One of the main advantages of iPad board gaming is that it does away with all the fiddly little playing pieces and components, containing all you need to play in its magical digital box. Another advantage is that it more often than not provides a competent computerised opponent to play against, meaning you never have to wait for the opportunity to play your favourite game.
It’s therefore more than a bit odd when you are presented a game which not only demands that you are only able to play against another human opponent, but that you need to hunt out and prepare a physical pack of cards before you can play.
Such is the case with Pirate Armada, a disappointing hex-based game for two players which doesn’t even have much in the way of compelling gameplay to overcome its disadvantages.
Each player is dealt a hand of cards (real cards, remember) from a deck made up from two suits. These ‘command’ cards are then discarded to allow your ‘pirate fleet’ (a set of hexagonal icons depicting similar-looking ships) to be placed on the map. Ships placed next to those of the same type increase the value of their neighbours: these values are then added up when the board is finally full and the game ends, with the player who has amassed the most points winning.
Beyond a couple of extra effects which allow you to destroy one of your opponent’s ships or protect one of your own from attack, that’s it. Games tend to become repetitive quickly, with not even the random nature of your command cards adding much in the way of excitement or strategy.
If the game had included a virtual deck of cards instead of demanding you use a real one (or, better yet, come up with a different mechanic for letting you choose what options were available to you), it might have been a little more appealing. Equally, if it had an AI or an online mode, that would have increased its chance of being played more than once or twice.
As it stands, its simple gameplay alone is enough to make it hard to recommend. Young players may enjoy the pirate theme and will find its non-demanding gameplay easy to pick up – but for everyone else (and probably most of those young players too), Pirate Armada is a game that’s best sailing straight past.