Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 3 July 2018

Ye be out o' time:- A Tale of Pirates

Game: A Tale of Pirates

Publisher: Cranio Creations

Designer: Asger Harding Granerud, Daniel Skjold Pedersen, Daniele Tascini

Year: 2017

A Tale of Pirates is a 2-4 player cooperative game in which you set sail on a pirate ship to plunder and fight your way through a 10 mission campaign. You have to plan carefully and focus on teamwork as your workers are represented by sand timers and you can only perform their action once the sand runs out. Each mission has it's own victory condition and will introduce new challenges that you will have to overcome.

A Tale of Pirates is app-driven, the companion app acts as a timer, ensuring that your rounds go on for the right amount of time. It also acts as the instruction book, you can use it to quick-reference what different parts of your ship or different enemies do. It also helps you run the campaign, tracking your high scores (based on the condition of the ship at the end of the mission), letting you know how to set up each mission and any new rules involved.

All of the gameplay takes place on the large 3D pirate ship that sits upon a compass. The ship has several places where you can place your worker to perform actions, once the sand has run down in your worker you can perform the action and then remove your worker to place somewhere else. Actions include sailing (allowing you to change direction on the compass), loading and firing cannons (only against targets in your cannons field of fire though!), hoisting the mainsail, using the lookout to spy on enemy cards and performing repairs on damaged sections of the ship. Generally speaking in a round you will deal out a series of cards face down around the compass. In order to reveal them you either use the lookout to flip a card upright, or simply turn the ship towards the cards. Of course some cards have negative effects should you sail into them blindly...

A Tale of Pirates set up for a two player game, each player gets workers represented by coloured sand timers which slot into the holes on the boat.
Over the course of a round you will take damage, the first point of damage will place a cork into one of your action spaces, preventing you from working there. If a damaged area is hit again, or you have no corks left, then you start losing hearts. Run out of all your hearts before you end the final round of the mission and it's game over for you! Should you succeed then you will unlock the next mission in the map. On top of this there are bags for every mission that contain the new cards and possibly other items required for future missions. You can't call it a legacy game as all of these components can be put back away should you want to repeat early missions, but the game does evolve as you play.

It's hard not to compare A tale of Pirates to Kitchen Rush, a game which we love. While the obvious aspect of worker placement with sandtimers is there the games are actually very different. In a tale of pirates you can't perform actions until your timer runs dry, which gives you a chance to discuss things as you are waiting to act. This makes it more of a team game than Kitchen Rush. The way the ship works encourages a large amount of teamwork. For example shooting down an enemy ship requires 1 person to turn the ship so that your cannons can fire at it, another person to load the cannons with ammo, and the third person to fire the cannons.

The app lets you know how to set up the ship and the enemies you will be facing in your current mission.

One simple thing let A tale of Pirates down for me, when you fire a cannon you roll a dice. You have a chance of doing 1 or 2 damage, or the cannon randomly exploding and being broken. As thematic as this is, in a game when you have to make plans 30 seconds ahead of time having your plans being ruined by a random dice roll can result in 3 other people's plans be ruined as they suddenly have to stop what they are doing, wait for their timer to run out, repair, reload and fire the cannon again. In general any aspect of the game which made fail after waiting to perform it was painful. There isn't much fun to be had in waiting 30 seconds only to be told you can't do anything for another 30 seconds.

There is no denying that A Tale of Pirates has table presence, a foot tall cardboard ship has a certain visibility to it. By and large the ship works well, it is stored part assembled in the box and is sturdy enough during play. We did find that taking your worker out of the crows nests could sometimes pop the top off, and we also had one cannon that refused to relinquish it's cannon ball after firing. While I do enjoy the story driven narrative and the constant flow of new mechanics, I did sometimes struggle with moments in the game where I was simply waiting. And that's in a two player game where you have 2 workers each!


A Tale of Pirates was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £44.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

1 comment:

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