Recently we posted a review of Dead Men Tell No Tales, a cooperative pirate game from Minion Games. In the comments section, someone asked where that game would rank among other pirate games. That was a really good question and inspired the creation of this list. There actually aren’t as many pirate themed games as you might expect. While there still are quite a few of them, the pirate genre is nowhere near as ubiquitous as, say, Lovcraftian-themed games. Who knew!
So grab a bottle of rum and set sail as we look at our Top 10 Pirate Games.
Top 10 Pirate Board Games
Cartagena is unique in this pirate list in that there is no high seas action at all in the game. Instead, your pirate crew has been locked up in prison and the game is all about a prison break. The gameplay is really simple, play a card and move a pirate to a matching symbol on the path. Even though the gameplay in Cartagena almost has a Candyland like feel to it, there is actually quite a bit of depth here as the leapfrogging mechanic will have your crew going in different directions. Easy to learn, but surprisingly fun.
9. Pirates Cove
It’s been over a decade since Days of Wonder released this Pirate themed board game. In Pirate’s Cove, each player is trying to become the most feared pirates in the seas. The game is played over 12 turns, and each turn a player must decide which of the game’s six islands their pirate will visit. If two players choose the same one (or the one with the legendary pirate), combat ensues. Pirate’s Cove is filled with Days of Wonder’s patented easy-to-learn rules and high quality components.
Jamaica is a race game where the players must race around the island of Jamaica, fighting and looting as they go. The gameplay in Jamaica is quite simple. Each player has a hand of 3 cards, and the first player (captain) rolls two dice. Each die will correspond to a day or night card. The players then select one card from their hand to correspond with each die. As cards are revealed, players will move around the island, collecting loot and possibly battling each other if they end on the same space.
7. Rum and Bones
If you enjoy piles of minis and MOBA-style combat, then Rum and Bones is for you. Cool Mini or Not Games brought Rum and Bones to Kickstarter last year also has an expansion in the works for 2016. I actually had a chance to speak with the designer of Rum and Bones at Adepticon this year, and I’m really excited for the changes. In Rum and Bones, two pirate crews face off for some ship-to-ship boarding action. Your Bosuns and Deckhands will operate under a simple AI (and mostly just be fodder), while your hero pirate crew swings about the ship destroying objectives and uses their special abilities to earn you loot and victory points.
6. Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot
It’s a unique dice game where players drop piles of dice into the box lid and see where fate takes them. Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot has some fantastic components, including custom dice, die cut upgrade tokens, and thematic artwork. The gameplay has players playing through a few rounds of dropping dice, fighting merchant ships, and upgrading their Galleon while in port. Definitely unique, I’ve enjoyed Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot quite a bit since I picked it up last summer. My favorite aspect has to be all the customization options players have for their ship.
5. Libertalia (review)
I’ve owned Libertalia for quite a few years and always enjoy when I can get it to table. The game is played over three rounds in which players try can collect the most loot. Each player has a deck of identical cards, each depicting a member of a pirate crew with a special ability. Over the course of the three rounds, players will be sending their crew to the ship to collect loot. As the player decks are all the same, remembering which player has used which card can factor into your strategy each round. Trying to outthink your opponents can go a long way in helping you win Libertalia.
4. Dead Men Tell No Tales (review)
The newest game on our list, Dead Men Tell No Tales is a cooperative game where players take on the role of a pirate crew trying to loot a sinking and burning ship. With some great artwork and challenging game play, Dead Men Tell No Tales features at least 6 different ways for players to lose the game. So you definitely need to work together if they hope to secure all the riches on the ship. If you are a fan of Pandemic or Flash Point: Fire Rescue, then I think you’d enjoy Dead Men Tell No Tales.
3. Black Fleet (review)
Published by the always impressive guys at Space Cowboys, Black Fleet give each player control over a pirate ship, a merchant ship, and shared control over the royal navy. During the game, players will be using their merchant to deliver goods around the board, their pirate to attack other player’s merchants, and the royal navy ships to attack other player’s pirates. The three unique ships help to make Black Fleet both highly entertaining and also quite a unique gaming experience.
2. Port Royal (review)
A simple push-your-luck card game, Port Royal has made its way to my tabletop countless times. The game is a race to 12 victory points, with each round playing out in two parts. Players will first explore by drawing cards from the deck until they decide to stop (or bust out), and once they do stop, they can purchase cards from the ones drawn. Most cards are in the form of people that will give the player both victory points and special abilities. A little bit of engine building combined with some easy-to-learn game play has made Port Royal a bit hit on my gaming table.
1. Merchants and Marauders
Coming in at number one in our ranking is Merchants and Marauders. Probably the most complex game on our list, Merchants and Marauders has players taking control of a sailing ship in the Caribbean Sea. Players are free to decide if they want to be a friendly merchant, sailing around earning money and victory points, or a daring pirate, launching attacks on other ships and players. This sandbox style game lets players play how they want, and the Seas of Glory expansions adds in a ton of replay value to Merchants and Marauders by adding in a dozen different modules to add to the game.
That’s our Top Ten Pirate Board Games. What do you think; do you have a favorite pirate game? Let us know in the comments below.