Full disclosure: A review copy of Bermuda Pirates was provided by FoxMind.
Alright, here we go again with another review! This time it’s Bermuda Pirates, from FoxMind. Lots of fun stuff from FoxMind in the past, like Manhattan and The Potion, which recently got a cooperative mini-expansion that I still want to try. I’m also checking out Match Madness from them, soon, but Bermuda Pirates was a bit more top-of-mind, so I wanted to make sure I got to that one. So let’s dive right into it and see what’s going on there!
In Bermuda Pirates, you and your crew have made a name for yourselves in the dreaded Bermuda Triangle. Unfortunately, you assumed that was all superstition, only to find out that weird things happen in this part of the ocean. Whirlpools have appeared and threaten to cut you off from a massive treasure, so you resolve to get there and get it out while you still can. Of course, you’re not the only pirate who’s got their sights set on that haul…
Not much to do, here. Put the deep-sea boards down, first:
Then, set the full board on top of them, using the blue plastic centerpiece to keep everything aligned:
Add the flags on top of that:
And then put the crystals in the center, separated by color:
Give each player a boat matching the color of their corner of the board:
For younger / less experienced players, you may also want to give them one or more buoys:
Once you’ve done all that, you should be ready to start!
A game of Bermuda Pirates is simple in theory: you want to get the treasure and take it back to your dock. The problem is that nothing’s ever so simple when you’re in the Bermuda Triangle! There’s some strange movement in the currents and you suspect a whirlpool could appear out of nowhere to capsize you! You’ll have to be clever if you want to make it out a rich pirate.
On your turn, push your boat towards the center with one finger (similar to Snowman Dice, reviewing later this year). If you make it to the center without incident and your boat touches a flag, you may take the corresponding crystal and add it to your boat. You may continue around the island, hitting docks to add to your boat, but be careful! Crystals that get knocked off during loading are lost to the sea unless you can pick them back up.
Then, push your boat back to your home dock to claim the treasures. Seems easy, right? Oh, did I not mention the whirlpools?
Should you get unlucky, you might hit a whirlpool! That’s a solid metal disk under the board that attracts your ship’s magnetic bow. If you get caught in one, you might launch your treasure into the sea! Either way, leave the treasures you claimed behind (if any) and end your turn. The next player gets to go. If you have any buoys, you can place one on the whirlpool to warn yourself (and others) of the potential fate that may befall the unwary.
Once any player has a full set of treasures, finish the round and end the game. All players with a complete set of treasures win!
If you’re looking to get a bit more aggressive, there’s always the Plunder variant! In this one, not only can you get more than one set of treasures, but you can also steal from other players!
Now, players remove their boats after their turn, and you can go to their dock and take up to two treasures of different colors.
A full set of Treasures (one of each color) is now worth 6 points, and they’re removed from your dock once you have them (and can’t be stolen). Once a player has 8 points, finish the round and the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
Not really many in the base game, since you’re kind of playing solo against the board itself. In Plunder, you kind of become more incentivized to take sets over singles, otherwise if you hit 8 players can pick you apart (since likely other players will get extra turns before the game ends). That pile-on is usually pretty unlikely, given that players will usually crash before they make it back to their dock, but they may still make off with your points, which could be a bummer. Either way, I don’t see many differences with player count beyond adding additional downtime when it’s not your turn, and even then turns are relatively short so it’s not that big of a deal. No particular player count preference.
- Memory is the key, here. You’re gonna have to remember where the whirlpools are pretty precisely. Even if you have the buoys, they’re fairly light-weight, so they’re not going to keep you from sliding into the deep if you get too close to reclaim your treasure.
- Don’t get too greedy. Don’t go back for things in the heart of the whirlpool, and don’t necessarily go after an opponent’s dock if you’re plundering straight away. Sometimes it’s good to get just enough to complete the set, rather than enough to win and then some.
- Don’t waste the opportunity of someone else capsizing. This one is pretty important. If they drop their treasure all over the board, help yourself! Just make sure you’re not getting into their space; you don’t know where the whirlpools are on their board. Let them figure that out; you can always get treasure directly from the island.
- Even if you’re not using buoys, you can probably use spots on the board to try and jog your memory. I usually try to note the nearest animal or image on the board to figure it out when I play. Knowing to stay away from the jellyfish, for instance, is a useful thing if I don’t have access to the buoys because I’ve played too many times.
- If you’re plundering, make sure you’ve done due diligence to find a simple path to another player’s dock. You really don’t want your last turn to end with an anticlimactic plunk as your boat drops all the treasure you stole. Now, it is funny if you do that and drop your opponent’s treasure into the ocean. Cruel? Absolutely, but extremely funny. And sometimes you’ve just gotta make that your primary motivation.
- In either game mode, it’s a good idea to want complete sets of treasures. I mean, normally, that’s not surprising in the slightest; you’re a pirate, and incomplete sets of treasures just won’t do. In the base game, it effectively wins you the game, which is nice, but the real advantage comes with the Plunder mode; a full set of treasure is removed from the board and therefore cannot be stolen by other players. This means if you get two full sets of treasures, that’s 12 points that no other player can touch. And that’s awesome! To that end, always try to get full sets o treasure.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I mean, the magnet thing is pretty cool. I just like magnets in general, but I think this is a particularly innovative use of them in the board gaming space. I haven’t seen anything like it before, at least. It seems on the same scale as like, Valley of the Vikings or ICECOOL in bringing something extremely new and cool to the Early Gamers space.
- Cute theme. You’re the pirates of the Bermuda Triangle trying to avoid mysterious whirlpools and get treasure; what’s not to like? That said, I generally have a soft spot for pirate games, and I especially enjoy silly games, so a silly game about pirates is a great fit.
- Great art. Even the Underboard looks good, and you basically never even look at that! The whole board looks great, though I’ll at least admit the current Best-Looking Pirate Game, in my opinion, is Extraordinary Adventures: Pirates!. This is a solid piece of art, though.
- Easy to learn. I mean, you’d hope so for a game for kids, but that’s not always the case. Thankfully you can walk people through the core game in probably a minute or two?
- Honestly, it’s really fun to teach people and just not tell them about the magnets. The best thing in the world is the first time the gems get launched from one of the boats. People are furious! It’s delightful. Probably not the best selling point, but, I’m a rascal.
- I’d be really excited to see expansions on this concept. I wonder what you could do with like wagons or something? I feel like this is a relatively deep concept for just one game, and I’d love to see if there’s anything else that can be pulled out of this initial design.
- The crystals are tiny. I assume that’s so that they can fit on the boat more easily, but damn.
- Don’t let experienced players use too many buoys. It makes the game really boring, unfortunately, since everyone can know where all their whirlpools are without much effort. That is definitely not what the game is trying to get players to do, so make sure to limit buoy use to only players who need the extra help, not just everyone.
- I think my board has a slight manufacturing defect. I’ve counted, and one of my boards has one additional magnet more than it should, and it’s located right in the corner. Not normally a problem unless it’s the corner under which your island is located. If that happens, it’s almost impossible for that player to deliver their goods, which isn’t superb. It’s difficult to get around, as well, since we only have the four boards.
- The first few rounds can be a bit luck-based / anticlimactic. The fun part of the game is when your boat just flips and launches all your gems into the night. Or, at least, the fun part for me is when that happens to someone else. That’s not always how the game goes, though; it’s totally possible that a player might just have the right intuition and manages to cruise clean through the whirlpools to the island, get some gems, and now they have a totally clear pathway there and back (as long as they can remember). It’s not the most likely thing but it’s definitely unsatisfying when it happens.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, though, I think Bermuda Pirates is a lot of fun! Easily a very solid game for younger players, and it’s still interesting enough to keep older players engaged, which I really appreciate. At its core, it’s a silly game, sure, but I think the actual mechanical design of the game is particularly smart. Embedding metal disks in cardboard to catch magnetic boats is pretty cool, and it means that the game looks and feels very standard cardboard but then expands outward into this neat little feat of mechanical engineering. Personally, I think it’s easily as novel as other games I’ve seen earn a lot of praise in the space, like ICECOOL (though I’ll definitely concede that I prefer ICECOOL without much contest; I love penguins and I think the dexterity is a bit more interesting, albeit skill-based). That said, I’d definitely get this for a few of my friends who have some younger gamers and are looking to get them excited about games! I might recommend it for a bit older than the early HABA crowd (those crystals are pretty tiny), but I still think it’s a solid title. If you’re looking for something to play with a younger player or you just like quick and simple dexterity games, check out Bermuda Pirates! Especially if you can hit the whirlpool perfectly.