There's no pirate like an old pirate
Golden oldies. Family favourites. Or as we now call them in the board game world, “Evergreens.” Games that are as old as our oldest child, or one of the first that got you hooked on the hobby (that made you part with copious amounts of money, trying to keep up with the fashion) are having a bit of a revival. As more and more of us can't catch up with the speed of which the market is growing. And we'd rather play a game that we know well. Or play without reading another rule book just to learn what this die result will do with that card effect. So we revert back to an older game, one that still feels fresh, even to this day. Hence the term “Evergreens.”
One of mine is the old pirate racing game by Bruno Cathala, Jamaica. An 11 year old game, that is classed as a roll and move (think Snakes and Ladders). With outstanding components that are still highly regarded by today's standards. It's simple nature of pirate ships racing around the island of Jamaica, while collecting food, cannons and gold, to keep moving in the game and score points when a player crossed the finish line. Although it's not a true roll and move, where you throw dice and advance the number of pips displayed. One player will have the honer of being the dice chucker and then allocate one of the two dice to a morning action and the other to a night time action. Players simultaneously pick a card from their small hand of cards that depicts the actions they wish to do in the day and night. These actions range from moving forward, loading food, looting gold, loading cannons and even moving backwards. Depending if this icon is in the left corner of the card or right will designate whether it's a morning or night time action. Then all players, in turn order preform those actions. So you may loot 3 gold in the morning the move forward 5 spaces. Or load 3 cannons in the morning then 5 food at night. Some fun can be had if you miss play cards that cause a little headache for you. But brings laughter to all at the table, as you move forward 3 spaces... Then back 5.
Here is my original review
This is a game, that contains some luck from rolling dice and card draws, but not as much as the reputation of “Roll 'n Move” is infamous for. Careful planing and calculating can be effective as well as playing cautiously. And because of the familiar mechanics, this is a game that I have introduced to many new player to. Young and old, experienced and not. Everyone has picked it up with ease and had great pleasure playing. Especially when their teacher, who was leading, falls behind because they mixed up the number of pips on the dice. (Forward 1. Back 6. Nuf said) So when news of it's first and only expansion "The Crew" hit my ears, this was a definite “must have” box for my shelf.
So, what does this box add to the game, I love. Well, sad to say...not much. But is that a bad thing?
Technically, all of the components could have been on cards and squeezed into a box, the size of your fist. You wouldn't be missing anything as the game could still function. But this comes in a box the same size as the original game, minus half the thickness. There is a small deck of new treasure cards that replace the base game deck. This new deck is full of treasures (points) and curses (negative points), removing all the special power cards that help in combat or let you draw more cards. But don't panic, as there are “the crew” tiles, who carry these original powers, plus a bucket load more ability's.
99 bottles of rum on the wall...
The big box holds an insert that resembles the deck of a ship. Some stairs in the box, lead up to the deck, where you'll place a wooden rum bottle (well, what else would it be!) All the new crew tiles can be found loitering about the deck, face down. Except the tiles adjacent the rum, which are revealed. These tiles slip into the insert, that can easily pop up from their individual spaces, by applying a little pressure from your finger. Aesthetically, this part of the game looks fantastic and holds up to the base game in terms of quality. From the character designs and the box art that resembles a book. Boat. Book. Boat...I can't decide. Everything is stunning. The rule book explains everything clearly, although on a fold out poster. Many people were unhappy with the original games “map” like rule book, that was like unfolding a...map!
there she sails...ahrrrr!
How does this change the game? The game functions like normal. You'll still be racing around the island, collecting treasure or cursed treasure. Paying food to your crew to stay in a spaces and paying dock fees to stay in port. But it's while you are birthed in these ports that you can acquire a new member to your team. You will have a choice to recruit one of the face up crew members, next to the rum bottle. There are total of 20 characters, each with a power, gold value if you win the race and value if you don't. They fall into 5 different categories, that you can identify from the 5 different colours on the back of their tile. Some help in combat, some with gold. Some at moving your ship, some at paying costs and finally magic. Which is some very wild powers. In fact, one of those voodoo swinging magicians has the ability to win the game instantly if they posses 3 cursed treasures.
you're gonna need a bigger boat
Taking on a crew member is a big choice that was not in the original game. Normally you'd pick a treasure card and it would contain a power that you could use, without a penalty. Loading a character on your ship means you are actually loading them onto your ship. They take up a space in your hold, meaning you'll have less spaces for carrying cargo. Taking on several crew will clog up your inventory, making it more of a analytical puzzle for you to navigate the sea currents. But this may be the risk you take. The right combinations of powers may help you sail to victory, or not. As each character has two gold values that you add to your score at the end of the game. One of those values is for you if you arrive at Port Royal first. The other value you get added to your score if you don't cross the line, which can still help push you to a victory, as gold equals points. And it all seems well balanced as some of the really powerful pirates you can recruit have little to no gold value. Possibly a negative value too. Good news is that any crew member that you have can be jettisoned overboard at anytime. Following the normal rules, you can dump something from your hold as long as you replace it with something different. Therefore, if you feel you have no chance of winning the race, it might be worth loading up one crate of food just to throw The Witch into the big blue.
splittin' up da booty
Having this Caribbean cast of characters is definitely advantageous to the game, giving you choice of powers, instead of randomly being dealt them. As the game goes on, you'll have the ability to influence the bottle and move it around the deck by paying gold. Although costly, you might not find a power useful until halfway through the game. The downside is that there are a lot of new icons to learn and the first few game, you will be referring to the rule book. Plus a bonus to having the box insert is, it can be handed around the table for those that can't see their choices. As opposed to the small deck of cards idea I had earlier. Which would make the annoying for those seated far away in a six player game.
The Crew is a board game expansion