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Posted on Nov 17, 2008 in Boardgames

Winds of Plunder – Boardgame Review

By Robert Delwood

Next, the Plundering Phase begins — Arrrgh, me hearties! Starting with the first player, each gets three actions: move, buy wind cubes, draw cards, or play cards. A player can use all three of his actions to select a wind direction of his choice, or to move across all four longitude zones, if possible.

Movement is based on wind direction (hence, the game’s title). An east or west wind forces a ship to move up to two longitude zones in that direction but only one port north or south. A north or south wind allows a ship to move any number of ports in the longitude but only one zone east or west. It’s possible to become wind locked in a corner.

Ships move from port to port, and that’s where the real action takes place. Curiously, they can’t stay at sea capturing ships. After entering a port, the player takes the Victory Point tile located there and can gain goods, such as a buried-treasure map, additional weapons, provisions, or crew. The player can then attack another ship in the same port. It’s equally curious that pirates can only attack each other. No one promised honor among thieves. If the moving player has more weapons than another player does in the same port, the moving player may board that ship and either take two VPs or one item from it. Finally, if the moving player is fierce enough — that is, no one else has more weapons — he places a Reputation marker (an unused wind cube) to note having visited that port. Victory points for Reputation are on a decreasing scale: The first player to visit all three ports in a longitude zone gets seven VPs, the next player, five, and so on. Pirates get victory points for scaring local populations rather than actually stealing treasure ships. Curiouser and curiouser.

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There are four victory-point ladders. Players have opportunities to get additional weapons, crew, provisions, and buried treasure, which score progressive victory points at the game end. This is a dynamic part of the game, in that at any moment a player with the Most in a category gets that titled card. It’s like the Longest Road or Largest Army in Settlers of Catan. "Most" gets certain benefits. Most Weapons means that player can not be boarded. Largest Crew allows an extra action for the turn, and Most Provisions score an extra victory point per port. The Most cards can change owners at any point during the round, often several times in a round. At the end of the game, each category scores victory. After nine rounds, score the additional end-of-game victory points and determine the winner.

Game play is entertaining. Because of the voting, the Most cards, and the short player turns, there is little down time, so the game moves quickly. Card play presents few surprises, mostly blocking other players or offering temporary bonuses. This is not a random events game and long-term strategies are possible. The game has a slight mechanical feel, though. Since there are so many victory points for visiting different ports, players often just go port to port, interacting with others only when it coincides with travels.

Overall, Winds of Plunder is an enjoyable game, good for several playings. Like all resource-based games, players never have enough actions to do everything they want, so they have to compromise, or, pun aside, bend with the wind.

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ACG Intel

Winds of Plunder

GMT Games

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