I was very frustrated by this game because I feel like it should have been great.
Theme and What is it?
*Note* Copy of game provided by publisher for review.
It is the age of sail and sword. The South Seas are rich with opportunity for adventure, be it mercenary or mercantile. Choose your captain, gather your crew, and prepare to set sail.
Can you gather enough renown to become a legend? More importantly, can you do it before anyone else?
British vs Pirates 2 is a table top miniatures skirmish game set on the high seas. With a small armada of ships and a handful of missions, skills, and a stalwart crew you’ll pit yourself against your opponents as you complete goals, upgrade your ships, and gain new objectives.
With a little luck, a little skill, and a good wind you may just win the day or you may find yourself a guest of Davy Jones Locker at the depths of the sea. Good sailing.
British vs Pirates 2 is a standalone expansion for British vs Pirates, a competitive skirmish game for two or more players. Each of you will take control of a couple of ships from the two included fleets: French and Buccaneers. You’ll then set sail to complete missions. Every mission gives you Marks of Victory, goods, or ships as a prize. Using these things and planning your turns with a mind towards foiling your opponent’s goals is the key to a hearty victory.
There are two modes for the game; Victory Mode and Annihilation Mode. In victory mode you’ll be completing missions, harvesting goods, and searching for treasure. Annihilation mode sees you and your opponents building navies and working to sink each other’s ships.
Let’s look at victory mode. With this ruleset you start with two ships and a fortress that guards your home port. Each of your ships will have a random mission drawn from a deck of cards. Every mission will list a destination, a couple of skills you’ll need to test against, and possible rewards. There are three types of missions and they appear to be naval, pirate, and merchant. If you don’t like a particular mission you drew for a ship then you can discard it and draw a new one at the beginning of your next turn.
You can also harvest goods from certain points on the boards. This involves moving to a marked spot on the board and dropping anchor. When this is done you roll two dice against a target number based on the type of good you’re harvesting. If one of the dice is equal to or higher than the target number you get one of that good and can then raise anchor and set sail to one of the ports that purchase that good to earn more marks of victory.
Combat is also a route to victory in this mode. Each type of ship has a layout sheet that shows what types and the number of cannons you have. Once a ship is in range of your guns you’ll roll a number of dice as indicate on your ships dashboard. Damage is done at first to the hull, once that is gone you’ll deal damage to the structure. If you manage to sink an enemy ship you’ll score a mark of victory.
You can also move your ships each round. At the start of your turn you’ll compare the facing of your ship to the direction of the wind. Depending on the size of your ship and how the wind is pushing against it you get a number of spaces that you can move. Ships also have a number of hex faces they can pivot to face a new direction either before or after they move.
Annihilation mode uses only combat and movement rules. Each player builds a fleet of ships and faces off until you succeed in sinking a predetermined number of enemy ships.
There are a few other bits and bobs here. Things like tacking, different types of cannon shot, and event cards that can be played. There’s also a set of unique skill cards that can give each crew the right advantage at the right time. This is just a general overview of the rules.
I really like pirates. Grand naval battles of yesteryear hold a fun attraction for me. Because of that and the quality of the miniatures that came in the box I was very excited to try this game. Unboxing this game gave me a huge smile and a desire to get stuck in right away.
Game Build Quality
All of the physical components are very nice. I love the ship mini’s, they all convey movement and give a clear indication of the type of ship it is. The cards are good quality, though the mission cards are so full of information that the text is very small and I wish they’d used larger cards to make them easier to read. There are a lot of dice in this game. They match the colors of the two navies and are used to mark how much armor is left on a given ship section.
The rulebook was a little hard to read. Setup is at the end of the book. It’s a thing I find annoying and wish they’d done it differently. Additionally some of the rules contradict one another. More on this in my conclusion.
I really like the art here. The images of the ships are all dynamic and give a sense of movement and purpose. Captains all look interesting and have tons of personality in their pictures. The art is really good here.
This is a competitive game of naval combat at its core. You’ll need to think tactically to put yourself in a good position to take advantage of a momentary lapse on your opponent’s part. Even in a game where you’re focusing on harvesting goods you’ll need to beware how your opponent is position themselves in case they launch a sudden attack or try a sabotage mission.
Age Range & Weight
The box says 14+ and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. There’s a lot of deep decision making to do here and you’ll need to be ready to change plans at the last minute. Some of the rules are a bit involved so anyone younger may not be able to grasp some of the more complex ideas in the game.
British vs Pirates 2 is an interesting game. I had to sit with this for a couple of days before I decide to put my thoughts on paper. In the end I get what they’re trying to do here I just don’t feel they were particularly successful.
I think the ideas here with the movement, ship combat, and the mission system are all good ideas but I don’t like how they’re implemented. A big part of that is I feel like this game was designed to be played by more than two people. I mentioned that I had some problems with the rules and had to go looking some things up online. While doing this I found the rules for the original British vs Pirates. Some differences that jumped out immediately to me were the map in 1 is two tiles by three or one by three. In 2 it’s three by three. The additional row(s) of tiles made the map too open to interact with your opponent.
Initiative was also handled differently in the base game. There, both players rolled off the higher scoring player decided if they wanted to go first or set the direction of the wind. In 2 initiative is specifically called out as each player rolls and the highest scoring player goes first, second highest scoring player goes second, and so on. Wind is then randomly determined. Two assumes there will be more than two people playing. However, it only includes two navies which makes implementing these things more difficult.
Another problem I had was victory mode is set up as the principal method of play for this set. Which on the surface sounds like a good idea. However, each captain has a list of eight skills and they’ll only be really good at maybe two of them. If you have a saboteur skill of one and keep getting search and destroy mission it makes it unlikely that you’ll accomplish them. You can discard your mission and draw a new one at the start of your next turn. However, all of the mission are in the same deck which means you’re just as likely to keep getting a mission you can’t reasonably perform and you’ve wasted an entire turn not making any progress on a mission. I like the idea and layout of the mission but I wish they’d been divided between separate decks so you could choose what sort of strategy best fit your captains.
One of the other problems I had was with questions with the rules. For example, there’s a disconnect between the rules for dropping anchor and pulling into a port. You can’t drop anchor in the turn you moved. When you enter a port you have to drop anchor. To raise anchor you have to announce it one turn and then you can move on your next. When entering a port you have to drop anchor but you also have to leave on your next turn. The problem is that on turn one I sail into port. On turn two I drop anchor and announce I’m raising anchor. Then on turn three I sail from the space. Except by the rules I have to leave port on turn two. I assume this is just a poorly worded moment in the rules that should read I need to leave port after spending a round with my anchor lowered. But it doesn’t say that.
I never tried annihilation mode because it was so nebulous. Build a fleet from whatever you want and take it against your opponent’s fleet. This seems fine but there’s no points value or rating system besides ship size to tell me how to set up two balanced forces. I’ve played too many miniatures games to not want balanced forces. We could have done it by ship size except the buccaneers don’t have any large ships and the French do.
I was very frustrated by this game because I feel like it should have been great. It felt like there was a great game sitting on the table in front of me and it was just out of reach. I honestly feel like a lot of that comes down to this feeling like it was two players short of a full game. From looking up rules questions online British vs Pirates looks to be pretty popular. I think it’s where you need to start if you’re going to get into this. I just don’t feel like this is a great jumping in point. If you already have British vs Pirates and you’re looking for more map tiles, ships, and options then this is probably very much for you.
In the end this is just my opinion and I wish I’d enjoyed the game more. I really do. However, as always I encourage you to try before you buy regardless of your experience with the game. Check out the demo library at your local game store or convention. It may even be on one of the tabletop simulators or websites like Tabletopia or Board game Arena.
One last thought before I go. In a previous review I posted so thoughts here. I warmed to the act of those parting words and wanted to leave some more. Remember folks no matter what you’re doing please take a little time each day to care for yourself. You’re amazing and the world would be less special without you in it. Be well.
British vs Pirates Volume 2 - Exocrate Games - Review
I was very frustrated by this game because I feel like it should have been great.