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Game review: Captain's Wager is a clever card game aiming for a pirate's treasure

Posted April 16

The goal of the card game Captain's Wager is to collect the most gold by going on adventures using a crew of crafty pirates. Each player's pirate crew goes on the same adventure but only the most crafty captain will win and collect the treasure.

To begin this 30-minute game for two to five players, gamers receive an equal hand of 15 treasure cards and four crew members. Everyone puts one treasure card in the treasure pool and the game begins. The key decision each round is to decide whether to bet, borrow or steal.

A player who decides to bet must add another treasure to the pool and then choose a crew member card to play. Crew cards contain a value from one to 20. Whoever plays the highest value card will win that round and take an event card. Collecting a majority of the event cards will allow a player to collect the valuable treasures contained in the treasure pool for that round.

A bet action allows a player to bypass putting a treasure card in the pool, but he or she must take a loan token that counts as negative points at the end of the game. Betting players still play a crew member and try to have the highest value.

A player who steals for his or her action does not play a crew member but gets a reward in gold pieces and must take a treasure from the player's own deck and add it to his or her hand using it now as an item. Item cards are part of every treasure deck and allow players to break all kinds of rules in the game.

The cool thing about this game is that crew member and treasure cards feature unique ways to manipulate the game. One crew member card allows a player to combine its value with another crew member or draw extra cards. Treasure item cards can allow players to steal another player's treasure or add points to a crew member's value. There are all kinds of combinations.

As players win encounters and gather treasure cards from the pool, the game slowly comes to an end. If any player runs out of treasure in his or her deck, the game ends. Treasure won throughout the game counts as points, but treasures used as items are gone forever and do not count as points. The player with the most points gets the title of Pirate Admiral and wins the game.

But wait, there is more! A small expansion to the game called Maelstrom (not included in the base set) adds a new deck of cards to the game. There are four new crew members and 15 new treasure cards. The big difference is the use of haunt cards. These cards allow a player to introduce a new resource into the game to help get more points, but these haunt cards cause a pirate crew to earn haunt points. The player with the highest haunt point value at the end of the game cannot win no matter how high his or her score. It's a double-edged sword.

Captain's Wager is a solid game and provides a fun and entertaining session of play. There is a lot of bluffing and maneuvering to get needed crew members to win the pool of treasure cards. One must decide when to cut one's losses and prepare for the next round. Experienced gamers may see some similarities in another popular game called Libertalia. This is a good game and worthy of a look. See more at Grey Fox Games.

Email: rmorgenegg@deseretnews.com

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