Date: 3rd December 2004
Game played: Hispaniola ( Pro Ludo ) BGG Id: 12634

There were a lot of pirate-themed games at Essen this year and this one really doesn't need the theme but does play pretty well. It was designed by Michael Schacht, whose games usually click with me, so I had good hopes for this one.

Hispaniola is a typical trick taking card game, but with a few tweaks that use a board to keep track of. Each player starts with a hand of fifteen cards and they begin by bidding for trump suit by playing a card face-down in the suit they want to be trumps. Highest unduplicated card becomes the trump suit for the round. Players then play their cards in normal whist fashion, following suit where they can but otherwise playing any card. Highest card (or highest trump if at least one is played) wins the trick. The trick winner then places a captain on the ship of the coloured card led, and displaces a captain already there to one of the two mate roles. Displaced mates get thrown overboard and swim to an island where they will score negative points if they remain there until the end of the hand. However, new arrivals force islanders to move to other islands and, after travelling four islands, any further movement leads to a rescue of the former captain who returns to the player's reserve. As an alternative to adding a new captain, the trick winner could instead promote a mate of their colour to captain moving their captain down. The cards won by the trick winner, together with any cards already in front of them, can then be passed to a neighbouring player. Once all 15 cards have been played, the hand is scored: captains give 5 points, mates 1 point, islanders between 1 and 4 negative points and cards in front of the player -4 points for most and -2 for second-most. After a number of hands equal to the number of players, whoever has the most points wins.

This game was pretty easy to get into but there was enough to think about to keep everyone on their toes. I led the first two hands, which meant I got completely shafted in the third hand, enabling Nige to take over pole position. John won the final hand but a combination of me getting a few positive points and Nige suffering quite a few negatives enabled me to emerge King of the High Seas. This was quite a bit of fun, I thought, although the theme was completely unnecessary. A good end of evening game.

Mark G

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