“Zombies!!! meets Flashpoint… with pirates”
Dead Men Tell No Tales – Skelit’s Revenge (DMTNT) is a co-operative pirate adventure where up to five players take the roles of scurvy sea pirates attempting to loot the ghost ship, The Skelit’s Revenge, its ghostly owner Captain Fromm and his skeleton crew. That's not all, even more challenging is that the ghost ship is roaring a fiery blaze that grows with each turn the pirates take. The aim of the pirates is to loot and escape with a number of treasures chests from the burning ship before all pirates are either killed, overwhelmed, cut off and trapped on the ship by the fire, the gold is destroyed, or the ship explodes.
DMTNT has a wide audience, it is a co-operative game aimed at families over the age of thirteen and heavier gamers alike. The game is well designed boasting a lot of common mechanics that are easy to understand by both audiences but, the combination creates a depth and difficulty that provides an enjoyable challenge to frequent game enthusiasts. This is helped by a well written rule book and great artwork. Although it doesn’t state this to be a solo game, the game can be easily adapted by the solo gamer simply playing the role of more than one pirate.
How To Play
Setup – The setup sees each player given a pirate character card with a special ability, one item giving players a second special ability, five action tokens and a player board. Each pirate is given a corresponding coloured mirate (meeple pirate), which is placed on the starting space denoted by a boat and the four starting tiles of the ship are laid out. All tokens, deckhands and the dice shown on the starting boards are then placed on their respective spaces (for example red dice with a number four is placed on the tile with a picture of a red die with four pips). All remaining skeleton crew, treasure and trapdoor tokens are placed into a black bag. The board tiles are shuffled and placed face down in a stack in front of the players.
Actions/Turns – Each turn is played over three stages-
- Search The Ship – The first/current player takes one board tile known as a “room tile” and places it face up making sure the doors shown are aligned with doors on the existing room tiles. The room tile will have a red or yellow die showing a side with a number of pips, a matching die is then drawn and placed on the square on the tile with the image of the die. Next a token is drawn from the bag and placed in the room just added to the board. If the final room tile placed has a door not connecting to any other room then you have a second exit with which to escape the ship – “GAAAARGH!”
- Take Pirate Actions – Each pirate has five action tokens they can spend to perform any combination from the below list – note; some pirates have more actions depending on their special ability or item cards as well as other bonuses.
- Walk – move one tile through any adjacent door
- Run – move two tiles through any adjacent doors
- Fight Fire – lower the pips on the fire die in the room you are in
- Eliminate a deckhand – remove one deckhand from the room you are in or an adjacent room through a connecting door
- Pickup a token – pickup a token from the room you are in
- Rest – lower your characters fatigue level by two points per action point spent
- Increase your battle strength – adds numbers to your strength which can be used on top of die rolls during battles
- Swap item card – swap your item card with one face up or from another player, the other player then draws a new card from the deck
Any actions not used can be given to the next player for them to use on their turn. After all players have taken their turns all actions are returned to each player meaning at the start of each new round every pirate starts with their full action allocation unless a card or penalty instructs otherwise.
- Skelit’s Revenge – The top card of the Skelit’s Revenge deck is turned over and all of its affects applied. The cards affect results in one or a combination of, fire effects, deckhand effects and skeleton crew movement, the card is then discarded. The effects can cause of number of things to happen such as room & keg explosions which either cause the fire to spread, kill the pirates caught in the blasts, and or makes parts of the ships inaccessible causing that tile to be turned over and thus affecting the way the pirates can move around the ship. The number of deckhands can also effect the pirates ability to travel around the ship as when deckhands are in numbers of three or more, then the pirates cannot pass through the room with which they dominate without defeating them first. Finally, the skeleton crew movement can cause battles between the crew and the pirates which can result in both pirates & crew being moved to other tiles, being defeated, revealing items or treasure and increasing the pirates fatigue levels.
Worth a buy, avoid or wait for a sale?
I managed to pick this up for a good price and was more than happy to pay the cost. The production quality alone justifies the price and the artwork is super attractive. The box gives plenty of space for all of the components and the rulebook is well written.
In my opinion this game is definitely worth a buy if the type of game you’re looking for is a deep co-op experience that can be played in under an hour and thirty minutes, that has the depth and complexity to be more than a gateway game but, not so heavy it takes a whole evening or weekend to play. In my opinion one of the biggest justifications I look for with games is re-playability and this has it in abundance. No two games ever feel the same and the strong player interaction really promotes the feeling of a true co-operative experience, something that isn't always guaranteed.
Although at times its frustrating when it feels like everything is going against you, that adds to some of the comical conversations made at how the pirates may have finally met their karma (thanks to your unwise choices). For me it was a real challenge to try to find any cons to the game and even more so for three.
To summarise, ultimately I think for a game to be worth buying everything else can be ignored if the following two criteria are met, did I have fun when I played it? And do I want to play it again? If both those are a yes then its worth time and money invested into it.
DMTNT is an exciting co-operative adventure that has a lot of strategic choices and possible knock on effects that seem tricky at first, but after one or two play-through's, combine together to make an intriguing and deep thematic experience with a ton of re-playability.
The age range is certainly accurate not because of the graphic artwork, but due to some of the complex outcomes caused by some of the possible choices throughout the game that I feel younger audiences may struggle to understand. Having said that, with adult guidance there is no reason why this can’t be equally fun for a family with slightly younger children. On the opposite side of this, the variety of mechanics, possible choices and resulting outcomes mean this is a very enjoyable experience for more experienced gamers looking for a deeper experience.
This game brings back a similar feeling to playing Pandemic, which for myself and my partner, was a thoroughly enjoyable co-operative experience that was for us, the first well done co=operative we mechanic we had seen in a board game. If you add to that, the additional deeper/more complex mechanics that are in DMTNT, I feel that adds so much re-playability the game which for those who enjoy pandemic but have perhaps had their fill, makes this a must buy. Although it isn’t marketed this way, the fact that this has the potential to be played solo, that only adds to its value.
The theme and great artwork is key to the experience of DMTNT so if pirates aren’t a theme that excites you, then it may be best to look for an alternative co-operative game. The mechanics compliment the theme perfectly and alongside the high quality production, help to elevate the thematic feel of actually being a sea fairing pirate who’s greed has sailed them straight into a ghostly and explosive situation which may turn out to be their last adventure, one that may see them sink to the bottom of the ocean or sail into the sunset as rich free pirates ready for their next pillage.