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Pirate's Cove

English language edition of Piratenbucht


List Price: $60.00
Your Price: $53.99
(10% savings!)
(Worth 5,399 Funagain Points!)

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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
8+ 60-90 minutes 3-5

Designer(s): Paul Randles, Daniel Stahl

Manufacturer(s): Days of Wonder

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Product Description

Come aboard and sail to Pirate's Cove... the legendary hideaway of thieving pirates and cutthroat buccaneers. The tales of those legendary pirates of old who've fought and survived these mysterious waters still haunt all those who yearn for a life at sea. Armed with a secret map and starting with a modestly outfitted sloop salvaged from last winter's storm, you set sail to Pirate's Cove -- your eyes filled with visions of treasure and fame, your lungs filled with the salty air of the High Seas.

Your objective: to battle for the rights to plunder and become the most famed and feared Pirate the world has ever seen. To do so, you will need to navigate shrewdly, fight recklessly and pillage mercilessly. You will gain fame by winning battles; burying gold and treasure; and bragging about your exploits at the Tavern. At the end of twelve months, the pirate with the most fame will be declared the most fearsome Pirate of the High Seas!

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Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Family Strategy Game Nominee, 2005
Deutscher Spiele Preis
9th place, 2002

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Paul Randles, Daniel Stahl

  • Manufacturer(s): Days of Wonder

  • Artist(s): Julien Delval

  • Year: 2003

  • Players: 3 - 5

  • Time: 60 - 90 minutes

  • Ages: 8 and up

  • Weight: 1,383 grams

  • All-Time Sales Rank: #209

  • Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are printed in English. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.

Contents:

  • 1 Board map
  • 7 Pirate ship miniatures
  • 5 Pirate Ship Mats and Captain's Wheels
  • 5 Wooden Fame markers
  • 20 Strength markers
  • 112 Illustrated cards:
    • 60 Treasure cards
    • 6 Legendary Pirate summary cards
    • 42 Tavern cards
    • 4 Blank cards
  • 44 Doubloons
  • Treasure chests
  • 6 wooden dice
  • 1 Rules booklet
  • 1 Summary Card
  • 1 Days of Wonder Online access number
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Product Reviews

 
 
 
 
 

Average Rating: 4.2 in 18 reviews

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A game of high seas adventure
May 22, 2007

If you like pirates, you'll love Pirate's Cove. Pirates Cove is a beautiful theme game that allows for you to live the Pirate life while you play. A great game that is fairly easy to learn and always fun to play. This is great for family game night or an evening with some friends. Never the same, always a little bit different and always a fun challenge. For added fun check out the game designers’ website to find custom cards and added pirates.

 
 
 
 
 
by Ryan B
Excellent thematic game
August 31, 2004

A lot has already been written to the mechanics of gameplay, so we won't discuss that. But we will discuss how this game offers so much in the way of theme. Days of Wonder games are so much like playing with toys. They're great. There are plenty of strategic elements and just the right amount of luck for this game to appeal to all types. Decent interaction and a game that really gives you a sense of place make this a must have for your casual game collection.

 
 
 
 
 
This game is worth plundering, mates.
May 15, 2004

Solid mechanics, superb production value and high fun factor are this game's strong points. There's nothing like sailing a tiny ship about an archipelago of islands collecting gold and treasure, upgrading ships and blasting cannon at every other ship that comes within range. I play this mostly with my 8 and 6 year old and they adore it, but every adult I've played with really likes it too, especially the guys. The dice-rolling battles are not pure strategy, OK, but there's plenty of other tactical options, mostly in the form of cards purchased at the tavern. This is essential to good strategy! Collect lots of those tavern cards! There is something for almost every situation: extra points, ship upgrades, many different bonuses, last-ditch ploys and help from some crusty old parrots who have a word or two of wisdom to share. The variable turn order and design of rotating legendary (i.e. nearly unbeatable) pirates keep things mixed up. There are many ways to customize your ship, from a cannon-laden tank to a fast-hulled freighter, and this is a fun outlet for creativity and roleplaying. My youngest always picks green, and calls himself 'Captain Acid'...he goes for big crew and cannon and never runs from a fight. My older son goes for speed & hull strength so he can outrun fights and collect massive stores of treasure. There is several opportunities for game tweakability, always a plus in my book; and I have already downloaded several new cards from the Days of Wonder website; you can play this game online at the website as well.

I used my blank cards to produce 'Captain Blood' a new legendary pirate who will steal some of your gold each turn you fight him, but gives a hefty booty if defeated, and a ballista that fouls rigging and slows down an enemy ship when fired during a volley. My telescope enables a player to wait until all destinations are revealed and then decide which island to raid. Other variants are on the website, such as wenches on Sail Island! The graphics, bits and board go a long way to bring you into the spirit of the game, and I've never played a game where the winnwer was more than 5 points ahead of the runner-up, so the balance is there. Regarding some of the other player's reviews listed here, I spotted several faulty rule interpretations. The rules are lengthy and detailed, but the game plays SO much better if they are well-understood (imagine that?) You can't skim the rules and then play, so take some of the comments with a grain of salt. If played correctly, many of the problems (e.g. running out of tavern cards) cannot happen! I highly recommend this game to family gamers, especially with kids, or for gamers that don't need to play El Grande or Puerto Rico to feel that a game is worth their while. 9 out of 10!

 
 
 
 
 
by Deb
Arr, 'tis the best pirate game I've played
April 20, 2004

AHH! This is definitely one of THE best games I've EVER played in my life. It combines the fun of dice with the action of cards and all under the canopy of piracy. I wholeheartedly recommend buying this game 'cause it is AWESOME.

It is so much fun. You get to be a pirate captain, you accumulate fame and fortune through fighting other pirates, and it is a LOT of fun reading all the little cards.

The artwork is superb. Without a doubt this game makes you feel like a real pirate. It combnies that domintation feeling you get when playing Risk with the ease of no time pressure (we all know Risk can take hours to play!) . This game is the BEST!!!!

 
 
 
 
 
by Dr Jay
Shiver Me Timbers, Mateys!
January 23, 2004

Little did I realize in opening the game as a three-player (up to five, normally) effort, what a delight would occur. The game ranks high for sheer playability, fascinating interaction, and well-designed rules.

With the success of _Pirates of the Caribbean_, it was natural a game would be designed with that golden time of piracy. The well-illustrated rules and attractive drawings tell the gamer to immediately set the battle readiness or strength markers of the hull, the crew, the cannon, and the sails. Two black pirate ships are established on two of the five major islands. Our three pirates drew the Flying Dutchman legendary pirate card (AArgh!)and another pirate for two of the seven-island placements. Pirate's cove is never selected as an island for legendary pirates; it is reserved for pirate repair.

Before sailing over the seven seas, it is necessary for the players (green, blue, and red) to set their navigation wheels for movement and placement. Naturally, collisions eventually occurred and major fights, because players chose the same island; for example, cannon island. All islands except Tavern Island are named after the accoutrements required to sail the ship. Treasure Island, as I later discovered, must have a legendary pirate drawn who camps out for the unsuspected. The rules clearly say to always think westward in placing pirates and ships; that is, clockwise.

After a quick reading of the rules, I neglected to remember that one can pay two gold and receive a card on Tavern Island. The turn consists of: treasure (rewards on the card and turning over the top card on each island), navigation, combat, plunder (all the four items listed on the card--fame points, gold, treasure, and tavern cards received), and upgrade. Combat becomes the most fun part of the game in spite of dice throws.

As the game advanced, the green, blue, and red players built up their ships with hull, cannon, sail, and crew strength rings. For example, if a blue player wants to build his or her crew from two to three, it costs two gold. One gold is for the movement from two to three crew. Another gold is expended to complete the movement; as the rules say, the gold is twice its regular cost. The blue player quickly built his cannon to three or four. The red player countered. The green player built up the crew to three or four. It is important to remember that, if a player has, say three crew and two cannon, the two cannon govern how many shots (dice)can be fired. The lowest number of crew or cannon is always counted in the upcoming battle.

Soon all three players realized they were not always firing at the right parts of the ship, crew, hull, sails, and cannon. Usually, the green player fired at the cannon to reduce its effectiveness. All of us should have fired more often at the sails. After all, the fastest sailing vessel in the conflict always fired first in the initial broadside. We should have also taken shots at the hull, because that would have lowered the ability of the ship to carry treasure.

Anyhow, ships limped back to Pirate's Cove for refitting. Every time we had too much treasure to carry, we dumped the treasure on Treasure Island. That is an incorrect interpretation of the rules; the treasure should be dumped in the open sea. Eventually, some of the five major islands ran out of their tavern cards. Battles became more intensive. The Flying Dutchman (four cannon) was spotted, and battles ensued. Firing was done against the Dutchman for the sails and cannon. One should have remembered the rule that legendary pirates only take hits in the hull; then, those ships are sunk and the treasure transferred to the victorious party.

Fleeing the battle scene is an important element in the game. Once the blue player is attacked, for example, and hit once, that player can opt to flee to Pirate's Cove Island. We did neglect to give the winning attacker one fame point as a result of the battle. If the fleeing occurs before one of its strength rings (say, crew)goes below its lowest level, the fleeing player has to roll for mutiny (1 and the pirate walks the plank and loses two fame points). No mutinies occurred on our die rolls; our pirates were lucky.

In spite of a few misinterpretations of the rules, the spirited game play resulted in the Blue Player having 21 points, and the other two players each receiving 7 points. The Cacafuego or the legendary pirate without any cannon was attacked numerous times during the game. The Blue Player loved beating up that ship and taking the treasure.

The boisterous laughter and the uproarious battles made this game a sure winner for another time and another hearty ho-ho and a bottle of rum.

 
 
 
 
 
One of the best themed games, ever.
December 15, 2003

Sometimes our wishes come true. Thus was the case of Pirates Cove (Days of Wonder, 2003 Paul Randels and Daniel Stahl). Ive always wanted to play Piratenbucht, but never bought it hoping that some day an English version would come out. And finally, one did and I was able to get a hold of a copy, looking forward to a game themed about pirates.

Pirates Cove was a winner for me on several levels. The components were tremendous, the theme was very well integrated into game play, and the game was a blast to play. Very few times do I play a game as brimming with theme as this one, so I was extremely happy to play a component-heavy, theme-heavy, rules-light game.

There is a bit of setup in this game, although it doesnt really take that long. A board is set up in the middle of the table, depicting the seven islands that are used in the game. A stack of treasure cards is shuffled, and a stack of twelve of these cards is placed on five of the islands (numbered 1-5). Another stack of Tavern cards is shuffled, with one card being dealt to each player, and the rest placed in a face down pile on Tavern Island (#1). Each player chooses a ship of their color, placing it in front of them, a matching colored fame marker, placed a the beginning of a scoring track, and a pirate ship mat. The pirate ship mat has four tracks on it sails, cannon, crew, and hull. The player takes four wooden rings of their color and places them on the second position of each of their tracks. Each player also receives doubloons worth nine gold, and a Captains wheel. All the remaining gold, and all the treasure chests are placed on Treasure Island (#6). The black ship piece is placed at Tavern Island, and one of the Legendary Pirate cards is flipped over to see who the pirate is.

The game is ready to begin, and will last twelve turns. Each turn is made up of six phases, during which players are seeking the most fame, or victory points.

Treasure Phase: The top card of each of the twelve stacks is turned over. On each card are four numbers, showing what a player will get if they plunder that island (amount of fame points, amount of doubloons, amount of treasure chests, and number of cards).

Navigation Phase: Each player secretly selects one of the six islands they want to go to, moving the arrow on their Captains wheel to the matching number. The seventh island (Pirates Cove) can only be gone to by stinkin cowards and players who have been defeated in battle. Simultaneously, all players show their wheels, and move their ships to these locations.

Combat Phase: There can only be one ship at each location, so if there are more than one, the ships must fight. If the black ship is there, the players must fight the pirate on the card (except for one card, which is a treasure ship!). (Combat does not occur at Pirates Cove or Treasure Island unless a pirate is at Treasure Island.) Each player uses the numbers on their ship mat to fight. The player who has the higher sail number fires first (ties are broken by a die roll), and fires their cannons. They may roll the amount of dice for however many crew and cannon they have (1 die for each matched pair, so if you have 5 crew and only 2 cannons, you can only roll one die). The player declares which section of which participating ship they are firing at, and roll the die. For each hit (5 or 6), the targeted ship must move the ring on that track down one number. If the ring goes off the track, the ship is crippled, and must immediately move to Pirates Cove. A player can also willingly move to Pirates Cove (the coward!) but must roll a die to see if a mutiny occurs (a 1, and then the captain must lose all their doubloons, treasure, and two points). Whenever a ship goes to Pirates Cove, all remaining ships gain one point. If a pirate ship is killed, the fame points on the pirates card are split between all players attacking that ship. Before and sometimes during battles, players may also play Tavern Cards that give them advantages.

Plunder Phase: Each player then plunders the island they are on, taking their loot (coins, chests, cards, and points.)

Upgrade Phase: Each player on islands 1-5 can upgrade their ship at those islands. At Tavern Island, the captain can buy up to three cards for two doubloons each. At each other island, the player can upgrade the associated part of their ship for the amounts required, and as far as they like. (For example, if a captain is at Island #2, Hull Island, they can upgrade their hull. They look at where their ring is on the track, and see how much money it costs to move it up one notch. If they can afford it, they can move it up as many notches as they like.) Some cards can also be played at this time to upgrade ships. Players at Pirates Cove get two gold and a Tavern card, or two Tavern Cards. They then must upgrade their crippled sections if they have any for two gold apiece. Players at Treasure Island may bury (lose) treasures for one fame point each, and doubloons, for one fame point per three coins lost. They may also upgrade their ships any part, but for double the cost.

Before the game begins, players can upgrade any levels of their ship, using the nine gold they start with. This is entirely optional for the players, however.

Last Phase: The black ship moves one island (from 5 to 6, 6 to 1, etc.). Also, each player must check the amount of treasure chests that they have on their ships. If the number is greater than their hull number, they must discard the extras. All face-up treasure cards on the islands are now discarded, and another round begins.

After the twelfth round, when all the treasure cards are discarded, the game ends, and all players reveal their Tavern Cards. If they have Tavern cards worth Fame points, their score is adjusted accordingly. The player who has the most fame is declared the winner! (Ties are fought in an epic ship battle.)

Comments on the Game:

1.) Components: Days of Wonder is consistently putting out games that have marvelous components, and this one is no exception. Wonderful pirate artwork runs all over the rulebook, the box, the cards, the board, and the maps. The board could have been seven blobs and some numbers, but it looks really fantastic, like a treasure map. (Although the lines are confusing, and may lead new players to think that the squares created by these lines are spaces for their ships to move in.) The captains wheels are nice, and the spinners on them move loosely, but too much so. The cards are small, but functional, and very easy to read. The dice, rings, and ships are all of excellent quality. Im especially fond of the brown treasure chests, just because I applaud Days of Wonder for actually making little rectangular parallelepipeds instead of cubes. I think it adds a lot to the theme. Everything comes provided in little plastic bags (are you listening, other companies!) and everything fits terrifically in the plastic insert in the nice sized square box. Days of Wonder gets an A+ here, I can barely think how they could have improved.

2.) Rules: This is one of the best rulebooks I have seen in a long time. Twelve pages of full-colored piratey goodness abounded, with examples, illustrations, a detailed picture of setup, and easy to read formatting. If they handed out Oscars for games, this one would win the best rulebook award. And for all the details abounding in the game, I still found that the game was fairly easy to teach. People catch onto the nuances of the game quickly, and the only thing that people get hung up on are the cards.

3.) The cards: The cards add quite a bit of variety to the game. The powerful parrot cards can be added to ships to give them huge advantages. Yet these same parrots can be killed in battles, costing their owners victory points. There were no cards that I felt to be too powerful, and getting a lot of cards seems to be a viable strategy. Some cards even allow the Royal Navy to be sent after other pirates a fairly dangerous enemy!

4.) The battles: The battles are rather random, and I have often seen an inferior ship beat a much better ship (or a powerful pirate). But the battles, even though they are random, are a whole lot of fun! The excitement that hits the table as the dice are rolled, and cards played is electrifying, and everyone has a great time (while yelling out pirate phrases and screaming about walking the plank).

5.) The pirates: The Legendary pirates are interesting. Blackbeard is a monster who can only be taken down if the players work together (and do they really want to do that?) Captain Hook and Ann Bonny are easier, but still deadly enemies, and the Flying Dutchman is almost impossible to kill. I really like the variety of the pirates, even though only one or two will most likely make it into a game. I also liked how the mechanics of the game had the pirate land on Treasure Island during the last turn of the game.

6.) Theme and Fun Factor: The mechanics of the game are fun, and I think I would like the game without the theme. But I LOVE it with the theme, because its just so much fun. And the fun doubles when all the players get into the spirit of the game. Screams, threats, and hoarse songs can fill the air, and everyone will laugh as they play a game thats just over-the-top fun. Even playing with a more serious group (and I have) the game still is fun but give me a group of gamers any day. Many times games seem to have the theme pasted on, but in this game the theme runs through it like a delicious frosting, and really makes the game an all time great.

7.) Players and Time: I wish that the game supported six players, but its fun with five, and enjoyable. For everything thats happening in the game, it still runs quickly, usually only a little over an hour. Once players figure out how the Navigation phase works, the whole thing runs smoothly. (And the nice box and bags make it very easy to clean up and put away.)

Pirates Cove is quickly becoming one of my favorite games Ive played in 2003, and thats saying a lot (Ive played quite a few this year). Even though there may be games out there with more strategy, or better tactics, very few come close to rivaling this game in the pure fun that comes with it. And yet, at the same time, it DOES have strategy, bluffing, and tactics. Wrap all that up in a nice, bits-crazy package, and you have a winner. Days of Wonder is constantly producing great game after great game, and this is the best one theyve done yet. If you havent played it yet, I urge you to do so. (Unless you dont play games for fun, then ignore this review.)

Tom Vasel

 
 
 
 
 
by Bill
'Arg this pirate game be a lot o fun!'
February 05, 2003

AARRG MATIES!!! Piratenbuch (Pirates' Cove) is an interesting and very fun game of plundering islands to improve your ship, fighting fellow pirates, defending yourself against the royal navy, and attempting to defeat the very famous pirate, Blackbeard. All of this is done to become the most famous pirate at the end of the game.

We play games two times a week and end up playing Piratenbuch at least once each night. Although the game box states that play time is about 1 hour, we generally finish games in about one hour. I have tried several different strategies and have not found any to be over (or under) powerful.

The game itself is very well made with a heavy duty folding board, wooden play pieces and quality cards. After 30+ playings there are virtually no worn or damaged parts.

All of this and getting to talk like pirates too (aarrrrg)!

 
 
 
 
 
Best Days of Wonder Game
January 24, 2010

Ticket to Ride is a great game, but Pirate's Cove is better. How is that possible, you ask? This game is short-ish (less than 2 hours) loaded with variables that makes each play unique.

You can play this game in an aggressive style, vindictive style, passive style or just totally random style and have a lot of fun. Should you go on the offensive, attacking the legendary pirates and other players? Or slip around the crowd going from island to island collecting your booty.

There's a good dose of both luck and strategy in this game, and you need to watch what the other players are doing, so you can best guesstimate which islands to avoid or sail toward.

It's fun because all players are engaged at the same time and there is no time element to be aware of. Everyone makes a decision, for better or worse, collects booty, upgrades their ships and best of all: Fires cannon balls at each other! Bombs away!

If you've played this game too many times and want a slight variation, have the movement of the legendary pirate be random. Roll a d6 to see where they will end up. Or if you're really feeling like an adventure, have two legendary pirates on the board with one going clockwise and the other movements random.

 
 
 
 
 
by Paul R.
Pirate's Cove is fun for some.
July 02, 2008

This game in a nutshell is easy in concept. It is all the little rules and details that make this a game that is hard to teach. This is definitely not a game for 8+ as the box says. I tried teaching this to some young teens and they were lost.

The components I think I are great and a good value for the money. The game play is a bit unbalanced. If you get knocked down in one category on you ship people know what you need and where you need to go. If they want to mess with you they can keep you down. It can be frustrating for that player. I find the customization and mix of luck this game provides to be a fun mix. It is one of my favorite the last few weeks. Do I think this will be my favorite game of all time? No, but for an occasional game with a lot of the pirate feel it is a good game to play.

I recommend it as a fun game that isn't meant to be taken as too competitive. The luck aspects in the game I feel take the game goal off of strategy and more on fun.

I give the game 4/5

 
 
 
 
 
Not for the wife
October 11, 2006

My wife didn't care for the game after only playing it once. That kind of sets the stage for this game. If you can get people to play it more than once, they start to see the value of the game and how many different strategy techniques are involved. The first time you play it, it will take over an hour to finish the 12 rounds. But after that, it goes much faster. Once everyone understands how to count their dubloons, roll for combat and collect their treasure and cards, play goes pretty quickly.

The web site for the company that makes the game is very active with variations on the game to make it a two player game and create some interesting rule changes.

The board and components are very well done: A+

Be patient with the game and you'll enjoy it.

 
 
 
 
 
Lots of Fun...If You Don't Take it Too Seriously!
November 22, 2005
I love this game! But if you're looking for a serious strategy game, this isn't the one for you. Yes there is a fair amount of strategy involved, but most of the outcomes are decided by dice rolls during combat. Additionally, the Tavern cards add some unexpected twists that will either help or hinder your progress, depending when and how you play them. In this game you must strike a good balance between building up your ship, avoiding combat if you can, and collecting as much gold/treasure/fame as possible--but remember, you only have 12 turns to make it all happen! I tend to avoid combat whenever possible, since it tends to chip away heavily at your ship and your resources, but some people will have fun in trying to conquer the competition. I consider this the perfect "filler" game between "serious" games, since it's fun, beautiful to look at, and doesn't take long to play, once you get the hang of it. I hope you enjoy this game as much as my friends and I do.
 
 
 
 
 
by A Gamer
Naysayers can walk the plank ... arrgh!
November 12, 2004

I've read and written enough reviews now to know there are always naysayers out there who feel it is their sworn duty to find fault with virtually every game published. They keep holding out for the perfect game ... one with no luck, no dice or other randomizers, unlimited replayablilty, and yet still more fun than anything else ever devised by man. Well, ignore all of them when you consider buying/playing Pirate's Cove!

This game is exactly what it claims to be ... a highly entertaining, somewhat tongue-in- cheek game simulating action on the high seas -- complete with pirates, treasure, cannon fire, and yes, the good or bad fortune of catching a fair wind or languishing in the doldrums.

If you're looking for light-hearted entertainment, a chance seek your fortune on the high seas, and some good old fashioned swashbuckling action, then I highly recommend this game.

If you're looking for the "perfect game" then I highly recommend you snap out of it. It doesn't exist ... never has, never will.

 
 
 
 
 
by Scala
Very enjoyable but has downtime and lots of dice throwing..
August 29, 2004

Deserves the high ratings given by earlier reviews, except that:

1) Downtime can be long when you are not involved in lenghty battles between other ships who end up in the same island(s) -especially if the pirates are firing blank!

2) There is a LOT of dice throwing!

Other than that, its fun, and looks great!

Oh, and something we couldnt figure out - why would you risk attacking a legendary pirate? Especially as there easier ways to earn fame, gold and treasure?

Notwithstanding my comments, I would recommend it!

 
 
 
 
 
Can be hard to teach, but worth the effort!
June 28, 2004

Pirate's Cove is one of the first designer games (I prefer that term!) I introduced my friends to and it was very well accepted. The pirates theme is very prevalent throughout the game and greatly adds to the enjoyment.

My main comment to add to everyone else's is that if you purchase this game, take the time to read the rules in detail. The game can be a challenge to teach, in particular the Tavern Cards, but once everyone has the rules down, it is a simple game. Dont let this scare you off!

I highly recommend this game on the basis of:

1. Theme draws in people who dont typically play designer games.

2. Theme adds to the enjoyment/experience of the game.

3. Player interaction is very high and there is very little downtime except when other people are fighting each other.

One of my friends even showed up to my house in costume because he liked the game so much the first time he played.

 
 
 
 
 
Eye patch not included
September 12, 2002

Piratenbuch (Pirates' Cove) is a simple game of combat combined with what might be called resource management. Each player has a ship with ratings in four areas: guns and crew, which determine how many dice are rolled in combat; sails, which determine initiative or first roll; and hull, which determines how much treasure can be carried. As captain, you can upgrade the rating for each area by spending gold in a port that has the appropriate facilities. In combat, you attempt to reduce the ratings of your opponent.

In each turn, all players secretly choose a destination from among five islands (ports), each of which offers a variable amount of fame, gold, treasure, and special cards to the pirate who plunders it. Combat ensues whenever two or more players choose the same island, and continues until all but one ship has fled or been forced to retire by the destruction of one of its rated areas. Action cards and combat cards add variety; for example, the Grapple Attack (boarding) negates the effect of cannon and forces both sides to fight with crew only, which can be useful if you happen to have more crew than can effectively man your guns, or if your opponent has the fearful Six Gun Salute. The Royal Navy card allows you to betray a pirate at another island and forces him to engage in combat with a strong frigate under your command. Further, the dread pirate Blackbeard roams the islands with his powerful ship, effectively blocking access to a different port (or two ports, in a three-player game) each turn until one or more players feel confident enough to take him on.

The object is to acquire fame by defeating enemy ships, burying treasure on Treasure Island, and collecting Tall Tale cards, which serve as hidden victory points.

The game is a sort of amalgam of the German and American styles: simple and very playable, with beautiful components, but with a lot of dice-rolling. There isn't a lot of strategy involved, other than in deciding how much emphasis you want to put on firepower as opposed to a capacious hold and enough sail to escape unscathed from nasty situations. There are a few interesting tactical choices: for example, do you aim for your opponent's hull, hoping to force him to jettison treasure, or do you try to reduce his crew, knowing that Blackbeard will be blockading the recruiting port next turn?

All in all this is a very attractive game, and can be a lot of fun for a group of people who don't mind a little aggressive role-playing and who aren't put off by the considerable element of chance involved.

 
 
 
 
 
Pirate's Cove: Dripping with atmosphere, but little
February 22, 2006

Days of Wonder
3 - 5 Players, 1.5 - 2 hours
Designed by: Paul Randles and Daniel Stahl
Reviewed by: Greg J. Schloesser

Days of Wonder is specializing in releasing games with rich themes and high production values. Queen's Necklace, Fist of Dragonstones and Mystery in the Abbey have all been characterized by high quality components and beautiful artwork. The approach is risky, as these games carry a higher price-point on the market. The good folks at Days of Wonder are banking that customers will pay a bit more for games with better components and production values. Only time will tell if their approach proves profitable.

Pirate's Cove is certainly in line with this approach. A remake of last year's Amigo release of Piratenbucht by the late designer Paul Randles and Daniel Stahl, Pirate's Cove an abundance of hefty bits, including colorful sailing ships and decorative player mats. What is surprising about this release, however, is that the game is still available as Piratenbucht in most markets. Mystery of the Abbey was also a re-release of a previously issued title, but the original had been out-of-print for quite some time and sought after by many gamers. Releasing Pirate's Cove when the original is still available seems to be yet another risky move.

Once certainly cannot quibble with the theme; the game has a rich pirate atmosphere, with players striving to plunder gold and booty from various islands, while fighting other players and various infamous pirates. The tavern cards are filled with appropriate events that add to the experience.

The board depicts five perimeter islands and two central islands. Each island not only provides a variety of booty, but also gives the player visiting it the opportunity to upgrade one area of his ship. The choice as to which island to visit each turn is at the heart of the game and the mechanism used to determine this is lifted from the Hols der Geier method of simultaneous card play. Instead of cards, however, players each have a ship's wheel on which they dial their planned destination.

Each player is in possession of a player mat that depicts his sailing ship. Each ship has four important areas that can be upgraded during the course of the game: sails (faster speed and initiative in combat), crew (to man the guns), guns (more shots in combat) and hull (greater "booty" capacity). Upgrades are purchased at various islands and sometimes can be acquired by various cards acquired at the tavern.

The game is played over 12 turns. Each turn, a card depicting the booty available to the player visiting that island is revealed at each of the perimeter islands. Each treasure card will yield fame points (victory points), gold, treasure chests and/or tavern cards. Once all cards are revealed, players secretly dial their destination on their ship's wheels. Aside from the five perimeter islands, players can also visit the main center island, where, in the best pirate tradition, they can bury their loot.

Once all players have dialed their destination, the wheels are revealed and ships moved to their dialed locations. If every player went to a different location, there is no conflict and players acquire the rewards awaiting at the island they visited or bury their treasure if they visited the center island. Visiting the tavern allows the player to purchase up to three tavern cards, which have various effects (ship improvements, advantages in combat, fame points, etc.)

If, however, more than one player visits a particular island, a conflict ensues. Pirates simply don't get along with other pirates and their differences are settled violently. Each battle begins with players each playing a tavern card that can affect a battle. Then, the player with the fastest ship gets the opportunity to either flee, a disgraceful act that earn his opponent fame, or unleash a volley. Damage is assessed, then his opponent has the same options.

When firing, a player targets a specific area of his opponent's ship. A number of dice equal to the number of guns manned by crews are then rolled, with each 5 or 6 rolled scoring a hit. The opponent suffers damage to the targeted area, marking this on his player mat. The battle continues with each player having the option to fire or flee. If no one flees, the battle finally ends when one player's ship is crippled, which occurs when one of his ship's areas is reduced to zero. At this point, that ship automatically flees to the Pirate's Cove island located at the center of the board. This will give that player the opportunity to repair his damaged ship and live to fight another day.

To the victor goes the spoils; he earns one point for his victory and gets to liberate the booty depicted on the treasure card on the island. Further, he may upgrade the area of his ship that is pictured on that island.

All ships that visited treasure island (no fighting is allowed here) may bury their gold, receiving victory points for the hoarded loot. Each treasure chest yields a victory point, while every three gold coins buried also yields a point.

Finally, the "black pirate" moves one island in a clockwise fashion. The black pirate is one of four infamous pirates that may make an appearance. They are tremendously powerful and any ship who moves to the island where this vile ship is located will be forced to fight this formidable foe. If the player should prevail, however, copious amounts of victory points will be his reward.

Play continues for 12 rounds. At that point, players reveal any tavern cards that reward fame points, adding those points to their total. The player with the most points is the winner and the "most fearsome pirate in all the High Seas!"

It is worth mentioning that there are a few minor differences between Pirate's Cove and the earlier Piratenbucht. Most notably, there are several different "black pirates" that can appear and more than one can be present at the same time. There are also some different tavern cards, including parrots, which increase one aspect of a player's ship, but cost him fame points if killed.

Although dripping with atmosphere, the game doesn't really involve a great deal of strategy. As mentioned, the main mechanism is the simultaneous revealing of planned destinations, which involves attempting to guess where your opponents might be going and choosing a different destination. Of course, if you've invested in a strong ship, you may desire to choose a destination where you believe an opponent might go, just so you can batter his ship and earn a fame point for the victory. However, that is a costly decision as it is likely your ship will suffer damage, too, and the cost of repairing it is more than the 1 victory point you might possibly earn. So, when all things are considered, it is usually the wisest choice to attempt to select a destination that will not be selected by your opponents. Sadly, this is just a matter of guess work and luck.

To be sure, there are decisions to make. However, this doesn't overcome the fact that the game is mostly one of luck. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as the game is a fun romp and entertaining. It is also fun getting into the spirit, singing pirate songs and making constant "ARRGHH" outbursts. However, there isn't much "meat" here. I enjoy a light, fun game, but usually desire them to be of shorter duration. My three games of Pirate's Cove have all lasted from 90 minutes - 2 hours. I generally want games of this duration to be more on the strategy side of the chart.

I've only played the game with fellow gamers, so cannot firmly state whether it makes for a good family game or not. I certainly think it has most of the characteristics of a good family game: fairly easy to learn, great atmosphere and lots of interaction. Even the battles don't result in a player being eliminated. My biggest concern, however, is the time investment. Most family games seem to be designed to be played in an hour or so. However, there are exceptions, so it must may be that the game's strong points can overcome its slightly long duration.

For me, Pirate's Cove falls into a category that is dangerous: it is a good game that is fun to play, but doesn't rise to a level where I feel the urge to play it. That may ultimately doom the game and send it to the Bayou Bazaar, but not quite yet. This is not a condemnation, however, but merely a statement on how many games I have competing for table time. The average family -- and perhaps even many gamers -- will own far fewer games and would therefore have less games competing for playing time. Thus, I feel that most families and gamers just might have a more favorable reaction to Pirate's Cove than me.

 
 
 
 
 
Great for kids (And by kids I mean teenage boys)
October 01, 2004

This is one of those games that I have to strongly recommend doing your homework before buying.

Pirate's Cove is not a strategy game by any stretch of the imagination. Basically it is a game where you try to out-guess your opponents. Every player chooses an island to go to, if another player went to the same island they have to fight. The loser gets nothing and has to sail back to Pirate's Cove to repair his damaged ship. The winner takes all the booty, and gets fame points for winning the fight. Then you do it all over again, 12 times (representing one year) and the person with the most fame points is the winner.

Quite simple, and quite appealing to a certain age group. Believe it or not I have noticed that even younger girls (11-14) like the game. The game has a very strong theme, nothing abstract about this one.

Pirate's Cove has limited appeal for people who have matured enough to no longer play pirates, yet will hold the attention of adults longer than most kid's games. It is a must buy for parents who have kids (boys) between the ages of 8 and 15. They will likely love it. You might even be persuaded to play with them occasionally.

 
 
 
 
 
Lots of atmosphere ... but lots of luck, too.
January 07, 2004

Days of Wonder is specializing in releasing games with rich themes and high production values. Queens Necklace, Fist of Dragonstones and Mystery in the Abbey have all been characterized by high quality components and beautiful artwork. The approach is risky, as these games carry a higher price-point on the market. The good folks at Days of Wonder are banking that customers will pay a bit more for games with better components and production values. Only time will tell if their approach proves profitable.

Pirates Cove is certainly in line with this approach. A remake of last years Amigo release of Piratenbucht by the late designer Paul Randles and Daniel Stahl, Pirates Cove an abundance of hefty bits, including colorful sailing ships and decorative player mats. What is surprising about this release, however, is that the game is still available as Piratenbucht in most markets. Mystery of the Abbey was also a re-release of a previously issued title, but the original had been out-of-print for quite some time and sought after by many gamers. Releasing Pirates Cove when the original is still available seems to be yet another risky move.

Once certainly cannot quibble with the theme; the game has a rich pirate atmosphere, with players striving to plunder gold and booty from various islands, while fighting other players and various infamous pirates. The tavern cards are filled with appropriate events that add to the experience.

The board depicts five perimeter islands and two central islands. Each island not only provides a variety of booty, but also gives the player visiting it the opportunity to upgrade one area of his ship. The choice as to which island to visit each turn is at the heart of the game and the mechanism used to determine this is lifted from the Hols der Geier method of simultaneous card play. Instead of cards, however, players each have a ships wheel on which they dial their planned destination.

Each player is in possession of a player mat that depicts his sailing ship. Each ship has four important areas that can be upgraded during the course of the game: sails (faster speed and initiative in combat), crew (to man the guns), guns (more shots in combat) and hull (greater booty capacity). Upgrades are purchased at various islands and sometimes can be acquired by various cards acquired at the tavern.

The game is played over 12 turns. Each turn, a card depicting the booty available to the player visiting that island is revealed at each of the perimeter islands. Each treasure card will yield fame points (victory points), gold, treasure chests and/or tavern cards. Once all cards are revealed, players secretly dial their destination on their ships wheels. Aside from the five perimeter islands, players can also visit the main center island, where, in the best pirate tradition, they can bury their loot.

Once all players have dialed their destination, the wheels are revealed and ships moved to their dialed locations. If every player went to a different location, there is no conflict and players acquire the rewards awaiting at the island they visited or bury their treasure if they visited the center island. Visiting the tavern allows the player to purchase up to three tavern cards, which have various effects (ship improvements, advantages in combat, fame points, etc.)

If, however, more than one player visits a particular island, a conflict ensues. Pirates simply dont get along with other pirates and their differences are settled violently. Each battle begins with players each playing a tavern card that can affect a battle. Then, the player with the fastest ship gets the opportunity to either flee, a disgraceful act that earn his opponent fame, or unleash a volley. Damage is assessed, then his opponent has the same options.

When firing, a player targets a specific area of his opponents ship. A number of dice equal to the number of guns manned by crews are then rolled, with each 5 or 6 rolled scoring a hit. The opponent suffers damage to the targeted area, marking this on his player mat. The battle continues with each player having the option to fire or flee. If no one flees, the battle finally ends when one players ship is crippled, which occurs when one of his ships areas is reduced to zero. At this point, that ship automatically flees to the Pirates Cove island located at the center of the board. This will give that player the opportunity to repair his damaged ship and live to fight another day.

To the victor goes the spoils; he earns one point for his victory and gets to liberate the booty depicted on the treasure card on the island. Further, he may upgrade the area of his ship that is pictured on that island.

All ships that visited treasure island (no fighting is allowed here) may bury their gold, receiving victory points for the hoarded loot. Each treasure chest yields a victory point, while every three gold coins buried also yields a point.

Finally, the black pirate moves one island in a clockwise fashion. The black pirate is one of four infamous pirates that may make an appearance. They are tremendously powerful and any ship who moves to the island where this vile ship is located will be forced to fight this formidable foe. If the player should prevail, however, copious amounts of victory points will be his reward.

Play continues for 12 rounds. At that point, players reveal any tavern cards that reward fame points, adding those points to their total. The player with the most points is the winner and the most fearsome pirate in all the High Seas!

It is worth mentioning that there are a few minor differences between Pirates Cove and the earlier Piratenbucht. Most notably, there are several different black pirates that can appear and more than one can be present at the same time. There are also some different tavern cards, including parrots, which increase one aspect of a players ship, but cost him fame points if killed.

Although dripping with atmosphere, the game doesnt really involve a great deal of strategy. As mentioned, the main mechanism is the simultaneous revealing of planned destinations, which involves attempting to guess where your opponents might be going and choosing a different destination. Of course, if youve invested in a strong ship, you may desire to choose a destination where you believe an opponent might go, just so you can batter his ship and earn a fame point for the victory. However, that is a costly decision as it is likely your ship will suffer damage, too, and the cost of repairing it is more than the 1 victory point you might possibly earn. So, when all things are considered, it is usually the wisest choice to attempt to select a destination that will not be selected by your opponents. Sadly, this is just a matter of guess work and luck.

To be sure, there are decisions to make. However, this doesnt overcome the fact that the game is mostly one of luck. Thats not necessarily a bad thing, as the game is a fun romp and entertaining. It is also fun getting into the spirit, singing pirate songs and making constant ARRGHH outbursts. However, there isnt much meat here. I enjoy a light, fun game, but usually desire them to be of shorter duration. My three games of Pirates Cove have all lasted from 90 minutes 2 hours. I generally want games of this duration to be more on the strategy side of the chart.

Ive only played the game with fellow gamers, so cannot firmly state whether it makes for a good family game or not. I certainly think it has most of the characteristics of a good family game: fairly easy to learn, great atmosphere and lots of interaction. Even the battles dont result in a player being eliminated. My biggest concern, however, is the time investment. Most family games seem to be designed to be played in an hour or so. However, there are exceptions, so it must may be that the games strong points can overcome its slightly long duration.

For me, Pirates Cove falls into a category that is dangerous: it is a good game that is fun to play, but doesnt rise to a level where I feel the urge to play it. That may ultimately doom the game and send it to the Bayou Bazaar, but not quite yet. This is not a condemnation, however, but merely a statement on how many games I have competing for table time. The average family and perhaps even many gamers will own far fewer games and would therefore have less games competing for playing time. Thus, I feel that most families and gamers just might have a more favorable reaction to Pirates Cove than me.

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