Battleship Command: Pirates of the Caribbean
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The classic naval combat game has gone vertical! Wage a decisive sea battle on the multi-level grid, with more ships, added powers, and more ways to sink the enemy. Special game rules give ships multiple power options. To win, sink all of your enemy's ships -- before he sends yours to Davy Jones' locker!
I really wanted to like BattleShip Command, a new take on the old Battleship formula. But alas, the game is flawed in a number of ways.
The back of the box really makes BattleShip Command look intriguing. You get to command a fleet of hand-picked ships from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. And each of the ships has special abilities! And what's this? Each ship has a "Sweet Spot" that triggers some special event if hit! Sounds very cool!
I always liked Battleship even though it's not the most engaging game on the planet. Though it can border on tedious, the underlying concept of the game always appealed to me. Suddenly we have a new Battleship with some advanced concepts. I really thought it was going to be a winner. However, it only took one game to see that the new rules and gameplay do not ultimately raise Battleship to new heights. :(
Without reciting the rules, I'll provide a quick summary of the game.
Each player chooses 6 ships from a deck of 36 cards. However, there are actually only 12 ships to choose from because each ship has three different card variations that place the ship in slightly different locations on the grid. Each ship has a point value printed on its card.
Each player then chooses 3 ships of their fleet (of 6) to place into battle. Each named ship is unique. Only one player at a time can control the Kraken or the Black Pearl, etc. The player controls their ships on the left side of the board (mast) and records hits and misses on the right side. The special abilities of each players' ships are visible to everyone at all times.
Gameplay consists of a player selecting one of their ships to fire. That player then names their intended target and proceeds to fire 1 shot, unless their ship has a special ability to fire more times (most ships do).
The game has 3 default "Objectives" (Victory Conditions). At the start of the game, the players agree on one objective as their goal, the only difference being the length of time you'll invest in the game. They are:
1) Be the first to capture enough of your opponent's ships to score 1500 points.
2) Be the first to capture enough of your opponent's ships to score 2500 points.
3) Be the first to capture your opponent's entire fleet.
Capturing (sinking) a ship can occur in two ways:
1) Achieve hits on every "hit grid" of your opponent's ship.
2) Hit the single "Sweet Spot" square on your opponent's ship.
Once a ship is captured, your opponent must surrender that ship card to you physically. They now have to option to send another of their remaining 3 ships into battle in that spot. I have no idea why one might elect *not* to do this.
What Went Wrong:
Here are the reasons why the game does not live up to expectations:
1) Physical problem - The pegs are slightly TOO SMALL for the holes! They do not "wedge into" the holes tightly like in the original Battleship game. This causes them to drop out of the vertical game board with the slightest touch. Did ANYBODY playtest this game? This would have been the first problem I would have mentioned. Extremely annoying.
2) Physical problem - The design of the transparent game board causes shadows to project onto your ship cards in place. This makes it a bit difficult to see the hit grid on your ships. I can easily think of ways they could have designed the game board to eliminate this, but it would have taken more effort on their part.
3) Gameplay problem - Some ships are clearly MUCH more powerful than others. The Kraken can fire 8 times per turn. Obviously, if I control the Kraken I'm going to use that "ship" to fire every single turn. I have no incentive to actually use any of my other ships.
3) Gameplay problem - The Sweet Spot. I really thought this was going to be a cool concept, but the rules disappointed me. Hitting the Sweet Spot is an automatic kill. The Sweet Spots are always in realistic locations (ie, powder keg, Jack Sparrow's cabin, rudder), therefore they are ALWAYS in the lower part of the ship and therefore the lower part of the grid!! Thus, (for most ships) the player has no incentive to ever fire more than 3 rows above the bottom of the grid!
Also, the existence of the Sweet Spot makes the other method of capturing a ship (hitting every spot on the "hit grid") moot. You will always hit the Sweet Spot before completing the grid.
If you are attacking with the Kraken (8 shots) it is possible to win the game in a single turn without giving your opponent an opportunity to fire.
I think that the Sweet Spot concept can be improved with house rules. I'm going to play that the Sweet Spot counts as a Critical Hit. If hit, the player also scores hits on the eight surrounding grid spaces.
Damn, the physical problem with the pegs and the game board is a killer for me. I just shake my head that they allowed this to happen. However, I must point out that the plastic pegs are made of the same soft-ish plastic of the original Battleship pegs... so you can deform them slightly by biting on them to make them fit much more securely. But must the customer be forced to "fix" the game on our own?
The Sweet Spot problem can be fixed with house rules as I have mentioned above, so that's not so much a game killer. The idea is great, but the official implementation is a little problematic.
Overall, the game components are average... they could have been much better and they could have been worse. The ship cards are unfortunately flimsy, but they are not meant to be continually handled throughout the game either. Still, a thicker cardstock would have been appreciated.
The game owner is required to apply stickers to the game pieces in order to finish it off. Take note that these stickers are applied in a specific order and the borders molded into the plastic exactly fit the stickers. There is no "play" as you'll often find when applying stickers to kids toys. I considered this a good thing.
I'm not sure if I can recommend this game. A few more playings with house rules might see me warming up to the game... I'm not sure. I'll report back.