all hands on deck!
Game Overview: Playing as a pirate captain, you participate in auctions with the other players as you compete to replenish your crew by seeking out suitable hands from the local tavern. In this variant on rummy, you are attempting to get a run of crew members based upon their crew rank. Additionally, there are action cards will come into play that will give you special abilities.
Box Contents: A smaller box that measures just 7 3/4 inches x 5 inches. There is plenty of room within the box for the cards, even if you choose to sleeve the cards. The card quality is decent. Far from top notch but not terribly thin either. Of the 108 total cards in the normal deck, there are just 20 unique pictures, so many of them are used multiple times. All of the pirate cards are the same across the three types of crews you are trying to draft from. The only difference is the color of their uniforms
Clarity of Rules: A sixteen-page full color manual provides detailed background on the game story and does an excellent job in explaining the game rules. There is also humor throughout the rules that any good pirate would appreciate. It goes step by step through the different game phases and provides a detailed explanation on each of the action cards that may be seen during the game.
Game Play: The goal of the game is to have 7 consecutive pirate crew members based upon their card rank or 3 consecutive crew members from all three crews. The pirate crew cards will have a number assigned to that crew member (1 through 10) and their color will identify with the crew that they belong to (Storm Sail/Red, Sea Sabre/Blue, and Black Viper/Green).
With the game setup, you simply deal five cards to each player. Normally the first player for the round deals a card from the deck to each player. This is skipped in the first turn. They then reveal the top card of the deck. This is the card that is going to be auctioned off.
Going one by one, each player decides if they are bidding or passing on the card up for auction. If they are bidding, they lay face down one or more cards from their hand. If they have any action cards they wish to use, they also can play these face down. Once all players have decided what they are doing, the cards are revealed. Whoever has the highest total from the pirate crew cards may win the auction and take the card they won into their hand, unless an action is played against them.
When determining the value of the cards, if the color matches the card up for auction then the card value doubles. For example, a blue Carpenter crew member valued at 3 is up for auction. If you play the blue Quartermaster crew card which normally has a value of 9, it is actually worth 18. All cards that were used to bid on the auction card are discarded.
When resolving the bids, if there is a tie those players get another chance to play additional cards to the table to attempt to win the card.
If someone played an action card when all cards are revealed, you resolve those first in order starting with the player to the left of the dealer.
There are 10 types of action cards that may be seen during the game:
- Cutpurse (2) - Can remove one bid card from play before resolution of the auction.
- Fall Off The Dock (2) - The card that is up for auction is discarded and all bid cards are also sent to the discard pile.
- Hidden Plunder (1) - Go through the discard pile and select one card to place into your hand.
- Mermaid (2) - Draw one card from all other players. Choose one card to keep and discard the other cards.
- Pieces of Eight (2) - Select one of the bid cards on the table and place it into your hand instead of the discard pile after the auction has been resolved.
- Pirate Monkey (2) - Can be used as a wild card when building your crew.
- Rum (3) - Automatically win the card up for auction.
- Shady Deal (1) - The player that played the lowest value crew card, must give you a card from their hand.
- Tavern Brawl (2) - Select a player and that player does not get a card dealt to them the next round and isn't allowed to participate in the next auction.
- The Pirate King (1) - All players select a card and give it you. You can select up to two cards to place in your hand and then discard the others.
Once the auction has been resolved, each player has the option to discard any number of cards from their hand. This is important as there is a maximum of twelve cards that can be held in your hand. However, any brave pirate may choose to cheat on this rule. After players have discarded their cards and before they have played cards to the table for the next auction round, another player can call them out as a “Pirate Cheat” if they believe they have more than 12 cards in their hand.
If they did have more than twelve cards, the person calling them out gets to randomly discard cards from the Pirate Cheat’s hand until they get to 12 cards. However, if they had 12 or fewer cards then they get to randomly take two cards from their accuser. They get to keep one and discard the other.
At any point if a player has the required run of cards in their hand, they call out “All Hands On Deck!” They then have to show the cards to prove they have won the game.
Replay Ability: Beyond the standard game noted above, there are other rule sets available to expand the replay ability of the game. Included in the rules manual are directions for playing a longer version of the game where you score points over multiple games. The points are awarded based upon the crew points for the longest run of three cards for each pirate suit.
Along with this variation, included in the box are two additional expansions where rules are included on the cards for that particular expansion.
As with many pirate games, there will be references to the Kraken and there is no exception here. In this expansion, you shuffle the Kraken into the deck and if it is revealed it will go in front of one of the players. When this happens, the player can either skip their turn and pass the card to the left or feed the Kraken one of their crew cards from their hand and pass the card to the left. The Kraken continues to move around the table until it has been feed crew members that equal five times the number of players in the game. At that point, it is discarded along with all of the crew cards it has consumed.
The other expansion is the Captains Table. Here, there are eight different captain cards and each player is given one random card. These give unique powers to the player and also offer an additional win condition. The cards are read aloud so everyone is aware of the actions that can now be taken.
Appropriate Audience: The game suggests 13+ and can easily be played by someone much younger. You can probably go down to someone as young as 8 years old. The biggest thing would be having to read and understand the action cards that will come into play.
What We Liked/Didn't Like: We really enjoy the interaction that comes with playing the game and the fact that there is no down time at all. Some of the unique rules help the game stand out from other games that are similar to rummy. One of those rules is the ability to play a single bid card of the same pirate crew color so it can be doubled. You are doing this without being too obvious that it is a card you really want or need.
The action cards and how they impact the game can really change up the bid process can both be enjoyable, if you are playing the card, and frustrating, if played against you.
We have played the game anywhere from 2 to 4 players. The game can actually support up to six. As with most games that include an auction process in them, when you only have 2 players this part of the game falls flat. For the auction process to work well, the more players the better it will be.
Although the Captains Table expansion provides additional replay ability to the game, we felt it was hard to keep track of your three abilities along with everyone else’s and seemed to slow the game down at times. We may try it as a single rule for everyone instead of having different rules going on at the same time for each player.
One minor thing that causes us grief at time is keeping track of who the last player was that dealt the cards since the game is moving so quickly and going from player to player. Perhaps a small first player token would have been nice to pass from player to player.
Add-ons/Other Releases: n/a