Swashbuckler is a classic board game for sheer fun.
The game comes with two 17th-century settings, which are played
separately, not together:
The barroom is a setting for Musketeers and/or pirates, while the
ships are primarily for pirates, though you could have a pirate
ship raiding a shipload of musketeers.
- A Barroom
- Two sailing ships grappled together.
The barroom must first be set up with tables, chairs, shelves, mugs
of beer, carpets and chandeliers. This is quite fun and will
undoubtedly remind someone of their sister's dollhouse, but the
other players are usually too macho to admit it. Once the tavern
is set-up, roll for random placement of characters, and begin the
Each turn you write orders for your character(s). Orders are
written simultaneously for six phases. So if you're planning a
lunge into a given space on phase five, you'd better hope somebody'll
be there - and not a friend, either! The best move I ever saw in
this game was where someone wrote the orders:
It was successful!
- Block (to block a Dagger he was expecting to be thrown at him)
- Rest (mandatory after most maneuvers)
- Pick Up Dagger (there wasn't one there at the start of the turn,
but if his Block was successful, it would drop there)
- Throw Dagger (he didn't have one at the start of the turn - but he
was so confident of getting one he wrote this order!)
The game has rules to cover usage of all the materials mentioned
in the set-up: throwing mugs and slipping in the resultant mess,
bashing chairs around, shoving and flipping tables, yanking carpets,
swinging on chandeliers and toppling shelves. Of course there are
also rules for throwing knives, using cutlasses and rapiers, kicking
someone, shoving, etc. There are also rules for taking damage,
being stunned, going prone, standing up, crawling, walking, running,
running lunge, parrying - and waving your hat in someone's face to
Most items can stun you, and possibly damage you. If stunned, you
replace the appropriate number of written steps with "Rests", and
rewrite the rest of your turn, if any. If hurt, check off the body
part hit, for as many points as you lost. The advanced rules allow
for different character strength, endurance, skill, etc, so you
may be able to take more hits than your opponent, but possibly
aren't as strong (don't do as much damage), or as skillful.
The board with the grappled ships uses none of the furniture, but
does have cannons and treasure chests, and lots of rigging
to swing on. Of course there are still hand weapons, too. Each
side starts with a treasure chest in its hold - the object is to
get the other chest, while retaining your own.
I must admit that I'm much more enamoured of the tavern
setting - mugs and chairs and tables and carpets are just so much
fun! One of the most delightful gaming sights I've ever seen was
at GenCon, where I played in a 12-player game of a miniatures
version of the tavern setting! Someone had done a lot of work in
making a three-dimensional tavern, with a bar, balcony, chandeliers,
tables, chairs, carpets, etc. The figures were also painted very
nicely. They may have even introduced the barrel rules from the
sister game, Adventurer, which is set in an SF bar,
ala Star Wars. Well done, whoever you are!
The game doesn't try to simulate reality so much as the movies.
Indeed, Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone are on the cover, and these
should be your role models when playing the game. Be bold! Swing
on that chandelier, yank that carpet, hurl that mug, flip that
table! A light-hearted, great-fun game not to be missed.
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