Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Olivier Grégoire &
Thibaut Quintens

Blackrock Games /
Act in Games

No. of Players:
2 - 4



Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

At SPIEL 2015 convention I got in contact with the French publisher BLACKROCK GAMES for the first time . This company is publishing and distributing games that all have a great appearance. Beginning with the game-box and ending with the smallest game pieces, you can find a great love of detail in all components. Indeed, there are really some very talented illustrators at work in France. But of course the design is only one side of a coin. So, I was interested if the games of this publisher can come up to the great expectations. For my first review I chose Piratoons, a game which has caught my attention at the SPIEL because I love pirate games and the design of the game looked both cute and funny to me.

The title already indicates that the figures of the game are strongly caricatured and in fact, the illustrations of the pirates are very cartoonish. That makes the game suitable for children, too, despite of (or perhaps because of) the Pirate theme. The main objective of Piratoons is to recruit pirates and assemble the best ship to start a quest for the mystery legend of the great treasures of Pelican's Tooth. Piratoons is a game of speed in which players are asked to choose crew members and equipment for their ships from a treasure chest simultaneously and in real-time.

Each player starts with only the bow and stern of his boat. Connected together this ship really looks poorly, but this will change soon after. Additionally all players get their six crew-members in form of Carcassonnish meeples in the colour of the player.


Each round begins with a supplying phase, in which new boat tiles and ship equipment tiles like sails, guns and portholes are randomly put in a treasure chest, which simply consists of two double-sided boards with small walls on the edges of one board. The treasure chest is constructed in a way that three boat tiles and six equipment tiles completely fill the board with the walls. All of these tiles are put into the chest face-down, so the exact composition is still a secret.

Then with the other half the treasure chest is closed and the whole treasure chest is turned over, so that the tiles now lie face up in the chest, but are still hidden by the lid. At a command, one of the players turns over a sand-timer and lifts the lid. Then all players simultaneously can place their crew-members on boat or equipment tiles they want to add to their boat. For preventing chaos at the game table, there is an etiquette which must be followed: So each player may only use one of his hands, and he mustn't leave a hand above the chest, preventing other pirates from seeing the treasure, and other things like that. Most importantly a player may not move his crew-members again, once they have been placed on the chest. If, in the hectic of the placements, a pirate crew-piece falls from an equipment or boat tile, it is lost for this round, unless, it was the mishap of another player. In the latter case the responsible clumsy player is excluded from the current round.


Quite a lot of things need to be kept in mind. But they are quite necessary, because Piratoons can be very fast and if there were no rules for this phase, it could end in a real fight among players soon. Luckily enough my gaming groups are very peaceable, and so there was no problem and only one or two times a player had to be punished for being clumsy. The reason for the haste is that once the sand-timer runs out, each player may cry out "Stop" and put an end to this phase. Of course no other player may add more crew-members onto the treasures after that.

But even the slower people are rewarded in the next phase, because a player gets a doubloon for every unemployed sailor. This money is quite useful, because there is an auction phase to which I will come back to later in this review, and there is also a scoring rewarding the richest player at the end of the game. But there is also a very tricky rule in this phase: If there are not enough doubloons left in the bank to give money to every unemployed sailor, all players must put back half of their money. While this rule normally does not have to be applied in a 2-player game (just because there are enough doubloons left), it can be used quite tactically in a 3 or 4-player game, especially in the end game, just before the scoring.


But back to the treasure. In the following plundering phase, the players take the equipment tiles on which they have the most crew members. But again there is a mean rule here: in case of a tie, all of the tied crew-members are removed from the tile. So a third player with less crew members than other players on that tile can still win it, if the other players are tied. This rule demands a lot from the players in the plundering phase: on the one hand there is the time factor, while on the other hand it is wise to wait for seeing what your opponents are doing.

What follows next is the already mentioned auction phase. All boat and equipment tiles that were not plundered as well as left over equipment tiles from the rounds before are now available for auction. In a Chinese auction players take as many doubloons in their hands as they like and at a command all players show what they were hiding. Again all ties cancel each other out. Those players are excluded from the auction, but at least they keep their money. All other players, beginning with the winner of the auction, must choose one of the available boat or equipment tiles.


Then finally the newly acquired tiles are connected and placed on the player's ships. Sails and decks on a mast, deck tiles also on a deck space, portholes, guns and quarters on corresponding spaces on the boat tiles and, of course, boat tiles between the bow and stern of the ship. There are some rules to be followed and boat tiles should also be linked with as many corresponding connections on the up to four storeys (indicated by a small symbol on every storey), but re-arrangements are still possible until the end of the game, so there is no reason for panic. But it is a real bother if an equipment tile cannot be placed on a boat tile because there is no corresponding space. In that case, the equipment tile must be thrown overboard and will be auctioned in the next round again.

The game always ends after the 8th round with various scores for different majorities, sets of tiles and matching boat connections. These various scores are not easily to keep in mind during the hectic plundering phase. Especially new players cannot remember all details and so you need two or three games to fully understand of what really counts in the game. But as the game duration is quite short (about 30 minutes) there always should be time to play a second or third game in a row.

Piratoons reminded me faintly of Galaxy Trucker. Well, it is not that complex and the ships are not tested in a Battlezone or other annoyances. But you have the same time factor for building your ship. Of course, Piratoons is much more a game for the whole family, especially because the placement phase is without a time limit. Originally, the game was created as a 2-player-game, but I liked it as a 3 or 4-player game even better. In the two player variant, the plundering phase is very fast. The sand-timer takes only some seconds (about 12), so you must be very fast. I made the experience that with more people this phase takes longer, because there are more things to be considered. In the 2-player variant - once you can remember the various scoring option - you want to be best in every scoring. There is no chance for doing so with more people, so you must concentrate on some scores.

Taken all together, I liked every bit of Piratoons - as a family game as well as a filler game with some serious gamers!

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Copyright © 2015 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany