English language edition
List Price: $39.99
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(Worth 3,195 Funagain Points!)
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Key Largo transports players into the Florida Keys in 1899. As the new century dawns, players ply the thriving trade of finding treasures in shipwrecks around the island. Before a hurricane hits, players need to search the many shipwrecks and sell the lost treasures to the island denizens for as much cash as possible.
Originally published in three foreign languages by Tilsit back in 2005, the late Paul Randles’ Key Largo has found renewed life with a new, revised edition released by Titanic Games. This spiffy new edition has received an artistic facelift, as well as some rules twists and modifications. The end result, however, is not much different from the original, which may be good news to some and disappointing to others.
The theme has players scurrying to obtain divers and equipment in order to pillage ancient shipwrecks for the treasures they contain. There are dangers, however, as monsters lurk in the deep, and greedy thieves lay in wait for the opportunity to pilfer players’ hard-earned goods. Further, only ten days remain before the hurricane season begins, thereby making it impossible for further diving expeditions. Victory goes to the player who recovers the most treasures and sells them at the market for the greatest profit.
The board depicts Key Largo from above, with its variety of houses, shops and features. The key areas are the market, tavern, equipment shop, and Dolphin Cove, where players will send their ships during the course of the game. Four wreck sites are established, with three decks of cards at each site. The cards are divided into shallow, medium and deep decks, with the rewards – and possible perils – potentially greater at increased depths.
Each player receives a set of five action cards, four of which correspond to the four island locations while the remaining one allows the player to search a shipwreck. Players begin with a small treasury and one diver in their employ.
Each turn, players secretly select two of their cards, one for the morning action and one for the afternoon action. Morning actions are revealed, and players move their ships to the location matching the card they played. In turn order, each player then executes the action. Once these actions are completed, players then reveal their afternoon actions and repeat the process. Possible actions include:
Another optional rule allows players to have encounters while visiting the Cove. This allows the player to draw an encounter card, each of which depicts a character that grants the player a special ability. These abilities include drawing an extra treasure card when exploring a wreck, avoiding a monster, selling a treasure for a set price, treating areas as if more players were present, etc. These cards definitely add spice to the game and give players a bit more control over their fate.
The game is played over the course of ten turns ("days" in game parlance). With each passing turn, the start player rotates, which can be an important factor when choosing which wrecks to explore, and when the thief option is being used. After ten turns, the value of unsold treasures (as listed on the cards) is added to a player’s cash, and the wealthiest player becomes the toast of the Keys … and wins the game.
Randles was obviously enamored with the mechanism where players secretly choose their actions, then simultaneously reveal them. This method was used in his only other published title, Pirate’s Cove. While it can be entertaining, this mechanism does tend to create considerable chaos in a game. The chaos here isn’t of the potentially devastating variety, as it mainly will affect the income a player can earn when selling at the market, or the amount that must be paid when purchasing equipment or divers. It can also affect the wrecks a player may explore, as only one player may explore a particular wreck at a time.
There really isn’t a lot of strategy present here. Outside of the thief – and that is an optional rule – there isn’t much a player can do to affect an opponent. There also isn’t any danger of losing one’s treasures, so success is really dependent upon lucky explorations and simple money management. There’s not much here to challenge or excite folks who seek deeper fare. Key Largo is clearly designed to be a light, frolicking affair and is not something targeted to strategy gamers. Viewed in that light, the game is just fine and offers a pleasant experience. It seems to be suitable for gaming with the family, at a church group, or in other light, social settings. For those desiring something deep and challenging, however, I’d suggest that you stay out of these waters.
Key Largo takes place a couple of hundred years after the cannons of treasure hungry pirates have been silenced. Battle torn ships that won have taken the booty victoriously and the others rest on the beds of the sea in defeat. Those battles were fought in a a fantastic game called Pirate's Cove. In Key Largo treasure seekers of a different kind fight "battles" over who is the first to get to the sunken pirate ships and claim treasures to become the most wealthy treasure hunter. There are no battles against each other in this one like in Pirate's Cove, but there are battles against sea creatures, equipment needs, and the decisions needed to be made before the hurricane comes ashore to end the game. (10 rounds) Key Largo feels slightly lighter to me than Pirates Cove, but I really enjoyed it and would gladly play it again. The game is not all that complex, but the amount of decision making options made me give it a "thumbs up". I would have given it a 4 star rating if it hadn't been for (in my opinion) the less than desirable components in relation to the price of the game. The game board is the major gripe to me. It comes in 4 separate pieces with a connecter piece in the center. Mine appears somewhat warped and it just doesn't have as nice of a look as Pirates Cove gameboard. The ships look kind of cheap (plastic) and don't stay standing that well. On the plus side though, the card stock is decent and the artwork on the board is really nice, plus the game concept and mechanics are, well, fun. All in all, I don't regret the purchase and think that this is a fun, light to mid weight family game.