when the flames only begin to spread. From the inside of the box, players prepare the initial shape of the ship out of the four starting tiles and attaach an explosion scale to the bottom of that area (with blast indicator placed next to it to the left). During setup, each of the four locations should be equipped with a die (in the color, that the illustration suggests in the middle), but first it hast to be rolled. The resulting number of the fire die is important for the upcoming game as it determines the intensity of flames in that particular place. Players choose the difficulty, they would like to try to beat.
Each player takes one of his tiles, puts a token on the battle scale at the bottom and sets the plastic fatigue indicator to zero. He gets a pawn, random item and a set of action tokens. Everybody puts his piece on a boat near the starting tiles. Players then prepare a stock of dice and cards. Aside, the cards of Skelit’s Revenge and the room tiles have to be shuffled. Twenty double-sided tokens are placed into the canvas bag.
All team members take turns in performing three phases. The first and basic step is exploring the ship. Thus, the active player turns top location tile from the offer and connects it to existing ship, so that all the door illustrations are connected and do not lead to the wall. Each such tile has to be equipped also with a matching color die in its center, with the right number of dots (dice are not rolled aside from setup). In addition, a randomly drawn token from the bag is placed in a new room. As a result, a treasure, an enemy or even a trap door can appear in front of the hero.
Second phase is crucial. In the process, the hero can engage in all those actions, that made him famous. The figure can move (walking or running) on the ship, fight with fire (reduce the value of the cube in the room by one pip) and pirates (with dice and cards), collect tokens, rest or gain strength. To make it clear, how many actions are left for the player, he turns one gold coin to black side for each activity.
When all player think, that they have done everything and spent all action points, it is time for the third and last part of each turn. To reveal top card of Skelit’s revenge, that brings with it the obligation to increase the value of some dice (it is determined by the color and value on the card), but they also add the number of pirates (deckhand) in that place. As a result of this increase, room can explode (when value reaches six) and increase the value of all neighboring locations by one point. For each explosion, players move the pointer on explosion counter.
As a result of connecting tiles, players can also discover a second exit from the ship. It is enough, that the last attached plate of the ship has an unconnected door on it. This is, where a boat is placed and waiting for its passengers.
As heroes move around the ship, their fatigue increases. Players must move their pointer by as many slices as current fire value of the room they arrived to. As a result, fire totally prevents heroes from entering some locations, as is the presence of three pirates in one place. Players can use the grog drink found on the boat to replenish their strength.
Back to the moment, when hero falls. Everyone is expendable. In the end, it is mainly about collecting treasures and pirates are just pawns in play of their captain. However, when someone is carrying it, their fatigue grows much faster, by the full value of the cube from any room they enter. The only way to get rid of it is to arrive into the boat and put the gold here into safety. And players need several gold tokens (depending on chosen difficulty) to win. However, if too many explosions take place on the ship, a new room plate cannot be attached, or a supply of heroes is empty, the players as a team have been defeated.
Dead Men Tell No Tales is an obvious variation on the amazingly successful Pandemic game. And although there is exactly the same way of spreading fire between locations, this deadly element will remind us a little of the second great cooperative game Flash Point: Fire Rescue. But this time, players will not save people trapped by smoke, but a treasure, that threatens to sink and be lost forever.
This game has a great gift of surprising you, no matter what you expect from it. A reliable recipe for cooperative games, with player action and bad card news. It’s always about how well players can cope with all the pitfalls.
In doing so, fire and monsters are only obstacles between, which players must weave. This maneuvering between the flames is the most important, but the ubiquitous fire contributes to a very dense atmosphere. A big part of this is also the theme of pirates, which looks very good.
The random layout of the rooms, combination of the special skills of the character and items and the unpredictable dice are all together there to ensure, that replaying is a challenge, that you simply do not reject. Generally, however, the difficulty level is surprisingly high, and players will get a good deal of victory. It is also very difficult to carry the treasures out of the fire.
If you’re a type of player, who likes to have his own one character from start to finish, don’t count with that in here. Without reinforcements and compensation for fallen friends, its almost impossible. Character replacement is another important feature of this news, that can be seen as both positive and negative.
It is not easy to correctly divide the players‘ attention between all the elements, from fighting enemies, extinguishing fire and bringing treasures to safety. Find the delicate balance, while still looking for a constantly changing path. That is, why it is important to appreciate the fact, that players can borrow action points among themselves and thus even better balance their cooperation as a team.
Entertainment is also hidden in chain reactions. Random increase in dice is a source of tension and uncertainty in each turn. Players must sometimes be able to accept risk. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes not. But even after the explosion, the situation can be tamed and still reach for victory.
The game is exciting and yet does not overwhelm with its presence on the table. Fights last for something around one hour. And as is the usual case with this mechanism, it is best for two and three players. Higher numbers mean a longer wait, because five actions per turn is quite a lot. And then, of course, there is an effect, that is common in this board game category – if you have a member among you, who likes to control everyone else and tells them what to do, then you will not enjoy the game so much.
Dead Men Tell No Tales takes the best of the simpler cooperative games category and makes it the best there is. A very valuable weapon for lovers of interesting strategic cooperation is also in the form of excellent processing (cubes, figures, graphics). Dead Men Tell No Tales is a delicacy, that overcomes its origin of Pandemic in some elements, but carries with it the same challenges as its original.
Review: Dead Men Tell No Tales – even pirates have to work from time to time
Dead Men Tell No Tales is a game, that looks quite inconspicuous. As another cooperative game, this time comes from a pirate environment. Fortunately, however, it has some interesting thoughts and the fight against fire combines beautifully with the battle for survival and the effort to grab enough gold assets for themselves. The game is filled with atmosphere and tension from start to finish. Players succeed or lose together. And their victory will not be easy. Of course, there is still a problem with this type of cooperative games, but it can't prevent Dead Men Tell No Tales from shining between competitors and offering a new, great experience to play over and over.