After getting…er…my feet wet playing Merchants and Marauders a few nights ago, the pirate inside of me needed more activity. We have had a demo copy of Pirate’s Cove on the shelves for a while, but had always been passed by for other games since no one in the store had bothered to learn the rules.
That was a mistake!
Pirate’s Cove is a very typical Days of Wonder game. This means it takes a great theme, adds polished rules and mixes in terrific components. Play balance seems very fair and it never stalled as a single player spent eons making decisions.
In Pirate’s Cove, each player takes on the role of an aspiring pirate attempting to win renown and fame. The game takes place over 12 months (turns) during which the players must decide how to best gather the most fame (otherwise known as victory points) while balancing the risks of being attacked either by other players, a famous (non-player) pirate, or the royal navy.
During a given turn each player secretly plots his route to one of six islands on the board. Each island will contain a certain amount of “plunder” which will grant the clever pirate some amount of gold, treasure, special cards and/or fame. Conflicts occur if more than one pirate ends up at the same island – and a simple yet effective combat system will typically end in one of the players limping off to the Pirate’s Cove to repair and regroup – leaving the spoils of the island to the victor.
Each turn you have the opportunity to upgrade your ship – the specific type of upgrade depends on which island you are currently moored. The upgrades have the potential to make you better in combat or able to haul more treasure.
Collecting treasure is an important task for any decent pirate, however that alone will not grant you fame – you must bury your booty on Treasure Island for the fame to accumulate. Players must balance keeping large amounts of treasure on board to make large drop-offs at Treasure Island with doing more frequent runs. The risk is that if you have a hold full of cargo and your ship is damaged too much, you will lose much of your treasure.
With a set amount of time that the game runs (12 turns), there is an obvious end in sight making the player choices somewhat easier on what to do when. This “game clock” works very well as it makes it very apparent when the game will end – which eliminates a lot of the frustration of some games wherein the play seems to drag on because no one is really sure who has the lead.
Finally, the components are typical Days of Wonder. Lots of wood and plastic bits, bright and attractive graphics, quality card stock for the cards and a beautiful mounted game board.
If you enjoy the idea of a pirate themed game, you can’t go wrong with Pirate’s Cove.