Jun 142013
 

argh_top

The Basics:

  • For ages 5 and up (publisher suggests 6+)
  • For 2 to 6 players
  • Approximately 15 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Risk vs. Reward

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Search the island for buried treasure, but beware the greedy pirates who want to steal it!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

The nondescript island is barely a scratch on your nautical maps. If one were to glance quickly, many would mistake the mark as nothing more than a small stain. But you know better. The little island has no name, but it’s known by a select few as “Plunder Island”. There, buried in the white sand, are riches beyond imagine. You have gathered the wealth with the help of others, but now it’s time to claim the riches for your own!

Argh!, designed by Nicholas Cravotta and Rebecca Bleau and published by Fat Brain Toy Company, is comprised of 8 Pirate cards, 64 Treasure cards (that depict gems, coins, keys, chests, maps, and jewel encrusted chalices), and 12 Skull & Crossbones cards, for a total of 84 cards. The only text found in the game is on the Skull & Crossbones cards (that only serves as a reminder to the player what the card does) and the names of the 8 Pirates (which are very silly). The illustrations on the cards are very family friendly, colorful, and often times made the Child Geeks laugh. Note included in the game, but necessary to play, is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper to keep track of players’ scores.

argh_allbits

Land Ho!

To set up the game, first take the cards and shuffle them.

Second, randomly distribute the card, face-down, in a central playing area. This area is referred to as “Plunder Island”.

That’s it for game set up! Let’s start looking for treasure!

Treasure Hunting Like a Pirate…Boss

The game is played in turns with no set number of turns or rounds in a single game. On a player’s turn, they will take two actions in the following order.

Step 1: Draw a Card

All the cards found in Plunder Island are face-down and all the card backs are the same. Hidden within the disorderly jumble of cards is treasure that the player is attempting to find. But the player must not let their greed get the best of them! Hidden within the cards are 8 Pirates who look forward to stealing treasure away from the player! The player will select one card from Plunder Island and reveal it to all the other players.

If the player draws a Treasure card, they immediately place it in front of them. All Treasure cards should be grouped by type. For example, all the “Key” Treasure cards should be in one group and all the “Chest” Treasure cards in another, and so on. There is no limit (other than the total number of available cards) to the number of Treasure cards a player can collect in front of them during the game.

argh_treasure

Example of two of the treasures a player can find – a chest of loot or a key to a lock

If the player draws a Skull & Crossbones card, they can take one Treasure card group from any opponent. As described above, a group is any number of Treasure cards of the same type. These cards, once stolen, are placed in front of the player and added to any other Treasure cards of the same type they might have already collected. If they do not have that type, they simply start a new group. Once the treasure is stolen, the Skull & Crossbones card is discarded. If there is no treasure to steal, the card is simply discarded.

argh_skullbones

If the player draws a Pirate card, bad things happen. First of all, all the Treasure cards the player has collected that can be scored (see step 2 below) are discarded. Second, the player’s turn is now over, regardless of how they feel about it. The Pirate card is placed face-up next to the playing area. While it’s no longer possible to draw that specific pirate at this time, the card is not out of the game. Once the players have revealed all 8 Pirate cards, all the cards remaining face-down on Plunder Island, the 8 Pirate cards, and all the discarded cards are shuffled together and then placed back into the central playing area (essentially resetting Plunder Island). Any Treasure cards the players have in front of them remain.

argh_pirate

Step 2: Draw Again or Score

If the player drew a Treasure or Skull & Crossbones card, they can draw again. This repeats step 1 noted above. If the player drew a Pirate card during step 1, their turn is over and it’s now the next player’s turn going clockwise in turn order sequence.

A player can, after drawing at least 1 card, end their turn and score points. Every “Chest” Treasure card the player has is worth 3 points (3 points per card). All other Treasure card types only score points if the player has 3 or more of them collected. For example, if the player has 2 “Coin” Treasure cards, they are worth nothing, but 3 “Coin” Treasure cards are worth 3 points. For every card above 3 of the same Treasure card type, an additional point is earned. For example, having 4 “Coin” Treasure cards would be worth 4 points and having 6 “Chalice” Treasure cards would be worth 6 points. Any Treasure cards that do not count as points simply remain in front of the player. These Treasure cards cannot be stolen by the Pirates, but can be taken by the player’s opponents!

Once all the points are counted, the Treasure cards scored are discarded.

The player’s turn is now over and the next player in turn order sequence now has a chance to find treasure!

Endgame and Becoming the Top Pirate

The game continues until a player scores a set number of points at the end of step 2. This triggers the endgame. The number of points needed is dependent on the number of players at the table.

  • 2 to 3-player game: 50 or more points
  • 4 to 5-player game: 40 or more points
  • 6-player game: 35 or more points

Every player in turn order sequence, other than the player who just triggered the end game, now has one more turn and chance to collect as much treasure as possible. If another player ends their turn and they now have the highest score, everyone again has one final turn to attempt to beat it. This continues until no one can beat the highest score.

To learn more about Argh!, visit the game’s web page.

Prediction

Argh! has a lot going for it that will most certainly appeal to the Child Geeks and to the Parent Geeks, as well. The game would appear to be very family friendly, easy to learn, easy to play, and quick. That’s pretty much everything a Child and Parent Geek could ask for. For the Gamer Geeks, I doubt this will get much attention. It’s too random, lacks depth, and depends a great deal on good old-fashioned luck. Games like this seldom hold the interest of Gamer Geeks for long, if at all.

Hmm… Other than that, there really isn’t much more to talk about as far as predictions go. This is a very simple game.

Teaching the game is easy. All we did was point out what the treasure was, how you could score it, and what you could do with the Skull & Crossbones cards. And that’s pretty much the game. None of our players had any questions regarding the game rules and we were off and playing only a few minutes after the game was set up and explained. But before we started digging for treasure, I asked my little geeks what they thought of the game so far.

“An easy card matching game with pirates. Sounds like fun.” ~ Liam (age 8)

“Yep. Easy and fun, Daddy!” ~ Nyhus (age 5)

Argh! is very easy, but I don’t know about the fun level yet. Let’s play the game and see if we dig up some real treasure or all we find is buried potential.

Final Word

The Child Geeks really had a great time with the game. Sometimes overly so. My 5-year-old was fond of raising his fist to the sky and screaming in mock rage when a Pirate card was drawn and cackled madly when he scored points. My 8-year-old was a bit more subdued (being 8 and really cool), but was clearly having a good time. All the Child Geeks had a great time, in fact. The only time they didn’t was when they lost their Treasure cards after a particularly long and successful turn of finding treasure. When the game was finished, they were eager for more. The Child Geeks enthusiastically approved of Argh! and highly recommend you try it, too.

My mom and I watch my oldest as he carefully selects a card

My mom and I watch my oldest little geek as he carefully selects a card

The Parent Geeks were less enthused about the game, but had a great time playing it with their families. The game was found to be fun, and for some, blessedly short. According to one Parent Geek, “I can’t stand games like this, but I would play this again and again with my kids.” The sentiment was shared by a number of the Parent Geeks, except for one, who said, “I don’t understand why adults don’t like this game more. This is a game that’s easy to have fun with, doesn’t demand much energy, and gives you a rewarding feeling. What’s not to like?” What’s not to like, indeed! In fact, nothing was found to be amiss by the Parent Geeks and they all approved it, finding it to be a fast, fun, and easy game to play and to enjoy with their families. Not so much with just their peers, but no one thought it would be.

The Gamer Geeks…well…let’s just say they didn’t go for it. This is most certainly not a Gamer Geek’s game. According to one Gamer Geek, “I know why this game is enjoyed by the kids, but this is simply not a game worth putting in front of my adult friends at my gaming table.” Which is not to say it was a bad game. All the Gamer Geeks agreed it was “OK” for what it was. But even that didn’t save it from being pushed off the gaming table for something else. In private, another Gamer Geek told me, “Cyrus, I like that you bring us new games to play, but why do you put games in front of me that I would have only enjoyed 20 years ago? I’m in my 30′s, damn it!” Ha! Nice. The Gamer Geeks all agreed this was not a game for them.

Argh! is a very easy to learn and to play game. That also means it lacks much in the way of complexity. And by lacking, I mean it has none. There is nothing complex about this game and the depth of the game itself can be measured by the layers of cards in the center of the gaming table. There is a great deal of luck involved, no real meaningful information to derive from the cards (short of actually counting the cards available), and the entire experience feels like an exercise in mindless card selection. Which it’s. But the Child Geeks love playing it. I’m pretty sure it’s because there is a high level of uncertainty when revealing every card and that is exciting. It’s also safe. Argh! is not a game that punishes players painfully for taking a risk. There are very few Pirate cards in comparison to all the other cards in the game. The odds of pulling treasure in abundance when the game first starts is very high. Of course, the odds start to dwindle as the game goes on, but that’s what gives the game a bit of danger and risk.

I think the most interesting aspect of this game is watching the players go through the motions of evaluating risk versus reward. Every card drawn is an unknown dip into the shallow waters of chance. Some of the players stopped their turns early, being satisfied with small points. Others pushed their turns hard and scored huge points or lost it all when they tempted fate just a bit too long. I liken Argh! to Farkle, in a way. Some players are just natural risk takers and others like to play it safe. Neither method really leads to certain victory, but it was a pleasure to see that both types of personalities could play the same game without conflict.

If I didn’t have little geeks, I wouldn’t bother to pick up Argh!. Lucky for me I do and I’ve rather enjoyed myself. But, if I were to be honest, it’s not the game I’m really enjoying. My 5-year-old can be just as competitive as the Parent Geeks in this game, and I love being able to play games with my little geeks without the need to hold myself back. For a brief time, we are all equals when it comes to our gamer skills, and it’s fascinating to watch my little geeks take calculated risks. It shows me they are thinking things through, weighing the pros and cons, and then making a logical decision based on what they believe to be true. That’s awesome and will serve them well their entire lives. I bet other families will observe the same type of behavior, too, if they were to put the game in front of their Child Geeks.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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