Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Piratissimo - Kids, Pirates, and Treasure

Piratissimo is one of Rio Grande Games' line of products aimed squarely at younger players. It's colorful and well presented but raises some interesting questions regarding new games for younger players.

The object of Piratissimo is to sail your small wooden ship across a board and collect treasure. Each player is given a ship counter at the start of the game. You place your ship on the board and then players take turns rolling dice. Depending on your die roll you may move your ship across the board and stop at various islands. There are different types of islands on the game board and each one allows the players to load varying numbers of gold coins on their ships. For example, stopping at a green island with a number "3" on it means you can load up to three gold coins. On some islands the players may steal gold from other ships, or give their gold to another player. The catch in all this is that a given ship can only hold seven gold pieces. If a player ends up with more than seven gold coins their ship capsizes and they have to start again.

Piratissimo has some additional rules regarding a tornado that wanders about the board but it's basically a pretty simple game. That simplicity is certainly a selling point. In addition most children can grasp the idea of collecting so the theme is good for mixed ages. Finally, the game is visually stunning and the components very appealingly designed.

One downside to Piratissimo is that some players may do far better than others. I tend to like games for younger children in which almost everyone can appear at least to be doing well. Blokus and Sleeping Queens are two examples of this. Piratissimo may work best with one adult playing who can pump up each player for any and all gold they collect.

The second caveat to Piratissimo is that it retails at more than forty dollars. I think this draws attention to the question of whether "new games" really make sense for younger players. I think of games like Formula D and Battlelore as being worth every penny because of their potential for endless repeat play. Can you make the same claim for a game for seven year olds? Or are you better off buying a more affordable but less glamorous GameWright game, which is likely to be as fun or more so at half the price? Probably each of my readers know the answer that applies to their family already.

I think Piratissimo is a gorgeous product and a fun game. The price seems a bit high but you do get a stunning game for your money. I found a copy at Pandemonium Books in Central Square.

Pros: good for younger players, stunning production values

Cons: Expensive

Beyond the Basics: Good for a younger age range but not likely to be played much after age 10

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