Monday, February 1, 2016

Ye Scurvy Dog: A Review of Dead Men Tell No Tales

Dead Men Tell No Tales, published by Minion Games, is a cooperative board game for 2-5 players. In the game, you are pirates raiding a cursed ship that is infested with undead pirates while it is burning down into a watery grave. 

At this point I have played Dead Men Tell No Tales twice and I really enjoy it. 

The game is a fairly standard cooperative board game. Players do three things on their turn. First they flip and place a ship tile to build the ship. If you cannot place a tile in a way where the doors match up with previously placed tiles then you will lose. The tiles also bring in the various skeletons, guards, treasures, powder kegs, and grog. After the tile placement, the player spends action points to complete actions. Actions include things like putting out fire, moving, and attacking the ships undead denizens. A major consideration while you are moving about is the fire level though, whenever you move into a room where the fire is hotter than the room you came from you must take fatigue. If you get too much fatigue you won't be able to move around the ship until one of your friends comes to your aid to lower the fire. Finally, players turn over a card that instructs the players to raise fire levels across the ship and/or bring out/move the bad guys. Like all cooperative games, there are many more ways to lose than there are to win. You can lose if there are too many explosions on the ship because you allowed the fire to get out of hand, or if you cannot access treasures that you need because rooms have become closed off to you, or if a player dies and there are no more pirate characters for the player to become. To win you must collect a certain number of treasures off of the ship and transport them to your waiting row boats.

The first time I played this game I played with my wife and son. We were doing very well, but then lost in the last couple of turns because we had a bunch of explosions and those explosions cut us off from the treasures we needed to win.

The second time I played this game with Charlie and we won handily. If we play it again we think we will increase the difficulty.

On a strategy note, I think on of the most important parts of this game is building your paths across the ship. In my first play I just placed rooms haphazardly and didn't really worry about the paths we were creating. This was our downfall because some rooms exploded and we weren't able to get to the parts of the ship anymore that we needed to. Charlie and I really thought about each and every tile placement to make sure that didn't happen to us.

I enjoy this game. The artwork is terrific--wonderful painted images. And the gameplay is fairly solid. Right now, I do feel like the fire in the game isn't that big of a deal. I guess you could get just the right combination of cards a couple of turns in a row and it could really ruin everything, but in my two plays, the fire was never that huge of a deal. We usually were able to deal with the fire and keep it low--we just assigned one player to always be working on the fire. The element that really got out of hand was the skeleton deck hands because they really limit your movement around the board, so you have to waste turns killing them so you can get to a treasure or get a treasure off the ship. Fatigue was never a big deal in both of our games either. I like that you can search through a deck of useful items and exchange the item you were recently using for something else. And I have always enjoyed variable player powers. You can make some really powerful combinations with these two things. The pirate theme really comes through which is nice.

I rated this game a 7 out of 10. It will retain a spot in my collection.

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