Author: Wolfgang Panning

Publisher: Queen Games 2000

Awards: none



Port Royal is an interesting variant of the classical German cardgame Skat. Set before the background of the golden age of Privateers, the players take up the roles of famous pirate captains, bartering in the harbour of Port Royal for the goods they have plundered.

The game is played in 6 rounds, and in each round the players will have to play 8 turns for 9 different cards of plunder. The cards which will be played for are randomly determined at the beginning of the round, and afterwards the playing cards are mixed (4 colours with values from 1 to 8 and 3 special cards - the number of cards used varies, depending on whether three r four players participate). Each player receives 8 of these cards, and then a "priviledged" player is determined by a bidding mechanism. This player not only determines the player who will start playing cards that round, but he also is allowed to exchange two of his cards with the two remaining playing cards and he also determines the special colour for that round (basically, the special colour serves the purpose that if a player cannot respond on the colour of a card played, he can use the cards of the special colour to win anyway).

The starting player then determines which of the different plunder-cards on the table will be the prize for the winner of the upcoming turn. Afterwards, he plays one of the cards from his hand. All the other players then also add one card, and the winner or the turn will be the player who played the most valuable card. Basically, the numerical higher cards are more valuable then lower cards of the same colour. Furthermore, the cards of the special colour for the whole round are more valuable than the cards of the colour played by the starting player. However, cards of that colour - in turn - are higher than the cards of the remaining colours. A player may play any card he desires during a turn - the only rule which he must observe is that he may only play a card of the special colour if he has no card left of the colour used by the starting player. If a player should decide to use one of the 3 special cards, all cards in that turn will use their colour, and only the highest card played wins.

The winner of a turn receives the plunder-card which was the prize for the turn. Then he becomes new starting player, determines a new prize-card from the plunder still remaining on the table and plays one of the cards remaining in his hand. If only one prize-card is left, it will randomly and secretly be assigned a special bonus-card (values from 1 to 6), 8 new plunder-cards are turned over and a new round of 8 turns begins. The game will end after 6 rounds.

An item of special interest are the plunder-cards themselves. Four different kinds of plunder exist (Rum, Goods, Tobacco and Gunpowder). For each kind of plunder a player owns a ship, and once a player wins a plunder-card he has to assign that card to the corresponding ship. However, the ships cannot carry an unlimited amount of cargo. If a ship has more cards than it ca carry by the end of the 6th round, it will sink and the player will loose all the plunder on board. However, in order to have some control over the weight of the goods on board, some plunder-cards exist which allow special moves. So some cards allow to player to increase or decrease the weight of the plunder or the maximum loading level of a ship, other cards allow the movement or removal of plunder, and again other cards double the value of all cards on board of a ship. In the end, the player with most plunder on board of all his unsunk ships wins the game.

Despite the fact that the cardplay-rules for the game first need to be explained completely and well-understood by the players to make use of its strategic implications, Port Royal quickly can be discovered to be an entertaining strategy game. Standing apart from most other bidding-type cardgames, the game offers a special flavour by its two levels of strategy. The players need not only to remember and organise their cardplay during the 6 rounds of the game, but players also have to plan ahead for which plunder they actually should bid. Always keeping an eye for the maximum loading levels of the ship, the game definately has some level of difficulty. The strategic choices open to the players are broad, so that the game can be qualified as being quite challenging.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

[Gamebox Index]


Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany