Updated: Oct 25, 2020
When Dead Men Tell No Tales first appeared in 2015, it immediately drew comparisons with Kevin Lanzing’s Flash Point: Fire Rescue (Indie Boards & Cards) and Matt Leacock’s Pandemic (Z-Man Games). Like its predecessors, it’s a co-operative game where all the players are working together for victory or, more aptly, to avoid a collective loss against a spreading menace.
Dead Men Tell No Tales was designed by Kane Klenko and is published by Minion Games. Art is by Jason D Kingsley and Chris Ostrowski. Players are pirates aboard a burning ghost ship. They are taking actions to move, control the fire and loot the ship for its treasure. The ship is made up of tiles so it takes shape over the course of the game and players’ pirate characters will encounter enemy guards and skeletons, while also trying to prevent rooms from exploding with flame.
Players are able to share action points but Dead Men Tell No Tales remains one of the toughest fully co-operative games around: there are a lot of ways to collectively lose the game and there’s just one way to win it (find all the loot and get all the pirates to safety).
The base game came with great components, including custom wooden pirate meeples. These days, though, people have a fondness for plastic minis, so Minion have produced a set as an optional add-on to be used in place of the wooden meeples that come with the core game. Each of the minis has a coloured base that corresponds with the colour of the wooden meeple it is replacing. You don’t need the minis to play the game but many will nonetheless feel the need to own them and make their fire-fighting and treasure hunting all the more real.
In a separate add-on expansion, Minion have also added Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Kraken. Art for this involves the original artists as well as Fernando Armentano. The Kraken expansion incorporates plastic minis representing the sea monster and its tentacles. It includes a mini for the new pirate character it introduces but it also supplies a correspondingly coloured meeple for those who don’t have the other minis and/or those who prefer to play using the wooden meeples that came in the original game. There are cannon tokens for use against the Kraken, along with several other add-on elements.
Bottom line, Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Kraken makes an already tough co-operative game even more challenging. All the losing conditions of the core game remain but with the added threat of having a sea monster to deal with, and the addition of two further ways of players collectively losing the game. The one element that ameliorates things for the players is the chance to earn and use adrenaline tokens. These are quite powerful one-use special actions that a player can utilise on their own or another player’s turn. They help, but, make no mistake, you’re much more likely to be overcome in this game than to triumph. We must be gluttons for punishment at Board’s Eye View because we keep coming back for more. Sure, the Kraken dragged us down to Davy Jones’ Locker on our last play, and we were doomed to flaming oblivion in our previous game, but next time perhaps…?