Caribbean is an interesting game, it is distributed by Rio Grande games which is one of my favorite game companies. The theme is interesting, your goal is to guide the pirate ships on the map that are carrying treasure into your port so you can get their dubloons to add to your score. Of course your opponents want to control the ships as well. The mechanism for determining who controls the ships makes this game a lot of fun and the strategy light and challenging at the same time.
There are six ships on the map, at the start of the game you will only draw six treasure cards. These cards tell you which port they are placed on and the amount of treasure they are worth. After the original six treasure cards are played everyone votes with one of their seven bribe cards for each ship they want to move. The bid you make indicates how many spaces the ship can move if you are the high bidder for the ship. Your voting chips are numbered from negative one (to be explained in a minute) through five in increments of one. After all the votes are cast you start with the boat which has a name starting with A (they are all named and move in alphabetical order). Whoever has the highest bid gets to move that ship however they wish for the number of spaces they bid. If one of the players uses a -1 chip though on that ship that deducts one move from the high bidder’s movement of the ship.
A move consists of any one of several options. Moving a space on the board is the most basic. When you move into port it will cost an additional turn to load the ship, but that earns you 2,000 dubloons as well so it may be worth it to you. Another option is if you are next to another ship you can swap treasures between the boat next to you and yours. You can also be a true pirate and if you are moving a boat without a treasure and are next to one with a treasure you can “steal” it. Finally, if you want to be way too friendly for my tastes you can move a treasure from your ship to ship in an adjacent shape to yours. This is especially helpful if you are down to your last move with your ship and think you might have bid enough to control that ship you are passing the treasure onto.
After all the ships are moved, the round ends. If nobody has reached the winning dubloon amount then next round begins. The first step is to reveal two more treasures, and then the bidding and movement of the ships is repeated. After the fifth round of the game, no more treasures are added but bidding and movement continues until someone reaches the winning dubloon total. To win a two player game one player must get 62,000 dubloons, in a three player game one player must get 41,000 dubloons, and a in four player game one player only has to get 31,000 dubloons.
I will admit, I’m a big fan of blind bidding games. This one is one of my favorites along with “For Sale”, that use this driving force for the play of the game. I also enjoy games with moderate strategy levels and this game is one of them. You sometimes have to take assumptions that you will be able to move another ship in your turn and hope you are assuming correctly when you decide to pass a treasure or swap one with that ship. The only drawback for the game is it’s price, at $25 it’s more than a lot of the card games that involve blind bidding as their game mechanism. It’s worth saving up for, but if you can get two quality card games for the same price, even I would have trouble choosing this one over two of them.