Friday, June 26, 2009

Consorting with Random Pirates

During last night’s game of Pirate’s Cove we played with the random Legendary Pirate variant. Instead of the Legendary Pirate moving around the board in a sequential order we instead rolled at the end of the navigation phase to see where the pirate would dock. A couple things happened; we fought a lot more pirates, and we sort of had to rethink a lot of the strategy normally employed (at least I did).

The Legendary Pirates are a pretty tough lot (I mean, they are Legendary for a reason), in most circumstances they will beat a player one on one, especially early in the game before the player has had a chance to build up their ship. Because of this they are usually avoided for the most part, even the ones that are a little easier to defeat will do a bunch of damage to your ship so it’s not worth a scuffle for a couple of victory points. The variant is entirely random so there is no way to predict where the ship will appear, it’s entirely luck whether or not it goes to the same island as a player which is sort of strange but also a lot of fun at the same time. The result was a lot more fights since they were hard to avoid. We (the players as a group) fought pretty well and wound up defeating three Pirates over the course of the game, which is higher than the typical number. At the end it was the dreaded Flying Dutchman that no one was able to get past. An interesting twist came about in the first round when the initial Pirate on the scene was the Cacafuego, which is actually just a floating treasure barge. Usually all the players will rush to it when it comes out and fight over who gets to plunder it, but with it’s location unknown it just sort of floated around the board until one (Katie) was lucky enough to have it land where they were.

I like strategy and planning so I prefer the typical method because it allows me to project my actions over the twelve rounds of the game, however the random Pirate is a good way to mix it up. The last couple of times that we played Pirate’s Cove the last round always had several players ganging up on the Pirate at Treasure Island and splitting the fame. So this was a nice little change of pace. I recommend giving it a shot if Pirate’s Cove is in your regular game rotation.

The other aspect of the game that I would like to comment on is the power of the Consort card. The Consort card is played by one player onto another during the navigation phase of the turn, the result of the card is that the two players split just about all of the treasure that the affected player receives (including victory points gained from burying treasure). I think it’s safe to say that this is the most powerful card in the game and can frequently turn the balance in the game, though defense can be played against it. The best way to use this seems to be to hold it until the last round of the game and play it against the player that has the most treasure in their hull, since it is just about guaranteed that they will be cashing in that turn. Using it earlier in the game runs the risk of getting nothing from it. The affected player can just delay burying treasure for a turn and look for an island that is giving something other than treasures (assuming they have a full hull). Now, the defense against Consort comes into play in the late rounds when the card is still out there (that is, it has not been used yet). Instead of waiting until the last round to go to Treasure Island it is smart to bury your treasure a round or two before that and then spend the last round(s) picking up Tavern Cards, Victory points, or even fighting a Pirate. I know, it requires some forethought and could work out poorly but there are few feelings worse than having to give six or seven victory points to your main rival and watching them become the most famous pirate in Pirate’s Cove.

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