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Avast! A Pirates Game Menu for International Tabletop Day

Avast! A Pirates Game Menu for International Tabletop Day

Alright you salty sea dogs, it’s time to hoist anchor and use an excessive amount of popularized nautical slang. It’s undeniably fun to dip your toe into the romanticized version of pirates – a version that promotes light-hearted plunder, the freedom of the seas, and barrels of rum and downplays the more realistic scurvy-infested cutthroats.

And what better time to get acquainted with the best pirate games than International Tabletop Day? But pirate games aren’t all created equal. While there are some phenomenal titles, there are more than a few mediocre or poor games with a buccaneer theme slapped on. But if you want solid piracy on ITTD, you can’t go wrong with these titles.

Appetizer: Port Royal

port royalIn Port Royal, the players compete to gain the most influence by attacking ships and going on expeditions. But it’s also about money. Filling up your treasure chest will only help your influence acquisition.

Each turn, a player can flip over cards from the deck. He might flip over a person which grants certain bonuses, a ship which can be attacked and looted, an expedition which can be completed, or a tax which forces the richest player to discard. Keep flipping cards and you can have a big turn. But if two of the same ship show up, your turn is over and you get nothing.

That aspect is one of the more enjoyable about Port Royal. It has this push-your-luck feel where you want to push forward, but every flip could be your last. You are constantly thinking, “Well, the next card might be the one I need to take over that ship … but what if it is the card that ends everything?” It’s a fun place to be and a great opener to a day of gaming.

Main Course: Merchants and Marauders

MerchantsFor the main course, perhaps something with a grand, sandbox style game. The kind where you can really explore the life of a pirate, dodging the authorities and raiding merchants. Or, if you choose, where you can be respectable and make an honest living trading goods. Of course, you can also follow up on rumors, complete missions, upgrade your ship, and amass huge wealth for greater glory.

In Merchants and Marauders, each player starts with a unique Captain randomly dealt to them. The Captains have various skills and special abilities that might make them more suited to a life of piracy or toward honest work. You get to choose a starting ship and then you’re out on your own. The goal of the game is to reach 10 glory. And you can do that by selling goods, raiding ships, ferreting out rumors or by taking several other actions. The board features the Caribbean and you can basically sail wherever you want. Each port grants a special ability.

The best part of Merchants and Marauders is the completely open world. You decide the path you want your character to take. You can play it peaceful, or strike out against other players directly. Heck, if two countries declare a war, you can theoretically board and take over one of their warships and be the most dangerous privateer at sea. Of course, raiding and plundering does tend to result in higher bounties on your head – which the other players may want to collect.

Better yet, players who just want to trade and players who focus on raiding have a very different but roughly equal path toward victory. One doesn’t necessarily overpower the other. Which further gives players the ability to strike out in the sandbox as they see fit.

Dessert: Libertalia

libertaliaWith the big game complete, its time for a little cooldown. Something that stimulates while being  lighter on the rules. And that something is Libertalia. Even though its mostly an auction game, this title feels more piratey than most other pirate games with full boards and sails.

Players each have an identical deck of cards, numbered 1 through 30. Each has a special power. First, a random assortment of nine is selected and all players use the same nine. Then six auctions are held. After that, a new random selection of six is taken and added to the three each player already holds. In that way, the players start the same, but start to diverge as different cards are held back each round.

In general, the player who played the highest number gets first pick of the goods. But there are tons of special powers that change that up. And it’s not a very friendly ship since there are several abilities that let you kill the other players’ pirates.

Still, it’s good fun and the artwork is extremely evocative. Your inner pirate (or at least your inner pirate accent) will undoubtedly shine as you try to acquire treasure and jewels by outthinking your opponents and bidding in a way that counters their likely plays.

What are your favorite pirate games?  Tell us about them in the comments.

Image Credits: Pegasus Spiele, Z-Man Games, and Asmodee Games

Featured Image Credit: Z-Man Games

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