The retail release of Dead Man’s Doubloons is right around the corner with Passport Games distributing the game in the US in March of 2018. Having previously done a Dead Man’s Doubloons preview I was thrilled to obtain a pre-release copy of the game to do my full review. The pre-release run was limited to Essen and PAX Unplugged attendees and it’s pretty much the final game with the exception of the box insert and a few cards. You can see my full unboxing of this edition here.
The following paragraphs are an overview of the base Dead Man’s Doubloons rules previously posted in my preview of the game. If you’ve already read this you can skip below the horizontal rule to find info n the optional modules included with the game.
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 go 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 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 turn, 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.
Dead Man’s Doubloons includes a number of optional modules in the box to provide a deeper, more strategic experience. The simplest module just changes the game’s games scoring a bit while the largest module is an entirely new map and way to play.
The list of modules available, besides advance scoring, is as follows:
- Ship Steal Boarding Action – 3 Captain Cards that normally steal reputation are replaced with Ship Stealing actions. If successful the stealing player swaps places with the target player, obtaining not only their ship but everything that goes along with it.
- Black Jewel – Two black jewels are added into the mix of jewels and the Obsidian Cradle is mixed into Cursed Passage landmark stack. If Valparisa is in the game, she starts with one. Whenever a player has a black jewel they roll an attack die after moving. Black jewels can be stolen just like normal jewels.
- Legendary Ghost Ship – The Legendary Ghost ship adds an AI player to the game, and is recommended to always use in a 2 player game. It follows specific rules of play, has no special actions, and cannot be stolen.
- Compasses – Each player starts the game with two Compass tiles. A compass tile can be used if a player’s ship has 1 or fewer crew left and allows them to switch their active Action Card with any other Action Card played by another captain.
- Alternate Island – Another island on the opposite side of the normal Dead Man’s Doubloons board. Captains can move freely around the board in a hunt for relics to open Mucevher Crater while sailing their ships around 5 board segments instead of 4. Once the crater is unlocked players can obtain jewels, but do not need to immediately return to their ships. Captains may still duel and hunt until a required amount of relics and map fragments are found to trigger the end of the game. Extra scoring for totems, shells, and sets of each are added to the game’s normal scoring.
That’s just a brief overview of the extras provided. Check the full rules for more details on each of Dead Man’s Doubloons optional modules.
Dead Man’s Doubloons is an example of exceptional game components. The plastic ships are amazing detailed, durable, and absolutely beautiful. Each Captain has both a solid color ship and a translucent ship to use when their ship becomes a ghost ship. The Captain meeples are custom pieces in the shape of each Captain with the Captain’s image printed right onto the wood. No stickers here. There’s also thick cardboard doubloons, tiles, totems, shells, and compasses.
The jewels in the game are plastic and are a very nice touch. The Captain mats are large, colorful, and make it easy to track everything a good pirate captain needs to track. The cards in the game are Tarot-sized and wonderfully laid out to display all the info needed at a quick glance.
On top of all the quality physical components, Dead Man’s Doubloons features amazing artwork that perfectly captures the theme of the game and brings the overall package to the next level.
My initial thoughts on Dead Man’s Doubloons have changed a bit since my last look at the game. It’s gone from a game that I really enjoy to one of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite, game of the year. There’s just so much value packed into the box. Both the standard rules and the alternate island are insanely fun to play, with each of the optional modules adding just a bit more depth and complexity for those who want a bit more out of the game.
There’s no reason to pass on Dead Man’s Doubloons. It’s certainly a stellar game and one that gives you more bang for the buck than almost anything out there. It also contains Pollyanna, the most fowl (heh) pirate captain to ever sail the 7 seas. If that’s not worth the price of admission alone, I don’t know what is.
A copy of the pre-release edition of Dead Man’s Doubloons was provided free for review by Thundergryph Games.
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.