All For Me Grog is an excellent game for recreating books like Treasure Island and movies like Errol Flynn’s Captain Blood. The layout is clean and uses the artwork of Howard Pyle which wonderfully reflects/sets the mood of the game. The book also includes many, very helpful, examples. At thirty-six pages, it is a slim volume, but it packs a lot into its pages.
The game uses a dice pool mechanic for all actions. All rolls that come up even are successes. This allows you to use use a variety of polyhedral dice. Indeed, the author suggests using a variety of ice/jewel colored dice, or even coins or “doubloons” to add some atmosphere to the game. The pool is a combination of the characters attributes, vocations (skills), and embellishments (unique items). The pool has an upper limit which varies based on a character’s current “Salt” - an abstract measure of the character’s physical and mental health. I found this to be a wonderful mechanic to keep the size of the dice pools reasonable and to show that being wounded by a cutlass would slow a person down.
The basic mechanic is simple and solid, and could be used for many other types of cinematic action rpg’s. Where All For Me Grog really shines is in its integration of ship-to-ship actions with character actions. To sum up, ships are basically a type of character. This allows players to go from seeing the white sails of an enemy ship on the horizon, to swinging onto the enemy’s deck and dueling the enemy captain seamlessly. Ship-to-ship battles aren’t separate rules - they are part of the core mechanics where characters can use their skills and abilities to affect the outcome of the naval battle. And this is pretty key if you want to play a cinematic, Hollywood-style, pirate game. That is, the ship-to-ship rules aren’t really meant to stand alone. Rather, they’re there to provide a dramatic prelude to the real action - fighting hand-to-hand on a galleon’s deck.
A couple reservations. First, the game provides a random generator of pirate names, ship names, locations, and treasures. I wish the author had gone just a little bit further to tie these lists together into a scenario/adventure generator. But this is a minor quibble. Second, the game assumes the players are experienced gamers. In particular, the results for non-combat actions are really left up to the players to negotiate. This isn’t a fault, just something that may or may not be your cup of tea - or rather grog.
Overall, a very simple, but flavorful, pirate game that I’d definitely recommend.
[4 of 5 Stars!]