Review: Piratoons – pirates with big noses and chins
It is not easy to blend among pirates. They are utterly detest people, who do not use brush, have big ears, noses or lacking some limbs. None of the pirates would win a beauty contest. Do you think you have what it takes? Look in the mirror first!
You will join pirate ship and get aboard in board game Piratoons, which took its shape thanks to pair of designers Olivier Grégoire and Thibaut Quintens. Game was released under wings of French company Games in Act, in cooperation with Blackrock Games, which covers the distribution. Game was released in 2015.
Box with illustrated pirates looks a bit mysterious, because it is very heavy. The weight is quite proper, because its offering two large cardboard parts representing bottom and lid of the chest, which together is placed in the middle of the table. But most of total weight is caused by large tiles of ships, because there is twenty-four of them. Each participant chooses one ship for himself, connects its bow and stern and places six figures of crew on its deck. To all this, he also receives three doubloons as his starting fortune. Tiles of ship parts are shuffled aside as well as pieces of equipment (eight stacks). Players together prepare bank of gold and scoring bombs.
At the beginning of each of eight rounds (counting down by remaining piles of equipment), players prepare shared chest. On its big bottom cardboard tile is filled with six pieces of equipment and three ship parts, all face down. Then everything is covered with the lid. Someone tightly grabs this pair of large tiles and flips them upside down. This means, that now all the tiles are with their picture side up, but no one knows their identity for now.
Each round, players have to prepare their crew, captain (= first player) turns the hourglass and sets aside lid of the chest. From that moment on, everyone can loot with his figures, which are placed on tiles of equipment and boat parts. Number of pieces on each tile is not limited, because players are fighting for supremacy, if a component is really worth it. They can arbitrarily add figures, but may not move any of them after placement.
Pillaging continues only until the moment, when sand in hours runs out. But play goes on even after that. But as soon as the sand is up, any player may any time declare end of round. At that moment, everyone must stop in their efforts and evaluate success. Before that reward phase, every pirate, who has not participated in hunt for new pieces, gets gold coins (doubloons) for his restraint.
If a player has been successful and won superiority with his warriors on some tile, then he gets this equipment or ship part for himself. Draw means, that nobody gets it now. All components, which do not have clear owner, will go to auction. It follows immediately after. All players simultaneously take any number of doubloons into their closed fist and all together uncover their offers. Whoever has offered the most can now choose between remaining pieces. After him is turn for second in the standings, and so on until there is nothing to choose from.
It is quite clear, what all these players will be doing with these plates. They will try to embellish their boat with them. First up is obviously vessel. On the edges of each elongated tile, there are symbols of anchor, compass, lifebuoy or coat of arms. And their task is to acquire parts, that connect to icons already on their ship.
Only an equipped boat can then accommodate residents or equipment. The crew may be placed in the cabin (behind a window), but also on the deck or mast. Cargo compartment with a lid can hold weapons and cabin can be built only on the space provided.
Duel in the construction of vessels continues for eight rounds. During this time, players can freely rearrange and optimize layout of their creation and pieces of equipment. Only then will they be using bomb tokens, which are precisely for counting score. Players are rewarded for fastest, richest and largest ship (according to the number of flags, doublons or barrels) and get five points for first and two second place. Every proper connection on the edges pieces brings another two points, while incorrect connection deducts two points from their score. Punishment for the most unused spaces on the ship follows and gets payoff for sets. At this moment, whoever has most valuable bombs, is the winner.
Piratoons players must show, who is the fastest. Hunt for pieces in each round requires, that players have an overview, what kind of images they need. Goal is to maximize their profits, but also to balance equipment and ship parts.
Sending workers to do the looting is basis of everything. Player must be quick, keep track of state in the chest, but also be smart to participate in the struggle, that he can win. It is useless to spend figures on the tile, you will not get in the end. A draw does not provide anything and means, that you have spent your workers for nothing. Piece go up for auction, but there’s no certainty, who eventually gets them.
Each round starts very cleverly. Pieces on offer are revealed at once, as players would indeed open the closed casket with treasure. And from that moment on it all becomes crazy. Player in the role of captain has a slight disadvantage, because he must first set lid aside. But all alternate in this role. Players have balance getting both type of pieces. Too many vacancies mean negative points, while surplus of equipment is wasted workers, which could be doing something else.
Biggest problem is the lack of variability. There is not enough ship tiles and because they are large and heavy, it probably would not be feasible to enclose more in the box. Unfortunately, with this also runs the risk, that after more games, they start to … repeat.
Interestingly, hourglass set minimum length of the round. It is around fifteen seconds, but turn usually takes a little longer. Still, players often must choose their tiles blindly. Probably a better choice would be longer time, when players could do their choices slowly and include also some tactical thinking. Thus, round often becomes a random hunt for tiles. There is no time for tactics or thinking at that speed.
Theme and gameplay is clearly directed towards families and children. Game is simple and full of hectic decisions. It is not possible to always choose the speed correctly. Fortunately, players can in the following rounds rectify their choices and their arrangement on the ship.
Individual rounds are fast, because dismantling a few tiles does not take very long. And auction is only one offer, which only determines the order of getting remaining pieces to their new owners. Altogether it is clear, that the game will not require an excessive gap in your schedule. Individual pirate battles will take reasonable thirty minutes to complete. More surprising is, that the players will have fun in any number thanks to easy and contact rules.
Piratoons are an excellent choice for all those who have your pirates at home. Now for a younger audience, the game is a perfect fit. This target group will not mind, that there is no time to look at all the symbols and choose according to them. The overall impression of the game is positive, if you do not mind lots of extremely fast and uncertain decisions. In that moment, you start to apreciate processing. Piratoons is beautiful game for children and families, which has minor flaws, that drag it down.
Review: Piratoons – pirates with big noses and chins
Piratoons have a potential to be an excellent game taking place in real time. Unfortunately, some problems are connected to playing them. Above all, there is too short time for getting overview of pieces and enough time to choose. Its either go now or have nothing. Players have in fact only few seconds to decide, which shipping segments will they fight for and send pirates to this apropriate place. One player can terminate round already after fifteen seconds, which is too little. The game is otherwise very interesting, although somewhat suffer in terms of variability. Piratoons also makes a very good overall impression and gameplay combined with processing makes it still good choice for families.