Blackbeard: The Golden Age of Piracy
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One of the most popular, and successful, Avalon Hill games of the late 1980's was Blackbeard, a pirate game totally different from any others available because it simulated the actual life and careers of historical pirates, and how they went about their chosen professions.
Richard Berg has now taken the original and redesigned it, almost entirely, to bring it into line with what gamers like to see and play these days. All those pirates you loved -- Black Bart Roberts, Long Ben Avery, Ned Lowe, L'Ollonais, and, of course, Edward Teach (Blackbeard) -- 23 in all, are still there, as are the King's Commissioners sent out to stop them. However, the entire play system has been overhauled, and the result is a game that highlights and specializes in player interaction, with almost no down time for any players.
Players represent individual pirates, using them to gain Victory Points by amassing booty and, even more importantly, earning Notoriety for their dastardly deeds. Seizing merchants with cargo ranging from useless paper to the monumental treasure of the Mughal emperors, attacking and sacking ports, fighting storms and scurvy, seeking safe haven in infamous pirate ports such as Tortuga and Madagascar, and, hopefully, using Letters of Marque to retire successfully.
And while the player is doing this, all of the other players, at the same time, are playing their cards and seizing opportunities to stop the pirates. There is a constant interplay among players, and you never know what is going to happen when you set out to do something.
GMT has simplified movement (no more hexes) and ship battles, expanded the use of Royal Navy warships, and even added individual hostages! (Yes, there is a "Governor's Daughter".)
Here are some comments from the horde of playtesters -- Blackbeard received the largest playtester request response of any game Richard Berg has ever designed, both on Consimworld and The Boardgame Geek -- that have been swabbing the cardboard decks for several intense and inventive months:
"I do like it -- moves fast, improvements such as ease of placing ships a help, love the anti-pirate possibilities." (Katharine Bartlett)
"The original Blackbeard was a flawed success. The new version has addressed all these concerns and improved game play while streamlining the mechanics (no mean feat)... the new rules make teaching the game fairly painless. The elimination of 'Game turns' while introducing anti-pirate actions has worked out very well. Instead of sitting around waiting for their next turn, players are required to pay attention to what everyone else is doing and pounce on any opportunity that arises to 'mess' with their opponents' plans.... The game came in under three hours. Play was, as usual, fast and smooth. Originally, I was playing the game to test it. Now I want to continue to play it because it's a fun time." (David Klempa)
"Mechanics are much tighter and there is a better balance between the differing strategies.... Would we buy -- yes by all three -- amazing considering one is a pongo (Brit navy slang for an army officer)." (Kevin Grimsley)
Blackbeard is designed for 2-5 players, along with specific rules for solitaire play. Playing time, as noted above, for a full game has been three hours.
- 1 34x22-inch game board
- 110 cards in 2 decks
- 2 sheets of counters
- 10 Pirate Displays
- 1 Charts & Tables Card
- 1 Actions Summary Card
- 1 Rule Book
- 2 six-sided dice
Average Rating: 3.6 in 7 reviews
I love this game, my friend owns is, and I beg him on a weekly basis to play it. Only one thing wrong with the game. It takes a very long time to play, and needs a dedicated 6 hour period to set up and complete the game. The game is very unforgiving, and plays out to luck more than a rendering of skill. Treachery is abound and the rules are superior. Rules are EASY to get to, and are simply explanitory.
Our group has adapted the rule of making the other person role to Retire where you can't use Cunning to prevent him to do so. Everything else we pretty much use in the game. The first time I won it I killed Peter Blood (my thrid Pirate) on the guns of a French Port in the Carribean...
Once you play it, you'll be instantly addicted!
Blackbeard allows you to sail freely across the seas, plundering and looting. Once you are familar with the rather intimidating manual and its rules, you'll enjoy this one. Just make sure you have a big table to play on and lots of time! Blackbeard has tons of cards, markers, dice, etc.
One of the cooler features is that your character can suffer battle injuries, like losing an eye or leg, which stay with you and affect your abilities in the future. Also, the Random Event cards keep things lively. One nice variant is to have someone play a King's Commisioner for the whole game. Sorta a piratey Cops & Robbers. The solitaire game also lets you plunder alone and is actually pretty fun!
This is probably my favorite game. We have even adapted it to play via email and are playing it at Games Pirates Play, a forum devoted to board/card games with a pirate theme.
So after a long wait I finally got to play the new Blackbeard; with actual people even. Before my actual review I will supply a little history between me and this game.
I was introduced to the original way back in 1997 by a friend of mine who had 3 copies and declared a Blackbeard night where there was four of us at each table. I very quickly fell in love with the original and acquired a first and second edition off of ebay several years after the fact. Then there was a problem, our original game group split up and my new group was very abrasive towards the game; not willing to spend that much time to learn the rules or deal with tons of chits. So thus my neat copies of Blackbeard including a bagged copy of Avalon Hill's the General spotlighting the games became a collectible instead of a game.
This brings us up to the new Blackbeard. I was really excited when I heard about the play test for the new version. So with that excitement came the pre-order and with that pre-order the wait, and the wait, the very long wait; The wait that lasted a little over a year. So when my copy finally arrived I couldn't get the chits separated and bagged fast enough. For several days I poured over the rules, downloaded play aids, and even made a game outline as a reference. So then finally game night hit. After reading several complaints from people that played the original about the new version I decided to play with three people that had never played the original and had never seen a game with tons of cardboard chits. So this review is the collected experiences between me who played the original and the three other individuals; one being my wife, the other a short attention spanned miniatures gamer, and a ccg nut.
First off the components:
The new artwork is great. The style fits the theme very well. The new map is great looking and I love the nice old world feel of it. The only complaint about it was from our miniatures gamer who had a hard time differentiating the lines that separated the sea zones. The new ship boards are great looking and very easy to read. The cards are very thick and solid. The chits are good quality and actually blend in with the stylized artwork very well. The box is your standard GMT indestructible box. I believe our post apocalyptic society will have large quantities of cockroaches living in these while driving their Dodge Darts. Anyway the box looks really nice. The rule book is styled with the rest of the game and fits in with the theme well.
These have been getting a lot of flack on the geek but I don't think they are as bad as everyone makes them out to be. I found the new instructions much easier to deal with than the old rule book, with any of the gray areas easily filled in with little effort. It is best to get the turn overview down on the first play and go from there. After the first few turns the standard actions become second nature. It is one of those games where you have to play it to really grasp the rules. This rule set is much easier to plod through than the original Avalon Hill version.
The Game play:
Aside from the early on occasional rule check it plays really quick. Our first game took about four hours if you count the set up and conveying the rules to the rest of the group. The big thing is that it didn't feel like four hours. Everyone at the table was having fun and enjoying all the options that they had during their turn. The way the events are handled in this new version help speed up the game a lot. The original version they were all handled with just the turn of the first event card. In they new one you have play now events that occur when your refilling your hand; coupled with the other players being able to play cards on you as an anti-pirate actions. Having the other players having the ability to play cards on the active pirate really reduces the sense of down time between turns that was present in the old version. I was originally against the change in how the turn order from the old version which was based on what the event card said to a standard 1st player, 2nd player, etc. style of turn order. But after seeing how the new game flows coupled with how events are now handled quickly changed my mind. The use of the event cards to decide how many action points you get makes for great decisions in what kind of cards you play. The use of sea zones over the hexes speeds up the game a lot, though things like scurvy are no longer as deadly as it used to be since it is easier to get to port to rid yourself of it. Bundling most of your in port actions together into a single point cost is another big plus. Although there are several things you could do in the old version that are not available or that were simplified in the newer version; this newer version just simply has a better flow and is more accessible play wise.
This game plays great. The changes made to it I think were implemented very well and have not compromised the game one bit. You still feel like your a pirate. The game time goes by quick and does not drag on at all. At the endgame you feel like you had a solid game experience and was not robbed by either your purchase or time spent in gaming and Preparation. This will definitely hit the table more with the same group and other newbies. So as a player of both the original and this new incarnation I can say the original will still be considered a collectible; only dusted off from time to time for nostalgia but this new animal has became the game to play.
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