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Go back in time when the seas were teeming with corsairs and pirates. Trading vessels didn't have an easy time bringing their goods to port. Send your trading vessels on long journeys and capture your opponents' ships.
Players: 2 - 8
Time: 20 minutes
Ages: 10 and up
Weight: 179 grams
Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. An English translation of the rules is provided.
- 25 trade ship cards
- 48 pirate ship cards
- 4 pirate captain cards
- 1 admiral card
Vessels carry two to eight gold each. Pirates (strength 1 to 4) come in four colors. Deal everyone four cards. Each turn, either draw or play one card. You may play a Vessel card faceup, or attack a faceup Vessel by placing a Pirate on it, adding its strength to your Pirates previously played there. Each vessel's attacker must use Pirates different in color from all previous attackers. At the beginning of every turn, win any vessel where you have maintained a superior strength since your last turn, and discard all its Pirates. Where rivals tie, the Vessel remains.
When the deck is exhausted, win by having the most gold on captured vessels, minus gold on vessels in hand. A rousing adventure on the high seas--especially for cutthroat teams of two.
This is a new edition of Pirat, a game which was published by Amigo in 1991 and which went on to win Fairplay's "Card Game of the Year" award in 1992. I don't own a copy of the earlier version myself, but a friend did and we used to play and enjoy it before he moved down to Edinburgh taking the game with him. From what I remember of the original, no changes have been made to the basic game, which is for 3-6 players playing as individuals. There is also now a partnership game, which is for 4, 6 or 8 players, playing in pairs.
The game has a single deck of cards which consists of 25 merchant ships, 48 pirate ships and 5 "personality cards" in the shape of 4 pirate captains and one admiral. Each merchant ship has a value in the range 2-8 and each pirate ship a strength in the range 1-4. The basic idea, as you would expect, is to use the pirates to capture the merchants.
On your turn you first check to see if you have won anything and then you either play, draw or discard a card. Drawing is from the face-down deck. Discarding is something that you are only going to do after the deck is exhausted and you find yourself unable or unwilling to play a card. Playing a merchant ship is simply a matter of placing it on the table in front of you. If no one has played a pirate card against it by the start of your next turn, your merchant has had a trouble-free voyage and you add the card to your stock of cards won.
The play involving the pirate cards is slightly more complicated, because they come in 4 colours and these are used to introduce some restrictions. The basic idea is that you attack a merchant ship by playing a pirate card next to it. The orientation will make it clear to whom the pirate card belongs. The first card you play against a particular ship must be of a colour that has not already been played against that ship. Second and subsequent cards that you play must be of the same colour as the first. Your pirates capture a merchant ship if at the start of your turn you have more firepower ranged against it than any other player. Attacking your own merchant ships is allowed - the idea here being that your pirates are providing an escort and fending off the opposition.
An example will give you a good idea of how things tend to go. The table is empty of cards and Alan is on turn. He lays down a merchant ship of value 6. Mike is next to play. He is short of high-valued pirate cards and so decides that this would be a good time to try and sneak a small merchant ship through. He plays one of value 3. Ben then plays a 'black 3' pirate against Alan's ship. The fourth player is Greg. His best pirate card is a black 4, but he can't play this because of Ben's black card. He does, however, also have a green 3 and plays that. Alan now defends his ship with a red 4, bringing us back to Mike. His ploy has worked and, after pointing out to the others that cunning, like good bone structure, is something you never lose, he adds his 3-ship to his pile of cards won and draws a new card from the deck. Ben, and after him Greg, must now either increase the strength of their attack on Alan's ship by playing another card against it or accept that they aren't going to capture the ship. Such a card would have to be black in the case of Ben or green in the case of Greg. If neither of them does play a second card, then at the start of Alan's next turn he will claim the ship, because his 4 outguns the 3 of each of the others.
The pirate captains are the "super cards" of their respective colours. You can't play one of them in an attack unless you have already played an ordinary card of that colour against the merchant in a previous turn, but if a pirate captain is present, the normal arithmetic is ignored and that side wins. If more than one captain is played in the same battle, the one who arrived last has precedence. The admiral is rather like the pirate captains in his effect, except that he doesn't require supporting ships and can only be played in defence of one's own merchants. So in my example, Alan could have played the admiral rather than the red 4 and either Ben or Greg would then have needed to play the pirate captain of the appropriate colour on his next turn in order to stop Alan gaining the ship.
The game ends when the draw pile is exhausted and one of the players has run out of cards. You then tally up the values of the merchant ships that you have won and subtract from this total the values of any merchant cards that you still have in your hand. (Come now, you didn't really think that there was a master strategy that involved never playing that 8-merchant, did you?)
In the partnership game play is essentially the same, except that partners sit next to each other, merchant ships played and won are joint property and you can reinforce an attack started by your partner provided you do so with cards of the same colour. Partners may show each other their hands and discuss strategy but may not exchange cards. Determining whether or not any ships have been won takes place when the first player of the team takes their turn.
Korsar is both interesting and fun to play and, like its companion game Thor which I reviewed last time, has been given an elegant presentation with good quality cards and attractive graphics from the estimable Franz Vohwinkel. Recommended.