Kickstarter Tabletop Alert: ‘Jackal Archipelago’

Live today on Kickstarter, check out Jackal Archipelago.

Jackal Archipelago from Magellan games. Live now on Kickstarter.

At a Glance
Jackal Archipelago from Mosigra and Magellan games pits rival pirate crews against each other in the search for giant golden coins scattered across an island composed of hidden tiles. The player with the most gold when both the last coin is captured and the last tile is revealed wins! It’s for 2–4 players, ages 6 and up, and takes 15–90 minutes. The base pledge for a copy of the game is $30.

Components
Inside the box you’ll find 66 square terrain tiles (which I’ll discuss in detail later), 4 ship cards that represent each pirate band’s home base, 4 square boat tiles used to transport gold and pirates to and from the island, 12 pirate meeples (three from each pirate band color), a bear meeple, a missionary meeple, 19 “giant” pirate coins, 5 message bottles, a six-sided die, 16 ability cards, 10 puzzle cards for a single player variant, and a bunch of pirate ability stickers (also discussed in detail below).

Components for Jackal Archipelago. Photo by Gerry Tolbert.

How to Play
Each player begins the game with three pirates on their boat tile at the edge of one of the four included islands. Players take turns performing one of six actions: move your boat along the coast, move a pirate from a boat to land, move a pirate from land to a boat, move a pirate from your boat to an enemy boat, move a pirate from one land tile to an adjacent land tile, or make one of your pirates already in the water swim around the island. Boat movement allows pirates to access land tiles adjacent to the sea for exploration. Pirates that explore onto land flip over face-down land tiles to “explore” the island and (hopefully) discover hidden chests of gold.

Each pirate can carry one gold piece at a time, and once picked up, each gold piece must be taken back by way of previously explored tiles to the boat and ferried to the ship. While in transit, an opponent may attack your pirate with one of their own, wounding your pirate and stealing the gold for themselves. Wounded pirates return to the ship to heal, but come back onboard the boat at the start of your next turn. There are a few tiles that protect against attack, like the fortress, and pirates cannot attack while holding a coin. They can, however, drop the coin and attack, then return and pick up the dropped coin on a subsequent turn.

Box exterior for Jackal Archipelago. Photo by Gerry Tolbert.

If you succeed in getting a coin back onboard your boat, there’s still a chance an opponent can steal a single coin by boarding your boat from their own adjacent boat with a boarding party. The boarding action costs the attacker one pirate—that meeple is removed from the game—and nets one coin. Unfortunately, this is only one of the 6 ways a pirate can die and be removed from the game. They can also be run over by a boat while swimming, fall into the hands of cannibals while exploring, get caught in an infinite loop of actions on the island tiles, or they can be killed by a pirate swimming into the same sea tile from dry land. Players can also send a pirate back to the ship with coins from the boat to protect from boarding actions by other players, but that pirate becomes incensed and will not return to the boat “for love or money.”

Once your pirates have placed four coins on the boat, the boat automatically makes a round trip to the ship, dropping off all the coins on the way. This doesn’t require an action and protects the coins from boarding parties.

The real variability and strategy of the game comes in the exploration of the island tiles. Each of the four islands (two for 2 players and two for 3 or 4 players) consists of a fixed number of mountain, forest, and beach tiles, but these are laid out randomly for each game. You don’t use all the tiles in the set, either, which makes for a more random map, as well. Many tiles are simple terrain, but several have a special mechanic that affects gameplay. There are tiles with a message in a bottle that can be used by any pirate for the purposes of circumventing certain game mechanics. Trampolines allow pirates to jump over one adjacent tile. Shrines allow players to resurrect dead pirates. Certain tiles will even bring the bear and the missionary meeples into the game, which can make for some interesting chase scenes.

Bear and Missionary Meeples. Photo by Gerry Tolbert

Once the last tile is explored and the last gold piece is collected or destroyed, the game ends and the player with the most gold wins the right to choose one of several Special Abilities. We didn’t really get to try this out as much as I’d like, but they seem much like mechanics in Legacy games (Risk Legacy and Pandemic Legacy to name a few). The winning player chooses either a ship or a pirate ability and permanently affixes it to one of their game pieces. Each player can only have up to 4 abilities (one for each pirate and one for the boat), and they can’t be switched during an exploration round of the game. Unlike the Legacy abilities, players may discard one of their collected abilities in favor of a new ability if they win a subsequent round, but they may still only have four total abilities. I can definitely see these player powers adding replayability and far more complex decision-making, but it will be interesting to see how much they affect balance, as well.THsdfsdf

Tile layout for 4 players. Photo by Gerry Tolbert

Verdict
Overall, the game takes a pretty fun random tile exploration mechanic and adds several player powers and simple land and sea combat to make a really fun game with tons of replay potential. This game works just as well with 2 players as with 3 or 4, and the single player puzzle mode is quite fun. There’s also a 2v2 variant that works well with four players, so there are tons of replay scenarios. Like most good games, the mechanics are easy to learn and hard to master, resulting in surprising strategic depth. If you like pirates, gold, booty, plunder, or chasing a missionary with a bear, you need to check out Jackal Archipelago on Kickstarter now. Yarrrrr!

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Gerry Tolbert, otherwise known as Ella, Lydia and Phoebe's Dad, started his geeky pursuits very early in life. While much of his time is consumed by introducing his daughters to Star Wars, table top games, video games, and gadgets, he spends his free time caring for people as a family doctor.