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Bluff Pirate

Full disclosure but we've not yet tried Bluff Pirate with the full age range shown on the box. For sure, we've played it with six-year olds but we don't have any 106-year olds on hand and it would delay this review too long while we waited for any of the Board's Eye View team to hit that milestone.

Published by Djeco, Bluff Pirate is a light card-driven race game for 2–5 players. Players are racing to reach the hidden treasure, tho' none know which of two islands it is on. There's a deck of cards in 10 coloured suits. Players all start with a hand of five cards. On your turn you draw two cards and either place down a set of 3, 4 or 5 matching cards to move your ship that number of spaces or you discard a card. Alternatively, instead of drawing or playing any sets, you can play a card with a pirate character on it to steal three random cards from the hand of any player whose ship is ahead of yours. Essentially, this provides a catch-up mechanism for those lagging behind.

The twist in Alex Sanders and Grégory Kirszbaum's game is that players don't have to tell the truth about the sets they play. Only 1 or 2 of the cards (player's choice) are played face up, so I can say I am playing four orange cards but that could be a bluff: I may actually be playing just one orange card on top of three cards in a mix of other colours. Whenever a player lays down a set to move their ship, the other players use tokens to vote on whether or not they are bluffing. Unusually tho' this isn't a game where votes are totted up: when playing with three or more, the player who laid down the set chooses which other player's token to look at. If that player voted 'not bluffing' then the player who laid the set moves their ship, regardless of whether or not their set was genuine. If the vote was 'bluff' and the player placing the set was bluffing, then it is the voter whose ship moves the number of spaces corresponding to the cards laid. If the vote was 'bluff' and the set was genuine, then the player laying down the set moves their galleon forward but the voter's ship has to move back two spaces.

We've always enjoyed the playing card game Cheat, and the core mechanic for Bluff Pirate closely mirrors that game. There are a lot of cards of each colour so card counting and playing the odds probably isn't going to work quite so well in this game as it does when you're merely trying to keep track of, say, the number of kings or aces that have been played. That means players will be looking for poker tells for signs of dishonesty.

This all makes for an entertaining set collection game that takes around 30 minutes to play and which offers a lot of family fun. From our Board's Eye View plays we'd just suggest one small tweak to the published rules. The rules say that cards are always revealed but you might try our house rule that face-down cards remain face down when no bluff is called. It gives this game an extra frisson if players are left unsure whether or not a player had been bluffing...

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