Why swab the deck when you can shuffle it?

All hands on deck, me hearties. It’s time to set sail, and don’t forget to grab your deck of cards for the coming battle. Pirates Outlaws is a roguelike, turn-based strategy game based on a customizable deck of cards. Let’s take a look at what we’ve got.

If you’ve played card-based strategy games before, this will all seem familiar. You get a deck with cards for attacks, defense, health boosta, ammo to rearm, and so on. There are three main ways to customize your deck: acquire new cards, level up cards in your existing deck, and scrap cards you don’t want anymore.

As expected, you will have to pay for new cards and for upgrades. What I didn’t expect was having to pay for chucking a card in the bin. This is one of the tighter aspects of the game economy, and it’s good to know going into the game. Watch your loot because you will need to spend it on health/hit points and on repairs to your ship, as well as on card upgrades, new cards, and so on.

You also get to customize your player character/hero. This is some more “as expected” action; you will have to gain enough XP to unlock the entries on your list of heroes. As you progress, you gain access to all sorts of heroes—from the default gunner to a musician to an undead plague doctor, to a chicken. Oh, no, the hero isn’t just a coward or a guy in a chicken suit; it’s the kind of chicken which might lay an egg or end up as Buffalo wings on Saturday night. I have not unlocked the chicken, but I’m oddly looking forward to it. This touch of whimsy is a welcome departure from a world of stress and from some of the darker entertainment options out there. Keep poking around our site, and you’ll see what I mean.

Not only is there some good variety in the hero department, you get a few adventure types to play through. The game starts with the Navigate option wherein you choose your path on a chart. Do some island hopping for battles, beer, and bartering, depending on the island.

When you accumulate 2,000 XP you can unlock the Arena and sail off to fight battles. At 4,000 XP you can open up the hook hurt locker in the Tavern Brawl. If you don’t want to navigate the chart, you can take a side-trip into the Quest section. If you think you need more stuff, you can check out Storage, but be prepared to spend some bounty.

When you do wade into the fray, keep in mind you have only three ammo slots. Each card is assigned a value from zero to three, which is how much ammo you have to use to play the card. Being a pirate-y game, there is the obligatory “punch” card; it doesn’t deal a lot of damage, but it doesn’t cost any ammo. Using some shielding also costs ammo points, so spend wisely. When the round starts, the game will deal out five random cards from your deck. Each card will show you how much damage you will do to the enemy, or how many points of enemy damage it will shield you from. You can play them in any order you like, but when you are out of ammo and out of free to use cards, you will need to press the Y button to end your turn.

Any unused cards will go back in the pile to be shuffled and reused, but only after you have been dealt all the cards in your deck. The exceptions to this rule are certain cards which can only be used once per encounter, like restoring hit points, etc.

As with most games like this, there is a lot of running through a map (or, in this case, chart), engaging in successive battles, and taking on the boss at the end of the section. The game economy may not be prodigal in its generosity, but it makes up for it with an almost intentional willingness to let you win a round to keep you playing. It isn’t all a cake-walk; some of the bosses may have three times the hit points you have, so using your deck wisely is a very good idea.

The papercraft visuals have a comic book style feel, but that is completely appropriate for the nature of the game. The audio is maybe a bit cliché, but it is in keeping with the theme and comes off as pleasant and playful.

All things considered, Pirates Outlaws is pretty well done, and it makes a good addition to your tactical card game library.