The main question that rises from Pugly Pirates and Teleporthole Games is how many possible puns can you fit into a board game about both pirates and puppers without going overboard. The answer is unfortunately houndreds. When a game is heading to crowdfunding there is always a small measurement of the enthusiasm that the designer has for their own game. In the case of Pugly Pirates, you’re looking at Jack Russell levels of excitement and energy and I’ve not doubt there are furry tails wagging all over the place. The question is whether or not you’ll find your bones or end up walking the plank.
Pirates is a hybrid of several genres and ideas, including a bit of pick up and deliver, area control and even some light economic mechanics will play out during a game. You are trying to carry out actions that will score you victory points and lead you on to victory over the other players. Your main actions involve island hopping, discovering goods to trade and then sell them on to try to amass bones that can be spent to upgrade your pirate stats.
Pugly Pirates is all about exploration, resource management and chiefly about visiting one of the eight islands that surround the central Paw’t St. Bernard. Look, I’m not apologising for any of this, I’m just telling you what everything is called and if you think it’s too much then you obviously hate dogs. Just Saying. On your turn you’ll spend movement points to visit islands, that in turn reveal the two island cards that will tell you what is on the island and the possible bones for that visit, or just one island card if you have visited before. Some of the actions you take will then grant you victory points, so it is imperative that you try to build upon both your crew and resources so you can then control some of the islands, or bury some bones or even attack other players. Battles or Challenges as they are called will have you squaring off against other players, using a trait and dice rolls to overcome your opponents. Its an interesting system that requires, nay demands that you are increasing the levels of your traits during the game for if you don’t you’re more than likely to fall foul to another player during a challenge. You’ll not only gain victory points but lose them as other players dig up your buried bones unless you leave a poo trap as a nasty cooling surprise. There’s quite a lot to take in and consider and sometimes you’ll be able to make moves cascade into each other and it’s possible to score a couple of victory points in one go. I’ve not even touched on the the Muttiny mechanic, which is a way of gaining extra move points or bonuses for traits and if timed wrongly can result in you losing your ship and starting again.
The player who ends the round and has reached the points total agreed from the outset is declared the winner and top dog. Yes I wrote that. No, I’m not deleting it.
If Pugly Pirates demonstrates anything, it is that when a game comes to crowdfunding nowadays, it almost needs to be as close to production value as possible. I’ve played a fair number of prototypes in my time and Pugly stands out as one that has obviously already had a lot of investment in it already. The quality of the components, artwork and even the rulebook give an impression of a game that if mass produced based on what was in this box, would be hard to tell if it was placed next to some retail games out there that are already available. I’m sure certain components will change further if it reaches its funding goal and it will be interesting to see what they upgrade in the campaign.
Play time will increase with the number of players, and expect your tales of skullduggery to be spliced to the main brace within about ninety minutes. It’s a game that turns are quite short overall but you’ll occasionally have longer battles to play through. It doesn’t reach a crescendo of longer more involved analysis paralysis rounds as the game reaches the end game, so there isn’t a huge amount of down time between turns.
Pugly Pirates is an iceberg of a game that on first impressions tricks you into thinking that you’re about to engage in some light and fluff puppy piracy while actually there’s a bit of a bulldog here. The puns flow quick and fast and you’ll spend as much time groaning as you will growling as you sail from island to island collecting goods to trade in for cash. There’s quite a lot to consider as you play the game, including keeping an eye on the trade prices, challenging other players and trade ships and even burying bones will keep you busy. In fact there’s so much to consider when you play that if you do decide on the lower victory point win conditions you might find that Pugly doesn’t stay at the table too long as it’s perfectly possible to rack up a couple of victory points in a single round. To that effect, you might find you’ll need to take things slower if you’re playing with younger players so they can grasp everything the game offers. There’s a few parts to the rule book that need clarification and it could do with a round and turn reminder on the back of the rule book to keep you on an even keel in the first couple of plays. It’s certainly heavier in terms of mechanics than what the theme infers, in fact, I’m slightly concerned the jokey nature of the game might put off certain players who would enjoy what Pugly offers. I’m genuinely impressed with how close Pugly is to being a final product, with art work, components and even a game board that looks like it is ready to set sail.
It worthwhile upgrading the boat as quickly as you can so you can store more cargo in the hold and therefore stay out exploring.
This preview is based on the prototype version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this preview. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned. Quotations from this preview may possibly appear in relation to any marketing associated with this game.
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