Avast ye landlubbers! Batten down the hatches for a shipshape review of Captains’ War. It’ll be free from hornswaggle and hopefully helping ye decide if it is worthy of your loot.
Captains’ War is a roll and write game with, in case you hadn’t guessed, a pirate theme. Wanna know more? Of course you do, and here it comes… FIRE IN THE HOLE!
Give everyone one of the player sheets and some sort of writing implement (not included). Put the dice in the middle of the table. Then, allocate a certain amount of gold according to the player count. That’s the basic game set up. If you are playing with the included advanced rules there is a tiny bit more to do. But set up is the sort of breeze you’d want in your sails… apart from scrabbling around in kitchen draws to find enough pens and pencils for everyone!
The aim of the game is to finish with the most reputation points. These are gained in a few different ways. But generally speaking with each roll of the dice you will be trying to optimise travelling along paths to improve your boat and piracy, or hiring crew to battle the proverbial bilge rats around the table.
On an active player’s turn they roll all the dice. They may remove one from the selection to reserve for their own exclusive use (or to thwart others getting something they want) and then all players choose two dice and carry out their actions. These will be to gain gold coins, gather special items to fulfil objectives on the tracks, or hire pirates to give them more clout in battles. All useful, depending on what you are working towards.
The active player then has the opportunity to start a battle against someone sitting around the table. To do this each player fills in the relevant area with how much of their recruited pirates they want to wager in the war. The player with the most points wins and gets a bonus. The loser might forfeit some coins. The targeted player will gain immunity until they either attack, or it is the attacker’s next turn.
Reaching the end of the money track, reaching the bottom of both pirate tracks, or a player battling five times (attacking and/or defending), will trigger the end of the game. At this point there is a final hurly-burly where all players compare the points of their leftover pirates for some extra points.
There is a solo mode included in the box, having a read through of the rules it looks well thought out. I haven’t tried it yet but if and when I do, I will tell you more about it here.
What it’s like
There is some iconography and a bit of gameplay to learn. Like most games it would therefore be easier to be taught Captains’ War, than learn it. The rulebook was good but the first few plays I regularly found myself consulting the oracle when teaching. It was hard for me to get a couple of the intricacies of scoring the tracks cemented enough to articulate correctly.
Choosing dice on every roll keeps everyone around the table invested. For the active player choosing the best die is fairly intuitive and therefore quick too. However, when player’s battle each other, which will happen regularly as the game encourages you to do so, the game pauses for all other players. Those two invested in the battle will be looking like they are at school hiding their work from the person sitting next to them. Meanwhile others around the table will be waiting for them to work out their strike force. As I say the battles occur quite frequently and the battles do punctuate the gameplay, especially at higher player counts. You are only writing three numbers down, so battles are quick, but it’s the frequency at higher player counts that makes it stall slightly.
Almost all end games will be triggered by pirate battles. There is a great prominence placed upon these, which slightly thwarts the journeying along the other tracks. The trouble is, it only takes one player to focus on battling and then that will speed up the game end before travelling down the tracks. I do like the battles, but prefer moving down the tracks as that feels a bit more strategic.
Included in the box is a two-player variant, I was really surprised how well it worked at two. Because of the multiplayer capabilities I thought it might not be as good, but it works well.
The rulebook covers everything, but when looking for clarifications on certain points I didn’t find it that easy to reference. It made sense when reading through it the first time, but it was tricky to go back to.
The player sheets are well designed with good iconography and vignette illustrations. They are also plentiful in the box. This is good because of its ability to be played with more players, but I can’t see anyone running out in a hurry. However, they aren’t double-sided and that feels a bit wasteful.
The dice match the iconography clearly and the different colours help differentiate the types of resources that can be collected.
The card art on the additional included variant gameplay is also awesome. The box art tart in me is certainly fulfilled when I look at the image on the lid and even the inside of the lid too, always a nice touch!
Final thoughts on Captains’ War
I can see lots of people thoroughly enjoying Captains’ War, as have I, but I haven’t fallen in love with it as much as I hoped I would.
It is a solid game – the minor downtime during battles is my only real gripe. However, I understand Captains’ War needs that duelling competitiveness. This weakness in downtime is made up for by having a much more interactive roll and write. One that is far less multiplayer solo than many others in the genre. The gameplay itself is smooth. The various elements and choices all click and fit together nicely.
Captains’ War feels like a board gamer’s party game. Light-hearted conflict awaits, but without the silly fun that puts many people off a party game. It works best with higher player counts. Especially with a group that have all played it before and are familiar with the iconography to ensure play is as prompt as possible.
I was genuinely excited when I heard about a pirate-themed roll and write with awesome artwork. Captains’ War is lots of swashbuckling fun!
Number of players: 1 to 6
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 11+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 12+
Playing Time: 40 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 1 minute
Designers: Alexandre Aguilar
Publisher: Bragelonne Games
Captains’ War is an interesting roll and write with good player interaction. I can see a lot of people enjoying this one. I really like all the mini expansions and ways to play that come included in the box too. This means there is plenty of replayability on offer. However, the roll and write genre is an extremely good one and this is unlikely to ever be your favourite.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Extra content included
- More interactive
- Good at all player counts
- Oodles of pad
- Game pauses a little during battles
- Luck of the dice
- Hard to track down in the UK
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