Dead Man’s Doubloons has been on my radar for quite some time now. I played a very early prototype over Tabletop Simulator with the game’s designer, Jason Miceli, back in July of last year. I’ve followed its progress landing a publisher, Thundergryph Games, and have been eagerly awaiting both it’s announcement and Kickstarter launch. Well, that time has come and Jason invited me over to give the latest version of the game a shot. A lot has changed since my last play and it’s all for the better.
Dead Man’s Doubloons is a thematic pirate game where players race to the treasure and then head back to their ships for a final, battle royale. It’s a game played on two fronts simultaneously. Your pirate’s ship circles the cursed island fighting and boarding other ships, plundering the island and looking for pieces of the treasure map. Your captain, on the other hand, is frantically trying to make their way to the treasure at the top Zotètmon Mountain.
Of course, this is just the first phase of the game. Once a pirate reaches the top it’s a scramble to escape with your ill-gotten booty alive. A final battle between all the pirate ships takes place until one captain can outmaneuver the others and claim the most treasure.
There’s plenty of variables that do into this mad dash and gunpower-filled pirate dance. Players must have 2 pieces of the map before their pirate can start walking one of the 3 paths to
Zotètmon Mountain. Pirates who have matching map pieces can also follow in their footsteps whenever they move. The 3 paths also have different aspects to them. The red path is the shortest, but more dangerous path. The yellow path is the longest but will provide the most riches. The blue path is in between and can help you hire on replacement crew or repair your ship.
Then there’s the sea battle being waged. The board has 4 sections where the ships trade cannon fire. Each section has an attribute that can help, or hinder, your ship’s progress. Sink an enemy’ ship and it becomes a ghost ship that can’t move, but has some nasty retaliatory power. There’s also crew to kill, doubloons to steal, and all sorts of other nasty ways to slow your opponents down.
All of Dead Man’s Doubloons actions are pre-programmed each round with 3 cards played face down by the players. Each turn players flip over a card and play that action, the player with initiative going first. Cards have up to 2 ship movement actions, either optional or forced, and a choice of two actions to take. Actions such as hunting for treasure maps/moving your captain on the island, firing your ship’s cannons, boarding other ships, plundering the island, and repairing your ship can be taken this way.
When all is said and done players score by the number of gems they’ve collected from the mountain or stolen from other players, their doubloons, the available crew left on their ship, and map fragments to see who’s the richest pirate in the sea.
I can’t really comment much on the physical components of the game since this was just a prototype. I can comment on the artwork and layout of the game, which is both colorful and full of pirate theme. It’s amazing to see how much love and detail has been put into every aspect of the design from the pirates to their ships, the island, and even the cards.
The final game will have plastic pirate ships, and even translucent ghost ships, as well as wooden meeples with the captain’s images printed onto them. There’ll be metal coins, tarot-sized cards, and all sorts of high production value Thundergryph Games has made themselves well known for.
I was a huge fan of Dead Man’s Doubloons since the first time I played. It’s fast, even with a full compliment of players, fun, and so full of pirate theme that you’ll be grabbing booty (heh) and talking like a pirate within a few short turns into the game. The changes I’ve seen from when I played in July and the latest prototype streamline the game while providing players with meaningful choices, all while keeping the game into that 1-hour sweet spot.
There’s much to love about Dead Man’s Doubloons, and I certainly think it’s one to back. The game was funded in only 5 hours after the campaign launched and is now onto smashing through its stretch goals. Knowing Thundergryph that’ll mean higher quality components, and maybe some cool game content.
(Who am I kidding. I know some of what’s coming for the game if it raises enough, and let’s just say I’m really hoping it does. There’s tons of cool content in store)
Pizza and wine were provided during my play of the prototype by Jason Miceli.
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.