Avast ye landlubbers! It's time for another pirate-themed party game! In Lying Pirates, from Nordic Pirate Games, the 2-6 players are racing their galleons around a modular board made up of 16 tiles - each with their own special effects - but the core mechanic that kicks off each round is a game of Liars Dice.
Players each start off with a cup of five conventional six-sided dice, representing their crew. Crew members are also a kind of currency in the game and they can be gained and lost during the course of play. Players can also collect special custom six-sided dice to add to their pool: so you'll need to bear these in mind... Players all simultaneously roll all their dice but they keep the result secret under their cups. They then go round in a bidding auction that predicts the number of dice showing a particular number totalled across all the players. 1's are always wild. You can raise the bid made by a previous player, so that, for example, if I bid 'six fives', you can raise that by bidding seven of any number. You can end the bidding by locking the previous bid as an exact number. You then win this betting round if the total of the number you predicted is indeed exactly right. You can also end the betting round by calling the previous player a liar (ie: disagreeing with the number they specified). You win the betting round if there are fewer of that number than the previous player bid.
The player who wins the betting phase earns a coin and gets to sail their ship forward the 1 or 2 spaces indicated on a sail die. The loser doesn't move. Other players are designated as 'survivors'. Their ships move with the winner.
As we mentioned, each of the tiles that form the board around which you are sailing has its own special effect: some positive, some negative and some that could go either way. Ships sharing the same tile battle using their custom eight-sided dice. Which icon wins depends on what icons opponents have rolled... There's no explanatory iconography on the board to show what each tile does, so this is a game where you'll need to keep the rulebook (or Codex as it's called in this game) to hand. Happily, designers Lucas Vagner and Mikaela Hård have given clear descriptions in the Codex so you won't have any trouble working out what each tile does, tho' we'd liked to have seen a clearer account distinguishing the various special dice that come into play.
There are cards that are drafted at the start of the game and which can be used to influence battles, affect movement and, for example, to steal crew members. There are also some party game rules that penalise players for dropping dice. It all makes for a light but potentially raucous game, at its best when fuelled with lashings of rum! Yo ho ho! And production values are high. Aside from the beautifully crafted dice, the all-important dice cups are solid and satisfying to play with. There are metal coins and our preview copy even came with both wooden ship meeples and plastic galleons.
Lying Pirates is due to heave to on Kickstarter on 30 August. We'll add a link to the campaign when it goes live so you can clamber on board.