An enemy vessel appears off starboard deck. Prepare for battle, but wait, what’s this? Another ship has emerged from the fog on the port side! This is it! A fight for our lives or it’s everyone to Davy Jones’ Locker! Pirates are a very popular theme in board games these days. There are a lot of titles out there that try and capture the feeling of sailing on the high seas, attacking enemy ships, and burying your ill-gotten booty, with nothing but a crudely drawn map to lead you back to it. In my opinion, no game does it better than Rum & Bones Second Tide. It’s the perfect blend of boat to boat combat, with just enough fantastic creatures thrown in to give it the feel of a fantastical tale.
In Second Tide, two-players struggle back and forth, both attempting to destroy objectives on their opponent’s ship, while defending their own.
Each player captains one crew. In the base game, you can choose from either The Deep Sea Lords or The Marea de la Muerte. The teams have their own set of evenly matched Bosuns and Deckhands, who will march mindlessly towards enemy targets, engaging opponents along the way. The real fun is in choosing three Heroes to lead the rest of the crew into battle.
Players get to select different Hero characters, either loyal to their faction, or mercenaries with no affiliation. Each of your Heroes start off with a basic attack that can be tapped several times on a turn. They have a pool of skill cards that can be bought and added to their character dashboard, making them even more formidable foes. The Deep Sea Lords are made up of different aquatic animals, such as the shark-like Captain Carcharius, or the giant brute, Ishmael, who ironically is a whale in clothing. The Marea del la Muerte are humans with their own interesting backstories, like the swashbuckling blade dancer Demarco, or the successful pirate captain Viana. The different classes of Heroes (Gunner, Quartermaster, Captain, etc.) denote what types of skills they’ll have, and how they can be helpful to the overall team.
The base only includes the two factions, but others are available, including new characters, sea monsters, and ships.
Rounds are turn-based, with players alternating back and forth to activate one of their Heroes or their crew. They’ll execute move and attack actions, and then the turn will pass to the other player. After the crew and all of the Heroes have been activated in a round, it ends, assuming the Kraken doesn’t make an appearance (more on that later), and then it’s on to the next round. The game continues in this fashion until one player has acquired eight points.
Combat in Second Tide is fairly straight forward, with the attacker rolling a certain amount of dice based on the type of attack they’re using. Results of a certain number or higher are hits, but players target zones and not specific figures. There is a targeting priority to apply when there are multiple figures in the zone. In the same way, players can target objectives on their opponent’s ship. Some will result in bonuses when they’re destroyed, but they all provide points!
Speaking of points, there’s a few ways to earn them. You don’t actually kill opponent’s Heroes, but you can KO them, taking them out of the game temporarily and earning yourself coins and a point. As mentioned, you get points for destroying opponent objectives, and defeating any bothersome sea serpents that might make an appearance.
Adding another layer of strategy are the Tide cards. Each faction has their own deck, and will have a hand of three for each round. These cards come out at different times to bolster an attack, or react to something your opponent has done, or just as a one-off bonus. Not knowing what tricks your opponent has up their sleeve can make you enter different situations with a bit more caution.
Some Tide cards have Kraken symbols on them. Each time you play one of them, you raise the level on your own Kraken pool spaces equal to the amount of symbols. Between rounds, players roll dice to check and see if he Kraken is going to show up. If the combined total of the dice they roll is lower than the combined total of their Kraken pools, then unleash the…well…you know. Killing off the Kraken will earn you points, but each turn it’s on the board a dice is rolled to randomly determine its actions. Suffice to say, none of them are very good for you. The quicker you can kill off this beast he better.
I expected to like Second Tide, but I’m surprised just how much fun I have playing it. It’s quite a tricky, strategic battle, as you try to figure out the best way to attack with the team of Heroes you’ve put together. The rounds flow nicely, and there’s not too much down time between turns. Best of all, CMON and designer Michael Shinall have done an excellent job capturing the pirate feel to the game. It really feels as if you’re in a swashbuckling battle on the high seas. The only thing I’d recommend, is that you play this game with only two. There are rules for other combinations of players, but two sea-hardened captains head-to-head is definitely the way to approach this one.