At this point, I’ve only done one other board game review, and it was about a year ago. I intend to fix that this year, mostly because if I am not crafting or sewing, I am playing a board game. It’s a fun past time, and I enjoy the strategy part of it. I think my goal is one review per month. If you ever have a particular board game you’re interested in learning about, let me know and I’ll do my best to review it 🙂
Today’s review is on a game called Sewer Pirats, which I acquired for Christmas. The box art is appealing, and hey, there are pirates involved – had be to good! I’ll admit to initially thinking the game was a dungeon crawler, like Descent. But after reading the box, I learned it is not. It’s a cute, themed strategy game that takes about an hour to play, maybe 90 minutes if you are teaching someone new. It plays 2-5 people at a time.
The premise is that you are a crew of sewer dwelling critters trying to collect the best trash … I mean, booty! Your crew consists of four critters, and how you divide up critters can be done in two different ways. There are six different types of critters, and four of each critter type come in the box. Players can either:
- Randomly select which four critters will be joining each player’s crew (all players must use the same four types).
- Each take a single type of critter (e.g., player 1 is weasels, player 2 is rats, etc.).
The first time you play it’s probably easiest to have each player take a single type of critter. When you randomly select crews, you add in some special abilities that each critter has and this feature can easily be saved until a second round is played.
By this point you are probably wondering what the different critter types are. Shown below is cheat sheet that comes with the game to explain what each critter type’s special abilities are, with the associated miniature next to its row. The special abilities won’t make too much sense right now, but they will later on.
- Cockroach – Pays one less card to move onto a crew or captain space.
- Raccoon – Receives a stipend when another players critter jumps over him into a spot further forward on the boat.
- Weasel – Can perform two actions.
- Rat – Seizes two treasures instead of one (if possible).
- Toad – Can stay aboard the ship, moving one space up instead of seizing treasure (can’t do this if the toad is captain).
- Snail – May move one additional space, if lucky (based on a random card draw matching the snail’s boat).
Each player attaches stand of a single color to their crew members and you are ready to play! The game should be setup like in the picture below. You can see the three boats (cat, bird, and fish I call them), the current set of booty for each boat, the upcoming set of booty for each boat, and the face down booty piles. I’ll explain booty in more detail shortly. On the left side of the boats, you see four cards face up, and the deck face down. The pictures on the cards match one of the symbols on the three boats (cat, bird, fish).
On your turn, you choose one of your crew members to perform an action. Action choices include:
- Draw 2 cards. This can be from the face up ones or the face down pile.
- Move a critter to a crew space (the numbered circles on the boat boards) by paying the appropriate number of cards with a symbol that matches the boat.
- Become captain by moving into a ‘C’ circle.
- Set sail and collect treasure!
I’m not going to list all the detailed rules here, you can check the rule booklet for that. The most important thing is that once a boat has a captain, that boat will be setting sail next round. When the boat sets sail, the players in the captain’s spot and the two spots behind the captain will receive loot. The captain gets a round loot piece and his choice of a square loot piece. The player in slot 3 chooses a square loot piece, and the player in slot 2 gets the leftover piece. Slot 1 gets no loot, but can move up to slot 2 for free. Players can always choose to forego loot and stay on the boat moving up one space.
So what is the loot all about? While there is definite strategy involved in moving your crew around appropriately on the boats, the real strategy lies in how you collect loot. Each circle piece of loot matches with one or more square pieces of loot for bonus points. You can figure out which pieces are a group by matching the color of the points symbols in the upper right of the token. The shapes of the symbols also have meaning. Circular point symbols mean you are guaranteed to get the points listed at the end of the game. Point values in the circle symbols tend to be lower. Starburst point symbols mean you will receive those points at the end of the game ONLY if you have both the circle loot card and the square loot card of the matching color. Below is a picture of the different loot groups.
Again, I won’t go over the details as I know you can read the instruction manual. But as an example, if you have a can of ravioli, which has a starburst purple point symbol on it, at the end of the game it is worth NOTHING to your score unless you also have the can opener (with the circle purple point symbol on it). And the can openers are old and rusty – they only work for one can before they break, so collecting multiple cans of food is not helpful with only one can opener.
The game ends when the loot pile in front of one of the boats is completely empty. Then you count up your points and see who was the best little pirat scavenger!
Overall, this game is simple to learn, but difficult to master. I love that it is a pretty quick game, but has so much thinking involved. I would put it around the caliber of Lost Cities, which is another good short strategy game. The theme and art work involved is cute and fun. It is also very different in terms of game mechanics from anything else we have in our game collection. I think I would rank this game at a 4 out of 5 stars. It’s very good, but I reserve the 5 stars for my absolute favorite games 🙂