Stefan Feld

ALEA 2006




Johoho ! A pirate`s life is full of fun and daring actions, and now the new ALEA game Um Ru(h)m und Ehre takes the players into the bustling life of a booming pirate town where the ship of the Red Corsair has taken anchor and the crew is on land leave with their Captain. In this nameless pirate hideout, the players will engage in all sorts of "pirate" activities, and the player who has succeeded in collecting most honour points by these activities after five days in town will be the winner of the game.

As might be guessed, each day represents a round of play, and each of these rounds is subdivided into two phases of roaming through the town and then returning to the ship and finding there a suitable sleeping place. To start the game, the town is set up by randomly aligning the 9 square gameboard parts so that they form a 3 x 3 part gameboard representing the town with all its bustling squares and shady alleys. Quite a few different kinds of counters (tavern counters, treasure-chests, treasure maps, pirate equipment, town guard, pirate brides etc) are sorted into their respective stacks and then randomly mixed so that these counter stacks can be drawn from during the game. A few of the treasure-chests, maps and tavern counters already are drawn at the beginning of the game and aligned in an open row next to the gameboard, revealing their value (honour points!) to all participating players. On a specific square on the gameboard a red pirate figure (the Captain) is placed, and from that square he will start his march through the town. Finally, each player receives an outfit of 10 pirates of one colour, 2 gold coins and a flag (under which he may hide the counters he has collected during the game) and then the game may start.

Taking turns, the players now may opt either to Move the Captain, to Take a Rest or to Return to the ship. At the beginning of a round, the players usually will choose to move the Captain, since this is the only possibility to get around through the town and possibly to collect Honour counters. The Captain will move only from square to square, and he will never stop in any of the alleys. Thus, to move the Captain to a square adjacent to the square he currently occupies, the active player fills each space in the alley joining both squares with a pirate from his stockpile and then moves the Captain to the new square. As the round progresses, more and more pirates occupy the alleys of the gameboard, and since each alley space only may be occupied by one pirate and the players lose more and more of their pirates the options for moving the Captain get more and more restricted. However, it is not possible to get the Captain fully cut-off, since a player may chose to leave the gameboard by an alley going over one side and re-enter at another such alley, and if even this should be impossible there is still the rule that the Captain will be moved from a real dead-end to a specific square of the next part of the gameboard. If a player does not want to move the Captain at all during his turn (because he cannot reach a suitable square), he may decide to take a rest and miss the turn, provided he can afford to pay a gold coin for taking this rest.

But why do the players move the Captain around on the gameboard? Here the answer is that each square the Captain enters has an encounter printed on it, and it is also here where the players get an opportunity to acquire Honour counters which they need for winning.

  • Some of the squares show either a Gold Coin or a Pirate, and upon entering such a square with the Captain the active player is allowed to take a coin or pirate from the common stockpile and add it to his own stock.
  • More interesting a the Rendez-Vous squares, since here a player is allowed to draw a corresponding counter and look on it where to rendez-vous with a pirate bride. The player keeps that counter and if he should succeed to lead the Captain to such a square during one of his turns he may move the counter below his flag to represent that he has met the pirate bride so that the amount of Honour points printed on the counter will add to his score at the end of the game.
  • Another square to visit is the Pirate Outfitter, the place where a pirate may buy a peg-leg, a parrot and all the other equipment which will give him his pittoresque appearance. Here the player draws a corresponding outfitter counter. He may look at this counter and decide whether to keep it or to hand it back to the bank and receive two Gold for it. The counters show different items of different Honour point value, but since each kind of object only counts once, a player usually will keep a counter when it is more valuable than a counter of the same kind which he already possesses, but he will sell it if it is of a lower value.
  • When moving on a Treasure Map square, a player is allowed to chose one of the four openly displayed treasure map counters beside the gameboard and then he will refill the open display by drawing a new map counter. A complete treasure map always consists of two parts of the same colour, and thus a player will need to acquire another likewise coloured map part during the game in order to cash it in for Honour points at the end of the game.
  • The three Taverns on the board invite the pirates to an excessive carousal, and here the active player invites all the other players to join in a drinking competition in order to win tavern counters of the same kind as the actual tavern lying in the open display next to the gameboard. All players who wish to participate pay a Gold coin to the active player, and then - in turn - each participant rolls a dice. Whenever he rolls higher than the Honour-value of any of the tavern counters, he may take the counter and add it to his stockpile. This way the carousal continues until all markers are distributed. The open display then is refilled with freshly drawn markers.
  • What would a pirate be without a Treasure Chest? Here the active player may take the treasure chest counter from the open display, but he also has to take an additional treasure counter with a scorpion which lurks in every chest. To find out who opens the chest and is stung by the scorpion, the players roll a dice and add up their scores, and when finally a player gets over the value of the scorpion he will be the "volunteer" who has opened the box and thus receives the scorpion counter representing the loss of two Honour points at the end of the game.
  • Finally, a pirate also likes brawling with the Town Guard. The player he may decide whether he wants to draw a marker for meeting a smaller or a bigger patrol. If he still has more pirates in his stockpile than the number printed on the patrol marker, he may keep the marker as Honour points. Fighting a bigger patrol brings more honour points, but as may be guess bigger patrols also are stronger than a smaller one.
  • To make his day, a pirate may land on a square with a Rum Barrel, and here he may take a barrel counter which he may use at any time during the game to repeat a falied dice roll for up to two times.

As indicated earlier, during a round a player may also decide to retire and withdraw all pirates remaining in his stockpile to the pirate ship in search for the most comfortable sleeping places for the following night. Once all players he retired their remaining pirates (or used all of them in town), the players with pirates on the ship will brawl for the best sleeping places by rolling the dice. Here the player with most pirates has good chances to be the last one standing and thus to be entitled for a sleeping place in the bed (most valuable), and the other players in order then will resort to a hammock or a roll of hawser as resting places (less valuable).

This way the game continues for five whole days, and the player who has acquired most victory points after five days will have won the game.

Although the rules may sound a bit complex, Um Ru(h)m und Ehre is playing astonishingly light for an ALEA game. The often necessary drawing of counters is a constant reminder of the considerably high element of luck in the game, but it would be wrong to say that the game is absolutely luck dominated. Of course, there is a good number of instances when the drawing of counters reveals random Honour-point values, but since counters need to be drawn so often and because there are no counters of absolutely outstanding value the element of luck is somewhat equally divided between the players so that some degree of strategy remains in the game. However, if there is a close finish the final decisions who wins by just a few Honour points may be accredited to the question who had drawn more lucky during the game. Overall, Um Ru(h)m und Ehre is a nice game with some adventure elements which has its real strength in its entertainment value and player interaction.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany