Reviewed by: Mary Dimercurio Prasad
Game Played: Review Copy
Number of Plays: 3 x 2 player, 2 x 1 player
Thar be treasure here!
Sail your fleet of galleons to the Murky Isles, hiding place for some of the greatest pirate treasures ever buried. Roll the Buccaneer Bones (landlubbers call them “dice”) to send Ships out to sea. When you reach the island, you get a special bonus just for being there. But the best part is the treasure! Find the treasure and bring it back to port, then set sail again. The first pirate to bring back three treasures claims the title of “Scourge of the Seven Seas”! Arrrr!!! (From the rulebook.)
The goal of Buccaneer Bones is to plunder three treasures from the islands. Each player starts with a first mate pawn, 6 ships, and map that’s basically a 6×4 grid: six columns corresponding to the pips on a die and four rows. The top row of the map contains ports, the second row sea, the third row contains the islands, and the fourth row has icons representing special bonuses. The game comes with six dice (the one pip has been replaced by a skull to go with the theme of the game, otherwise they are standard six-sided dice). Players take turns rolling 4 dice, plus any bonus dice, up to two times (or more with bonuses). Important: each dice set (pairs of threes of a kind) may only be used for one action during any turn.
If a player rolls a pair or three of a kind, he can move his corresponding ship one space (pair) or all the way to the islands (three of a kind). Ships never change columns. Examples: if a player rolls two 3s and two 5s, he can move his 3 ship one space and his 5 ship one space; if a player rolls three 4s, she can move her 4 ship to the corresponding island (this may be one or two spaces depending on if she moved her ship one space in a previous turn). If a ship is already on an island, it does not move on a pair (nothing happens in this case) but on a three of a kind, the player may plunder for a treasure, taking one of the treasure tiles from stock and moving that ship back to its port.
Bonuses – there are bonuses given for each ship on an island, until which time the ships are moved off (for plunder). For islands 1 and 6, a player receives an additional die to roll each turn – if the player has a ship on both of these islands, he gets two extra dice each turn for a total of six; for islands 2 and 5, the player may manipulate one pip, up or down, during dice rolling for each ship on these islands; for islands 3 and 4, the player gets an extra roll for each ship on these islands.
If a player could not move or plunder, e.g. due to bad dice rolls, she may use her first mate in one of three ways, as a scout, a thief, or a defender. To use as a scout, a player places her pawn on one of her empty islands; she will be allowed to use its bonus next round only – the scout is removed at the end of that turn. To use as a thief to steal treasure, a player places her pawn on a treasure of another player who has at least as many treasures as she does. On her next turn, if she rolls any three of a kind, she may steal that treasure. To use as a defender, if another player has his first mate pawn on one of her treasures, she may return his pawn to him empty-handed.
Once one player has three treasures, players finish the round (even turns) then the game ends. The player with the most treasures is the winner. In the case of a tie, add sailing points (see rules). The full rules (pdf) for Buccaneer Bones are available at Wattsalpoag Games.
I really like Buccaneer Bones but not quite enough to put it into the “I love it” category. It’s a great filler game that would also make a nice family/kids game; it may be too light for more serious gamers. It is fun and plays quickly. Although it is a dice game, with all the luck that entails, there are decisions along the way (i.e. which dice to keep or reroll, when to plunder – losing the related bonus). The bonuses can really help. It is nice to have a pip manipulation bonus in there, in addition to the more usual additional dice or more rolls (reminiscent of a very simplified To Court the King).
The game has a few variants listed: a family friendly version (remove the thief and defender, i.e. no stealing treasure), a “Scurvy Pirate” version (may try to steal a treasure even from those with fewer than you), and a party version (requires an extra copy of the game so you can play up to 8). There is also a solo game. You track how many turns it takes for you to get three treasures and compare it to the chart provided. I played twice, getting 11 the first time and 10 the second – both ranking me a “Cabin Boy.” Ugh. I’m not sure I would normally pull the game out to play solo, although I think it would make a decent phone app (e.g. for waiting in line). The full game as an app would be even more fun.
I like that the box is small (travel sized!) – with 3 compartments for components. Although the insert is cardboard, it’s pretty sturdy due to the small size. The box is very sturdy with a beautiful linen finish over the colorful cover and bottom. The custom dice are fairly standard (good quality), but I especially love the solid tiles and treasure pieces. They have a nice feel to them. The pawns are not quite as nice (hollow) but they aren’t bad. The player mats are a bit thinner than I would like although this probably helped to keep the box size small. I will probably laminate them. Overall I would say it is a high quality production.
Opinions from other Opinionated Gamers
Mark Jackson (3 plays): This is a very light but quite enjoyable dice game with some decision-making (though not too much). It has gone over very well with the non-gamer part of my family… which I think is really the intended audience.
Ratings Summary from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it!
I like it: Mary Prasad, Mark Jackson
Not for me…