Friday, April 12, 2024

Leder’s ‘Ahoy’ Is A Tabletop Treasure

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Yarr mateys! It be time for anotharrrr board game review! Ok, I’m not going to write the entire thing like that, but playing Leder’s latest game Ahoy definitely got me into a nautical mood. Since they unveiled the title I’ve been champing at the bit to get a hold of it and get it to table, and I can safely say I was not disappointed. The team at Leder and designer Greg Loring-Albright did a great job with this, making the sort of asymmetric strategy that is Leder’s bread and butter into something that’s quicker on the pickup than the heftier Root. So strap on your cutlass and let’s dive into Ahoy.

What’s In The Box?

  • 4 Pocket Guides
  • 12 Region Tiles
  • 4 Player Boards (one per faction, with overview and setup on back)
  • 4 Flagship Figures (one per faction)
  • 10 Patrol Figures
  • 3 Stronghold Figures
  • 1 Cutter Figure
  • 1 Gunship Figure
  • 17 Action Dice (5 for BluefinSquadron, 4 for each other player)
  • 11 Wealth Dice
  • 2 Battle Dice Cards
  • 30 Market Cards
  • 12 Plan Cards
  • 1 First Player Card
  • 2 Bluefin Squadron Aid Cards
  • 2 Smuggler Aid Cards
    Tokens & Markers
  • 25 Damage Tokens
  • 20 Gold Tokens
  • 20 Comrade Tokens
  • 1 Fame Track (setup aid on back)
  • 4 Fame Markers
  • 4 Pledge Markers
  • 4 Reward Markers

How’s It Play?

Just from the jump I can say the comparisons to Root are not just because of the art style or publisher. No, unlike their other asymmetric titles, Ahoy hews closest to Leder’s biggest hit by focusing on factional warfare and the smaller opportunities that said warfare creates. But Ahoy! strips down the action economy quite a bit, making it into a much faster game of dice placement. There’s also only three factions: The Bluefin Squadron (essentially the Navy of most pirate games), The Mollusc Union (who are less pirates and more an uprising of colonized shellfish), and two groups of Smugglers (who are mostly just pirates). The larger conflict is between the Squadron and the Union, who are trying to control the high seas. Their path to victory points both rely on taking over islands and keeping control out of the enemies hands. The Smugglers don’t care about territory, and instead function as a neutral party akin to Root’s Vagabond. They run treasure and items around the islands and win by making the right trades and backing the right horses in the fight.

The Bluefin Squadron represent the existing naval power in Ahoy and as such have access to the extra manpower needed organize a fleet and maintain strongholds on important islands. Their abilities focus on overwhelming force and the ability to project power around the board. The Mollusc Union are, like the Eyrie in Root, returning to take back their lost land. They don’t have the raw power of the Squadron, but they do have the most powerful weapon of all: Solidarity. Their power is in organizing their comrades and implementing different plans at the right times to maximise their effectiveness. They have a few extra ships to play with, though they’re weaker than the Bluefin’s ships and not as replaceable as their Patrols. Smugglers are playing almost their own game, moving cargo around and being able to recruit new crew members easier than the other factions. But its their gold, moved from island to island, that helps make the territory more valuable.

Players roll their dice each round and then place them on their turn, and its with these that different actions are taken. Every faction can sail, use a tailwind to get somewhere extra fast, load their cannons for battle, or repair their damage. Each faction’s special actions have different values you need to role to activate them. This is where the strategy is allowed to breathe and what makes the game a LOT easier to pickup than similar titles. Everything is simple and laid out, and the extra bit of randomness that the dice provide mean that there’s less of a chance for a snowballing.

Combat is simple enough, occurring whenever two primed factions (as in one or both has loaded cannons) are in the same space. Both sides roll dice and compare results, but you can improve your chances by “loading” a higher value die onto your board. You can add as much as +5 to your attack or defense roll, making battling the perfect mix of preparation and luck. Which is all piracy is, when you think about it.

The Verdict?

I’ve been a fan of Leder’s titles for a long time, but it’s been hard to capture the “essence” of what makes them special in a shorter game. You have to prep to play something like Root or Vast. Ahoy, meanwhile, is a game you can take to any game night and get something going. It takes a couple turns to get the hang of things for newbies, but there’s enough shared actions and simple enough unique ones that people catch on quickly. But the asymmetry still means that there’s no one way to play the game, and you’ll definitely have people wanting to replay the game just to try out the other factions. Some of the mechanics are more effective than others (the recruitable crew members can be ignored and you won’t miss much), but it all comes together to make nautical strategy something everyone can enjoy. A beautiful bit of treasure that you don’t want to stay buried.

You can grab a copy of Ahoy from the Leder shop or your FLGS, where it’ll run you about $40.00.

Images via Leder Games

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