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Turning Tides

Updated: Oct 10, 2021

Ahhhrrgh! Can it really be a month since we last featured a pirate-themed game on Board's Eye View? The editor needs keelhauling! Well, remedy is at hand with Turning Tides from Never Be Boardgames.

Turning Tides is a two-player combat game designed by Jasper Wille, Pepjin van den Bosch and Rick Brune where you're trying to remove your opponent's entire crew, including their captain, or destroy three zones on your opponent's ship. It's primarily a card game, in that your actions in deploying sailors and cannons, moving crew and cannons and firing are all determined by the cards you play, but each turn the ship boards move forward until, when they've swept completely passed each other, they turn around and re-engage on their other side.

Players each start off with a captain, mast, two sailors and a cannon, and the rules specify their starting positions on the ships' decks. Cannons only face in one direction, so you'll need to move them or position additional cannons on the other side of the ship when the ship turns around or else they'll be facing away from the enemy. Cannons must be manned by a sailor and you need to draw and play a Fire! card in order to fire. If your broadside hits the zone with the ship's mast, it removes the mast but leaves any crew or cannons in that zone unharmed but now vulnerable to a second strike. A cannon strike otherwise eliminates all units in the zone it hits, and if it the zone unoccupied then it is considered destroyed.

Players start off with just a Wait card that has little or no effect. On your turn you draw a card and play a card. This might on the face of it seem like players have little agency over the game but the Wait card always returns to your hand, so playing it may mean no direct action that turn but it does allow you to build your hand so that subsequent actions aren't merely dependent on the card you happen to draw on that turn. Once players realise that Turning Tides is a hand management game, then it increasingly becomes a battle involving tactical manoeuvring. Because the ships move each turn, you can plan ahead in the expectation that your cannon(s) will be well placed to dish out damage on your next turn, but certain cards accelerate or reverse that movement, so you'll need to keep an eye on whether or not your opponent may still have an unplayed Navigate card.

Cannon and crew removed from a ship go to a player's hold, which means they are available for recycling with subsequent placement cards, but the hold also contains additional cards. At the end of a round, players can choose to swap these for other cards still in your hand, other than the Wait card. Players start the game with just one Fire! card, and there are two more in the hold so it's likely you'll want to add at least one to your deck in place of another card.

Shown here on Board's Eye View is a 3D-printed preview prototype of Turning Tides produced ahead of the game's upcoming Kickstarter. With art by Lotte de Groot, it looks good but the finished version promises to be even better. Click here to check out the KS campaign and join the crew.

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