Introducing Castaways of Deadmans Bay



When I first got my hands on Castaways of Deadmans Bay, I told my kids that whoever was willing to learn it, teach it, and write a review for it, could keep the game. Well my 13 year-old daughter jumped at the chance. She learned the game all on her own, taught me how to play, and we've enjoyed it multiple times since. As for the review, yes she really did this on her own. I took the pictures and did the formatting, but she did all the rest. Good job, don't you think? Read on and judge for yourself! In the process, you'll learn about a great two-player bluffing game that's just come out from PonderZombie games! And don't make the mistake of thinking that this game is just for kids, because it's not, and it doubles as a good husband-wife type filler, or an excellent choice to enjoy with a friend over a coffee or at a restaurant. So without any further ado, I now hand over the microphone to my daughter. -Ender

How would you like to own your own ship, if only you could knock off those who get in your way? By becoming a pirate desperate for your own ship, you must try to eliminate your opponent in many ways - from pushing them into shark infested waters, to getting all their crew on your side. This two-player game involves strategy and two pirates worthy of survival.


Jennifer "Jack" Johnson is in real trouble!

COMPONENTS

Game box

The game box included with Castaways is not the big normal box you would expect, at least I was surprised by its size when I looked at it. The box looks like an olden treasure chest covered with bolts and wood. Ummm… pirates?


Box cover

The back of the box gives us an idea about what you as pirates are trying to do and why.


Box back

So, inside the box we find:


Component tray

Component list

● a rulebook
● 3 character cards
● 16 red life points
● 8 planks cards with sharks on the back
● 12 crew cards (3 different types)
● 6 base power-up cards
● 6 attack/defend cards in 3 different colours
● 18 action cards
● 45 power-up cards (3 types)


Everything inside the box

Character cards

This game is a two player game but that doesn’t mean you are not allowed to pick who you are! There are three choices to add more variety.


Three player characters to choose from

Introducing… Cannonade Kate! She is the all time Damage character, ready to jump at any opportunity to become captain. Next is the simple minded Jennifer “Jack” Johnson. You call him by his first name and he will share his ‘solution’ with you. Jack is the Push character and by looking at the picture you can see why! The last one still standing on the ship is the old cook Chef Phillipe Forchette, originally hired to serve the Queen. He is a Crew character, hoping to influence them by his masterpieces.

These cards have the same people on the back, but as a Captain.


The same characters promoted to Captains

Life points

The life points are self explanatory. You each get eight life points and if you lose them all you die. One of my friends got a kick out of it, because supposedly you only have eight single drops of blood. It was quite funny.


Health tokens function as life points

Plank cards

There are a total of eight plank cards and are set up with four on each side of the character cards. You can die by losing life points, but you can also push the other player off the plank! Of course you can only do that by using Push power-ups but that will be explained later.


All the plank cards

Crew cards

There are 2 crew cards of each type for each player. That’s 2 red ones, 2 yellow ones, and 2 green ones. If you get all of them stolen from you, you lose. That’s because maybe they don’t like you anymore!


All six Crew cards for one player

There is one special bonus with the crew cards. If you manage to steal all of one type (so you have 4) you get a bonus. Every time you make a successful attack, you get to add one of that type to your attack. For example, if you had all 4 Damage crew, each time you succeed in attacking you deal your opponent an extra damage, even if there is no Damage Power-ups.

Action cards

There are 18 action cards in the deck and these are represented by a blue background. Basically you play the card and do what it says.


Some of the Action cards

You might see a little section at the bottom of the card with a symbol next to it. Since you will be seeing that symbol a lot in this game, I might as well explain what each mean. There are 3 different types of ways to kill a person: destroy all the other player’s crew, kill all their life, or push them off the plank. These ways are represented by symbols:
● the red sword for damage or killing their life
● the yellow fist for crew and stealing the other pirates crew
● the green arrow for pushing the other player off the edge
The bonus at the bottom refers to what character you are. If you play an action card with the damage symbol on it and you are Cannonade Kate (she is the Damage character) then you get the bonus (which is the same for every card), so you draw another card and play another one.


Symbols on the Action cards

Power-up cards

The power-up cards come in 3 different colours and again they refer to the different symbols. Strike Power-up cards get placed on your base Power-up with the same words, Charge ones on the green base Power-up etc. As you may have noticed there is a picture at the top of the card, with one of the symbols. This will show you what you will do every time you attack with that stack of different power-ups, but I will explain that further later.


All nine different types of Power-up cards

Base Power-up cards

Each player will receive one base Power-up card of each colour. On this you play your normal power-ups that match the same words (Strike, Charge, or Insult). These cards will stay face up in front of you for the rest of the game and you can easily place power-up cards on top.


Three different base Power-ups for each player

Attack/Defend cards

Each player also gets three cards that they'll choose to play each turn for attacking and defending.


Three different Attack/Defend cards for each player

Rule-book

The rulebook is actually quite small and the game play is really well described in the rulebook.


Game instructions

When I read it for the first time I was really confused but soon got the hang of what needed to happen.


Sample spread from the rules

GAME-PLAY

Set-up

Plank cards: There are eight of the plank cards. These get placed, four on each side of the two pirate characters. They are all flipped so the sharks are not shown.
Pirates: There are only two pirates that are played with. These two are placed along the line of plank cards in the middle as if actually on the plank itself.


Who will walk the plank?

Life-points: With eight life-points for each pirate, these red blood bits are in front of you for all to see.
Crew: The crew cards are face up in front of you, doesn’t really matter how or where.
Base power-ups: These are also placed in front of you, next to each other so there is room to play power-ups on top.
Power-ups: The power-ups are shuffled into the deck.
Action cards: The Action cards are shuffled in the deck along with the power-ups.


A complete set-up at the start of a game

You also start with one card each from the deck.

Flow of Play

The flow of the game just goes on and on till one pirate dies, loses his crew, or gets pushed off the plank.



1. Draw two cards from the deck.

At the very beginning of your turn you must draw two cards to add to your hand.

2. Play one Power-up or Action

You now have the chance to play one of the cards from your hand, not the Attack/Defend cards of course! If you play an Action card you do what it says and it goes into the discard pile. When you play a Power-up, it gets placed on the base Power-up with the matching colour or word.


This player will hit for Damage no matter which colour he chooses

3. Discard one card face up

After you play a card from your hand you should have two in your hand. At the beginning or your next turn you should only have one. That is why you have to discard one of your two remaining cards after playing either a Power-up or Action card. This goes into the discard pile.

4. Choose an Attack card, lay it face down

You now need to look at your Attack/Defend cards. It’s your turn so you are going to Attack! By picking what one you want to Attack(either Charge, Insult or Damage) you place that colour facedown on the table. You decide by looking at what Power-ups have on your base Power-ups. Depending on what one you have and choose, that is going to take effect if your opposing player doesn’t defend it.


Strike, Insult, or Charge, what should I choose?

For example: Imagine you have your base Power-ups in front of you, Charge, Insult, and Strike. You might have played on other turns a Strike Power-up with 1 Push on it, and on your Insult is 2 Insult Power-ups, one with 1 Damage and one with 1 Push. Your Charge doesn’t have anything on it. If you choose to Attack with your Strike, if your opponent doesn’t Defend by picking the same card as you (in this case a Strike Defend card), then you are able to do whatever Power-ups are on your base Strike Power-up. You have a 1 Push Power-up on your Strike base Power-up so you are allowed to push your opponent one space. But that happens later. For now you just have to choose your Attack card depending on what you have on your base Power-ups. To try to trick your opponent, you might not pick the one that has lots of nasty stuff because they might be certain that you are going to choose that one!

5. Opponent chooses Defense, lay it face down.

At the same time as you are choosing an Attack card, your opponent is trying to figure out what Attack card you are going to pick. To successfully Defend he/she must pick the same card as the Attacker.


Can the defender guess what the attacker has chosen?

6. Reveal both cards

Now to reveal the cards! Flip them over and compare.


The defender has correctly guessed the attacker's choice, so no damage happens

7. If defender guessed wrong, deal damage

If the defender’s card is not the same as the attacker, bad luck. The attacker now does the damage as shown on their Power-up cards. Either Push the other pirate along the plank, steal some crew, or deal some damage. It is possible that you might Push two or even three! Of course if the defender guessed right nothing happens.

8. Return Attack/Defend card to your hand

These cards are now put back in your hand and it’s the next person’s turn.


Phillipe on the back foot with sharks menacing!

End of Game

This keeps going till one person eventually get the dreaded fate and the other rejoices over their new ship. You lose by getting shoved off the end of the plank into shark infested waters, by losing all your eight drops of blood that keep you alive, or by being betrayed by all your crew.


A successful win by capturing all the opponent's crew

CONCLUSIONS

What does the 13 year old think?

The theme of this game goes great with the play. You are the pirate ready to die and to make the other die. I like the artwork and the ways to win. I think this is a good two player game that doesn’t take too much time to play. Sometimes the accidental forgetfulness of not discarding or moving an extract place on the plank could cost the game but it’s not about the winning but having fun. The age group is focussed on older people as the game play might be a bit hard to pick up for younger kids.

Yes, this is a really good two player game that gets harder and harder as the game progresses. It presents lots of good laughs and is definitely one to buy.


It's all about out-guessing your opponent!

What does Dad think?

Well, my 13 year old has said her bit, so now it's back to me! First of all, I think she did an excellent job in explaining the game! After she first taught the game to me, we've played it many times together since. Okay kid, good work, you get to keep the game! So what are some of my own thoughts on the game then?

This is Ian Volkwein's first game, which he has self-published through PonderZombie Games. For a first effort, it's actually very impressive! The components are reasonable quality, but more importantly, the game itself is very good fun to play, and here's why:

Ahoy me hearties! The pirate theme really works well in this game, and the mechanic of pushing your opponent off the plank is a good one. So is stealing his crew, and losing life through damage - the three core aspects of the game are mechanically and thematically sound, and work just right with a pirate setting.

Let the battle of wits begin! I've always loved Princess Bride style bluffing and out-guessing, and this game is all about the kind of battle of wits over the poison drink that was made famous in that film. In Castaways, this outguessing and bluffing is the heart of the game, because the most important decision you're making each turn is whether to Strike (red = do damage), Insult (yellow = steal crew), or Charge (green = push opponent), or trying to outsmart your opponent by guessing which of these three he's going to play. The game-play features a strong RPS mechanic, revolving around a tug-of-war in three different categories (which seem quite balanced), each of which could win you the game. As the game progresses the stakes get higher because the amount of power-ups increases. The decisions are quite simple, but light-hearted and fun, yet it's not simply random: can you outguess your opponent? It really feels a lot like En Garde, but for pirates!

We're done already? The game can take a bit to wrap your head around from the rulebook alone, but you can easily teach the game in less than five minutes, and the game-play itself is very straight-forward. The game only lasts 10-15 minutes, which feels just right given how strong an element the bluffing and guessing is.



Recommendation

So is Castaways of Deadmans Bay a game for you? If you enjoy bluffing and outguessing your opponent, and are looking for a fun little two-player game that plays super quickly, this fits the bill perfectly. A big thumbs up!



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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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David G. Cox Esq.
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Re: Like En Garde but for pirates: my 13 year old daughter reviews a new two-player bluffing game
EndersGame wrote:
So without any further ado, I now hand over the microphone to my daughter. -Ender


Come on - be honest - you wrote the review - we all know you did - fess up!


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da pyrate wrote:
Come on - be honest - you wrote the review - we all know you did - fess up!
Actually I didn't - and I was just as surprised as anybody at how great a job she did! I even googled parts of her opening paragraph, because I was sure she must have copied that from somewhere - but no, it's all her own work. She does really enjoy doing creative writing, and has a real passion for games, so perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised.

What my daughter did is take one of my existing reviews as a `template', and copied that structure for her own write-up, so all the text is her own. I only needed to change a few words here and there, but effectively all the written content between the italicized paragraph at the start and the italicized paragraph at the end is her work.

If I ever decide to "retire" from game reviewing, I think I may just have found a "successor"!
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Les Merrills
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I can't agree with the reviewer that "the game play is really well described in the rulebook." I think they're the worst rules I've ever seen. If it hadn't been for this excellent review I would still have no idea how to play the game. Thank you very much!

 
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Redbeak wrote:
I can't agree with the reviewer that "the game play is really well described in the rulebook." I think they're the worst rules I've ever seen. If it hadn't been for this excellent review I would still have no idea how to play the game. Thank you very much!
Those were my daughter's words, and I agree with you that it's probably too generous an assessment about the rules - other reviewers have raised similar criticisms about the rulebook. But to be fair to our 13 year old girl reviewer, in her very next sentence she does state: "When I read it for the first time I was really confused but soon got the hang of what needed to happen."

And in the "What Does Dad Think?" concluding section, I also stated: "The game can take a bit to wrap your head around from the rulebook alone, but you can easily teach the game in less than five minutes, and the game-play itself is very straight-forward." So despite the fact that the rulebook doesn't do the best job in explaining the game, the game-play isn't very difficult, and I'm glad to hear that this review has helped you in figuring out how the game works!
 
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David G. Cox Esq.
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EndersGame wrote:
Those were my daughter's words...and I'm glad to hear that this review has helped you in figuring out how the game works!


Enders, Enders, Enders.

You should never let facts get in the way of a good argument...
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