“Try Before You Buy” is an occasional segment of Astral Projections. It spotlights free (or nearly free) supplements, quick-start rules, and modules for various RPGs.
I usually spotlight RPG materials in this segment, partly because I am primarily an RPGer, but also because RPGs are almost the only type of game that offers these types of promotional materials. But at US$10, Captain Treasure Boots (Capt. B) is “nearly free” since many good board games found at hobby and games stores are $50 and up; $30+ online or if you’re lucky enough to find them at brick & mortar discount/department retailers. (It happens–I have seen Pandemic and Cataan at local Walmarts.)
So what is Capt. B? It’s a simple pirate game for ages 12 and up, by Cheapass Games. The company’s business is selling mostly inexpensive games ($5-15, per the website), alongside offering free games PDFs where you print (or scavenge or repurpose) everything and “deluxe” games crowdfunded via Kickstarters. Capt. B is the first type. Note: If you want to make sure you get the updated rules, as well as all needed tokens and dice, the easiest way is to buy via the Funagain Games button on the Cheapass page linked above. If not read the box (or description if buying online) to make sure you are buying the latest edition. Target’s website, for example, is selling the older version for the same price.
My son, Brennen, and I discovered Capt. B at Gamer Nation Con IV a few weeks ago. We were looking on the Dallas Games Marathon shelves for a quick game to fill in a spare hour or 2. I also wanted one that was really simple, because my brain was a bit fried by allergy meds. Since pirates are cool, we picked this one. The included pieces are cardboard, printed in full color. It is not the thickest stock, but pieces didn’t seem to have much wear. (Of course, I have no way of knowing how long the club has had the game or how often it had been played.)
What can you do? Mostly, you move your ship/s to various islands and collect loot–everything from coins and pearls to equipment like sails and cannons. You can also battle other players to take their loot and any player can take control of any Privateer ship on the board on her turn. All mechanics are based on rolling 1 or 2 six-siders. A turn has several parts: roll to see if the wind marker moves, which will affect your movement rate and directions; move the ship; land; (optional) battle another ship. Ship to ship combat is resolved with a single dice roll by each player, and whoever gets the highest number wins.
When you dock at a port you can sell your treasures for gold, which equals the points required to win the game. Number of gold needed to win varies with the number of players; for a 2 person game, it is 30 gold, for example. But you don’t want to sell all the prizes you’ve won. Equipment tokens you are carrying, such as the cannons and sails, are helpful. Each cannon is a +1 to your attack roll and each sail increases movement rate by one. So you have to use some judgment here, maybe sell everything but 2 cannon and 2 sails.
We found Capt B just an okay game, but are agreed that this was mostly because, like many games, it didn’t really work as a two-player game, even though it says it is for 2-6. We’d like to get a copy and try it out with more players. I also wouldn’t recommend it for kids much younger than the suggested 12+. Maybe older elementary, if there are older players who can offer kind help. There were a few mechanics that we had trouble figuring out, or realized after several turns, that we had misinterpreted, for example how many treasure tokens you took from a given island. It wasn’t a big deal to us, we just shrugged and said, “We will correct going on.” But I could see the problem being worse with younger elementary children.
I think Captain Treasure Boots is a nice little addition to your Beer and Pretzel Game Shelf. For the most part, it is easy to learn and quick-playing (40 minutes per the box). Adults, teens, and older kids can all play together. If nothing else, look for it when you have some down time at GNC V.