Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Review: Caribbean

Caribbean, from Michail Antonow and Jens-Peter Schliemann, is one of a new line of small-box games from Rio Grande Games and Winning Moves. In this game, players attempt to bribe pirate ships to and convince the pirates to deliver their treasure to ports under the player's control.

This is a rather unique bidding game in which 2-4 players are bidding each turn for the right to influence one of six pirate ships. Unlike most games, the pirate ships aren't under the direct control of any of the players; instead, players must bid barrels of rum for the right to move each ship.

Each player has a set of seven tiles numbered from -1 to 5. At the beginning of each turn, players secretly assign one of their tiles to each ship (with one left over which can be used as a tie breaker). Then, beginning with ship A (appropriately named the Arriba), they reveal their bids. Whoever has bid the most rum gets to move the Arriba one space for every barrel of rum they bid. They can then try and send the Arriba to plunder a port, loot the treasure, and head for one of their own safe havens. After the Arriba is moved, players reveal their bids for the Bravo, then the Caribic, the Diabolo, the Evita, and finally, the Fuego. Then player take all their tiles back and the next round begins. Play continues until one player has amassed a predetermined amount of loot.

The difficulty, of course, lies in trying to divine what ships your opponents are going to want to bid the most on and making sure that you don't all bid on the same ship, especially since in the case of an unbroken tie, no one gets to move the ship.

The -1 tile (a.k.a. "the thief") is used in place of a positive bid and, while it always loses, it reduces the distance that the high bidder gets to move that ship by one space.

One of the most striking features of this game is the construction of the pirate ships. Each ship is a three dimensional model cleverly assembled from sturdy cardboard pieces. They're quite attractive and a lot of fun to move about the board. The board itself is a lovely full color map of the Caribbean Sea ranging from the Yucatan Peninsula to Trinidad and Havanna to Martinique.

The instructions are short, consisting of four full color pages printed on a single glossy sheet of paper. This is a game that can easily be learned and played in under thirty minutes.

Caribbean is a game of fun, light strategy and blind bidding that can be enjoyed by two to four players of all ages. It would make a fine addition to your game collection.


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