Master tactician. Ingenious inventor. Brave settler. Most games allow players to explore the noblest aspects of the human race. They help us to create tales of courage, triumph, fortune, and strength. They show us what it’s like to be at the top of our fields, to go boldly into the frontiers of land and space, and to reach heights that we, in our real lives, know to be impossible.
Walk the Plank! is not one of these games.
Instead, this game shows us the basest, most ridiculously stupid depths to which humanity can sink in the most humorous and absurd ways possible.
Players are amongst the stupidest and laziest pirates on board the ship, and the captain has finally had enough. He’d love to throw the whole lot overboard, but he needs to save two of this motley bunch in order to keep the ship running. So, naturally, what better way to determine who lives and who dies than a fight to the death atop the ship’s plank?
Walk the Plank! is a beautifully simple game for 3 – 5 players. The game takes next to no time to set up, and the playthroughs can be almost as short. The board consists of four tiles: the ship tile, the three plank segments, and the kraken tile. Each player has three pirates pawns, and all pawns begin the game on the ship.
Each player also has a hand of ten cards. Unlike a deckbuilding or traditional card game, all ten cards are available for the player to choose from – there is no deck, no drawing, and no discarding. The cards are used to issue commands to the pirate pawns, and each card tells one of the player’s pirates to do something different, like shove another pirate, retract the plank, or run for the safety of the ship.
The game is played out over a number of short rounds. At the beginning of the round, each player chooses three cards from their hand and lays them face-down on the table in the order they wish them to be revealed. These are the three actions that will be taken by one of their pirates each turn.
Once everyone has selected their cards, the first player flips over their first card and selects one of their pirates to perform that action. If the action can be performed, it must be – regardless of whether or not it hurts the current player’s own pirates. These are, after all, the stupidest pirates on the ship.
After the first player has resolved the first card, the second player flips theirs, and so on. Players continue taking turns revealing cards until all of the cards have been resolved.
Players then return all cards back into their hand unless a card they played has a skull-and-crossbones on it, as these are more powerful cards that cannot be played two rounds in a row. The will be able to retrieve them the following round. Lastly, the first player marker rotates.
If any pirates have the misfortune of falling off the ship during the course of card actions, they are eaten by the hungry kraken and are out of the game. The game is over at the end of a round in which there are two or fewer pirates remaining. The players whose pirates have survived the brawl are declared the winners. The losers are those who are, well, dead.
An Omelet Full of Pirates and Chaos
The one thing you’ll pick up from this game from the onset is that it wears its premise on its sleeve, and it doesn’t try to be anything more than what it presents to you. Walk the Plank! is silly, random fun. It’s so unpredictable, in fact, that you’ll end up harming your own pirates with surprising regularity. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice the one to save the many, or the many to save the one. Sometimes all your pirates just end up tumbling head first off the end of the plank and there’s really nothing you can do about it. It is this irreverence for structure and disregard for the pirate’s safety that gives Walk the Plank! its charm. This is a great game for Socializers and Daredevils – it’s quick, light, and did we mention random?
That said, this isn’t meant to be a game that scratches your gamer itch. This is meant as a light filler, and that is where it excels. Don’t plan your game night around it, but instead pull it out with your kids or while you’re waiting for pizza. The less thought you put into it, the better. You could even put none, and truly embrace the chaos. We recommend trying this at least once: instead of choosing your cards, each player selects theirs randomly and does not look at them until they are revealed. This is possibly even more fun than choosing cards deliberately.
It’s not that you can’t try to make a strategic move. Rather, it’s just that it probably won’t matter. Walk the Plank! makes minimal intellectual demands, and by the time the fourth card is flipped, any strategy you might have had will likely be null and void. This isn’t a flaw, though, because if you’re playing this game to win, you’re playing it wrong. No, this one is about the journey more than the triumph. Even if that journey sends all of your men to their watery graves.
As such, it’s not necessarily a game for Tacticians, Architects, or Immersionists. There’s no depth to it, little time to invest into any planning, and there’s not a lot you can learn to improve your strategy from one game to another. Strikers might find it more interesting due to the heavy Player vs Player mode, but the degree of pandemonium could just as easily put them off.
She’s A Hearty Ship
Sure, the artwork could have made the skull-and-crossbones icons stand out more, and we’d have liked to see some diversity with the pirates depicted (as it’s unlikely that any pirate crew was that homogenous), but these are minor quibbles and don’t detract from actual gameplay. On the plus side, the pirates are wooden meeples, and the board pieces are nice thick cardboard. Additionally, the cards themselves are linen-finished and will likely withstand a fair amount of wear-and-tear. That said, because of their constant use, we’d still recommend sleeving them.
If you’re looking for a very fun, incredibly light, and highly random filler game, Walk the Plank! is something you’ll want to check out. It’s as easy to teach as it is to play, and you’ll see entire crews of pirates come and go in very quick fashion. Walk the Plank! embraces its role as a chaotic, fast brawl and it does what its job with remarkable efficiency and simplicity. It seems strange to call a game about idiotic pirates fighting to the death elegant, but if the peg leg fits, then elegant it is.
Cardboard Republic Snapshot Scoring (Based on scale of 5):
Rules Clarity: 5
Replay Value: 4
Physical Quality: 4
Overall Score: 4
Walk the Plank! is a product of Mayday Games.
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Photo Credits: Darth Apprentice Worker by Wikipedia.