In Port Royal you are a Merchant who has docked at the harbor of… Port Royal. In this card game from 2 to 5 players you are trying to be the best merchant at the harbor by hiring or influencing other people to do your bidding, get the most riches and in the end the most victory points.
The game starts in no time. When playing with fewer than five players take out the five player expedition card otherwise place it in the center of the table in the Expedition area. Now shuffle all the remaining cards and place them in the center of the table forming the draw deck. The top of all the cards depicts a gold coin so a card can function as a gold coin (back) or playable card type (front). Each player starts with three gold coins taken from the draw deck.
The player who last visited a harbor (or chosen randomly) is the start player. A turn consist of two phases: the Discover phase and the Trade & Hire phase.
During the discover phase the acting player gets to draw cards from the draw deck and depending on the type something happens. The different cards a person can draw are Persons, Ships, Tax Increases and Expeditions. When you draw a Person it is placed in the harbor (central area near the draw deck) and will be available during the Trade & Hire phase. When you draw a Ship you first have the option to repel the ship if you have swords from your persons equal or higher than the amount depicted on the Ship. If you are not able to or don’t want to repel it, simply add it to the harbor. A Tax Increase happens immediately resulting in all players who have twelve or more coins to lose half of their coins rounded down afterwards you resolve the action of the card and it is discarded. Whenever you draw an Expedition it goes in the Expedition Area. These can be claimed by the active player during his turn by discarding the necessary abilities on his persons. These provide victory points and gold coins. The active player can keep on revealing cards until he simply chooses not to reveal any more and start with the Trade & Hire phase or until there are two ships of the same color in the harbor which ends his turn immediately and all cards in the harbor are discarded.
In the Trade & Hire phase every player has the option to take cards from the harbor. First, the active player can take an amount of cards depending on the number of ships in the harbor. When there are 0-3 ships he is able to take one card, with 4 ships 2 cards and with 5 ships 3 cards. Off course the ships need to have different colors otherwise their wouldn’t be a Trade & Hire phase. When the acting player has taken his card(s) the other players may take one card if available in clockwise order by paying one gold coin to the active player. You are able to trade by taking a ship card, placing it into the discard pile and take the corresponding number of gold coins. You also have the option to hire persons by paying the necessary gold coins. Afterwards it is placed in your play area and you have its ability and victory points to your disposal immediately. The abilities on person cards range from symbols needed for the expeditions to gaining extra coin to making things cheaper to taking extra cards etc…
This continues until one player has twelve victory points and the player to the right of the start player has had its turn. The player with the most victory points is the winner and in case of a tie, the player among those with the most gold coins.
The game usually starts slow. In the beginning you will be trying to acquire persons and abilities. You will usually see players stopping pretty early in the discover phase just to be able to take a certain card thus leaving not much for the other players. It has happened more than once that the first thing you draw is a ship and the second card you draw is a ship of the same color. In the beginning of the game this is frustrating because you’re not yet able to repel it. When you start collecting some swords it becomes more opportune to discover additional cards and leave more stuff on the table for others to take. There is no direct player interaction. You can only hinder your opponent by taking a card or expedition they wanted. The first time we played we were surprised by the low amount of expeditions in the game but since you go through the deck very rapidly they will be all in the game before you know it. Gold coins are very important in this game but luckily there are enough means to get a hold of them. I love the press your luck and not knowing what will come aspect of the discover phase and I also like the opportunity to acquire cards during another player’s turn but for the rest it doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking. I’m not saying it is a bad game, far from it, but I wouldn’t call it a great game either. In my opinion it just is a simple and fun card game that takes a bit too long for what it is.
Play with Honor