Alexander Pfestier is one of my favourite designers. He’s created, among other things, Great Western Trail, Mombasa, Oh My Goods!, Broom Service, Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King and my favourite, Port Royal.
Port Royal was the first game I played where the artwork was created by Klemens Franz (he’s collaborated again with Alexander on Oh, My Goods!). Port Royal not being recommended for Spiel des Jahres is, for me, one of the biggest upsets of that year and the biggest in gaming history in my opinion. Another push your luck mechanic game won the most recent Spiel des Jahres (game of the year), The Quacks of Quedlinburg.
However, Port Royal has endured. It’s a 2-5 player game and has had a number of expansions/re-releases (Port Royal is a re-implementation of Händler der Karbik, trader of the Caribbean). With a plethora of legacy and campaign games reaching the awareness of the masses, Port Royal has followed suit with a campaign game, Port Royal: An Adventure Begins.
Port Royal - The Game
Like the prior releases, we picked this up early. So early in fact, we bought and played the only language edition there was, German. The game is played over five missions and can be thought of as being similar to Port Royal: One more contract.
Without too many spoilers I’ll attempt to explain the story.
Your mother is missing.
There we are. In An Adventure Begins, you can play with all of your other prior expansions, or as we did (as it’s a big deck otherwise and, being push your luck takes longer to achieve objectives) played with just the base game. Like the other expansions there are symbols letting you know how to take out certain cards.
Within the set of new cards, there are new Pirates, Ares, which can give you other things to trade. Bread, Gold and Medicine are among the things the game introduces. You will have objectives and for the first campaign you play it is recommended you play as a co-op (like One More Contract).
Each player will have a crown marker card whereby you can earn crowns (respect) and earn enough and you gain victory points for them. Depending on the number of players you will have different quotas of victory points and combined objectives to win a leg of a campaign. Each player will randomly be in control of one of four characters, two per card (as double-sided) and you can choose one of the two. They will have abilities which unlock as you complete certain requirements
Within your group, in our case two, five objectives need completing. With four coloured cubes representing your character, this means both players will have to contribute. For your first campaign, you need to add certain cards to the deck, then shuffle.
On each player's turn they turn over a card from a separate deck that gives an ability for them (such as trading twice if fewer than four ships are out – this could be negative as trading might not be the overall goal). At the start of the round there will be an objective, such as pay 12 money. There are win and lose conditions which means you have to achieve a different objective (e.g. the lose condition states draw card three not card two as your next objective for the second round of this first campaign).
Remaining objectives (completed by only one player, or losing) stay out. The game is lost if all objectives come out and you go through all of the separate deck.
Final Thoughts on Port Royal: An Adventure Begins
An Adventure Begins was hard. We played it twice in January last year and packed it away. Brutal.
We revisited it in December 2018 and really got into it. Each objective has text on the back telling you about the story as you progress. We finally managed to win. One time we had to pack it again mid-game, but it was really easy to stack the cards and not have to restart.
It was a great experience and I think more is on the way. Due to the challenge you face, you are always engaged, keeping an eye out for what’s been played and what you need. The separate deck, your staff, gives you the ability to use your fellow players abilities sometimes, the design, artwork and feel remains (cubes are drab), and with other players and with expansions mixed it, offers a level of replay-ability.