It’s hard to believe it was 7 years ago that I reviewed the push-your-luck card game from Alexander Pfister called Port Royal. While my tastes and gaming preferences have definitely changed over time, I still love this little card game… probably more than I did back in 2015.
Today Port Royal has not only gotten a new version, but a much-appreciated facelift. Dubbed the Port Royal: Big Box, this new version not only refreshes the art, but includes every expansion released for the game. So hoist the sails as we take a look at this new edition.
If you want the full ins and outs of the base game, check out my original review here. But for a quick summary, Port Royal is a push-your-luck card game that has players racing to 12 victory points. Each turn, the active player will draw cards from the deck until they decide to stop, or bust out by drawing 2 identically colored ships.
Assuming they don’t bust, they can then choose one of the cards to take or buy. Ships can be freely taken and will give the player coins. People cards will cost money, but give the players special abilities and/or victory points. The key thing to note is that each other player can, in turn order, also purchase a card at this time, by paying the active player one coin (and the cost of the card bought to the bank).
Turns will go by in this manner until one player reaches 12 victory points. The round is finished and the player with the most points wins.
Game Experience (and Expansions):
I love Port Royal. I’m usually mocked by the rest of the BGQ staff because I consider it to be Alexander Pfister’s best game. Great Western Trail? Maracaibo? Isle of Skye? Naw. Give me pirates and a push-your-luck game. Whether it actually is his best game or not is all about personal preferences, but it’s definitely my favorite game of his. And this version makes it even better.
In addition to the base game, it also comes with every expansion released to date. As you might expect, each expansion adds to the base game in a different way. It’s also worth noting that these aren’t the types of expansions where you want to dump them all into the core set and start playing. Usually, you’ll only use one or two of them in a game.
The first expansion, and probably the easiest to incorporate, is Make Sail. This removes the expedition cards from the game, requiring players to win with just hired people. However, it does add a variety of new ships and people to hire to the deck.
The second expansion is Just One More Contract…, which as you might expect, adds contracts to the base game. Contacts give you tasks to do, and the sooner you can accomplish them, the more points you’ll earn. In addition to that, the expansion also adds in more characters to the game, and introduces cooperative play. When playing coop, players will have a specific number of contracts they need to complete before the timer runs out. Winning in coop mode is definitely not easy, so expect quite the challenge when you try it.
The final expansion, not including the Gambler Promo card set, is titled The Adventure Begins. This adds campaign-style play with a branching storyline. Does a push-your-luck card game with a pasted-on theme really need a campaign-style expansion? Probably not, but it’s fun nonetheless (if you are into that kind of thing). It’s even has a bit of a narrative to it. This probably wouldn’t be the first expansion I’d buy for Port Royal if I was getting everything separately, but as a final expansion, it was a nice change of pace.
While the box size is definitely bigger than the original small box game, it’s still not obscenely large for what it is, and each expansion has its own well to hold its cards. The final thing to note is that the art got a nice refresh. The original Port Royal had art I’d consider… fine, at best. The new art, done by Fantasmagoria Creative, is actually a not wholly new, but a refresh of the original design by Klemens Franz. I kind of like how they took the original art and just updated it with a bit more style, rather than going a totally different direction.
For me, the Port Royal Bix Box is a must-own. I love Port Royal and this combines everything into a single box, especially the expansions which can be a bit hard to find. Is Port Royal a perfect game? No, but few are. Yet it’s managed to stand the test of time for me as I’m still playing it almost a decade later. It’s easy to get to the table, has fun gameplay, and is all around just a great game. Combine that with a much-appreciated art update and you have a great package that any gamer can enjoy.
Final Score: 4.5 Stars – An already great game gets a facelift and an all-encompassing release.
• Expansion label icons were a tad small