March 6, 2011

Castaways of Deadmans Bay - Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me!


If you have never heard of Ian Volkwein, then I suggest you remember his name. Ian has accomplished something that a lot of others have been unable to do; that is self-publish a mechanically sound, high quality, fun and exciting pirate themed card game. Castaways of Deadmans Bay is the first game published by the newly founded PonderZombie Games. I think I see a meme trend here. Pirate themed game card game and Zombie named company, all thats missing is a Ninja based board game and the trifecta will be complete.

The Game
The famed pirate William Dread, captain of the Rusty Barnacle, has just died. Three successors are fighting over control of the ship, each for their own reasons: Simple minded Jennifer "Jack" Johnson, French Chef Phillipe Forchette, and the fearsome Cannonade Kate. They must outsmart and trick each other, and anything to stay one step ahead or they might find themselves sent to Davy Jones' locker.

Castaways of Deadmans Bay is a two player, head to head, dueling card game. It is meant for ages 8+ and takes anywhere from 15-20 minutes to play.

Game Pieces
For a self-published game, the pieces have an excellent quality to them. Granted it's a card game and production of quality cards has not been difficult for a long time; however, there are games out there that use low quality card stock (Racko, I'm looking at you). The cards that come with Castaways have a typical pack of Bicycle card feel to them, but what makes them stand out is the artwork. The illustrations are done by Brandon Bittner and all of the pieces (except the health markers which are just glass beads) have a high end publisher quality to them. From the box front, to the logo, to the instruction manual, the artwork stands out. My only complaint is that there isn't more of it! Some of the artwork gets repeated on a few cards, when they could have unique work. The crew and plank cards are an excellent example. Also additional character options, besides Jack, Phillipe, and Kate would have been nice. If there were six total character cards it would be possible for both players to have the same character type (discussed in the Game Play section), but a couple extra rules would easily balance this.

Another issue that I had with Castaways was the instruction manual. There are a few areas that are worded in a way that can cause confusion. We ended up having to read a few areas multiple times to get a full understanding of the meaning. This is one of those games that makes more sense after you play it then if you read the manual.

Game Play
Castaways uses a simple Rock, Paper, Scissors mechanic for game play, so naturally everything is in threes; the characters and character types, the different attack types, and the ways to win/lose all follow this trend. Jack is a Charge type, Phillipe is an Insult type, and Kate is a Strike type character. This will tie into the game as action cards are played. A player may play a Charge, Insult, or Strike attack/defend card. The game ends when one player is pushed off the end of the planks, loses all of their crew, or takes eight damage.


The game is setup (as shown in the picture above, sans the additional power-up cards) with the two chosen characters in the middle of the plank cards. Then place each side's six crew cards, three base power-up cards, and eight health markers in front of the players. Finally, their three attack cards and drawn card from the deck are held hidden as their hands. The game is ready to begin.

Editor's Note: The following instructions might be a bit confusing upon first read, I recommend looking at the Example Turn for any clarification.

The challenger starts first and draws two cards from the deck. They may play one action or power-up card from their hand. This is where the character types come into play as the action cards have an associated type assigned to it. If the player's character type matches the action card type, then the player may draw and play an additional card from the deck. So far, the player that has encountered the most power-up cards that match their character has won. If the player decides to play a power-up card, then the card gets stacked upon the base power-up card of the same type. After the player is done playing their cards, they must discard one.

Next, the player must choose one of the three types to attack with. This is done by placing the selected card face down. The defender must then choose which type to defend against. If the defender chooses the same type as the attack, then the attack is defended. If the attack is not defended, the attacking player succeeds in their attack. The attacker then references their base power-up pile of that type and performs the actions listed to the defending player. If a player is able to control all the crew of a certain type, the player is able to perform one additional action if they land an attack of that crew type. Their turn ends after the actions are performed. The game is over when one player is pushed off the planks, loses all of their crew, or loses all of their health.

Example Turn
Here's an example of a full turn using the picture as a guide -
John is challenging Mark and takes his turn first. John is playing "Jack" Johnson who is a Charge type character, while Mark is playing as Cannonade Kate, a Strike type. John draws his two cards from the deck, one is a Strike power-up with an Insult component while the other is an action card with a Charge type. John decides to play the action card which, in this case, flips the end plank card behind Kate to sharks. John played an action card and the card type (Charge) matched his character type (Charge), so he is able to draw and play an additional card. John does so and draws another power-up card. He decides to play the power-up card he drew originally and places it down on his Strike stack, while then discarding his newly drawn power-up. He then must make an attack and chooses to play his Charge attack card and places it face down. Mark believes that John decided to play Strike because he just placed an additional power-up on top of his pile. They both flip their cards over to determine if the attack is successful and since Mark did not choose the same attack type, it is. John then determines what actions must be taken against Mark; he has three power-ups on his Charge attack including one push and two damage. Both characters move towards Kate's end plank and Mark must remove two health markers from his stack of eight due to the two damage. Since John does not control all of the crew of the Charge type, he does not get an additional push action against Mark. John's turn is over and now Mark must make his move!

Final Thoughts
Castaways of Deadmans Bay is an great game loaded with quick, simple action while still requiring a moderate amount of strategy. With three different ways to attack and win, one can never be quite sure which direction your opponent will take. Still, there is a bit of luck involved as drawing action cards with a type that matches your character is very advantageous.

While the initial examination of the rules seems confusing, one play through with a few references for clarification is all that it will take to understand. Once a player knows how to play, teaching the rules won't be difficult. The game states that it is meant for ages 8+ and I think that an 8 year old would be able to understand how to play at a basic level fairly quickly, but might require many plays before fully realizing the depth of the strategy involved.

The illustrations are very well done and I only wished that there was a little more variety with the game cards. The rest of the game pieces are of high quality considering this is a self-published, first game from a new company. I've had a lot of fun playing this so far and want to share it with others. I look forward to seeing more work from Ian, Brandon, and PonderZombie Games. We give Castaways of Deadmans Bay a 4 out of 5.

At Castaways of Deadmans Bay

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Posted by Critical Gamers Staff at March 6, 2011 5:09 PM

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