Monday, June 17, 2024

Beards and Booty is a beer and pretzels joy

I went into Beards and Booty with meh expectations but I was pleasantly surprised by how it played out. Nothing in Beards and Booty is original or innovative but it all came together in a way that really worked for me.

Beards and Booty is a game about pirates fighting other pirates or sea monsters. It’s a Print and Play game where all you print out are play mats. No other construction necessary. Just add dice and a few tokens.

The game comes in a few different modes. The original multiplayer mode just has everyone grab their own pirate and beat each other up. You add in the sea monsters for solitaire, semi-cooperative and fully cooperative mode. 

Each pirate and sea monster has their own play mat. Pirates have tracks for reputation/health and gold, a menu of dice driven actions, spaces for tracking rolls and special gold driven powers. Sea monsters just have a health track and a menu of dice powers.

Yes, our old friend Yahtzee is back to be the driving force behind the game. Which I am completely fine with. Yahtzee, as a standalone game, only works in my opinion as a solitaire. It is too dry and turns take too long to work as a multiplayer game. Multiplayer solitaire games work best with simultaneous turns. However, when you add theme and additional mechanics to Yahtzee, then the limited dice control that you get becomes interesting.

Beards and Booty makes one twist in the Yahtzee formula. While you roll all five dice at the start of your turn, each dice can be rolled up to three times. There are spots on the mat to help you keep track of how many times you’ve rolled each dice. So you can roll more than three times. This usually hasn’t been the case for my plays but this does give you a chance for Hail Mary plays.

I recently learned another game that uses Yahtzee as its base, Roll Crawl. However, Roll Crawl uses a smaller dice pool and a very limited number of actions per character. Beards and Booty uses the full range of Yahtzee combinations, although the more powerful actions require specific pips which vary depending on each pirate.

You can do damage, heal up damage and get gold. Gold is used to pay for special actions. Every pirate has a different set and that’s the only real difference between pirates.

Sea Monsters work differently. Whatever dice you don’t use for a dice combination becomes their dice pool which gets rolled once. Each monster has a different menu of attacks so each one has its own feel. They also each have three levels of difficulty and the higher levels are legitimately harder.

So why do I like Beards and Booty? Chuck dice and do damage. That’s pretty much standard operating procedure for what have to be hundreds, if not thousands, of games.

It’s because it has such a rich Beer and Pretzels vibe to it. Between the big, goofy pictures of the pirates and monsters, the big menu of options and the special powers which, at the right time, seem too good, Beards and Booty just has a strong sense of fun. It’s not a game for serious play but it definitely clicks for silly, casual, trash talking play.

More than that, Beards and Booty does it with very few moving parts. In my experience, Beer and Pretzel games have a big stack of cards and/or chunky plastic pieces. Which awesome because experience is a big part of Beer and Pretzels. But cramming that into a few sheets of paper, plus some dice, that’s cool and convenient.

I would be lying if I said that Beards and Booty was the game I didn’t know I was looking for. Because I have been looking for a casual, take that, Beer and Pretzels, print and play game. All of the likely candidates that I have found he involved making thick decks of cards. Finding one with minimalist components that I think really works, that’s just ideal. I bought it with solitary play in mind, but I can really picture getting all the play sheets printed in color and laminating them so that I have a game I can put into a folder and take anywhere.

Beards and Booty is a niche game. There are a lot of people I wouldn’t play it with and there are a lot of times I wouldn’t pull it out for the folks I would play it with. However, it is a game I’m glad to have found.

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