Pirate’s Cove Review

Pirate’s Cove Review

Pirate's Cove Review

High seas adventure right at the kitchen table!

Jonathan Jagmin
  • Simple to learn, with a fair amount of depth to explore
  • Randomized design makes each session a fresh experience
  • Well-crafted and very aesthetically pleasing
  • Standard rules for Legendary Pirates impact the randomness of the game
  • Treasure Pieces are overly simplistic compared to the rest of the game pieces
  • Plays best with five people, which can be hard to arrange

There’s a piece in all of us, a subtle wellspring of emotion that desires adventure.  Craving treasure, clashing swords, and booming cannons.  A part of each and every one of us that desires the rolling waves and salt spray of the open sea.  We all want to be pirates, regardless of our conscious ability to admit this.  We’ve all made one scallywag or another walk the plank in our incessant daydreaming.  If you were to sail the mighty oceans, what sort of trouble would you be up to?  What kinds of conquests could you call your own?  What stockpiles of glistening gold and gemstones hoarded away in your secret cave?  What level of infamy would you aspire to?  Why not answer these questions, and many more, by playing Pirate’s Cove, the board game by Days of Wonder?

In Pirate’s Cove, three to five players vie for fame and fortune amidst the islands and waters of the Caribbean.  Each player is the captain of their own ship, which can be upgraded throughout the game by expanding hull storage, adding more sails, or increasing the number of cannons and crewmen on board.  Six islands dot the landscape, offering varying amounts of Fame, Treasure, Gold and special items to obtain.  The primary objective in the game is to be the pirate with the highest amount of Fame collected by the end of twelve rounds, each round representing a month’s worth of time in-game.  Each “month” alters the rewards to be gained by visiting each individual island, making each session an individual experience.

Each turn, players decide privately which island they will visit this month, basing their decision off of their own needs and what each island happens to be offering.  When all players have locked in their decisions, they all reveal simultaneously and make their moves.  If two or more players arrive at the same island, they must either engage battle and determine a victor, or all but one must choose to flee.  The last remaining ship at the island reaps the bounty, any who are defeated or retreat are left empty-handed for the turn.  Resolution of all islands results in the upkeep phase of the turn, where gold can be spent on ship upgrades, items and so forth.  Then the island cards are flipped to signify moving into the next month of the game, and thus the obtainable bounty being offered at each.

Fame is the ultimate goal, but obtaining it oftentimes must come at the expense of other pursuits, and vice versa.  One player may strategize to obtain as much gold as possible, to make their ship overwhelmingly powerful, guaranteeing victories at every island they visit.  Another player may forego ship upgrades, choosing instead to speed to high-fame locations and rely on luck in avoiding enemy encounters.  Treasure can be buried at Treasure Island in exchange for mass amounts of fame, but requires the dangerous task of being hauled through enemy-infested waters, endangering the payoff every turn a player delays off-loading their stockpile.  There are numerous strategies and approaches to the game, offering a unique experience each time it is played.

For a simple and easy-to-learn game, Pirate’s Cove also offers a surprising amount of depth.  A special set of rules can be enforced involving the Legendary Pirate, a black ship that sails the islands looking to start trouble.  These enemy ships take the form of famous or mythical figures such as Blackbeard and the Queen Anne’s Revenge, or Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchman.  If encountered, the Legendary Pirate attacks all players on sight.  They can be very difficult to defeat, but rich in rewards.  The standard rules for the Legendary Pirate state that he sails to each location in a clockwise manner, but my time with the game revealed a more exciting outcome in randomizing his appearances via die rolls.

As a fan of the Golden Age of Piracy, I’ve always enjoyed the aesthetics of Pirate’s Cove.  The board is colorful, illustrating a bird’s eye view of the six islands, each unique in their design.  Green palm trees and light sand complement the roaring volcano of the titular Pirate’s Cove, the leering skull outcropping of Treasure Island, and the white stone fortress of Cannon Island.  The player pieces are colored plastic, solid and sculpted.  They are well-made, but not overly ornamental.  The various other game components such as item cards, player navigation wheels and ship status cards are all colorful and well-illustrated.  Overall, the game is a joy to look at and play with.

Rating: Everyone

Of the few real weaknesses present in the game, the first I’d list would be the aforementioned standard rules for the Legendary Pirate.  It really is just better to roll a die and randomize his movement, rather than follow the standard clockwise-movement rule.  I’d also mention that the game is really best played with a full crew of five, and it becomes less engaging the fewer people you have onboard.  Getting this many people together can be a bit of a challenge, however.  Lastly, one little annoying complaint I have is the plainness of the Treasure pieces.  Considering the high production value of all other game components, it’s always bothered me that these little treasure chests are merely tiny brown wooden blocks without any detail or sculpting.

Board games can often be a dodgy undertaking.  Fifty to one-hundred dollar price tags, complex rule sets, pieces that can go missing, design flaws.  There are a fair number of pitfalls to be found in the board game hobby by nature.  I can attest that sinking some of your hard-earned cash into Pirate’s Cove will grant you many nights of riveting adventure.  It’s easy enough for kids to learn, complex enough for adults to enjoy, and a lot of fun for all parties involved.  Take the plunge into the briny depths already!  I give Pirate’s Cove a 9/10.

Build a Custom Gaming Table

Build a Custom Gaming Table

Build a Custom Gaming Table


Whether you are playing a roleplaying game such as Dungeons & Dragons, or you are looking to create a battlefield for your next Warhammer 40,000 skirmish, you are going to need some space to lay everything out. This is typically where a gaming table comes into play. Now, while most gamers will use either a kitchen table or perhaps a folding table, why settle for the ordinary when you can create a table that is customized to your personalized tastes and needs? Here are some simple steps that you can follow to create a customized gaming table of your own.

Pick a theme

One of the first things that you will need to decide on is the type of gaming table you want. The easiest way to do this is to consider what type of games you typically play. For example, if you are playing Call of Cthulhu you will not need the same kind of table that you use for Magic: The Gathering. It is all about what you are wanting to play the most. Once you have this firmly in mind, you will then have the overall “theme” that you may want to go for. One of the best gaming tables that I ever saw was designed with Dungeon’s & Dragon’s in mind, and looked like it came straight from a tavern on some fantasy world. Now that you have the overall theme and game in mind, you can begin planning the overall dimensions.

Choose your dimensions

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are looking to create a table for playing your Warhammer campaigns and skirmishes. In that case, you will probably need a minimum surface area of at least 6’x4’, though you will probably want to create one even larger (say 8’x6’) so that you have plenty of room. Now that you have the surface area determined, you can figure out the height. A standard table is roughly 29 inches tall, so you will want to make your table a bit taller so you can both sit at the table and stand over it comfortably. I would recommend that you have the top of your table be a minimum of 34 inches tall, with an “under-base” (the thick part of the table) being about four to six inches tall. This base will allow you to create a hollow area that you can use to store your gaming materials (i.e., books, dice, miniatures, terrain features, etc.) in without cluttering the rest of your room.

Customize the interior

If you are going to create a storage area within the table that you can use to put your materials away, you will then want to decide what type of table top you want. Some tables have a hinged top which allows you to easily lift the top up and retrieve the materials within. Others you can lift up, completely exposing the interior of the table. This is also a viable option since you could make the interior of the table the playing area. When you are done for the night, you can then simply place the top back onto the table, hiding the playing field from sight. I particularly like this method since you can easily leave the field in the exact same position that you want it for the next gaming session. Another option that you have is to actually have the “interior” side of your table top covered in a white board material and grid lines so that you have a ready-made playing surface by flipping the top over.

Customize the exterior

Remember back to when I mentioned you needed to think about a “theme” for your table? This is another part of the project where that is really going to come into play. For example, if you are interested in playing a Star Trek role playing game, you may want to make your table look like it would fit in with the rest of the décor of Quark’s bar on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, or perhaps a bridge or science station from Star Trek. This may seem a little difficult, but it all depends on the materials that you utilize, and how much time and effort you take in putting everything together.

Keep in mind that you have been provided some guidelines on how to build a custom gaming table. These are not step by step directions on how to make the table from the ground up. The reason for this is that such tables are going to be as unique as the person making it. As, was said earlier a table that has been made for TCGs may not be the best for roleplaying games, or table top games. Just use these guidelines to help ensure that you make your new table will truly enhance your future gaming sessions. Browse through the gallery of pictures to see some of the more fantastic looking custom gaming tables that we found online to get some inspiration as to what you can do with your own project.


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