Tabletop Twosome’s ‘Tweet’ Review: In Port Royal; push your luck for fame and fortune! Then go bust and lose it all.
In the harbour of Port Royal; you will find a busy and bustling trade town; People coming from far and wide hoping to make the deal of their life. Will you go home with a tidy profit? Or maybe, you’ll lose it all. You’ll need to reinvest to gain favour of Governors and Admirals, even hire other people to further your goals. If you want to go on those expensive expeditions you are going to have to work!
This is a card game; with 120 cards in total comprised of: 4 tax increases, 50 ships (10 of each colour), 60 persons and 6 expeditions. The back of every card features a gold coin; this is important as the game goes on.
If you’re playing with less than 5 players, you’ll just need to remove the special expedition card. You’ll be able to tell which one it is as it’s the only card in the deck without a gold coin on the back. Now, shuffle that deck! No really, shuffle it like your life depends on it. Give each player 3 coins from the top of the deck (the backs of the cards) and then we can start!
The player who last visited a harbour is the starting player. Start with that player then go round in a clockwise direction.
The turn consists of two phases, the second of which may not always be completed! We shall find out why later; but onto Phase 1!
Phase 1 is known as the ‘Discover Phase’. This is where you draw a card from the draw pile and put in the middle of the table. This is the harbour! So, turn cards over one by one and in theory, as many as you like. However, some of these cards may be ships; turn over two ships of the same colour and you’ll go bust (see our quick video below); lose the remainder of your turn, and all those lovely cards you drew, will be sent to the discard pile.
If you don’t turn over a second ship of the same colour you can keep pushing your luck for more cards. Once you have finished cycling the deck and assuming you didn’t go bust; you get to take just one of the cards laid out bef0re you. Unless you struck multi-coloured ship gold; that is, drew from the deck either 4 or 5 ships all of different colours. This will give you the choice to take 2 or 3 cards respectively. It feels good to hit this.
As we are on ships, may as well explain now; they give you money! Yup, if you choose to take a ship or ships as your card choice, you get gold. As you can see they all have a gold value; take that card and then taking that many coins off the deck. Remember, the cards are dual purpose in this game, they are your money AND the draw pile for the harbour.
The other kind of card that can come visit the harbour (i.e. play area) is people. In the right corner of the card, you’ll see how many victory points that person scores you, the left is what they do and down at the bottom is how much it costs to purchase AND of course, the name of the person.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand what a card does by just looking at it. The rule book has a handy guide that even we still use. These cards will allow you to gain more money, complete expeditions and scare away ships! So they’re worth purchasing with your coins as the game goes on.
One card we want to highlight particularly are people with swords on them:
Those with a keen eye would have noticed the ships all have a ‘combat’ value represented by swords. This is one of the ways you can mitigate the luck factor. If you recruit military might, as long as your swords at least equal to the value of the ship coming off the deck, you can choose to scare it away before it lands in the harbour. Note, once you draw your next card that ship is now fixed there. It gives you some control over the cards you pull, but beware the dreaded skull ship; It is both very valuable and impossible to fear off in this way.
That covers Phase 1: but at least Phase 2 is simpler! This basically gives other players access to the harbour you have created. Let’s assume the below is left on the table after the current active player has finished choosing their ships and people:
Now, going clockwise, every other player can choose to take one of the cards here. The catch is that they must pay 1 additional gold directly to the active player for each card they choose. So for example, if player two wanted to take the 4 gold black ship that’s been left on the table; player two would receive the 4 gold, then pay 1 gold to the active player. This is one of the clever things about Port Royal, the more cards you draw, the more choice you give other players to get what they need.
Just lastly there are some special cards in the deck which are expeditions:
These are one of the main ways you can score points. Essentially you trade in people you have purchased from the harbour that match the symbols of the expedition requests; so for example 2 anchors; to gain that expedition permanently as your very own ‘complete’ quest. The people that helped you complete it, go to the discard pile; as effectively their job is done. They may be rehired again later as you will shuffle the whole deck multiple times.
That’s basically it; you can now go play Port Royal. We’d suggest you don’t go straight in at the max player count of 5 as the game can run a little long as is often the case with these smaller games. The box states 20-40 minutes but we have had a game creep just above that due to indecisiveness. Also, as you gain special character abilities and powers; each player’s Phase 1, the bit where you draw cards, can start to run quite long meaning that it can be a while before you really get to do anything.
That’s the only negative we really agree on as a twosome… But this is a game we disagree on overall. But for the together portion. If you like push-your-luck style games; set sail for Port Royal.
Read my bio I wrote here… Go on I’ll wait…
Welcome back. It’s hard for me to decide which way to go with this final thoughts; on the one hand I respect Port Royal for what it is; and I actually would recommend it to people that like Black Jack, Yahtzee and Liar’s Dice; all games that are statistical Push Your Luck style games in some form. Port Royal is a really good version of those. But I just don’t enjoy games that are this focused on this particular mechanism. If you dear reader and I, are going to have a relationship of trust; then I’d rather you know this about me now; this style of game is not for me.
I really like the personal play area portion of the game. There’s a combination and set collection feeling, as you find unique ways to manipulate your turn; the swords vs boats being an example of this. When the game becomes less lucky and more about control; that’s when I get into it. I just don’t feel like slogging through the first 5-6 turns to get there very often.
I’ll probably rarely visit the area that time has come to know has Port Royal, but on the occasions I do, I will enjoy it; because it is a good game. (Also, Chess ALWAYS pushes her luck every turn… It’s 4 ships or bust… It isn’t fun to play against Chessie!).
It’s really difficult for me to write coming after Luke and his lovely coherent views. I just enjoy this game. I can’t really say much else because there is nothing I dislike. If you weren’t aware, we run a board game group; this game was brought along by a member and I really enjoyed it. Since then, quite a few of our members have picked it up. None of my words can really sum that up can they? It’s just a fun game and really worth grabbing.
We also included it on our top inexpensive games list. I know the price shouldn’t be used to determine whether a game is worth buying, but for this game; it is much better than the price implies. It’s a really solid my style push your luck game, and I love beating Luke at it… When he’ll play with me!
Have you played Port Royal? Tell us your thoughts!
Are you #Teamluke or #TeamChessie ?!