Review by Peter Sarrett (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 30, 1994.
A friend brought over his copy of Flusspiraten last night and we gave it a go. There were five players in the game, which could accomodate up to six.
First, a synopsis. The game, by the makers of Favoriten and Wett Rich Ser Kann, involves pirates trying to sail their ships from the harbor to the mouth of a river. There are eight ships in all, and each player has five pirates to work with. Pirates start from two camps on opposite shores of the harbor and move from there to the vacant ships. Each ship can handle up to two pirates, and ships must have two pirates in them in order to leave the harbor. But two pirates of the same color (player) can never be in the same ship.
So, you have to cooperate somewhat. You can only move one of your pirates per turn. Before rolling your die, you announce whether you'll be moving by land or by sea. If you choose land, you simply roll and move one of your pirates along the shore towards the harbor. The only reason to move by land is to get your pirates into ships. If you choose to move by sea, you indicate which boat you're trying to move.
You and your shipmate now have to choose what to do in a variant of Rock Paper Scissors. You both open your fists simultaneously. If they both contain dice, you both roll and if either of you gets an odd number, you move that number of spaces forward. If one of you holds a die and the other's fist is empty, the latter player pushes the former out of the boat. The evicted pirate must then walk back to the harbor in order to get into another ship. If both people hold out empty hands, they try to push each other out and stalemate. If one person holds a club, you knock out the other guy as long as he didn't choose a die, in which case you get knocked out instead. If both players choose a club, they both get knocked out of the boat.
If players fail to move a boat forward, either because of rolling even numbers, pushing someone out of the boat instead of rolling, or stalemating, the boat drifts backwards towards the harbor. The river has two lanes, with each space along the river having a value (1-3) indicating the strength of the current. The current is weaker in the inner lane. Boats drift backwards a number of spaces equal to the current of that space. If they bump into a boat behind them, they stop drifting. When going forward, players may either move around a boat in front of them or they may push it along from behind-- as long as the player doing the pushing doesn't have a pirate in any of the boats being pushed.
Note that once a pirate pushes his shipmate overboard, he'll find it much harder to move his boat forward for two reasons: he won't have a partner to roll another die, and the boat can only move on his turn, since he has no partner. Since you can only move one of your pirates per turn, that leaves up to four pirates sitting idle each turn. If they're idle, they're not rowing. And if they're not rowing, their boats drift back along the river. So having multiple ships on the river at once doesn't necessarily make life easier.
When a ship reaches the end of the river, the occupants score 0-5 points according to the position of their color on the scoring wheel. This wheel advances one space automatically whenever a ship reaches the end of the river. It can also advance whenever a ship enters the river (that is, leaves the harbor) if both players in the ship agree to it. This is where much of the strategy of the game lies-- choosing shipmates who are adjacent to you on the wheel is usually a good idea since they'll likely help you advance the wheel to increase your points.
The first player to 13 points is the winner.
That's a lot of wordage to expend on explaining a game that disappointed me. I found Flusspiraten to take far too long for what it was. At an hour, it would be a fun game. Our game took over two hours, and it soon lost its charm. Moving upriver is not as easy as it sounds, and it got tedious after a while. The Rock Paper Scissors game of throwing people overboard wasn't terribly exciting. The best part of the game was the strategy involved in trying to get your ship to the end of the river at the same time your color is worth the maximum number of points. Since once more turn of the wheel sends a five point color plummeting to zero points, you walk the razor's edge. But the ultimate test of a game is whether or not I'd choose to play it again. Sadly, I would not. Walter Mueller Spielwerks did a much better job with the "throw people overboard" theme with Rette Sich Wer Kann.
The Game Cabinet - email@example.com - Ken Tidwell