Updated: Feb 28, 2022
WBG Score: 8.5
Player Count 1-5
Published by: Pegasus Spiele
Designed by: Alexander Pfister
Port Royal is one of my favorite push-your-luck cards games, but it has two small issues. First, the art is a little bland. Second, it has multiple expansions that are hard to store together. Well, fret not! There is now a big box version which fixes all these problems! If you like push-your-luck card games and are looking for a new game to add to your collection, then stop reading and get this game. If you are unsure, or have a spare five minutes and like playing spot the typo, then read on! I will cover the differences between this version and the previous ones first, then the actual game itself at the end!
First up, lets talk about what's in the box. It's advertised as being BIG after all! Port Royal first came out in 2014*, and since then it has had three main expansions and some promo cards chucked in for fun. The promo was some rather nifty Gambler cards which were previously only available as a door prize at Stadt Land Spielt, then later packaged with Spielbox. This big box has them all! All in one tidy medium sized box, with some considerable art upgrades.
*Port Royal was actually a reworking of Händler der Karibik which was also designed by Alexander Pfister as part of his entry into the Austrian Game Designers Competition. He won the top prize with this game and a year later published it in a slightly more polished version as Port Royal. Alexander worked with artist Klemens Franz for this version, and all subsequent versions and expansion. They look good. The cards are functional. But they are a little dowdy.
For this big box version, Franz is out, and the Fantasmagoria Creative are in, whatever/whoever they/that is? I cannot find out much about them online, but what I do know is this. The big box reworking is their first foray into board games, and they seem to know what they are doing!
Let's first look at the Box art and size. All the boxes for the original print runs are this size shown here, including the expansions. They are perfect for a small card game and stack nicely alone side games like Ganz Schon Clever and The Crew.
The new box is bigger and fits everything in perfectly. The art is a little more realistic and evocative of exotic sea port towns too.
The two new rule books for the big box version fit the size of the box, rather than being folded up to an inch of their lives and clearly illustrate all the games rules. There is a overview of everything with the basic rules on a double sided sheet.
Then a full glossy rule book that covers everything perfectly. The rules to this game are not complicated but with all the expansions included, it is nice to know it has been laid out clearly!
Inside the box, you can see how efficient both versions are with space. The big box version has separate compartments for each expansion. There is no labeling or initially obvious place for each one, but you will work it out based on the space required for each deck of cards.
The cards themselves are a massive upgrade on the original. Here we can see one of the
cards from the Port Royal: Just One More Contract... expanions on the top, with the new art version for the same card on the bottom.
Art is always subjective, but think the new style is a lot more appealing. It comes across as more adult to me. More sophisticated and realistic, but also, just better! It seems like a significant upgrade to me. Like early sketches have been replaced by final finished professional artwork.
Below you can see the comparison of artwork from the main game for the two main types of cards in the game. The removal of the border and new style is
a significant improvement again in my opinion. These are all fairly functional cards. They do not need to give you much information, so the artwork is important. The new style makes me a lot happier! The colours, vibrancy and style are all a significant upgrade from my perspective.
Away from the box, art, and card style, there is no difference here. This is just a collection of all that has been made so far. For the price, if you like the base game and don't have any expansions yet, this is the the clear choice. If you don't own anything yet, this again would be my recommendation. If you have all the original expansions, then it is obviously up to you based on the art and storage advantages. I myself gave away my original game and first expansion to the first person who found the Easter egg* hidden in this review as this big box has more then replaced them.
This was the first time I tried the campaign expansion Port Royal: The Adventure Begins... The art for the character cards can be seen below. Again, there is full card art with no borders, realistic character art, and clear, bright, vibrant colours.
Port Royal as a game is a simple game to learn as it is to teach; but it is so much fun! Depending on which version you are playing, this is a race game. The first player to reach a certain amount of points will win. Points are attained from buying cards with points on them, or completing missions by trading cards you have bought with mission cards you have found in the deck.
On your turn, you will start turning cards over from the main deck. You can stop at any point and buy one character card if you can afford it, or take the money from a ship card. If you ever draw a ship card from a colour you have already drawn, you are bust. You can fight off ships if you have character cards in your possession with swords on, and a popular technique early in the game is to get as many characters with swords as possible. This is because if you ever have four ships of different colours, you buy or take two cards. If you have five colours, you can take three. And with the campaign expansion the Adventure begins, there is a sixth colour where you can then get four cards if you manage to get that far! So, being able to fight of same coloured ships and keep drawing is a hug advantage.
Once you have taken the card or cards that you want, any cards that are left unclaimed will then be offered to the other players, one card per person. The other players have to pay you one coin as the active player for the privilege, plus whatever the card costs. It makes sense to push your luck beyond revealing just the cards you want to try and get some secondary plunder from the other players as they come to market on your turn. There are a few other nuances, but this is essentially the game. How far do you dare push-your-luck? Will you turn over just one more card to try and find the exact card you are looking for? Will you find my egg?
*This competition has now closed. Congrats to the winner.