Roll Pirates is another of Radoslaw Ignatow’s Roll and Write games where the individual actions are all pretty simple but you get a lot of options as far as how the game develops. I’m starting to think that’s one of his trademarks.
The game has each player play a pirate captain (Arrrr!) who is sailing about the map, finding treasure and developing a reputation. After six rounds, whoever has the most points is the winner.
Like all the games that came out of Ignatow’s recent Kickstarter, a pool of dice is rolled each turn and everyone uses the same rolls. However, it isn’t entirely a multi-player solitaire. (It can be played as an actual soliatire, though)
There are four ways that you can use the dice in the game. You can use them to recruit crew, who you’ll need to move your boat over the map. You can use them to unlock treasure chests, which takes three dice each. You can use them to enhance your pirate captain reputation. And, if all else fails, you can spend dice to take a point penalty. (No, you don’t want to do that. Avoiding penalties is a good idea)
Really, the game is about moving around the map, which takes up half the player sheet. The primary actions, recruiting crew and unlocking treasure chests are all about movement. (Okay, technically you can move onto an unlocked treasure but it costs you points so it’s one of those bad idea)
A big part of what makes Roll Pirates work and a game I want to play again is that the map is too big to go everwhere over the course of 36 dice. In fact, I think a quarter of the map might be more than you cover in game. You seriously can’t do everything.
The other thing that makes Roll Pirates more than just rolling dice and jotting down numbers is that, in the multi-player game, when you claim a treasure, you get to make some kind of attack on another player. This is actually a neat design choice for a couple reasons. You don’t have to go out of your way to make an attack. Going for treasure is an integral part of the game so the attacks will be a part of the game. It also means that games don’t get too scripted since other folks are going to be messing with your plans.
Each individual piece of Roll Pirates is very simple. The game is a simple one. But it gives you the space to explore different things to do with those simple actions. The game has branching choices.
It’s interesting and fun.