TINY EPIC PIRATES

1 to 4 Players (Yes, it has a solo mode)
Mechanics: Worker placement, Exploration

Sail the seas, build you legend, plunder treasure to be buried – A pirate’s life for me!

How to play / win
Take your pirate ship across the map, avoiding the Royal Navy, pillaging merchant ships and ports, recruiting your crew, and upgrading your ship. Be the first to bury three treasures to win!

Lots of good wooden pieces – meeples, booty crates, treasures, and legend markers

You’ve got five actions to choose from on your ship’s wheel (the tokens are arranged randomly so it will change from game to game and player to player) with the help of your meeple Deckhands to jump to the action that best fits this turn.

Yar! Avast ye meeple Deckhands!

Other crew that you recruit will help you with triggered bonus actions (for example, if the captain’s order on the ship’s wheel is Plunder (shown as crossed swords, allows you to gain cargo from a settlement), Quartermaster Quiqley lets you Reassign meeple Deckhands to different actions). Crew also determine what dice pips will score a hit when you go to combat against Merchant Ships and other Pirate Ships. Rolling two or three dice depending on the Legend (aka upgrades) of your ship, this crew will hit 4 times on a ‘1’ and none on a roll of ‘5’ or ‘6’)

Your cutthroat crew of pirates will change as you continue recruiting

What I liked
It is hard to ruin a game about pirates and this game with its simple mechanics and solid art captured the piratical feel for me. It’s definitely a game that is easier to learn by playing it and taking a practice round or two before starting would be a big help for that first play.

The system that determined the gold paid out for booty kept things a bit of a gamble, with the sold booty type dropping to the lowest reward after being turned in (sell off sugar at 5 gold each and the next seller will only get 2 gold per crate until other types of booty are sold). so holding onto booty too long is a gamble but can be worth it.

Player versus player combat is not required to acquire gold and booty, which is always a bonus for those who are looking for less direct conflict in their gaming. There are also ‘sure-fire’ tokens that you can acquire easily to help those who are having a series of bad rolls.

With this I took issue …
The tiny pieces are charming and the small ships with their masts look great but they are almost too small. Getting the wooden cubes into the ships without snapping the masts was a challenge. We opted to putting the booty aka cargo cubes in front of the player and on the merchant ship cards, with plans for making hand drawn ships with spaces for cubes. I feel fortunate that the masts haven’t snapped yet, but I’m sure it’s inevitable.

Tiny, adorable, and breakable …

The Deckhand and Captain meeples were slightly different (the Captain has more of a hat) but we occasionally mixed up which was which but we used methods like standing the Captain up and laying the Deckhands down helped. We might paint some details on the Captains to make them more distinct.

Finally, maybe we were playing it slower as we were still learning it, but I would find playtime of under 90 minutes unlikely. We also didn’t manage to do much in leveling up our Legend status (gives one time rewards and adds to how many dice you roll when attacking and how far you move) but it made a difference for those that did level. There might be some getting bogged down with some bad rolls that delays game end, but it isn’t as bad as some games I’ve played. I’m certainly looking forward to trying some different strategies in future games.

Other Games Like This
Bootleggers – Open speakeasys and truck in some hooch to make more dough than the rest of those palookas
Puerto Rico – Ship goods, take the best jobs, and set up the most successful colony

*Inspired by the excellent podcast, “Into the Meepleverse” and their discussion of gaming resolutions for the year, I decided to make some resolutions of my own including trying to play at least ten boardgames new to me for 2021.