- Michael Erb(merb101)United States
By MICHAEL ERB
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel
PARKERSBURG - With a hand full of coins and a heart full of courage, take to the seas to battle rival buccaneers for treasure and glory in Atlas Games' "Pieces of Eight."
"Pieces of Eight" is a non-collectible coin game for two or more players ages 10 and up. Two main sets currently are available - "The Maiden's Vengeance" and "The Cursed Blade" - with each representing a rival pirate ship.
Each set contains 16 metal coins, one of which is the Captain. Using the coins you build a "ship" by stacking the coins in the palm of your hand with the Captain in the center. You place six coins facing out on either side of the Captain, and one coin held in your other hand, which is called "the crow's nest." Three coins (the crow's nest, the front or "fore" coin toward your fingers and the back or "aft" coin facing the palm of your hand) are considered to be active and have effects that can take place during your turn.
Most coin abilities involve one of three things: Destroying coins (taking them out of play), moving coins within the stack or affecting a player's turn. Each turn a player can send a coin to the crow's nest, play a coin, call coins to your Captain (which removes a coin from the fore or aft and places it next to your Captain; very important for putting different coins in play), or destroy your crow's nest coin (also important for getting new coins into play). If at any time you can't play a coin, call a coin or destroy one in your crow's nest, you lose the game.
The objective is to eliminate your opponents coins to reveal their Captain, then eliminate the Captain from the game. Your opponent can only see your crow's nest and fore coins (but your aft coin can still be played and is still in effect), so there is a lot of strategy on how to build your ship, when to play coins and in bluffing your opponents. Many of the coins don't come into play until they are destroyed, often forcing an attacking player to destroy a coin of their own, lose a turn or some other effect.
Some coins really only come into play when there are more than two players in the game. For example, "Full Sail" allows you to take a turn anytime one of your open coins is destroyed. If you are dueling with four other players, and the guy right after you takes out one of your coins, you skip the other three players and take another turn. Likewise the coin "Cannon" destroys an additional coin for every additional active cannon in play, including those in other player's ships, if they so choose. If you and three other players have active cannons, you could actually eliminate four coins from the fifth player's ship.
The one problem with "Pieces of Eight" is the cost. Each set is about $20, but you need at least two sets in order to play, so the basic game really costs about $40. You do receive 16 good-quality metal coins and a velvet pouch to hold them, as well as the basic rules, in each set, but the cost can seem a little steep for a starting player. The game also is designed for two or more players, so unless you have a lot of friends who each want to own their own set, playing the game with a larger number of players can be expensive.
On top of that, though most sets contain the same basic coins, each does have several unique coins. These can be used in any ship, though, so if you want to configure a stack of coins with both the "Captain's Monkey" and "Full Sail," you would need both "The Cursed Blade" and "The Maiden's Vengeance."
Despite those issues, "Pieces of Eight" is a very fun, piratey-feeling game with good components and a lot of replay potential. The game is quick to learn, easy to play and very portable. Atlas Games offers several downloadable "cheat sheets" to help players keep track of what different coins do, and once you've played the game a couple of times, you will be surprised at how easily you remember them.
If you are into pirate-themed games or wanting to try something a little different than the standard board or card game, I would definitely recommend giving "Pieces of Eight" a try.
For more information on "Pieces of Eight" and other Atlas Games products, visit www.atlas-games.com. For a longer review of this game and additional game reviews and discussion, visit my blog at http://merb101.livejournal.com.
Contact Michael Erb at email@example.com
Edit: A review copy of the game was provided for this article.
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