Publisher: Pine Box Entertainment
Designer: Tom Brown
Playtime: 20-80 Minutes
While Dungeons & Dragons is a dominating force in the roleplaying community, there are obviously still plenty of other good, if not better alternatives. One of the most beloved alternatives is the swashbuckling roleplaying game full of high adventures, boats, and saber fights. For the most part, these roleplaying games have had attempts at accessing other areas of tabletop gaming, such as card games or board games, but these haven’t been too successful. 7th Sea: City of Five Sails is Pine Box Entertainment’s attempt to the beloved franchise to the expandable card game format.
A Brief How To Play
City of Five Sails is a game with three potential victory conditions: Assassination Victory (be the last player with a Leader in play), Dominance Victory (control three core City locations at the end of the Day), and Economic Victory (control seven or more Renown at the end of the Day). The game is played over a series of turns called Days, with each Day having five phases: Dawn (prepare the City), Planning (select schemes, characters and resolve effects), High Drama (perform various actions), Plunder (check for victory conditions), and Dusk (clean up).
Players have decks of different card types, including Character, Risk, Attachment, and Scheme cards. Each card has attributes like Combat, Finesse, Influence, and specific abilities. Players perform actions like moving, equipping, recruiting, challenging, and claiming during the High Drama phase. Duels are a significant part of the game, with players playing combat cards, using techniques and maneuvers, and resolving threats. Victory conditions are checked at the end of the Plunder phase, and the game ends after the fifth Day if no one has won by then. The Golden Rule states that card text takes precedence over the rulebook, and costs are paid by discarding cards with the specified wealth cost.
Pacing and Interactivity
As a dueling card game, City of Five Sails is about as interactive as one would expect. There is a decent amount of preparation that goes into every turn as players prepare to take control of cities or duel each other. Of course, the dueling is where the interaction is at its highest. There is plenty of need for thought when approaching duels, which are more than just comparing attack and defense like some card games do. Cards have riposte, parry, and thrust values that all contribute to the wounds a character takes.
One of the standout features of City of Five Sails is the negative interactions. This isn’t like many board games where players simply manage their board and occasionally make a move that affects other players. Players will actively strive to hurt their opponents during every opportunity, and if they aren’t damaging their enemy’s units, they will at least be making moves that get in the way of their opponent’s objectives.
City of Five Sails is a heavy game, and that means that it isn’t for everyone. Still, because of this, it feels like much more than a traditional card game. It’s genuinely unique in its combat, and there isn’t anything that plays like this.
Once players get used to the flow of the game, games don’t take more than an hour. It’s a well-paced adventure that can be enjoyed multiple times in a single session. Turns aren’t too long, allowing players to enjoy the momentum of big occasions more. There is little downtime due to the structure of the turns, and it makes for an engaging game.
As an expandable card game, City of Five Sails is a highly replayable game. The base game comes with five factions that aren’t simply base decks for players to pull from. Every faction has enough cards in the box to build a deck, and then a few extras to tweak them with. That isn’t counting the decent amount of neutral cards that can benefit each faction. All of this means that even in just the base game, there is an excellent amount of customization that opens the game up for players who are the types to craft decks and get deep into analyzing strategy and theories. The gameplay itself is solid, but a lot of the joy of City of Five Sails is testing a build and seeing that all of the chemistry is actually there. When things work, they feel good.
The deck building on its own significantly increases the replay value of City of Five Sails. The gameplay by itself can probably justify the cost of the game on its own, but it would get stale with pre-built decks. Throw in the future expansions and new cards that come with them, and you have a game that will last fans a long time before it wears out.
Theme and Components
The art of City of Five Sails varies, with a few really great artists and some that are just fine, which isn’t a bad thing. These kinds of games usually have many artists, so it’s not a knock that it doesn’t exactly have consistency, especially because the variety leads to a few gorgeous cards that might not have made it otherwise (Like some of the excellent cards in Anna’s Roundtable) if the artist had to dedicate time and money to every card in the game.
The card quality is solid and the many factions give tons of cards to choose from when it comes to deck building. One massive design oversight is the lack of enough cards to make one of each starter deck. Instead, there are only enough cards for two players to build pre-built decks, which can be a significant problem for the first few games. This seems to be a massive design oversight that could have been remedied by just including a few more copies of each card that is in multiple starting decks. Otherwise, this is a well-put-together card game.
7th Sea: City of Five Sails Is Great For Fans Of…
Any collectible card game fanatic. Vampire The Masquerade – Rivals comes to mind as a similar game with the same energy. Any player looking for unique card game mechanics that don’t feel like a slight change up from Magic: The Gathering will; also be delighted at how fresh this feels.