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You're one of the famous pirates of the Santy Anno. After a long night partying, 7 pirates and a seagull are looking for their ship, the notorious Santy Anno! The first one to find her and get on board will become the captain, the other demoted to ship's boys! Logical thinking and good observation are key to success!
Ca$h and Gun$ was one of the surprise hits of 2006 for me; I simply couldn’t believe how much fun it was – pointing fake guns at each other and wondering if the other player was bluffing or not. Everywhere I’ve taken the game it has become a hugely popular hit; so when I saw the next game from the same company – Santy Anno (Repos Production, 2006 – Gerard Mathieu), I was immediately interested, especially as the theme had something to do with pirates. When I got the small box, I was even more impressed with all the neat components inside (although nothing like the foam guns of the former game). Would this be just as good?
Well, I think I may have to sadly say “no” here. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy the game – but I think that the audience is fairly limited here. For one thing, the game is a mix between a brain burner and a party game. Players are attempting to actually run around a table as fast as they can, while attempting to follow a complicated movement in their heads. When I taught the game, reactions were mixed, with some liking the somber thoughtfulness doused in silliness, and others being turned off by one or the other. Older teenagers were the only ones that seemed to really like the game, although it’s the type of game that one person who is quicker than the rest can dominate.
Up to eight players can play – each taking a different pirate token and the matching color “scuttle” token. Eight ships are placed around a table (regardless of players), and a “harbor” board is placed in the middle of the table. A pile of ducats is placed near the boards, and a deck of boarding cards is shuffled. Players randomly place their pirate next to one of the eight ships and stand behind the chair at that position. The first of five rounds is ready to begin.
Each round occurs with one player (the Bosun) revealing five cards face up in a line next to the harbor. Players must then use the cards to figure out which ship their pirate is supposed to go to. They then find the ship and sit in the chair in front of it, placing their scuttle on the harbor or on top of any scuttles already there. Two or more players may sit in the same chair, although only one really belongs there. Once everyone is sitting, the Bosun uses the cards on the table to carefully move the pirates to the ships they are supposed to be on. The first player (the pile of scuttles is used to determine order) who correctly picked their ship gets five coins; the next gets four, until the fifth (if there is one) gets one.
Of course, the game is all about knowing how to move from ship to ship. The eight ships are all different but share common traits with the other ships. Ships are divided into four main parts: crow’s nest, sails, hull, and nameplate. Each is one of four colors (green, red, blue, and yellow) and matches only one other ship. Ships are also numbered from “1” to “8”, share a starting letter with one other ship (the “Vivacia” and “Viper” for example), and has a parrot in one of the four corners. When moving from ship to ship, players must follow the cards laid on the table, in order. Each card moves the pirate to a new ship, and they then look for the next ship. When they get to the final ship, THAT is where they sit. The cards that are revealed determine how to move:
- Color: A card that shows one of the four colors means that the pirate must move to the ship that has the same color element. For example, if a green card is turned over, and I’m at a ship with green sails; I must move the other ship with green sails.
- Element: A card that shows one of the four elements means that a player must move to the ship with the matching colored element. For example, if a hull card is turned over, and I’m at a ship with a blue hull; I must move to the ship with the other blue hull.
- Partial Element: These cards are the exact same as an element card, except that they show a color crossed out. If the player is on a ship with the element of that color, they do NOT move.
- Name: The player moves to the ship that starts with the same initial as the ship they are on. Some name cards have one letter crossed out; those pirates do NOT move.
- Numbers: There are two numbers on the card (such as “+5”/”-3”). The player adds the number to the number of the ship that they are on, using the number that will give them a positive result. That ship is the number that they move to.
Some cards are only used in the expert game. These are:
- Helm: These cards show a direction, and all pirates move that many
ships in that direction.
- Coco: These cards show Coco, the parrot. Players move to the ship that has the parrot in the same corner as their ship.
- Double element: These cards show two elements. The player switches the colors and moves to the corresponding ship.
There are also six event cards with four different events. A player can use these to add even more chaos to the game. They can make players walk backwards, skip ships, switch boarding cards, etc.
In the second round, players use six cards, seven in the third round, eight in the fourth round, and nine in the fifth round. In the last two rounds, players must also run around the table completely before sitting down. After all five rounds, the player with the most money is the winner!
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The small box comes jammed full of components – mostly tiles and cards. The artwork on all of them is very cartoony and certainly fits the theme. Color-blind people aren’t going to have much luck – mostly because they won’t be able to differentiate between the cards, but the ships and pirates all look different. The game has a very “light” feel, although you could replace the pirate theme with just about anything and never notice. As light as the theme is and as funny as the artwork is, I will issue a caution to parents that one of the pirate’s bodies is covered with curses, and there is a bit of cartoon nudity on the ships. Other than that, the components are high quality, which is fairly useful, since many of them are being slammed on the table at different points.
2.) Rules: The rulebook, which has five fully-colored pages dedicated to English, is clearly laid out and explains the cards (the main feature of the game) quite clearly. I will say that I was a bit befuddled at first as to how exactly the game played, because the theme (drunk pirates attempting to find their ship) seemed a bit odd when actually applied. Teaching the game is fairly simple, although I’ve found that players need demonstrations of how each of the cards work, and it often takes a good part of the game for some of them to “get it.”
3.) Brain burning: Santy Anno makes you think and requires deep thought in a short period of time. The game itself reminds me of Ricochet Robots in that a player is spinning their mental wheels, moving pirates in their head until they reach their final destination. It sounds like it’s not too difficult, but it’s a lot harder than you would think – especially when the expert cards are in the mix, and you are moving the pirate nine times. Couple this with the fact that you must do it as fast as possible, and the game can really wreak havoc with your mind. I don’t mind games that make me think hard and fast; but this is most certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, and Santy Anno has the possibility of frustrating many players.
4.) Party time: Santy Anno certainly breaks ground (I think) in that it’s the first party game that requires intense concentration and heavy thinking often found in slower deduction games such as Sleuth. However, the design is coupled with running around the table and sitting in seats as fast as you can – often in another person’s lap! The game provides some extra pirate components that allow players to partially ignore this, but simply placing a pirate chip at the ship where they are going. I certainly understand the attraction of running around the table, although I have to say it doesn’t appeal to me and is hard on the furniture. Because of this element alone, I would say that the game is geared towards the younger crowd, who would find such physical hijinks hilarious. I personally don’t mind the speed of the game mixed with the thinking, but running around the table and falling down, etc. doesn’t excite me that much.
5.) Fun Factor: The game will provide a lot of fun to those who like to do mental maneuvering in their heads. It will also provide fun for those who like to physical maneuvering around the table. The problem lies in the fact that I think these two factors will barely meet, causing the game to have a much lesser audience. And really, I can see how you CAN have fun thinking hard, then dashing around the table. Unfortunately, I can’t see how that happens very often.
6.) Expert: I personally prefer the game adding in the extra ship cards, simply because there are more options for players to think about. I usually don’t introduce these right away (it tends to cause players’ minds to implode), but they’re a simple stepping-stone. I’m much less enthused about the event cards, which simply add a large chaos factor to a game that is already rather chaotic.
I really wanted to like Santy Anno, and despite my irritation at the specific pirate card’s design, did think it was fun. But I easily concede that the fun this game provides is for a few select folk who think that thinking hard and running fast combine to make a great game. Santy Anno is one of those games that sounds better on paper than it does in practice and has a high dropout rate every time I teach it. I’ll stick with Ca$h and Gun$, I think. It’s the same amount of fun but a lot less work.
Tom Vasel “Real men play board games” www.thedicetower.com