Green Ronin is well known for its RPG lines, but it also has its share of card games like the high seas game of piracy, Walk the Plank. According to its album of design history, the idea for WtP came from a pick-up card game played in the military, was tweaked by gamers working to turn professional, and playtested by kids at a daycare. With such a wide range of groups involved, an exceptional game was created. It offers both a solid mechanic and an enjoyable aesthetic in one of the best of genres: pirates.
Walk the Plank is a trick-taking game reminiscent of Hearts, Clubs, or Bridge. Players are dealt seven cards, each used in seven rounds where the goal is to play the most powerful card in each stack of cards, known as a “Battle” for WtP. The highest number wins regardless of suit, with the exception of the “trump” suit, which is drawn at the beginning of each Battle. Trump suits change up the mechanics of the game, keeping it from being entirely based on luck. A Two of Monkeys, for example, may be far more powerful than a Twelve of Hooks, but it is up to the player to strategize whether to burn a weak card or hope to use it later. The player who wins the most Battles becomes the Captain.
Like other trick-taking games, the goal is to win as many battles as possible. The rules list the end-goal of the game as winning all Battles in a round, much like making a slam in Bridge. A player must be exceptional to defeat every opponent perfectly and thus be worthy of becoming an unquestionable Captain. Rules are also listed for eliminating players who do not win any Battles, helping the odds of an absolute win. Gradually the competitors will be swept away, much like the losers of a fight with Errol Flynn. While this does run the risk of boring guests, the rules may be seen as optional. WtP can go on endlessly simply by reshuffling and playing Battles again and again.
While some players might turn up their noses at such trick-taking games, which can sometimes be associated with an older generation, it is still a solid mechanic. Further, the pirate motif grants not only a clever set of five suits but also two especially powerful cards: “Walk the Plank” and “Sea Monster!” The first is an automatic win card, a stroke of luck to whomever it is dealt. Only one thing can beat the “Walk the Plank,” a “Sea Monster!” that causes no one to win the Battle. Skillful and strategic players can use both to their advantage, setting themselves up to win or cutting the feet out from an opponent who thinks victory is within reach.
Walk the Plank is a game for three to nine players (or “buccaneers” if you prefer) from age eight and up. Each round is quick, only taking a few minutes to play, but games can go on as long as players want to keep competing for captainhood. It is a great game for those looking for something to play while waiting, killing time during a study hall, or at a game night with folks who like older-style card games, cleverly collecting tricks and, in this case, winning the rank of Captain.