Pirate versus Pirate

For a strategy game to be good, you have to believe that if you think hard enough, you might actually win. For a strategy game to be fun, you have to think that you might actually win all the way until the last move. And for a strategy game to be Major Fun, it also has to make you laugh, even if you don’t win.

Which brings us to Pirate versus Pirate, a unique strategy game for 2-3 players of strategy-game playing age from an equally unique game company, Out of the Box, the very same game company who brought us yet another Major Fun award-winning strategy game of similar ilk, Ninja vs. Ninja.

Each player gets six, snarling pirates (you can almost hear them saying “aargh”), each brandishing a terror-inducing scimitar. Great pains have been taken in making these pirates as detailed in their pirate-likeness as they are funny. When the game begins, each player postions her pirates in one of the three points of the triangular board. Two pirates are placed in their boat, and the other four in adjacent triangles. (Yes, the spaces in this game are all triangular, and since moves are made only from triangle to a side-sharing triangle, the board design becomes positively redolent with strategic implications.)

There are three dubloonish coins (two silver, one gold, plastic), placed in the center of the board. Then there are two, four-sided dice. Each die has skulls instead of pips, with the sides showing 1-4 skulls each. There’s also half a bone on each end of the dice. All so piratic-looking.

The object of the game is to be the first player to retrieve either the gold coin or the two silver coins. You do this by landing on one of the coins, and then moving (with the coin) back to the correct position on your boat. If you land on another pirate, you eliminate it from the game. (Arrrgh, again.) That’s basically it.

The thing is, you have to move exactly the number of spaces dictated by your roll. So, even though you have almost managed to get a coin back to your boat, you might have to roll several times before you make it. And, in the interim, you just might get landed upon.

And then the other thing is, as you try to figure out the best path to take, given a particular roll, is somewhat, shall we say, challenging. See, given the configuration of the board, there are only three (not four) directions you can move to, with each direction at 120-degrees from every other. So figuring out what the optimal path might be for any one move, given that you have (or at least start out with) five Piratical pieces, and that your opponents also start out with that many, and where the coins are, and what paths are open so you can get the coin to your boat with no pirates standing in your way – is clearly no trivial task.

Yes, kids of strategy game-playing age could play this game as easily as adults, and more than likely have as much fun as you do. If you let them.

From a concept by Max Winter Osterhaus, with game play design by Ellen Winter and Al Waller, and illustration and graphic design by John Kovalic (obviously) and Cathleen Quinn-Kinney.

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