Have you ever felt an urge to become a pirate, roaming the seven seas for adventure and treasure? Then Privateers! is the board game for you. It’s a fun game based in an alternate reality where you can encounter servants of the elder gods and atlantean artifacts and aliens while you ferociously attack enemy fleets and barter with your fellow pirates.
Privateers! has been in development for a couple of years and has been played at conventions for almost as long. Earlier this year, I had the chance to sit down and play the game with the developers themselves. The first thing I noticed was that Privateers! is a massive and beautiful game. There are over 500 cards, 370 markers, many map tiles, 12 miniatures and a score board. The art is mainly by Tina Engström, the head developer, and it is phenomenal. Each component is a beauty to look at.
The setup is pretty sweet. You begin by choosing your captain, and each captain have their special abilities and stats. But they also got two versions; a male with a female counterpart on the other side. They have the same stats and story, but it’s a really including feature to be able to choose gender for your captain. There are also several different ethnicities to mix it up. You can even play as a native american captain!
After choosing your captain, the players gets some map tiles each. The tiles can be placed to create the gaming board in almost infinite combinations, which enhances the games replayability. I say players, because I genuinely think that the game is best with a few friends even though it’s a possibility to play it all by yourself. Privateers! also let you play either against each other, co-operatively or in teams, which also makes each game session different.
I found the mechanics to be well-balanced on several levels. On the basic level, the system includes a good risk-reward balance. Do you want to hunt for treasures to make yourself richer, or should you try to sink the enemy ships before they get too much influence? It’s always a good thing when there isn’t an obvious right way to handle things. The second level is the experience levels between players. As I started the first session I was completely new to the rules, but they still allowed me to participate and feel that I wasn’t at the disadvantages to more seasoned players. They did act different from me, but it didn’t feel like I wasn’t contributing. By the second session I felt that I’ve learned some things that helped me look at some basic strategies. Finally, there are the balance between strategy and luck. You will have the possibility to think strategical, but you can have just as fun relying on your luck. If you have preference for either style of play, Privateers! supports it and will give you a good time.
There are several ways you can prepare for the end game. You can gather trophies, find treasures, raid or barter with colonies, explore old caves and ruins, battle other players or sink enemy ships. All ways will help you and neither are better then the other. As the end game phase begins, a boss is drawn randomly. It could be an armada of ships that you need to sink or it might just be an ancient god that you need to stop before it unleashes armageddon. The end game has a really epic feel to it.
The game has some similiarities to Firefly: the Game but has much deeper game play, which is something I really enjoy. The variation and replayability of Privateers! is it’s strength. It’s also what has me ranking this my new favourite board game, ahead of Arkham Horror.
So have you always wanted to enlist on a pirate ship? Too bad, you can’t. That ship sailed hundreds of years ago, but the next best thing is to support Privateers! on Kickstarter. The price might seem high at first glance, but when you think of the game’s replayability it makes sense. It’s a game that will last for years and still offer new and exciting game sessions.