Anchors Aweigh by Z-Man Games – Review

Anchors Aweigh by Z-Man Games - Review 1

Theme and What is it?

Ahoy ye landlubbers. Do ye think ye has what it takes to be the wealthiest captain in these here waters? Prepare yer ship and set sail for adventure. Yer crew believes in you and rrrrrr willing to do whatever their captain orders. So, ye must make the right choices of cargo to sell at the next port. The ship who can prepare the required commodities will be the ship with the best booty. Rrrrrrr, and I likes me lots of booty. 

Anchors Aweigh is a resource collection game where players race to collect resources and cargo that will be used to complete tasks at the next port.

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Gameplay Mechanics

Anchors Aweigh starts with each player selecting a ship. These ships have above deck and below deck asset and cargo spaces. The spaces will be filled in during a frantic, every player for themselves “loading” phase in which players all scramble to collect assets and cargo that will be unloaded during the “travel” phase for money. Thirteen random adventure cards are selected and placed in a circle around the pile of assets and cargo. The adventure cards show what assets and resources can be traded at port for either more assets or for coins. The adventure cards are laid face down and a player shouts “all aboard” and everyone flips over the adventure cards and begins to grab assets and cargo. Just remember that seafaring people have manners and only collect assets with one hand at a time. Try using your other hand and you may just lose it! Once a player has filled their ship, they shout “Anchors aweigh” and that player quickly collects the adventure cards. This means the remaining players must collect assets and cargo from memory as the cards have been removed from view. Once all ships are full everyone sets sail and began to trade in their holdings. There are four types of adventure cards. Discovery, Trade, Pirates and Contract cards. Discovery and Trade cards allow you to trade assets and cargo for rewards. Pirates allow players to choose to fight. The choice must be made before the card is flipped. You are either in or out. If the pirate card is flipped and you have the right items to defeat the pirates, then you win a reward. If you do not beat the pirates, you pay a heavy price. The Contract cards are always saved for last. These cards reward large amounts of coins when trading in the required assets and cargo. At the end of the round, coins are added up. For every ten coins, players receive a treasure chest worth ten points. These chests must be placed in an asset space on the ship, either above or below deck. They take up valuable space for the second round (which is the final round). Thirteen new adventure cards are selected and all asset and cargo pieces are replaced in the middle of the table. The second round is played just like the first round with a few exceptions. These exceptions try to balance out the game if it is too lopsided after the first round. At the end of the second round the player with the most booty, or should be say biggest booty, is the winner!

Anchors Aweigh by Z-Man Games - Review 3
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Initial Impressions

Unboxing Anchors Aweigh was a real treat. I could tell right away that this was going to be a game I was going to enjoy. Fun art, fun components and interesting gameplay all come together to make for something special. Once we went through the directions, which were simple and easy to understand, we were right into the first round. I loved the “loading” phase. Everyone fighting for assets and cargo was one of the highlights of the game for me. What I really loved about Anchors Aweigh was how every player was engaged the entire game. Not only are all players collecting during the “loading” phase, they are also all involved in the “travel phase. During this phase, the thirteen adventure cards are resolved and each player can choose if they want to make the trades that are shown on the cards or they may skip that card. There was almost no downtime and everyone in the group had a lot of fun. Right when we finished the first game we reset and started the second game.

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Game Build Quality

I always have high expectations when it comes to Zman games. They have always impressed me with their thoughtfulness when it comes to competent quality. Anchors Aweigh is not a departure for that expectation. The ships and all the tiles and coins are made of really nice cardboard. The boats are very creative the way they split the deck and allow you to hide some of your assets and cargo. My only issue is with the adventure cards. They aren’t as thick as I would like. They can take a bit of a beating because this is a grab and go game format where lots of hands are grabbing and pushing things around the table. I think you will want to sleeve the adventure cards to keep them looking nice and having them around for years of fun.

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Artistic Direction

The art of Anchor Aweigh fits perfectly with the theme. It is light hearted and is very inviting. It allows players to be sucked into the experience without taking away from the some of the chaos that naturally arises from a game of this nature. The ships look amazing and even though you are moving so fast through the entire game you can still take time to appreciate them.

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Fun Factor

The real wow factors for Anchors Aweigh are the ships and round when everyone is grabbing assets and cargo at the same time. First, the ships look great and having the split deck is really fun. They help you get involved with the theme and really feel like you are the captain of the ship. Second, the grab and go round is just plain old fun. Everyone scrambling to get what is needed to complete the adventure cards makes for great social dynamics. Some people will be hesitant to slam their hand into other player’s hands and that can cost them. You can’t be timid in this one. And trying to be the first person to fill their ship so other players lose the view of the adventure cards is just a fantastic part of the game.

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Age Range & Weight

8+ is the recommended age for Anchors Aweigh. I feel this is a great recommendation. There are some memory skills required during the loading phase, especially once the adventure cards have been removed. This can be a great way to help young ones develop those skills, but it may frustrate them during a game when they do not have the correct pieces to complete adventure cards. I played a few games with a ten-year-old and she kept right up with us and played competitive rounds. I wouldn’t hesitate to play Anchors Aweigh with young developing gamers. You may have to just slow down some of the game to help them process things.

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Conclusions

Anchors Aweigh is a fast-paced game and very creative. The theme is fun and family friendly. The artwork allows you to feel like you are there sailing the seas and collecting your fortune. It is a light enough game that new gamers can feel comfortable with it and can pick up some strategy right away. I can see this going over well in family settings and at game nights. It only plays up to four so that may be a negative when thinking about it as a party style game. Once players are familiar with the game there are variant rules available to mix it up and add new challenges. You should give Anchors Aweigh a shot. You may find a new staple for your game table.

What rrrrr you waiting for? The seas don’t wait for the faint of heart. If ye are looking for the bounteous booty that can be had, then ye best climb aboard and set sail before that there booty belongs to someone else.