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Anchors Aweigh! Review

Quick Look: Anchors Aweigh!

Designer: Carlo A. Rossi
Artist: Michael Menzel
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 7+
Playing Time: 30 min.

From the publisher:

Adventure awaits in Anchors Aweigh!, but have you packed the right equipment to prepare for what lies ahead?

The game lasts two rounds, with two phases in each round. To set up, give everyone a ship that has room for twelve items (four under the deck out of view of others), then dump all of the equipment tiles in the center of the table. Take thirteen adventure cards in the appropriate number of the appropriate types (discovery, trade, pirates, contract), then lay them out in a circle around the equipment.

When everyone is ready, reveal the adventure cards, then race to fill your ship with equipment tiles using only one hand, adding two colored goods in the special slots for those. Whoever finishes first scoops the cards up so that everyone else has to finish equipping their ship without seeing what's coming. You then shuffle the cards, then reveal them one by one and resolve their effects.

At the end of the round, convert every remaining good into 1 coin, then for each ten coins, convert them into a treasure chest and place it on an empty space in your boat. Now you'll have less room on board for the second leg of this trip, which plays out nearly identically to the first one.

In the end, whoever has the most money wins!

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

Review: Anchors Aweigh!

Overview and Theme:
Anchors Aweigh! is a family serving of a pirate theme, complete with pirate ship player boards and wooden bags of cargo. 

The game plays out in phases--first a think-on-your-feet, load your ship phase, followed by the travel phase where you'll use what you loaded as you encounter opportunities to discover, trade, battle other pirates, and fulfill contracts, all with the goal of accumulating the most money by the end of two rounds.

Components and Setup:
Anchors Aweigh! has a box full of interesting components. First, there are the Pirate Ship player boards which each have a cardboard screen (to hide what you have below decks from the other players). There's a bag full of tiny wooden Cargo tokens in four colors, three cardboard Parrots, a heap of square cardboard Asset tokens, a deck of adventure cards, and a pile of coins and Treasure Chests to accumulate.

This is a game with plenty to punch, so set aside a little time to prepare all the components before the first time you play! The rules are well-laid out and easy to follow, so you'll be able to easily sort your bits and prepare for play. (The rules even show how to put the ships away without disassembling them each time.)

Setup for the first round is fairly quick. Dump the cardboard Asset tokens--representing things like cannons, swords, maps, and sailors--into a pile in the middle of the table. Some will be face-up and some will be face-down, and that's fine. This is the pile you'll be rooting through to find what you need in the first phase of the round.

Next, you'll create a 13-card deck for the round by following the well laid out diagram in the rules to randomly draw 5 Discovery cards, 2 Trade cards, 3 Pirate cards, and 3 Contract cards and shuffle them together. These 13 cards will be laid out in a circle around the Asset tokens.

Each player takes a Pirate Ship player board, and you're ready to begin.

Game Play and Mechanics:
Anchors Aweigh! plays out over the course of two rounds. Each round has two phases: Loading and Travel.

In the Loading phase, players look at the 13 cards to see what supplies they may need to face the events ahead.
  • Discovery cards show an Asset or two that can be used to secure a certain amount of Cargo or coins
  • Trade cards show one color of Cargo that can be traded for a particular assortment of other Cargo colors
  • Pirate cards show two Assets that are needed to defeat that Pirate and steal his booty
  • Contract cards show a combination of Cargo that can be turned in for a number of coins

Looking at what is needed on the various types of cards, everyone now simultaneously roots through the pile of tokens to choose which Assets to load onto their ship. In addition to the regular Assets, you can choose a Storage token to hold two extra bags of Cargo, and you get to choose two colors of Cargo to load below decks.

It's a frantic search as you want to find what is needed before your opposing pirates do, and also because the first pirate to completely fill their ship becomes the Captain and gets to flip those 13 event cards over. You'll be able to continue to fill your ship, but you won't be able to check the cards to see what is needed! Tension is high as you race to get just the right tokens for the events ahead.

In the Travel phase, the Captain will collect and shuffle the 13 cards, and reveal them one at a time. 

For Discovery and Trade cards, the pirate will flip those over and each player can decide if they are going to trade in the Assets or Cargo shown to earn that particular reward. You need to try to remember what else is in the deck, because you may decide not to complete a particular Discovery card if you were saving that Asset to go up against a Pirate.

When a Pirate card is next in the deck, before the Captain reveals it, all players must declare whether they will face that Pirate or flee. If you face the Pirate and have the right Assets to defeat him, you win the bounty shown on the card. If you face the Pirate and do not have the Assets needed, you must pay a penalty of two coins and one bag of Cargo.

We learned fairly quickly that it was important in the Loading phase to pay attention to the Pirates first--that way you could be confident that you could face every Pirate in the deck without a penalty!

Contract cards are moved to the bottom of the deck as they come up, until the other 10 cards have been resolved, and only the three Contracts remain. Now the Contracts are flipped over, one at a time, and players decide whether or not to fulfill the Contract by turning in certain combinations of Cargo for coins. You'll want to fulfill as many Contracts as possible, because these give you the best price for your Cargo.

At the end of the first round, you'll earn one coin for every cargo you had remaining in your ship.  You'll turn every stack of 10 coins in for a single Treasure Chest token, which now takes up one spot in the hold of your ship.  The player (or players) with the lowest value in coins at the end of this round receives a parrot, which can be used in the second round as a single wild Asset of your choice.

The entire round replays, with a new stack of 13 encounter cards, a Loading phase, and a Travel phase, and at the end of the second round, the player with the most coins wins!

The Good:
Anchors Aweigh! is bright and colorful, easy to learn and teach, and relatively quick to play--the speedy Loading round forces you to avoid being paralyzed by choices and simply do the best you can as quickly as possible. The decisions in the Travel round rely partly on memory (was I saving this Asset to go up against a Pirate?) but also by what is in front of you in the hold of your ship, which makes an interesting balance. The theme is fun and engaging, too--who doesn't love a pirate?

The Bad:
Our only small complaint is that the cardboard shield pieces that fit into your ship to hide what you have below decks don't all fit as well as they could, and one of our four is already loose and wobbly and we will be securing it with a dab of glue the next time we play. Other than that, the components are good quality.

Players Who Like:
Players who enjoy pirate games--such as Black Fleet or Pirate's Cove, speedy simultaneous games--such as Mondo or Escape!, or light planning games--such as Fresco or Zoloretto--will enjoy Anchors Aweigh!

Final Thoughts:
Anchors Aweigh! is a family-friendly romp on the high seas as pirates are forced to think on their feet and rely on their memory to make the most of their encounters and amass the most riches by the end of two rounds. There's just enough tension in the gameplay to keep all players closely involved, and enough strategy to keep you coming back for more. Anchors Aweigh! is definitely a keeper here and we're looking forward to playing it again and again.

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About the Author:

My name is Alexa: I'm a life-long game player and homeschooling mom to two awesome kids. I've loved board games since my early days playing Scrabble and Gin Rummy with my grandmother, and life only got more interesting when I married a Battletech enthusiast and fellow game lover. We've played games with our kids since they were small, and I helped start a thriving homeschool co-op where we have weekly sessions of board games with kids.  In a family with kids raised on Catan and Pandemic, life is sure to be fun! You may run into me on Twitter, BoardGameGeek, and other social media as MamaGames. Be sure to say hi!
Anchors Aweigh! Review Anchors Aweigh! Review Reviewed by MamaGames - Alexa C. on December 13, 2018 Rating: 5

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