Who would exchange the feeling of cool sea breeze on your face for a peaceful life on earth? I would certainly not. My name is Angael and I am the captain of a pirate ship Temme. We are circling Caribbean for the third week, trying to get signal from an island. Landing party led by my husband had the task of finding treasure with the map, we captured during the last raid.
But the ship is still pulled at the same place on a sandy bank and we have not seen a soul since the party entered the jungle. Several times, other ships tryied to approach to us, but they always turned away in time. There is a black flag hanging on our mast commanded by wind. We have no intention of hiding the fact, that we are pirates. We are in our waters. We are at home. And yet, I start to worry, that this time, we went too far and there was more than just gold hiding on that island..
Winds of Plunder is the name of a board game, where we can become a pirate. It was released by GMT Games back in 2006, its father is game designer Alan Newman and pictures are work of Rodger B. MacGowan, Knut Grünitz, Mike Lemick and Mark Simonitch.
Family game made by GMT Games, you say? Specific vision for the company, which is largely focused on advanced tactical games wargames from every period of mankind you can think of, including the 1989: Dawn of Freedom (review). Among other topics is also combat with terrorism in the game Labyrinth (review) or Colombian crisis in the game Andean Abyss (review). But there is also lighter fun in their stable: Formula Motor Racing (review) from Reiner Knizia or incredible strategy game Dominant Species Card Game (review).
So the answer says yes, family game from that publisher is not only possible, but it is also a reality and maybe even more in the future (with Thunder Alley around a corner). We would be easily convinced about origin of this game, when we look at a relatively massive white box labeled Winds of Plunder with pirate skull on the lid.
You will find mainly a game board, that dominates everything, inside. On its surface, there are several islands of the Caribbean sea. From there came the Pirates of the Nassau (review) in another pirate board game. The map itself is divided into four color-coded vertical bars, that represent separate sections. Each city has an empty place next to it, where you will put rewards for the first, who travels there. Around the whole sea and on the sides of the board, there is a variety of scales from the most basic round counter, to value of weapons, crew and treasure. All around will you find hem, serving as a counter for victory points.
Just twelve small VP boards are scattered after punching out the cardboard section, together with wind indicator and marker for monitoring the current round. Equally important are also big compass wheels, to which you must attach a plastic needle. With this instrument, players will vote on the direction of the wind for the next turn. Other components are card – actions (40), treasures (12) and three advantages. Player colors separate small wooden cubes, one disk and above all also vessel counter, with which will you wander across the board.
At the beginning of the game, each opponent chooses his color and get compass, ship, scoring token (placed on zero on the victory points scale) and wooden cube in this shade. Four of these cubes are put on zero spaces on each scale on the board, next ten will be at your disposal at start as wind cubes, while the remaining sixteen remain as unattainable reserve for now. Every player determines his starting port by drawing.
You put random twelve out of eighteen tiles on game board lying on the table, showing victory points. They are put one by one randomly next to each port and the remaining six are put on a special location on the board. Only then, you can reveal identity of all. Both decks of cards are put aside, you indicate the initial direction of the wind towards the north with an arrow tile and mark the round counter to one. Before you play, first player gets Blackbeard tile. He will have a few minor rights above other players, as we shall see in a moment. Now we can start playing.
Each round has only two phases – voting on the direction of the wind (and also role of starting player) and then looting, which will allow you to use assigned action points. But back to voting, which begins by each player selecting direction of the wind on his rose according to his wishes. First, everybody does it secretly, but before the auction itself, they all reveal their wishes. Then each player uses wind cubes to vote for his selection. Who sacrifices the most tokens becomes at the same time a starting player. Wind direction is determined by the most votes in favor of one side. In case of a draw, the Blackbeard player has the final word.
You have to follow wind with your ships and always sail in one of the four main directions. While movement to the east and west is mandatory, because the winds have more power (and allow you to move up to two areas in one turn), north or south allows you simultaneously to move one area towards east or west. But moving is part of the second phase, we are entering now.
Each of the players in clockwise order starting with Blackbeard begin sailing. You have three action points for you activities and also one movement on top of that. The easiest way to spend action is to gain wind cubes. The more points you sacrifice, the more tokens you get (only 1 = 2, 2 = 5, 3 = 9). For one action point, you can also buy special card, keep it in your hand or play it for another point.
The most important is not to spend points, but to actually sail beyond horizons. It does not cost you any point, its a free activity, when you have to follow direction of the wind, which the players have collectively chosen. Yet at the cost of spending all the points, captain can at least partially influence the direction of your ship and maybe even arrive at the port, where he wanted to sail, contradicting the nature.
As you approach new port, you will enjoy equipment for the ship, but also gain victory points. Everything is listed on the tile located there. After its evaluation and increasing not only points, but also received weapons or crew markes, you put it on top of the waiting list in the lower part of the board and replace it with the last tile in line. Thanks to this rotation, you hardly get same tile to a port in one game.
With port arrival, there are linked more opportunities to gain something. You can challenge any of your rivals, who also anchored there, but you have to have more weapons on your ship. You then get two victory points or some equipment from him as a result of defeating his ship. In addition, you can also use map for treasure, if you have particular one for this port. You get more points of pirate glory for that. Among the inhabitants of the port, you can also get a reputation, when you are the only or the most powerful ship there. You put your cube from reserve and put it on the city. This way, you can acquire bonus points.
Crew, weapons and supplies each provide players an advantage. The weapon offers you superiority over your rivals and possibilities to rob them. Player with most manned ship gets a bonus action point for hist turn, while the ship properly loaded with rations guarantees one extra victory point for a visit to the port.
The entire game is played in nine rounds and at the beginning of each, you always decide on the wind direction. At the end of the game, you add to those already collected victory points also new ones for cubes and accrued items. Top pirate is the player with highest points gain in total.
Winds of Plunder might look complicated at first glance. Maybe it’s a bit based on that logo of company found on the box. But the game is just trying to fool you, because this time, it is really undemanding fun for the whole family.
However that does not mean, your cravings for tactics and battles with other players will be left in the lurch. Entire game is running like clockwork and offers no complicated rules, yet remains completely independent of luck. All activities in the plan affect the players themselves and the only random element in the whole game is the distribution of tiles. But throughout the game, they are open to all eyes. And then naturally drawing cards from benefit deck, but that’s only a little luck.
This only mystery at the same time allows game for a little more teasing and banter between opponents. In addition to cards, that help you in fight for victory points and improving vessel, you can also steal cubes, take action points from your opponent or swap cards with port rewards. This makes the whole game sufficiently malicious, yet remains not so relying on coflict to discourage family players.
Selection of wind at the start of round is very exciting, because it determines many things for the whole turn. Some ships may be left motionless, when anchoring at the edge of the board. It is also the only way, when you can remain in the same place for two consecutive rounds. But where do you bear the sail is important, because it can be affected only very rarely. Similar importance may be put on role of starting player, especially if you’re fighting with opponent on a specific port. And don’t forget he has a privilege in case of a draw.
Players gain victory points (except the public options) also for fulfiling treasure cards. Points can be obtained for many different activities and it is good, because it makes the Winds of Plunder pleasantly variable. In addition, there is a version for advanced players in the rules, which makes fight for points even more interesting affair.
The game is suitable even for children around the age of ten, because they basically do not need any special skills. At the same time, there is a lot of things, you need to keep track of in the game. The only real obstacle remains in some action cards (when they are not native english speakers), but there is not so many types of them, so you will remember them in a few moments. Children love games, where they can attack each other. But this game is not entirely tricky, only malicious, which will be certainly appreciated by the small players. Some players might not find this constant nudging apropriate, which is also probably the most significant criticism about the Winds of Plunder.
In addition, the game takes around ninety minutes of fun to complete (with experienced players an hour), yet the players themselves sometimes must wait a little. Fortunately, the individual turns are fast, because three action points are spend quickly and you can plan them ahead. Most of the time is taken by resolving port arrivals. For families remains a limiting factor also a minimum number of three players, otherwise the map of Caribbean would be very empty and lifeless (with two, I mean). Best games in here can be experienced in four and five.
This game may not satisfy all aesthetic requirements, that you can put on it, with its older publishing date. Yet it fulfills all the basic requirement – everything is clear, graphics and game board itself is interesting, although not colorful or eye-catchy.
Winds of Plunder is a fun game with family theme of pirates. But not only children will have fun in decisions in this game, but also adults seeking for game, where they will not cook their brain. If you’re looking for a thoughtful family fun, then you should set your sails with this wind. You will not regret it.
+ simple family game about pirates
+ players vote on wind direction
+ port tokens are public and are changing
+ plan is divided into four vertical areas
+ hidden action cards
+ ship enhancement
- game is more focused on conflicts, which might not be suitable for family play
- longer gametime