Board game published by Yaquinto
These remarks copyright by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated July 23, 1998

Swashbuckler is a classic board game for sheer fun. The game comes with two 17th-century settings, which are played separately, not together:

  • A Barroom
  • Two sailing ships grappled 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.

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 game.

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:

  1. Block (to block a Dagger he was expecting to be thrown at him)
  2. Rest (mandatory after most maneuvers)
  3. Pick Up Dagger (there wasn't one there at the start of the turn, but if his Block was successful, it would drop there)
  4. Rest
  5. 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!)
  6. Rest
It was successful!

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 distract them.

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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