Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! – Buccaneer

3.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-4

Year of Publication: 2006

Creator(s): Unknown

Just a quick note about this post; there’s going to be a bit of both of us in here, each covering our particular areas of interest (don’t know if you’ve noticed, but my brother tends to do hands-on DIY or how-to-improve game stuff, and my posts are a little more academically orientated. Not always, but as a bit of a general rule). So to keep you on your toes, we’re both writing in this post!

A Pirates Life For Me:

So my recent wondering through Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag left me with the crazy longing to be a pirate (my parents did always say I got overly affected by films I saw and games I played). Luckily for me I didn’t have to go to Somalia (like in the South Park episode) I just got out my Pirate of the Caribbean edition of Buccaneer!

The Box
The Box

“Well that’s nothing like being a real Pirate” I hear  the voices in my head say! Well, they may have a point but its a damn good game, if a bit different and less explanatory then original Buccaneer!

Original Buccaneer. Picture courtousy of our sister who owns the original.
Original Buccaneer. Picture courtesy of our sister/brother-in-law who own the original.

History and Things:

(Who noticed the change to academmic-y things? 10 points to you if you did!)
Although it’s been around for 75 years, this game doesn’t have a lot of history, in that, it has no historic or cultural background. The original of this game was first published in Britain in 1938, making the game just two decades and four years shy of being 100 years old! It was published by Waddingtons all the way up until the 1980’s, but had several revisions in that time. The original 1938 version of the game had a roll up canvas board that was stored in a tube and this first edition of the game is now incredibly rare, selling for over £100 if complete and in good condition. The game was revised in 1958 and the most notable change is that this version of the game has the folding board that we’re all familiar with now from games like Monopoly and Cluedo. Another change in this edition was that the playing size of the board went from 25×25 to 24×24.

There were also the “Small Box” and “Large Box” versions of this edition. The “Small Box” version was released first, in this version all the pieces for the game were stored in a small box, but the thick, heavy board was separate. Then there was the “Large Box” edition, you can probably guess where this one’s going, but i’ll put it in anyway, this one had a box large enough to store the board in too. Both the small and large box editions of the game had the same graphics, but with the release of the “Blue Box” version of the game, that changed.

On the box of this version of the game there were some pirates finding a treasure chest, along with the box insert containing “Treasure Island” graphics with palm trees and such.

All the biggest changes to the game occurred in the late 1960’s-70’s; the playing size of the board was shrunk again, but this time considerably to 20×20, some ports were reduced or relocated and there was a reduction made to the total amount of treasure available in the game, only five of each type were now included in the game, where previously there were different amounts for the different values of the treasure. Where all the earlier versions of the game were for 6 players, this new edition was only for 4. This was probably the biggest change made to the game.

Our copy was released in 2006 to coincide with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies being released.

All this exciting info, and very little else, can be found here, for anyone interested!

Objectives and Rules:

The aim of the game (apart from to sail around the board pretending to be a pirate) is to collect treasure, and, like any fearless Buccaneer roaming the Caribbean, you’re going to use any means available to get it, this could mean trading with a port, attacking a fellow pirate who you see as competition for the limited amount of treasure available or getting random events from the deck of cards located at the Isla de Muerta.

Winning the Game!

To win the game you must be the first player to have a total of 20 treasure points stored in your port. This sounds like a simple objective, but your luck, and the other players, can make it very challenging!

Starting the Game, Moving and Fighting:

At the start of the game each player is dealt five crew cards, these each have a value on them and come in two colours; red and black. To move you take the total value of your crew cards (irrespective of their colour) and can move that many squares in the direction you’re facing. The colour of the cards only matters when you either attack another player, or are attacked. Then you must take the two totals separately. You subtract the smaller total from the larger, and the number you’re left with is your fighting strength. Then the player with the highest number wins the fight. He or she can then take up to two treasure tokens or two crew cards from the loser’s ship. Taking the crew cards away reduces the amount that player can move on their turn as well as decreasing their fight value. Any unclaimed treasure tokens go to the Isla Cruces. The loser must now immediately move in a straight line away from their attacker for as many spaces as their crew cards allow. In the event that a player loses all their crew cards, they can only move one square per turn.

Keeping the Game Exciting:

If you want to shake up the game a little by not attacking someone or roaming around from port to port you can sail to the Isla de Muerta, or Treasure Island, in the center for the board. Here you take a chance card from the deck on the island, and read it out. These can be both good and bad, sometimes they simply tell you to dig for treasure, other times they’re quests that can be something you must do immediately, or something that you can do at any point in subsequent turns. They can also simply be bad luck for you and your ship, they might tell you that you got caught in a storm and lost some of your crew, or treasure, or have to miss a turn. All of these are unfortunate for you, and probably make your opponent(s) very happy. These cards make the game more interesting because they’re always a gamble, they help to keep the players on their toes a bit. When you visit a place on a quest card, such as Davey Jones’ Locker, without the quest card, nothing happens, these places are irrelevant unless you have a quest card that tells you to go there for whatever reason.

I think that’s all the exciting things I can tell you about how to play the game, so now, go play it, be pirates, roam the seven seas, and drink lots of rum! I’m out and handing back over to my brother now! Enjoy! 🙂

Flaws of This Form of the Game:

In comparison to the original a HUGE flaw in this version of the game is its canceled down rules, while it means you can play faster and don’t feel like you’ve just read a novel after reading the instructions it leaves you very unclear on some points. Meaning that when certain circumstances occur you have to make a decision as to what happens in this case, leading to a face off because one option will probably benefit one player more then the others and vice versa. Now having played the original (but not for a long time) I remember the original instructions being far less vague, however I can not specifically make comparisons as I haven’t read the original instructions in two years or so.

However, the biggest flaw in this game is the storage! The game comes just in a box, with no vacuum formed plastic tray shaped to fit all the pieces (which is basically a given with 99% of board games).

This is the game in its box, the bags are not even included. I stole them from the kitchen to keep the pieces together!
This is the game in its box, the bags and rubber bands are not even included. I stole them from the kitchen to keep the pieces and cards together!

Then to add insult to injury they put this in the instructions:

This is in the instructions as some sort of compensation for the lack of actual storage system.
This is in the instructions as some sort of compensation for the lack of any actual storage system.

Now, while all the separate pieces for the board are awesome, there are a lot of bits when all’s said and done and just to have them in the upturned islands inside the box is fine…SO LONG AS YOU PLAN ON NEVER MOVING THE BOX! Or taking it to a friend house…Or anything…EVER! I can’t imagine it would be that expensive to have produced a plastic insert for the box to hold the pieces…Would it?

The last thing I have a problem with, with this version of the game, is that in the original game you got awesome little pieces of treasure!

If you can see in this picture the barrel in the ship and the pieces in the island.
If you can see in this picture there’s a barrel in the ship and treasure pieces in the island.

But in this version you just get little tokens that represent the treasure!

As you can see at the bottom of this picture the sets of tokens representing ruby's and silver.
As you can see at the bottom of this picture the sets of tokens representing ruby’s and silver.

However I will let this go as to counter it, they changed the middle section to you have to actually dig for the treasure with you finger so you don’t know what your going to get which makes the game much more interesting.

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Who’s Morris? – Twelve and Three Men’s Morris Board

2 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: Unknown

Creator(s): Unknown

The most important question you must consider when playing any Morris game, is who was Morris? Now considering it dates back to… God knows when and God knows where, this could be very hard to discover and for more information on this one should view our earlier post here! I like to think Morris was a man who discovered this game while playing Tic Tac Toe drunk…Or high on opium, maybe? If it was first played in China? but I’ll let you formulate your own ideas!

Without Further Ado:

My Twelve and Three Mens Morris Board:

My proudly crafted board!
My proudly crafted board!

I made this myself in the same way I made (and on the back of) my Fanorona board which you can see here and also see the technique for making one.

Why did I make my own I hear you ask? Well I’ll let Ron Swanson form the show Parks and Recreation explain:

(this video will start at the relevant quote but watch the whole thing for the full effect)

Aside from that, versions are expensive and difficult to come by. So when you have a piece of wood, the tools and the know-how, just make one!

Three Men’s Morris:

Now there are different versions of Three Men’s Morris but one of them is exactly the same as Tic Tac Toe, So I made the one that wasn’t (for obvious reasons). Quite possibly the shortest game I have ever played taking literally about a minute to play (like Tic Tac Toe) and coming to an immediate win, lose or draw! However even the version I created, which lacked the diagonals of Tic Tac Toe could still just as easily by played on paper because there is no movement phase like in Nine and Twelve Men’s Morris. So is it worth spending an hour branding a game board for it? Probably not, just variate your games of Tic Tac Toe every once in a while.

Three in a row, just like Tic Tac Toe!
Three in a row, just like Tic Tac Toe!

Twelve Men’s Morris:

This is a game that is much more complex and I’me much happier I went to the effort to make a board for it. With all of the aspects of Nine Men’s Morris but even more to think about (as you have more pieces and diagonals to consider) it can be a quite challenging game. It is played exactly the same as the Nine Men version but with Twelve pieces and a board with diagonals on it. So, you could just draw diagonals onto your Nine Men’s board, or even imagine them! But why do that when you can spend hours with a soldering iron?

A game in mid swing.
A game in mid swing.

I would recommend anyone who’s a fan of Nine Men’s Morris to give this ago or even a fan of Chess or Droughts. Additionally if you don’t want to buy a physically version HERE is a website where you can play all the different versions of all the Morris games either against a computer or a human. Or if you want an excuse to buy a video game under the premise that it has some educational value or at least some strategic thinking value the Morris game in various forms can be found in both Assassins Creed III and Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag so buy them now!

On Another Note – Breach The Keep:

To anyone who cares we ordered the first real print of our very own board game Breach The Keep which you can find more information on here. Hopefully they’re going to look great, they’re being printed in the US and shipped to the UK (because for some insane reason that’s cheaper than just printing them in the UK. So expect pictures and an update on the free games give away some time soon. If all goes to plan the game should be ready to go in less than two months!

But we all know life never goes to plan.

Additionally we’re also planning a video blog to go alongside/be part of this blog. We’re just contemplating structure and formatting and getting hold of equipment etc. But that could happen anytime soon so keep an eye out for that too!

A Fairly Quick Game – Nine Men’s Morris!

3.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: -1400

Creator(s): Designer is unknown and Dieter Zander is the Artist

Having taken a quick break from this chain of posts to write about Elixir, I’m back on fast games! This one’s all about Nine Men’s Morris. Another very old game, a board for which was found cut into a wall in the temple at Kurna, Egypt, that dates back to 1440 BC (although there is doubt as to whether this is an accurate dating of the carving as Coptic crosses were also found carved here that could not have been put there by the Egyptians at the time). Anyone who’s played Assassins Creed III might be familiar with this game – it’s one of the mini games available within the game. Variations of it are also Three Men’s, Six Men’s and Twelve Men’s Morris. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have copies of the others, so this post will mainly (but with some references to the others) be focused on Nine Men’s Morris.

A Nine Men's Morris board and pieces before a game begins.
A Nine Men’s Morris board and pieces before a game begins.

It’s a very easy game to learn, each player has 12 pieces in either black or white. The board is comprised of three squares inside each other, each with intersecting lines midway down each side. White plays first and you take it in turns to place pieces on the corners of the squares or the midway points created by the intersecting lines. The objective is to create lines of three, either horizontally or vertically, called mills. Once a player has created a mill they are then allowed to remove one of their opponents pieces from the board. If a mill is created whilst players are placing their pieces the player who created it is still allowed to remove one of their opponents pieces.

A game where all the pieces have been placed just before the moving phase begins.
A game where all the pieces have been placed just before the moving phase begins.

After all the pieces have been placed players take it in turns to move. Each turn you may move one piece one space. You cannot move, or create mills on, the diagonals. A player who has achieved a mill or two when placing their pieces is going to be in a stronger starting position than their opponent, as they will have more pieces left to manoeuvre round the board.

When a player has lost so many pieces that they have three or less pieces left on the board they are then able to move their pieces anywhere. They are no longer restricted to moving one piece one space. They can move one piece from any space on the board to any other space. This makes it considerably harder for their opponent to continue to make mills. Once a player has lost all of their pieces, or both agree that a point in the game has been reached where neither player can win, the game ends.

The end of the game and black is the winner having reduced white to less than three pieces.
The end of the game and black is the winner having reduced white to less than three pieces.

History Things:

These first five points are all about Three Men’s Morris, not Nine!

  1. In line for “oldest game in the world” – with Go, Backgammon and Chess.
  2. Noughts and Crosses or Tic Tac Toe are the same as the variation of Three Men’s Morris that involves the use of the diagonals for making mills.
  3. According to Thomas Hyde the Chinese played it in 500BC.
  4. Ovid mentions it in “Ars Amatoria” – the Romans played on wooden or stone boards, although occasionally more exotic materials were used.
  5. Three Men’s Morris was widely played in England 1300 AD – boards can be found carved, by monks, into the cloister seats in Norwich, Canterbury, Gloucester and Salisbury Cathedrals, and Westminster Abbey.
  6. Other Nine Men’s Morris boards have been found in Ceylon – carved in the reign of Mahadithika Maha-Naga (9-21AD), and European boards have been found in places like the first city of Troy, a Bronze Age burial site in Ireland and at the Acropolis in Athens.
  7. The game reached peak popularity in Europe in the fourteenth century.
  8. In old England the game was played with black and white pebbles on a board that was drawn out on the village green using a trowel, or drawn onto a pub or tavern table with chalk.
  9. Shakespeare references it in A Midsummer Nights Dream in Act II, Scene I – “The Nine Men’s Morris is filled up with mud!” ~Titania – this must be what happened to the boards drawn on the green whenever it rained!
  10. A version of the game called Morabaraba which is played using the diagonals on the board is still very popular, and played to a competitive level, in South Africa.

Because the game was popular in Medieval England there has been some speculation as to whether the name “Morris” is related to the English Morris Dance. However, Daniel King says that it is coincidence- the word Morris in this context actually deriving from the Latin “Merellus”, meaning a counter or a game piece.

I have, once again, achieved ten points of history about the game! I wonder how long this is going to last…
Pretty much everything I’ve put up about the history of the game I found here.
But I supplemented some of the points with information from our trusty old friend Wikipedia!