The golden age of piracy is upon us! For board games anyway… and maybe the internet.
Pirates have always been fascinating to people. In popular lore, they’ve become the antihero we all love to root for.
I mean come on, who doesn’t like the rum-and-booty-obsessed swashbucklers?
Our board games aren’t even safe from the pirate invasion. A few years ago, if you were looking for a pirate-themed board game, you might have had a bit of trouble. Today, however, there are tons and tons of pirate-themed board games and the flood of games can be a bit hard to navigate.
Luckily, we’ll be your navigators. Let’s set sail and see what’s out there.
#1. The Pirate Republic
Playing Time: 60-90 min.
The Pirate Republic is set in the West Indies and unlike many other pirate games, it’s cooperative, competitive, and includes a hidden traitor.
Wait, what? That’s a lot of things… and not all of them go together.
No matter how you want to play, The Pirate Republic has you covered. It’s a modular game that allows players to pick and choose which pieces they want to include. You could work together to turn the seas into a haven for pirates (a republic of pirates, if you will) or you can add a hidden traitor into the mix in which a specific captain is sabotaging the collective efforts of the whole.
In contrast, players can also simply play a variant of every captain-for-themselves as they try to amass enough wealth and prestige to rule over the seas.
There’s quite a lot of game to be had here and it’s all done rather well. From components to gameplay, this one will weather the storm.
#2. Francis Drake
Playing Time: 90-120 min.
Francis Drake is a big game. It’s so big it almost feels like two completely separate games.
The first section of the game uses a worker placement mechanic. Players will need to outfit their ships before heading out on a voyage. Players can go as quickly or as slowly as they choose in this phase, but as the saying goes, the early captain gets the booty.
Once outfitted, players are let loose on the world to explore, attack ships, attack ports, and generally do boaty things. You’ll need to make wise decisions because, although players can go after the same objectives, the first player to complete them will often get valuable bonus rewards.
The pirate theme isn’t as prevalent here as you might think, but as far as board games go, this is a clear winner. It has multiple phases and is a solid overall Eurogame. Once equipped, you legitimately feel like a captain as you make decisions on where your ship will go and what adventures you’ll find along the way.
- A challenging race game with battles at sea
- Strategic game with many paths to victory
- Develops decision making, advanced planning, flexibility and...
#3. Merchants and Marauders
Playing Time: 180 min.
The sea is vast and dangerous yet anyone who truly seeks adventure can make their fortune.
Merchants and Marauders is a very interesting game in that you can choose to be either a pirate or a happy little merchant, going from port to port.
There’s actually a surprising amount that a player can do in this game. Each player will be in charge of their own nautical career and how they go about doing that is entirely up to them.
Players can explore new lands, peacefully trade and become wealthy, become a pirate, or even become a bounty hunter. There’s a lot to do, and every path is a viable path to victory.
Don’t let the title fool you, there’s much more to do here than meets the eye… not to mention the components of the game are pretty sweet. I really like their ship designs.
Playing Time: 45 min.
Who’s ready for retirement?
Yeah, me neither.
In a theme a little too close to home, rival pirate captains are looking to cash in on one final score before retiring to a sweet private island with piña coladas and that sweet pirate booty.
Complications arise when everyone is stuck in the same port and you only have 6 days before a fleet of Spanish Galleons loaded up with them sweet loots floats by.
You’ll have to compete with fellow captains to gather a crew and supplies in order to take the most treasure before the 6-day time limit is up.
Players can play cards from their hands to take advantage of character abilities at the opportune moment to snatch the loots from their opponents.
There’s a lot of unpredictability built into Libertalia, so every game will shift along with your opponents’ decisions, leading to a very long shelf life for a classic game.
- Innovative game play
- Different character actions changes the strategy through each...
- Special action tiles add an interesting twist to the game play
#5. Dead Men Tell No Tales
Playing Time: 60-75 min.
If you’re looking for a game with incredible sea battles… this isn’t it.
The sea battle has already taken place. Skelit’s Revenge, the legendary ghost ship has been bested. You and your crew have set it ablaze and crippled it. It’s dead in the water.
Now here’s the problem. In your haste, while attacking the ship, you forgot that all of the loots that the infamous ghost ship amassed is now in danger of sinking forever out of reach down to Davy Jones’ locker.
You and your fellow crew members must rush into the burning wreck, beat back the remaining skeletal crew members, and attempt to grab the loots before the ship is completely destroyed (and you along with it).
Dead Men Tell No Tales is a very unique game within the pirate genre for the simple fact that it’s a cooperative game. As you play through, you may see some very similar mechanics to other cooperative board games out there. It’s as if Pandemic and Flashpoint had weird piratey love child. Skeletal crew members will spawn continually. If you fail to keep their numbers in-check then you’ll lose (Pandemic mechanics). And if you the fire spreads too far and too fast, you’ll fail (Flash Point mechanics).
I really enjoy both of those games and Dead Men Tell No Tales does a fantastic job of bringing a very tense cooperative experience to the table.
- 2-5 Players
- 60-75 minute playing time
- Co-operative game using Action Point system
#6. A Tale of Pirates
Playing Time: 30 min.
There’s just something about pirate-themed things that push board game designers to innovate.
A Tale of Pirates uses a system that I’ve never seen before. In place of player tokens, each player is represented by a 60-second mini sand timer that is placed on a 3D cardboard ship. Players must place their sand timer on a location and wait the 60 seconds to perform the action.
Players will struggle through 10 different scenarios, such as fighting the dreaded Kraken or even just your run-of-mill pirate pillaging and looting.
Each round is only 5 minutes, so players will need to quickly make decisions and work together to deal with threats to their ships.
Playing Time: 30-60 min.
Captain Morgan may have retired but you can’t keep a good (bad?) pirate down for long. As governor of Jamaica, good ol’ Captain Morgan can basically do whatever he wants and each year, there’s a gathering of pirates to participate in a race around the island.
The player who makes it through the race with the most money in the hold of their ship is the victor.
Jamaica has quickly become a classic staple board game in many households. It’s an absolutely gorgeous game with amazing components and the game itself plays extremely well. Players will choose actions and race around the island of Jamaica where they will be buying and selling cargo, picking up treasure, and of course, attacking other players to steal their stuff.
It’s a fun game that’s also great with 6-players. What’s not to love?
#8. Port Royal
Playing Time: 20-50 min.
Port Royal is a very simple press-your-luck card game where players will take turns drawing cards from a deck.
During a turn, players will draw cards that can either be crew members or missions. Each crew member has a different strength value and type and can be used to complete missions for victory points.
Unfortunately, you’ll also draw privateers and military ships from the various countries in the area. If you’re unable to defeat them with your crew then boom! you’re sunk. Your turn will end and you get nothing.
This is a fantastic (and inexpensive) little card game that works well at all player levels. It’s a very quick game that takes only about 15-20 minutes and perfect for setting-up for longer gaming sessions or if you just need a quick game to tide you over.
- 120 cards and a rule sheet
- Easy to learn and fast to play while still satisfying more...
- Beloved since European release and now available in the U.S.
#9. Rum & Bones
Playing Time: 60 min.
Rum & Bones take a different approach to the board game scene. This game is based on the MOBA system (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena). Typically, these types of games are video games in which players control a hero and each side has a base that continually spawns NPC attackers. The two sides will be completely deadlocked without the strength of the player characters, so how you move and attack will win you the game.
In Rum & Bones, two ships have moored alongside when players and NPCs begin swarming across the decks to attack the other player’s ship.
Rum & Bones uses the MOBA system by having players control multiple characters that will be the heavy-hitters used to break down their opponents’ structures. While the main characters are attacking, so too are the random board AI-controlled Bosuns and Deckhands. Surprisingly, even in cardboard, this looks (and works) a lot like a MOBA.
For something completely different, Rum & Bones delivers the goods.
#10. Black Fleet
Playing Time: 60 min.
Black Fleet is a gorgeous and family-friendly board game.
Players each get a merchant ship and a pirate ship. Merchant ships will travel to different corners of the board to pick up goods to trade at other points for doubloons (of course there are doubloons).
Your pirate ships must attempt to avoid the two big (neutral) galleons controlled by all players while trying to steal from other players’ merchant ships.
Now, if you don’t care about production value in games or components, just ignore this next bit.
Everything in this box is absolutely awesome. There are metal coins for doubloons, the plastic merchant ships have slots to hold wooden cubes like actual cargo, and the pirate ships can hold a cube that they steal from other players. The ship minis all look great, and the board is colorful and pretty.
I mentioned that this is a great family game and that’s because although players’ ships can be sunk, they’re never quite destroyed and out of the game. It’s very fast-paced and keeps all the players in the action. I highly recommend this one.
#11. Sea of Clouds
Playing Time: 45 min.
In Sea of Clouds, you’ll transform into pirates divvying up their loot after a haul. You won’t be just any pirates however, you’ll be SKY PIRATES!
The major mechanics here deal with drafting cards to represent players taking their share of the loot. The cards can be new crew members, money, and of course, rum. Each card will have different effects throughout the game, like giving players victory points or boosting their strength.
Players will look through cards and choose one of 3 stacks, but the stacks they don’t choose will gain new cards after every turn. One stack may have a few mediocre cards but are you really going to let it grow big enough to be worthwhile to your opponents?
There’s a lot of strategy involved here and to make it even better, the artwork is absolutely fantastic.
- For 2-4 Players
- 40 minute playing time
- Using the Winston Style draft mechanic, this game is unique in...
#12. Cartagena (2nd Edition)
Playing Time: 30-45 min.
Who doesn’t like a good prison break?
In Cartagena, players will be reenacting a version of the historical 1672 prison break at Cartagena Fortress. Players will control a group of 6 pirates who are trying to make their way through the fortress to the port where a sloop is waiting to take them to safety.
Movement is card-based here and players will play cards to move to the next symbol shown on the card. If someone is already standing on it, players will be able to leapfrog over other players. However, the only way to get cards is to move a player back to another set of pawns.
Cartagena has been around for quite some time now and mostly what you’ll find are remakes of the original Ravensburger game. The remakes have cleaned up the rules and components but no matter what version you find, you’ll have a classic jailbreak/race game to play with your friends.
#13. Pirate’s Cove
Playing Time: 60-90 min.
Pirate’s Cove is a fantastic thematic game.
Every turn, players will secretly decide where their ships will go using hidden navigation cards. Once revealed, all ships will move at once and if any 2 ships are at the same island, guess what happens?
Ships compete head-to-head for rights of the island and to the victor goes the spoils.
Players will need to carefully manage their ships. If they become too damaged, navigation on the open seas becomes extremely difficult.
To add a fun little twist at the end, every player will be able to pick up cards from the tavern throughout the game and play them for bonus points at the end of the game in the form of tall tales and sailor stories.
It’s an interesting concept that works well and also lets players live out their secret fantasies of being pirates.
- Take to the high seas in search of plunder and fame
- For 3-5 players
- Takes 60-90 minutes to play
#14. Rum & Pirates
Playing Time: 60 min.
Rum & Pirates takes on the pirate theme from possibly the most important aspect of any sailor’s life. I’m talking, of course, about shore leave.
There’s actually no real ship-to-ship anything going on here. The pirates have hit port and now it’s time to do what sailors do best: Drink!
Players will be wandering around the city, looking to gather as much rum as they can. The final round is a fight (not to the death) between shipmates for the best sleeping quarters back on the ship.
I gotta say, this game really reminds me of a lot of my time serving the US Navy. Rum & Pirates gave me much less of a hangover, though.
Playing Time: 120-180 min.
In the Age of Sail (1571–1862), humanity is crawling out of an isolationist dark era. Sailing technology has been rediscovered and a new age of exploration is upon us.
Seafall markets itself as a 4X game, which means:
There’s actually no player elimination here, which is always nice for a board game. The other thing Seafall brings to the table is another legacy system.
Yes… I know it’s legacy which usually means a high price tag for a one-run game. It’s not that bad, though. For one thing, Seafall has had some major price drops and can sometimes be found for under $30. That’s a heck of a deal for any big box board, especially for a legacy one.
#16. Pirate Den
Playing Time: 30 min.
Oh, bluffing games. We absolutely love these types of games that make it socially acceptable to lie to your friends’ faces.
In Pirate Den, players will secretly play cards that’ll swipe treasures, stab your buddy in the back, or bury your treasure deep underground. Pirates, of course, like to bury their treasure.
It’s a nice little quick game that relies heavily on mind games and outplaying your opponents.
I do recommend getting a set of sleeves for the game because if you play a few times, you’ll start to see some wear on the cards. A game that requires you to play a card secretly can’t be identifiable from the back.
#17. Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot
Playing Time: 45-60 min.
I’m honestly surprised it took me this long to find a dice-based pirate game.
In Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot, players will roll handfuls of dice to attack merchant ships and steal their goods.
RBG has a completely unique mechanic. It’s not just simply throwing dice. You’re actually going to be throwing dice into a box. Okay, that may not sound too new and unique, but it is. All of the dice in a given round are all gathered up and thrown into the box top. When they land, the face values will, of course, matter but also where they land is extremely important too. How far away the dice are from each other determines the ship placements in-game. Each die will represent a ship and the physical distance between each die will affect its abilities.
I’ve never seen anything quite like it and it’s a really cool way to see a ship battle play out.
On top of that bit of ingenious dice-rolling mechanics, the components are actually quite impressive too. Each player has a modular ship. As players upgrade their ships, they’ll be able to add cargo holds, cannons, and extra sails. It’s a very cool idea and looks pretty impressive when fully kitted-out.
- Age range: 8 and up / Number of players: 2 to 5 / Play time: 45...
- Manufacturer: Portal Games
- 38 Custom dice, 27 Sailor cards, 44 Adventure cards, 8 Victory...
#18. Pirate Fluxx
Playing Time: 10-40 min.
Fluxx is a game that you either love or hate. There are very few people I know that fall in the middle of the spectrum. I actually like Fluxx games. They’re simple, weird, and they have a ton of different themes and fandoms that you can choose from.
Fluxx is a fun card game where everything is in a constant state of flux (get it?). The game’s rules and end-game conditions will be changing constantly throughout the game.
The initial rules are:
- Draw a card
- Play a card
That’s it. As you play cards, the rules will change to ridiculous levels. I’ve played games where I’ve had to draw 5 cards and play all of them on top of a ton of other weird rules that popped up.
The pirate version has some funny cards for nautical nonsense and in place of Creepers that stop you from winning the game, you’ll now have to contend with scurvy & shackles, a pirate’s worst nemesis.
#19. Piña Pirata
Playing Time: 30 min.
Piña Pirata?… Ok, that’s a pretty freaking adorable name for a game.
Piña Pirata is a nice, quick little pirate-themed card game that plays a lot like Uno. Players start with 8 cards in their hand and take turns playing cards. A card can only be played if it matches the one on top of the current play pile. If you can’t play a card, you draw a card. The first person to play all their cards wins the round and gets a piece of a treasure map. Get four pieces of the map and you win!
But… Piña Pirata is slightly more complicated than that. Every round will use a different set of adventure tiles that change up the rules in different ways. This greatly expands upon the simple Uno mechanics and gives the game an overall nice family-friendly vibe.
It’s a great little game to play with kids, and coming from IELLO, you know the artwork is top-notch!
#20. Pirate Rumble
Playing Time: 15-30 min.
Pirate Rumble is… well it’s… oh, I don’t know.
Okay, so Pirate Rumble caught my eye with its pretty artwork and I tried to find out more. It’s made by a Taiwanese company and I was just absolutely blown away with the premise of the game.
It’s 10,000% weird.
Historical pirates from all over the world/time are gathering in Arizona? To look for the “Lost of Dutch”? I’m assuming it is a translation error for the Lost Dutchman Mine… maybe?
Kendra and I are originally from Arizona. I can guarantee you that’s the last place you’d find pirates. I’m just so confused and I think I looked at this game for quite a while trying to figure out what the heck was going on and what the designers were thinking.
I am still not too sure.
It is one of the only pirate party games that I’ve found, however. This one was just too weird to not include.
- Fun party game
- 11 Legendary Pirates in the game, both East and West pirate fight...
- 30 minute playing time
There you have it. The treasure trove of games has been revealed.
Pirates have always been a popular topic and have honestly started to gather a bit of their own mythology around them. Personally, I think the actual history of pirates like Anne Bonny and Blackbeard defy all reason and don’t really need any embellishment. Some of my favorite pirate games are the ones that focus a bit more on the realities of pirates.
I may say though, pirates definitely win out over ninjas… just saying.
I hope you enjoyed this article. If your favorite pirate board game didn’t make our list, please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.