King of the Sea

16 Aug

What a long, strange trip it’s been since February. I certainly didn’t intend to take this long away, but it happened. I’ve got some more games I’ve played in the past few months that I’d like to share with everyone, so let’s get started with a game that’s the same age I am – 1975’s King of the Sea.

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In King of the Sea, two players control 5 pirate ships each with the goal of conquering new lands, and laying claim to them with their side’s flag. The first pirate to conquer five new lands is the winner. On a player’s turn, he or she gets to move two ships one space each. If that ship is next to an unclaimed sandy beach, a flag gets placed there.

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You then get to take two shots at your opponent using your cannon. In theory, you are aiming for their flags, because any knocked down flags get removed from the board, and make it that much harder for your opponent to win. In reality, it’s all about aiming for the ships themselves. The ships are a nice, satisfyingly chunky plastic in two colors – black and red.

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If you hit and knock over a ship, it is removed from the game. That’s the secondary  (but again far more satisfying) way to win the game – destroy your opponent’s fleet!

That’s really all there is to the game itself. It’s very basic, there are only 6 rules on the one page double-sided rules sheet. More room on the sheet is actually taken up showing how to attach, and properly shoot the cannons.

There are two things that make this game special: the board, and the cannons.

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The board is this gigantic molded plastic monster. I think it’s about 4 feet long when put together. It has all kinds of nooks, crannies, mountains, and volcanoes that make clever hiding spots for your ships. You are encouraged, when moving into a new space (each space, in the picture above is divided by the small sand bars) to hide your ship as best as possible.

The best part of the game is shooting the cannon. It’s also the most frustrating part. You get plenty of little plastic cannonballs, which is fortunate because they will be flying under every piece of furniture you might own. And that’s because these cannons, even after 40 years shoot with an incredible amount of force. I think the first time I fired one, the cannonball flew at least 15 feet through the air. I nearly blinded my best friend.

If there is a downside to the game it is that because the cannons are so powerful, there not much skill in shooting. You simply aim in a general direction and hope you hit the board, and not your cousin in the next room. I will say that I did have one amazing shot in the first game I played. I was aiming at my opponent’s lead ship, I took careful aim, and fired. The cannonball breezed just over the top of his ship, bounced off a volcano, came back and knocked down one of my own ships 2 spaces away.

That…is why this game is still awesome and will continue to hold a place in my collection. It’s one of those games that has the ability to create those moments that we all seem to love recalling for years to come.

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On a semi-related note: as I was playing this game, the cannon mechanic reminded me of a miniatures game called Attactix. I remember a Marvel and a Transformers set. I had a few, but never really had a chance to play it much and eventually gave the figures to a thrift store. The big hook to that game was that if a character had a gun, you could fire little projectiles at opposing characters. If the character was more into hand-to-hand combat, their waist twisted, and they had comically large hands or claws that could be used to hit opposing characters they were standing next to. Part of me kind of wants to find some again to see if it was actually any fun.

Anyone out there ever play Attactix? Is it worth my time to look into again after 10 or so years?

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