Regret missing your chance at that late-winter, early-spring tropical cruise? Here are some games that may give a little taste of what you missed.

1. CARIBBEAN (2004)

Ever wonder how pirates used to unload their bulkier booty, to convert it to gold? Well in this game, they go to you!

And the game’s props get lots of . . . props!  The game boasts a colorful and attractive game board map, and detailed heavyweight cardboard ships to pick up its equally attractive treasures

Designers: Michail Antonow & Jens-Peter Schliemann. Publishers: Competo/Marketoy, Identity Games International B.V., Kanga Games, Nilco S.A., Rio Grande Games, and Winning Moves Germany

2. MERCHANTS AND MARAUDERS (2010)

Designers Kasper Aagaard & Christian Marcussen are probably tired of hearing this by now, but I’ve heard gamers laud Merchants & Marauders more than once as the closest thing to a multiplayer tabletop version of Sid Meier’s PC pirate games.  (Given the longevity of Meier’s work, I consider that a favorable kudos.) 

In this game, you’re a captain sailing around searching for Glory Points, attainable in different ways which are, sadly, sometimes incompatible. Of course, anybody can earn points for amassing gold, but of course . . . gold is rather easy come, easy go, now isn’t it?

And while players can “kill” each other, there’s no player elimination; just take a penalty & then draw up a new Captain! It’ll be all the sweeter when ye come back from yer defeat!!

Designers: See above. Publishers: Z-Man Games, Asmodee, Asterion Press, Conclave Editora, Filosofia Editions, Pegasus Spiele, Rebel, White Goblin Games.

3. MARTINIQUE (2009)

Martinique is a puzzle-type treasure hunting game, where you scramble all over the island trying to figure out where the loot is hidden. For a game that kids can play with their parents, the bluff and counterbluff can be quite sophisticated.

Designer: Emanuele Ornella. Publishers: Axel, HomoLudicus, HUCH!, Quined White Goblin Games, Z-Man Games.

4. KEY WEST (2010)

Why should the Age of Piracy get all of this list’s attention? Welcome to the 1930’s! This game reminds some of Settlers of Catan, but bidding happens differently. The highest bidder pays the lowest bidder the amount the lowest bidder bids. Winning bid gets double tiles, lowest bid none. Cigars? Treasure hunting? Bridge building? Plantations or factories? Tourism? Fruit? All industry there is interdependent . . . and specializing is not easy to do.

Designer: Martin Schlegel. Publisher: Horst Rokitte – Ideen für Spiele.

5. PUERTO RICO (2002)

Published in 2002, Puerto Rico has inspired a Deluxe version, two expansion sets, and even a fan-made expansion that throws in a zombie plague.  It’s had one of the longest reigns as boardgamegeek’s top game.

Each turn, you take on a specific role from a list of prospector, captain, craftsman, mayor, and so on. But in the end, there are only two ways to score Victory Points: farm and sell your crops overseas OR erect fancy or useful buildings. When all the available land is full, the game ends, so hurry!

Designer: Andreas Seyfarth. Publishers: alea, Ravensburger Spieleverlag GmbH, Broadway Toys LTD, Devir, Filosofia Editions, Kaissa Chess & Games, Lacerta, Lautapelit.fi, MINDOK, Rio Grande Games, Stratelibri, Swan Panasia Co., Ltd., Tilsit.

6. CARTAGENA (2000)

Real life historical evidence seems pretty thin on the ground for 1672’s “legendary” mass pirate jailbreak from the Cartagena fortress. In this game you become part of that legend. Your goal is to get all six of your pirates out of their cell, through the tunnels, and away on the escape ship that awaits in port!   

Designer: Leo Colovini. Publishers: Venice Connection, Corfix, Devir, Giochi Uniti, Hobby World, Identity Games International B.V., Nasza Księgarnia, Nordic Games GmbH, Oya, Piatnik, Ravensburger Spieleverlag GmbH, Rio Grande Games, Tilsit, White Goblin Games, Winning Moves Germany.

7. JUNTA (1978)

Published by Alderac forty years ago, Junta puts you into the innermost circle of an authoritarian island regime. The President-for-Life player assigns roles, distributes superpower foreign-aid money, and puts up his budget for a vote — just in time for the assassination attempts!  Is your goal to stay in charge a long time? No way . . . talk about a lost cause! The winner is whichever player is popular enough, corrupt enough and clever enough to get out of the country alive with the heftiest, most brazen bank withdrawal of ill-gotten gain.

Designers: Eric Goldberg, Ben Grossman, Steve Marsh (I), Steven Marsh (II), Vincent Tsao, Nikola Vrtis. Publishers: Alderac Entertainment Group; ASS Altenburger Spielkarten; Borras Plana S.A., Creative Games Workshop, Descartes Editeur, Ediciones MasQueOca, Hobby Japan, Matagot, Pegasus Spiele, Purgatory Publishing, Inc., Schmidt Spiele, The Toy Company Argentina S.R.L., West End Games.

8. PORT ROYAL (2014)

Very little text in the game.  Players are traders in Port Royal. Hire the best characters to get money, find deals, trade, go on expeditions and pile up those victory points! Each turn has two phases — drawing cards, and a “hire and trade” phase. Push your luck in your draws, picking up extra cards in search of the best combos. Do business with the honest, the corrupt, and everyone in between.

Designer: Alexander Pfister. Publishers: Pegasus Spiele, 999 Games, Bard Centrum Gier, Brain Games, cutia.ro, Ediciones MasQueOca, Fantasmagoria, Hobby Japan, Hobby World, HomoLudicus, Kaissa Chess & Games, Lautapelit.fi, Matagot, MINDOK, PaperGames (III), Steve Jackson Games, Swan Panasia Co., Ltd.

9. TORTUGA 1667 (2017)

As an experienced pirate, you’ve talked your mates into helping you sack a Spanish galleon. And as an experienced pirate, you have no intention of sharing the loot! But it’s all good — you’re pretty sure they intend to screw you over, as well. That’s why this game is all about the social interaction between the players — everyone’s walking their own tightrope as they plan to work together vanquishing their enemies one minute, then greedily cheat their crewmates the next!

Designer: Travis Hancock. Publisher: Façade Games.

10. OBJECTIVE: HAVANA (2017)

Believe it or not, this is a magazine game originally published in the magazine Modern War, Issue #28.

A solitaire wargame adaptation of how JFK’s full-scale invasion of Cuba might have gone down.  The design is unusual in that casualties are placed in the middle of the boardConsidering Keeping the casualty count smack dab in the middle of the board not only emphasizes a critical factor in whether you win, but also illustrates the human cost of war in a simple way that I’m surprised I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Designer: Joseph Miranda. Publisher: Decision Games (I).

11. JAMAICA (2007)

The year is 1675. Notorious pirate captain Henry Morgan is now the new Governor of Jamaica! Does he  order the seas swept clean of buccaneers? By thunder, OF COURSE NOT! Instead, he invites all his buddies to join him in retirement to flaunt their ill-gotten wealth with impunity!

Each year, in remembrance of wilder times, Morgan organizes a race around the island! Do you win by finishing first? OF COURSE NOT! The winner’s the one who’s got the most gold at the race’s end — by fair means or foul!  Attack your lifelong shipmates, steal their gold, anything goes! After all, aren’t they all trying to do the same to you? OF COURSE THEY ARE!

Designers: Malcolm Braff, Bruno Cathala, Sébastien Pauchon. Publishers: GameWorks SàRL, Asmodee, Asterion Press, Rebel.

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