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Blackbeard - Board Game Box Shot



One of the most popular, and successful, Avalon Hill games of the late 1980's was Blackbeard, a pirate game totally different from any others available because it simulated the actual life and careers of historical pirates, and how they went about their chosen professions.

Richard Berg has now taken the original and redesigned it, almost entirely, to bring it into line with what gamers like to see and play these days. All those pirates you loved - Black Bart Roberts, Long Ben Avery, Ned Lowe, L'Ollonais, and, of course, Edward Teach (Blackbeard) - 23 in all, are still there, as are the King's Commissioners sent out to stop them. However, the entire play system has been overhauled, and the result is a game that highlights and specializes in player interaction, with almost no down time for any players.

Players represent individual pirates, using them to gain Victory Points by amassing booty and, even more importantly, earning Notoriety for their dastardly deeds. Seizing merchants with cargo ranging from useless paper to the monumental treasure of the Mughal emperors, attacking and sacking ports, fighting storms and scurvy, seeking safe haven in infamous pirate ports such as Tortuga and Madagascar, and, hopefully, using Letters of Marque to retire successfully.

And while the player is doing this, all of the other players, at the same time, are playing their cards and seizing opportunities to stop the pirates. There is a constant interplay among players, and you never know what is going to happen when you set out to do something.

User Reviews (1)

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I play blue
El Dorado
Guardian Angel
7 of 8 gamers found this helpful
“Rrrrrrrgh! A Pirate's Life for Me”

Blackbeard is a card driven game which allows players to recreate the “Golden Age of Piracy” in the 17th and 18th centuries. Blackbeard attempts to simulate the life of a pirate with actual happenstances such as raiding merchant ships and ports, hostage taking, fighting warships, duels, & mutinies. Players maneuver their pirates around a map collecting booty and gaining notoriety. The player who retires the richest and most notorious pirates wins. Blackbeard is for up to 5 players ages 12 and up and plays in about 2 hours. Blackbeard is at its best with either 2 or 3 players and also has a very good solo variant.

The components are a mixed bag. The cardstock map is better than the standard GMT paper map. And the artwork on the map really sets the theme of the game. I really like the map. There are thick cardboard tokens and plastic dice. The tokens could be better in terms of game functionality. The ship boards are also cardstock quality, have minimal artwork and could be functionally better. The standard size cards are durable and have a glossy finish. The artwork on the cards is small and in black & white, but sets the theme nicely. There are also two cardstock player aids which are helpful but have a few typo errors. The rulebook is well organized but not well written. Many rules are unclear. I strongly suggest downloading the Living Rules from GMT’s website if you purchase this game. The Living Rules help clarify many rules. There is a whole lot of goodness in the box, and getting it back in is a challenge. Owners will probably want to throw away the insert. Overall the components could have been better.

Set-up for Blackbeard takes a moment. Each player is dealt a number of pirates depending on the number of players. A ship board must be set-up for each pirate the player deploys on the map. Eight merchant ships and the eight Pro-Pirate Governors must be randomly placed on the map. The Must Play Immediately cards are removed from the Event deck. The Event deck is shuffled and four cards are dealt to each player. Then the Must Play Immediately cards are reshuffled into the Event deck. All ready to begin!

Each player in clockwise order becomes the Pirate Player. The Pirate Player’s turn consists of the following three phases:
1. Event Card Draw
2. Replenish Merchant Ships
3. Action

The Pirate Player draws Event cards one at a time until he has four cards in his hand. Any Must Play Immediately cards are resolved and another card drawn.

If there are less than five merchant ships on the map, then the Pirate Player randomly places merchant ships until there are six on the map.

The Pirate Player may play any number of cards for the event and ONE card for Action Points (APs) listed on the card. The APs can be used for the following actions:
A. Move: Move a ship from sea area to an adjacent sea area or port.
B. Find Merchant Ship: Search a sea area with a merchant token.
C. Loot Merchant Ship: Seize the cargo and determine its value in Doubloons. Gain notoriety equal to the value of the merchant ship. Take a hostage and decide to hold for ransom or torture. Convert the merchant ship to a pirate ship. Decide to declare voluntary Debauchery & Revelry.
D. In-Port Activities: Ransom hostage. Convert all Booty to Net Worth. The conversation rate depends on which type of port the Active Pirate is located. Repair damage to the ship. Purchase Safe Haven status by bribing the governor. Decide to declare voluntary Debauchery & Revelry.
E. Booty Grab: Attack another player’s pirate under Debauchery & Revelry and in the same port in an attempt to steal his cargo.
F. Debauchery & Revelry Recovery: Once in a port, spend 1 AP to remove voluntary D&R or spend 2 AP to remove involuntary D&R.
G. Attack Port: Attack any port within the Active Pirate’s sea area. If successful, then determine booty value in doubloons, gain notoriety equal to two times the port value, increase crew loyalty, and apply ship damage.
H. Sack Port: Sack a port that was successfully attacked and destroy it. If successful, then the port is out of the game, increase crew loyalty, gain notoriety equal to two times the port value and crew undergoes involuntary Debauchery & Revelry.
I. Retire Voluntarily: Retire a pirate if he is in a Safe Haven or has a Letter of Marque. The pirate’s Net Worth is converted to Victory Points (VPs).
J. Draw and Deploy New Pirate: Draw and deploy the pirate drawn or any other pirate in the player’s hand.

Any players not currently taking a turn become an Anti-Pirate Player. During the Pirate Player’s turn an Anti-Pirate Player may perform ONE Anti-Pirate Action. No Anti-Pirate Action can be repeated on the same Pirate Action, but can be repeated on a different Pirate Action of the same turn. Anti-Pirate Actions include the following:
I. Attempt to Deploy a King’s Commissioner: Roll 3D6, if less than the Active Pirate’s notoriety, then deploy a King’s Commissioner (KC) in the sea area with the Active Pirate. The player who deploys the KC controls it. Each player may have ONE KC in play at a time.
II. Use On-Station Warship: A warship already in play in the same sea area as the Active Pirate may be used to attack the Active Pirate. Warships can only be used when an Active Pirate is performing a Find Merchant Ship, Loot Merchant Ship or Attack Port Action. The Pirate Player decides whether to fight the warship or attempt to flee.
III. Use Existing King’s Commissioner: A KC may either Move, Attack a Pirate Port, or attempt to Oust Pirates from a Port.
IV. Play Card for Anti-Pirate Event: Play a card type for its Anti-Pirate Event only if it has not been played during the Pirate Player’s action already.

Players continue to take turns until the General Pardon card is drawn the third time. The game immediately ends and players convert the notoriety of any pirates left on the map to VPs. The player with the most VPs wins.

Blackbeard has a moderate learning curve and will take a couple of plays to get the mechanics straight and develop strategies. This is a fairly complex game which I would only recommend to Avid and Power gamers.

Blackbeard is heavily steeped in theme. Everything about this game screams pirate theme. Players get to play historical pirates, each with their own set of characteristics. The card events, the pirate actions and even the anti-pirate actions contribute to making Blackbeard the most authentic pirate game on the market.

Player interaction is featured in this game. If you like player interaction then this is a game for you. Even when it’s not your turn, you have things you can do to influence the outcome of the current turn! Downtime? Nope, none in this game!

OK, there are some downsides to Blackbeard. First, this game is fiddly by any standards. There are a lot of tokens and a lot going on during any given turn. Things are constantly changing. In addition many cards require certain situations in which they can be played and many rules are complicated. Both of these will require moderate rulebook referencing. Second, Blackbeard does not scale well, which is why I recommend three players maximum. A player doesn’t get many actions on his turn, and to have 3 or 4 players throwing cards or doing some other anti-pirate action to negate your actions means you won’t get much accomplished. This game can be frustrating when there are a lot of players. Lastly, luck is a big factor in this game. Just about every action requires a die roll. Everything from the size of the merchant ship cargo, size of the ransom, cost of the bribe, combat and other events is dependent on a die roll in some form or another. Each pirate has Cunning, which allows for die rerolls, to mitigate luck to some extent, but luck will rear its ugly head.

Overall, Blackbeard provides great historical pirate flavor and is a lot of fun with the right number of players. This game packs in everything from mutinies, duels, back-stabbing, searching for buried treasure, debauchery & revelry and torture. No other pirate game can make this claim. Blackbeard is also challenging to play. My gaming group often gets a laugh when comparing the number of retired pirates to the number killed. Blackbeard is THE pirate game but it’s not for everyone. Give it a try before you buy.


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