Spanning four full days, packed with over 14,000 different events and over 50,000 equally different attendees,GenCon is one of the largest (mostly) board game centered conventions. Even for the most seasoned attendee, trying to experience everything you want even within four days can be quite ambitious and overwhelming.
Once you finally make some sense of the maze-like layout of the exhibit hall, you find yourself bombarded by a number of distractions: Bracelet Dragons, Dice Rings, free swag, and the constant screaming of ‘Banzai!’ from the Asmodee booth. You finally find an opening at a table to play a game, but before you finish your third round in the Game of Thrones: Board Game, you’ll realize you just lost half a day of exploration.
With all that expensive real estate payed for by the larger companies, it was hard to miss Paizo’s Pathfinder Card Game: Skull & Shackles expansion, Asmodee’s Abyss with its shining pearls, or iello’s new King of New York set up right next to a life size version of its precursor King of Tokyo. What you may have missed were some of the smaller, independent game publishers and self publishers tucked away in the darker corners. That is where this series of reviews is going to take you: into the deep, dark recesses of GenCon as we try to find those shimmering, rare gems you may have missed.
From designer Kris Gould and publisher Wattsalpoag (standing for ‘With all this talent sitting around let’s put out a game’) comes a light, dice-rolling game about treasure-hunting pirates adventuring across the high seas.
The main concept is simple: roll your dice, move a ship one space closer to an island if you roll doubles, or if you rolled a three-of-a-kind, sail straight to the island. To bring your treasure home from the island, you just have to roll another threeof-a-kind of the same number. At first, you only have two re-rolls to achieve whatever you plan to do on your turn. Interesting things start to happen while your ships are on the islands. Each different numbered ship grants the player a different power as long as the ship is on the island waiting to be scored; Extra re-rolls, extra dice, and adding or subtracting pips from the die face. All of these powers are invaluable to success, however collecting the treasure requires you to give up the precious power the ship was granting you by returining it to its home port. If you fail to roll anything useful on your turn, then the included ‘First Mate’ pawn comes to the rescue, granting you temporary powers, the chance to thieve treasure from your fellow players, or defence against such thievery.
Thanks to a healthy kickstarter campaign, Buccaneer Bones went into production with some very high quality bits. The ships and treasures are thick quality plastic with great colouring and etchings. You get six custom dice (the custom component being that the 1 face of the die is a skull and of otherwise no gameplay significance). The play-mats are printed on quality card-stock with easy-to-understand iconography, although the fact they are paper makes lamination recommended if you plan to take this gem to the bar. The rule book is also well written and printed in full colour, including pictures and easy to follow examples.
Although the game is thematically detached (you might as well be flying space ships through the void, or walking to a store and back through a zombie infestation), the gameplay is solid. It’s not going to be winning any Mensa awards, but the light and interesting decision making aspect combined with a small push your luck element means you can have fun playing Buccaneer Bones and still hold some light conversation on the side. At a playtime of about 10-15 minutes, it makes a great filler between heavy games or a light bar game to play over pints.
Ultra light strategy.
Play at a bar.