The Importance of  Weather Gage:  Pirate Scenario

This is a fun little exercise to teach and learn the importance of weather gage.  You are windward if you are closer to the wind than your opponent.  In square rigged ships, this gives a tactical advantage called:  Weather Gage. 

If you have weather gage, you can decide IF there will be an engagement at all.  If you don’t want a fight, you can turn about and reach up into the wind.  A leeward ship, (downwind from you) will never be able to catch you.  Assuming they go the same speed:  you are both square rigged ships with no damage.

Both players start with Sloops.  The Merchant has 1 crew and 5 cargo.  The Pirate has 3 crew and 3 guns.  Arrange the ships thus, with the wind to the Merchant’s back:

Merchant in Red

Pirate in Black

As the Pirate, see if you can force a fight and capture / sink the Merchant. 

As the Merchant, see if you can escape and slip past the Pirate.  If you can’t, call off the engagement and just escape safely off your own map edge. 

With practice, a skilled Merchant will ALWAYS win.  The Pirate should never be able to catch them. 

Play this several times on each side.  Got it down?  Good.  Now give the Pirates a Brig.  Can the Merchant still win?  The Brig is faster but the Merchant still has Weather Gage. 

Alright, now give the Pirates a Schooner.  Schooners are actually faster beating up into the wind, while you are slower!!  Who wins most of the time now? 

The Baltimore Privateers (schooner)  were smaller but they were a favorite of Pirates.  Do you see why?

What do we learn from all this?  Here are some general guidelines to follow:

With Weather Gage, against other square rigged ships:

-Use it!  Fight on YOUR terms. 

-If things go wrong, you can break off the fight and escape by beating into the wind.

 With Weather Gage, against Schooners:

-You are in a very dangerous situation.  You can’t escape by beating into the wind!  They’ll catch you. 

-IF you can’t fight them, your only chance is to juke past them with a brilliant move and then make a run for it!  Remember, Schooners go slower while running.  You go faster.  With a little luck and a very tricky maneuver, you might be able to escape downwind.  It won’t be easy.

What if you’re both sailing Schooners?  Well, then you’re on equal terms, right?  Since you’re both going the same speed, standard Weather Gage advantage applies.  You can escape windward.  You can fight when and where you want. 

How to Ask Questions Like Captain Kirk

I’ve always been a big fan of Captain Kirk.  One of the things that amazes me most is his brilliant questions.  He always seems to ask just the right thing at just the right time.

Why does God need a starship?

The right question at the right time is incredibly powerful.  It is like a superpower!  Imagine what it could do for you in sales with your customer, in management with your employees, in parenting with your kids, or in a relationship with your spouse. 

Long ago, I set out to learn to ask questions like Kirk.  I read books.  I watched him in Star Trek.  I studied Socrates.  I tried to focus.  Think, think.  What would Kirk ask?!  What do I say?  A critical moment would come up and I would just freeze like a deer in headlights.  Nothing. 

After years of trying?  Nothing at all.  No change in my behavior or skill level.  I finally just gave up.  I guess I’m just not brilliant like Captain Kirk.  Ha, if I only had a team of great Hollywood script writers working for me!  Maybe this isn’t something you can do in real life.

Last year we made and released a Pirate board game.  Fun!  After playing it for several months I started noticing some changes in my behavior.  Subtle at first, but then a massive shift.  Kirk like questions were effortlessly flowing out of me in rapid succession.  In just about all areas of my life: 

Our tire is looking a little low on the car.  Why?  Is it really low?  What is the pressure?  Is it safe to drive on?  How far to the nearest tire shop?  Can we make it?  How old is this tire?  How much tread is left?  How worn are the other tires?  Should we replace them all or just 2?  Can the others wait until fall? 

Wow.  I was finally doing it!  Asking questions like Kirk, but how?  Why?  I wasn’t even trying to.  I gave up years ago.  I had mostly forgotten about it.

Then it occurred to me.  It was the Pirate game.  What?  Really?  Yes!  The Pirate game turned me into Captain Kirk.  This is a profound lesson on learning and training.  I now realize that I had it all wrong.  I was doing it backwards.  This was my thinking:

Here I was at the bottom.  My goal?  To be like Kirk.  At least be more like him when it comes to asking questions.  Ok so how do I get there?  Well, I have to focus on and figure out how to ask questions better right?  Makes sense. 

WRONG!!!!   That doesn’t work.  I tried in vain for years with zero results.  That’s backwards.  To achieve this breakthrough, you have to do the opposite.  Here’s what the process actually looks like:

The goal isn’t to be like Kirk.  Asking great questions is the goal.  Actually it’s more like the natural result:  where you end up.  Ok, so how do you get there?  You BE Kirk.  Captain a ship for about 10 years. 

Kirk doesn’t ask great and timely questions because he is naturally brilliant at asking questions.  He didn’t learn it by going to school, reading books or practicing questions.  His questioning skills are what resulted from his career.  Serving as a Captain makes you that way.  It rewires your brain to think like that.  Captain a ship for 10 years.  Lead it through 10 battles at sea and you’ll start to think and behave like a Captain too.  Just like Kirk. 

Gee, that’s great but I don’t have 10 years to spend captaining ships in battles at sea.  How could anybody ever do that?  By playing Pirates! 

Yep, as silly as that sounds, it’s true.  That is one of the amazing powers of playing games.  They can give you real life experience;  but not just any game.  It has to be a good game that is designed and set up to teach you the right lessons. 

Most games are really just puzzles.  What exactly are they teaching you?  How to get through the next level faster? Most of them teach you how to be a good little worker bee.  Pirates! the Devil & the Deep, teaches you to be a leader.  It puts you in the role of captaining a ship.  You are responsible for that ship and all aboard.  You have to assess damage and assign your crew accordingly.  You have to get inside the head of the enemy.  Where will they go next?  How can you out maneuver them?  Learning to play this game, teaches you to analyze and think in terms of questions.  It teaches you to anticipate and plan for the future. It rewires your brain to think like a captain.

A good game can teach us in the natural way. The way our brains are designed to learn best:  through experience.  They can do it much quicker too!  It won’t take 10 years.  You can fight 10 Pirate battles in about 5-8 hours, if you wanted. 

I wouldn’t recommend doing it all at once like that.  I fought 1 battle per week.  Each game took 30-60 minutes.  In between battles, I spent lots of time in self reflection.  Why did the game end up like that?  Where did I go wrong?  What did I do right?  What should I try in the next game to be better?

After about 10 games, you’ll start to change too.  You’ll start to think like a real Captain.  Why?  Because you’ll have experience as a captain. 

Just like Kirk. 

The Best Parts of Board Gaming

When it comes to being a pirate, less is more.  Don’t ask me why. 

This game has been long in the making.  We started on it 2 years before Pirates of the Caribbean:  Dead Men Tell No Tales, came out.  It was supposed to be ready for release with that movie!  Ha, ha ha. 

We made about 10 different pirate games that all really sucked.  We wanted a game on this subject but we won’t publish it if we don’t like it.  There are already too many crappy games that just get cranked out there because they know people will buy them.  We want to do games we are really proud of.  Games that WE like playing. We almost gave up.   After many attempts, we finally stumbled onto the right combination of secret ingredients. 

Mike asked about the lack of detail in the game.  Is it too generic?  Usually you see rules for loading different types of shot.  Different qualities of guns and crew.  Some of them have special abilities and such.  The ships could have more detail too.  What about a ship’s log where you can track the status of various kinds of damage and the little differences between each ship?

Yeah, we started with all that stuff.  Just like all the other games have.  We experimented with 10 different ways of doing all that.  In the end, we cut it all out.  Why?  Because it ruined the game.  I know! 

Don’t ask me to explain it.  I’m not sure I completely understand it myself.  I always say that the best test of a game or any particular rule is to just throw it on the table and play it.  Often rules sound great.  I get some brilliant new idea.  The theory behind it sounds fantastic.  True, true, true…   but it just doesn’t work.  I don’t know why.

All those chrome rules sound fun.  On the table, they were just boring.  What did they add to the game?  Lots more time required to play it.  Lots of work for the players to do.  Lots of pages added to the rulebook, that you have to read, learn, teach and remember.  Work, work, work. Not fun. What we discovered was that the more of that we cut, the better the game got! 

Who cares what kind of shot that was?  What’s our damage?  Can we fix it?  How long before it’s operational again?  How bad did we hit the enemy?  What are they going to pull next?  How about we just drift here for a turn and make it look like we are in serious trouble.  When they circle back around, we’ll take off and blast em!!!  Yes!

That’s the fun part.  Who cares about all the details?  That’s what we have crew for, right?  Let them sort it all that out. For crying out loud, we’re the Captain!  OUR job is to outsmart that other wily seadog. Oh, they’re going down.

Of all the pirate games we made, this was the best.  It is actually fun.  It’s intense.  It feels real.  It puts you in the Captain’s chair.  A fantastic story narrative.  To me, those are the best parts of board gaming.

It’s more than good enough for us to publish.  It is truly epic. 

Pirates? When?

We’ve had lots of interest in the new Pirate game. Reviewers are looking at it now. The Kickstarter is just about ready. We have to update and rearrange our financial accounts for Kickstarter. Once that is done, we are ready to launch!

Hopefully in a week or two. By the end of the month at worst!

Sails of Glory vs Pirates!

How does our new Pirate game compare to Sails of Glory?  Great question. 


The Sails of Glory ships are painted and more colorful.  That’s cool. 

You could paint the Pirate ships if that’s what you prefer but I also kind of like black, monochrome look. 

They seem about the same scale.  Sails of Glory is all the Big ships:  Frigates and Ships-o-the-Line.

  Pirates does them all.  It comes with small ships:  Schooners & Sloops.  You can add on Brigs.  They have the Big ships you can add on later too.  It’s all one, comprehensive combat system that accommodates the whole range of ships.  Now it might not be much of a fight between the HMS Victory and a little pirate Schooner but you can sure try! Maybe a 12 pirate schooner swarm might start to get the Victory’s attention?

If you get closer match ups, it starts getting very interesting.  Like say 1 Frigate vs 3 Brigs.  Ok, the Frigate will certainly sink at least 1-2 Brigs.  The question is, can the Brigs coordinate and put enough lead into the Frigate before they sink?  With a little luck, they might just be able to pull that off.

SoG ships have a big square base.  That makes them feel more stable and accurate while moving.  I like that.  I don’t care for the way it looks.  It looks a little strange.  The Pirate ships just look like ships.

What is your Point of Sail?  In SoG that’s marked on the outside of the base of the ship.  It’s color coded and those colors match your movement cards.  Simple.  It makes sense.  Very intuitive. 

The Pirate ships have little nav bars that stick out to the sides.  You can tell what your Point of Sail is by which side of the bar you are on.  They aren’t color coded but they are easy to read and keep track of.  Essentially, it does the same thing.  It’s just a different way of doing it.


The basic concept of movement is the same in both games.  Players plan and select their next move in secret.  Everybody reveals their choice at the same time and then move simultaneously.

In SoG, you do this by picking a maneuver card out of your deck and placing it face down as your next move. 

In Pirates, you have 3 rotating navigation blocks. 

You rotate these around to set your course, direction and speed. 

This would be a 45 degree to Starboard at full speed.

Instead of a deck of cards to paw through, you’ve got just 1 clear movement template. 

At first I thought this wasn’t as good.  It seems like you have a lot more options to pick from in SoG.

Surprisingly, that 1 little template, does seem to cover all the possible moves in the SoG deck.  It’s just a different approach.  Once I got used to it, I kind of liked the template better.  It’s easier and faster. 

Now there are a few exceptions.  Pirates doesn’t have the broken mast move cards.  All the ships use the same templates.  There is a fast template and a slow one.  I kind of liked the fact that SoG has more custom, individual decks for each ship.  Yeah, in theory.  We compared some of the ships and actual moves.  In practice, there really doesn’t seem to be much of a difference in the end result of moving the ships. 

In SoG, the square base of the ship and the cards makes the moves feel more precise.  The Pirate ships feel a little squirrely.  They can spin slightly as you grab them and let go.  True but after playing some, this isn’t as bad as I thought.  In Pirates, the ships must always be ‘squared with the table’.  So you have to be at 90 or 45 degrees to the table or map edge.  Given that, if your ship rotates slightly to the right as you let go of it while moving, it is really easy to see that.  You can just give it a little nudge and straighten it out.  It is easy to make sure everybody is moving correctly and not getting off.  So like if you move 45 degrees to starboard and then 45 degrees back to port, you’ll end up parallel to the table again.  You can see that and make sure you are. 

In that way, SoG feels more real.  You can move in any angle.  Whatever the card says!  Who knows what angle it is?  I ‘feel’ like I have more options.  On the other hand, once I got used to Pirates, I didn’t really feel limited.  I could get to where I wanted.  I could make my ship do what I wanted.  Ok, so does it really matter if I can only move at 45 or 90 degrees?  Probably not.  In practice, it works just fine.      

So bottom line, SoG does give you more detailed and custom options for moving different ships.  Pirates streamlines and speeds up the process.  While actually playing, I didn’t miss the extra SoG movement options.  I still felt like I had plenty of choices to pick from, for moving in Pirates.

The points of sail, wind effects, in irons, sail speed and such are all very similar.  You can go fast, medium or slow.  Different points of sail will slow you down 1 step.  Sail damage can slow you down. 

One thing interesting in Pirates is that there are Schooners.  In SoG, pretty much all the ships are square rigged.  That means they go faster while running.  They go slower while reaching / beating into the wind. 

In SoG terms, the black directions would be Green and the white ones are like Yellow.

Square Rigged Ships

Well, the Schooners are opposite.  The Schooners are actually faster while reaching / beathing into the wind! 


This makes for some interesting matchups and conundrums.  So maybe you have wind gage on me:  you are windward or up wind.  Ok, but if I’m sailing a Schooner, I’m faster reaching up into the wind towards you.  So the tactics would be totally different if you are sailing against a Sloop vs a Schooner, depending on who has the wind gage.  Tricky!  -and also fun. 


In SoG, you pull damage chits when you take a hit.

  In Pirates, you pull damage cards from a deck.  Ok, same basic idea.  Just like the movement, Pirates is more simple and streamlined than SoG.

The fighting process is more detailed in SoG.  You can pick what kind of shot you want. What you want to target.  You have to reload after you fire.  There is musket fire.  I like that.  On the other hand, it’s a bit fussy and slows the game down. 

In Pirates, you just fire.  You can’t pick what to target.  It’s just random.  Who knows what you’ll hit?  Their sails, crew, rudder? 

In SoG you take damage chits and place them along your track.  Kind of like hit points.  So once you reach your limit, you’re sunk right?  Essentially.  In Pirates, the damage cards are a lot more fun and narrative driven.  Instead of getting a certain number of A or B damage chits, your cards are like a damage report telling you what was hit.  So like you got sail damage that is reducing your speed, a fire has broken out that needs to be put out before it spreads, there is a hull breach that is leaking water now, 1 set of guns was destroyed, and you’ve lost a quarter of your crew. 

The broadsides in Pirates are DEVASTATING!  Holy cow!  It doesn’t take much.  One good broadside can very well sink you, or close to it.  Three in a row most certainly will!

After exchanging broadsides, you’re both going to be scrambling to keep your ships up and in the fight with damage control.  Combat in SoG feels more like a book keeping exercise.  Pirates is very tense.  You always feel like you’re on the verge of complete disaster.

The player decisions after an exchange are agonizing!! The problem is that you need your crew to both fire guns at the enemy AND repair damage. They can’t to both in the same time. Each crew card can only take 1 action per turn. So what do you have them do? Let’s say after the above broadside that you end up in each other’s firing arc and range again.

You have 2 crew cards left. That means you can only repair 2 of the 3 damage cards. This assumes that you don’t return fire. If your 2 crews fire your 2 guns, then you can’t repair any damage this turn. You can do that but if you do, that fire will spread and the breech will leak water into the ship. One turn of that won’t sink you but another turn of it could. Especially if you take more damage from another shot now!

How important is it to get those sails fixed? Do you need to pick up speed to escape? How important is it to fire the guns back at the enemy now? It is very dangerous to ignore a fire burning on your ship. It spreads exponentially. Water leaks are slower. Depending on your situation and what you are trying to do, there are many ways to respond to this mess.

This is ‘between the devil and the deep blue sea‘: A choice between to very bad options. What can you do to keep this ship afloat and give you the best chances of surviving another round?

How do the games compare? SoG feels more accurate and detailed to the period. It’s more technical. The battles also involve player ‘work’. Combat feels more like an accounting exercise. Pirates abstracts some of that detail but wow. It is off the charts for difficult and interesting player decisions, great narrative and tense / fun game play.


What is the game?  In SoG, that’s all laid out.  You know.  You both have SoLs.  You have a little better firepower.  They are a little more maneuverable.  It’s a duel.  That’s the game.  Everybody knows that going in.  No mystery here.

In Pirates, this is all hidden and unknown to the players.

Imagine sailing around the Caribbean in that era.  You suddenly spot a ship on the horizon.  Who are they?  Why are they here?  What is their intent?  Are they friend or foe?  What do they have on board? 

You have no idea. All that is hidden on the ship cards. Are they just a peaceful merchant ship hauling cargo? 

Are they a pirate crew armed with guns?  Maybe they have a minimal crew with guns for defense but the rest of the ship is loaded with cargo.  Are they the prey or will you soon find yourself hunted and running for your life?  You have no way of knowing.

To me, this is the best part of the game!  You have to try to figure out what they are doing based on how they move.  Are they confident?  Sailing directly for you?  What happens if you change course?  How do they respond?  What does that say about their intent?

This cat & mouse game of trying to read and out maneuver your opponent reminds me of Star Trek II Wrath of Khan.  Bluff.  Threaten.  Posture.  Negotiate.  It’s all here.  So much fun!! 

Misc / Summary

They both play directly on the table top.  They are both about the same scale.  SoG is for military naval ship battles in the Napoleonic Wars.  Pirates is an earlier time period.  In the early days of colonial, exploration and trade in the Caribbean.  They both have pre-planned, hidden, simultaneous movement.  They both use some kind of moving template.  SoG has a deck of cards for moving.  Pirates uses one, clear, reversible card that also doubles as a firing range stick.  Pirates uses a deck of cards to keep the contents of the ships secret. SoG uses a ship card with tracks for damage and status. SoG uses damage chits.  Pirates uses damage cards.  SoG has extra terrain you can put down on the table for islands, shoals and such.  Pirates has extra maps you can buy with all that kind of stuff on it. 

The rules are much shorter in Pirates.  Holy cow!  Only about 6 pages and that is stretching it.  Really only about 4 pages of core rules.  Pirates is faster to learn and to play.  Faster action.  SoG is more accurate and detailed.  It seems to be more accurate in its historical detail. They have real, historical ships rated and compared to each other.  Pirates is better for fun, tension, narrative and putting you in the theme.  While playing, I feel like I’m really in the ‘captain’s chair’ at sea.

Note: This is a crude play test map. They still need lots of work but this is general concept for the overall look.

The Pirates ships are ok.  Kind of minimal.  Kind of a cool look, in that way.  I have to give the better ships to SoG.  All the painted detail, all pre done for you, all historically accurate.  Awesome.  That is cool.

Pirates! Play Test Report

We’ve played two games already, and that was it. We want to play more. I’ve written out a lot!

Initial thoughts/experience:

Game 1: We set up, each with a sloop. Because my wife and I are wargamers at heart, we just hacked at each other. Get in close and try to shoot the other. We did take a little cargo each just for good measure, but we love to blast each other. It didn’t take long for damage to occur – that’s where the mechanic of crew application really shines. You don’t know what your opponent will do. And you see so many things you need to do, but you can only do so much. Eventually my wife won; I was taking too much water.

Game 2: We ended up using the next ship on the list, it was a hand of 7, but I forget which vessel type it was. We liked having a bigger hand. Bigger hand means more options. I think your game will be even better with the larger ships. I have some thoughts in the constructive criticism part in regards to how to manage larger vessels. We wanted a bigger hand, so we took 7 this time, and I think that ship was faster so we used the faster transparencies. I know we used the other movement gauges, not the sloop ones, because we figured those were the “fast ship” movement gauges. This game was far more interesting. We equipped ourselves to fight much better this time. I had more crew and guns, she had more crew and guns. A lot of tense fighting. Lots of surprising maneuvers. She actually first outmaneuvered me, and was able to get to my table edge. She could’ve gone off and won that way, but decided it was more fun to hunt prey. She turned around and came back to hunt me. We had a lot of really good maneuvering, getting into range, moving out of range/LOS, etc. It was a lot of cool weaving. We were able to break away to fix our ships. Eventually we came back and she got a raking shot on me. That made me toast. Took on too much water. I was able to shoot back before sinking, and I got her sails and rudder. I was sinking from water, and she was directionless at the end. I sunk and she won, but it was close. Had I been in a better positioning, I could’ve come around to sink her before I went down. It was a fun game.

Final thoughts/suggestions:


1.) It is FUN. I was a bit skeptical at first. I read the rulebook a couple of times, and it seemed simple. Almost too simple. Can something so simple provide such good entertainment? The answer was yes! The simplicity was what made it so conducive for enjoyment. The first thing I wanted to say was that this was a fun game, and really, that matters most. If people aren’t having fun, then what’s the point? I think because of its simplicity and how fun it is, it will be extremely accessible to many people. I think you’ll pull in wargamers for sure, but I think the wider board game community will be attracted to it as well. People who like Pirate stuff will like it. Even Eurogamers can like this. It’s so accessible and so fun, no matter who you are or what you like. I found it to be really fun. My wife and I laughed while playing. That’s a definite good sign. Very fun. 

2.) It is simple! I had very few questions about how to play. That is an amazing feat of this game; we’ve talked before how so many age of sail games are painfully bogged down by complex rules. This, on the other hand, was pretty self explanatory. I think graphics showing different things in the rulebook will help. I did have to google “raking shot” because I didn’t know what that was (I really don’t know much about naval combat). The first game got going pretty quick. By the end of it, we restarted immediately for the second because we knew more of what we were doing. Simple is good. But what’s even better is that your game is simple, but certainly it is not overly simplistic. It is not boring. You never know what your opponent will do. Perhaps the simultaneous movement is the mechanic that will keep this game fresh over and over. Maneuvering matters. Making those decisions matter. Do you run away and fix the ship? Or do you persist in fighting? Decisions, decisions… simple, accessible, easy to learn, yet lots of room for exploring and trying new things.

3.) It is fast paced. Quick enough to get sunk and set up for a rematch. Oh, how much I wish games were more like this, where there’s time to do a rematch. So much more fun when you can be a little carefree and take risks, knowing you can set right back up and try again! You’re not getting bogged down by anything whatsoever. It’s smooth. It flows. You move and you fight. Great things happen for you. Difficult things happen for you. Game ends. Restart!

4.) The combat is brutal – in a good way. I like having problems to fix on board. It was a bit much for my wife at first – most wargames aren’t like this, where there are internal issues as well as external threats. But I think she really came around to it quite a bit. She liked the game a lot and I did too. There’s tensions. Most of the decision making is knowing how to apply your crew; though simple, it’s a huge decision in the game. It affects everything. Absolutely everything. I really like that. Decisions are more fun with greater weight to them. I like how having more manned guns gives you bonuses. I like how combat results affect your plans. What makes a great wargame for me is if you have to react. Reacting to situations is so much fun to me. I love the chaos. So many times, I had things planned out only to lose my rudder for a turn which junked up all my plans! Delightful! I like that in a wargame! That’s real strategy and thinking, learning to adjust your plans while keeping track of the enemy!

5.) Movement is awesome. Your templates rock. I love them. My wife loved them. I don’t have more to say, it just is awesome. Setting up your little blocks and then going for it. I just love it. Took maybe one or two moves and we started getting it down super fast. We made some wrong moves; that was fun! Realizing that movement is in relation to your ship’s facing. I just loved it. Fast, smooth, it was really good.

Constructive Criticisms/Ideas for consideration:

1.) Real quick idea – Are all ships just fast or slow? Do they use the same transparencies for movement? Like, all slow ships use the slow ship one and visa versa for fast ships? Because if there’s not a difference between movement abilities of ships that are the same in terms of speed, then you ought to make a “fast” movement gauge and a “slow” movement gauge, instead of one for each type of ship. That is, unless you plan on doing special/differing movement patterns for each. You could also potentially color code the lines depending on what ship – maybe all fast ships can use the black lines of movement, but only Frigates use blue lines, and Schooners use red lines. I don’t know. Just thinking out loud. That was a practical thing. We just used the Schooner movement gauge for our second game, since it was a faster ship. But maybe they’ll all be different.

2.) Although I understand not having any misses in the deck, I might still think just a few would spice up the game a little. It’s not that I don’t want combat to be brutal, it’s that I want the strategy and tactics that are born out of a lucky incident. What if you had just a couple of miss cards in the deck? Not a lot. Like two maybe. I kept thinking, especially at the end of the second game, if I had just one miss card pulled, that would’ve given me opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Not that I minded being sunk in the end, I’m not saying that. But it’s totally awesome when that attack to finish you off didn’t in fact finish you off, and you make a little comeback! (Only to be sunk next turn!) I don’t know; that’s up to you. I like what you did. I just wonder if that would give an interesting situation tactically. It’s something to test rather than to necessarily put in the game quite yet. You could even call it a misfire, instead of a miss. Maybe it was something on the firing end that just didn’t go so well. Who knows?

3.) This is really the main and only big piece of constructive criticism we had: does it have to be cards? (I know, that’s a big question, but stick with me a bit!) We found ourselves really running out of space to handle all the water cards and fire cards and other damage cards along while checking what ship cards you have left. It just felt like a lot. I can’t imagine playing it with a ship of 14 cards – that would get nuts! The amount of damage coming your way from a 14 card ship would give you so many cards! 

On one hand, I see the way the mechanics interact and I do think it has to be cards. It’s the only way it really works. On the other hand, I just have to think there could there be a way to have a dry erase ship damage chart. Where you can check boxes off as water comes pouring in, or check boxes as fire spreads. I like the cards for knowing what damage you get even, it’s just the keeping track of how much water and fire is spreading is a little much with cards. 

That was our only thought, and both my wife and myself thought there could be a way with some sort of damage chart that would help keep track of that. It would free you up quite a bit more, and probably be even faster than pulling cards, setting them down, putting them back when things get fixed; etc. Just check a box or erase it.

I don’t know if that would work or not, but I think it would be especially helpful for the larger ships. I hate to suggest that, because your art guy just did a beautiful job on the cards, and let me even say that the cards work – I just wonder if there would come a point with the larger ships that the cards would feel like a lot. When your sending frigates at each other, or when you’re playing an 10 person game with a number of big ships, etc. 

We did play it with laying cards out on the table. So it wasn’t really secret. I’m sure you could shuffle through your damage cards in your hand secretly just fine, but I personally like seeing all the cards out before me anyway, so I’m not forgetting to patch up a water that really needs it. (Or forgetting to put another water in my hand, if it’s still leaking!) That’s where a damage chart might work better for the way I think. And maybe that’s just my preferences too, wanting a checkbox thing going on somehow to stay better organized. Anyway, the new artwork that just came in looks amazing! So I hate to even suggest this when that looks that great. But it was a thought we had.

And really that was the only main thought we had. Which is awesome. Because that’s only a matter of practicality, not a matter of mechanics and balance. Mechanics and balance are definitely exactly where they should be for this game.

You have a good game. I’m very impressed by its elegant simplicity and depth.

And to reply to your email, yes, your art guy knocked it out of the park lol. I love it!


Pirates! Play Test Reactions


At long last! I am writing!

Pirates! the Devil & the Deep, is cool; I’m awful about names, so I doubt I’d come up with anything else, but if I do, I’ll let you know.

I’ve read through the blog. My first thought is I really really really like how much is kept secret – that creates a really cool tension. Not only are movements secret but what is on your ship can be secret, too, and I think that’s really brilliant. How many guns? How many crew? How many cargo? Etc. That’s brilliant. The blog really helped me see how much secret information there is. The less my opponent knows about me, the better. And really puts you into that brain space of thinking, “What do I do in this situation?” It really makes you watch everything the opponent does like a hawk. Could their maneuver mean this? Why are they going that way? Etc. I love that. A lot of games let people see everything. They’re fun, but it is cool to have games where you don’t know and have to guess. 

I also like the customization at the beginning. I like picking how much cargo and how many guns and how many crew. That’s really fun, because you start to develop your own strategies. Preferred methods. Etc.

The card system seems interesting – that the type of damage is randomly drawn from the deck. I’m very curious to play that and see how it feels. I think that’s a good way of speeding up the process. And I think it totally pushes the players to imagine themselves on board the ship. Oh no, the hull’s been breached!!! But there’s a fire, captain!!! The speediness of the combat helps to give you the chaos too, forcing you to think faster. Thinking out loud: could the cards be too punishing? What if someone takes a bunch of hull shots right away and loses what matters most? All their cargo gone? Or all crew? And to counter that thought: is there really such a thing as being too punishing? This is war after all! I guess that’s like real battle, especially at sea! Naval combat is brutal and impartial to all. One well placed shot is enough to sink. So perhaps the card system isn’t too brutal, perhaps we need to understand that naval war is brutal! And maybe you get sunk quick, but the game is speedy enough to set it up again and have another go! 

Are there ever any misses in the deck to give the one being hit that brief sigh of relief? (Only to get a fire with the next card lol.) Especially at long range, at least in the movies, you always see the cannon balls plunk into the water. Of course, I don’t know a whole lot about historical actual age of sail battles, I just love the Master & Commander movie lol. I do know, when a ship gets broadsides on you, that’s a guarantee of something hitting you, I’d think. But I don’t know. 

All that to say, I’m excited to try it. I can already tell that this game has the fluidity a lot of people long for in an age of sail game. Better to play and get an understanding before saying much more about the mechanics – I don’t know the intricacies of them yet until I play! And I’m looking forward to it.

I like the idea of negotiations when you get into a certain range. You can even do stuff like giving cargo over to a pirate to evade being boarded or captured. If the pirate player is really mean, they may still try to fight after stealing goods lol. Negotiations make things interesting and gives the players that moment of direct interaction while still maintaining secrecy. Maybe the pirate thinks the Dauntless has more cargo than they are saying they have and in negotiations is demanding more. That can be fun. A little bluffing here and there.

New box art looks cool. I like the card deck!


Captain’s Log -AAR Play Test

This is an After Action Report on the last play test for our Pirate Game. This design is almost done. We have sent it off to the graphics guys for final art work. With a little luck, it might be available later this summer. At the very latest, this fall!

This looks very rough. The cards look terrible but we are we are very happy with the way the game play is turning out. This should give you a good feel for how the game works.

Pre Game

I’m playing a 2 player game against Ty.  My mission?  To safely sail my ship across the table and end the game with the most points.  We lose points for damage to our ship.  We gain points for plundering other ships or sinking pirates.  We get double points for transporting cargo to market, safely across the map.  I’m sailing out of the North.  Ty will be coming out of the South.

The wind is to my back, out of the North.  Fantastic!  That gives me the weather gage.  A huge advantage!  In theory, this puts me in the driver’s seat.  We can engage at will and fight on our terms.  We can evade and avoid contact all together.  Provided I don’t blow it.  –As I’m prone to doing at times.    

I decide to sail a Sloop.  This square rigged ship will give me a faster speed while running with the wind.  I name her the Dauntless.  My favorite!  Now what to take on board?

Since we have the wind, I want to load up with all cargo.  IF I can craftily slip past Ty and sail off the opposite table edge, that will give me 12 points.  However…  I’d better hedge my bets to be safe.  I’m going to take 1 set of guns and 2 compliments of crew.   That will cut my cargo in half but give me a little bit of resilience if I do blunder into a scrap.  I won’t be defenseless.  This will also give me options if Ty tries to make a cargo run.  In that case, I’ll need to be able to intercept him.  It’s nice to have some flexibility here. 

In this game, the configuration of cargo, guns and crew for the ships is kept secret.  Neither player will know exactly what the other has.        

Ty picks a Schooner.  Good choice.  Schooners are actually faster while reaching into the wind.  That negates much of our wind advantage.  He flies a French flag:  The Magnifique!

Opening move

Ok, we set sail, full speed ahead.  Best to appear confident right?

He sets off on a port tack, heading NE.  That doesn’t mean he is weak or scared of us.  He can’t sail straight for us because that would be directly into the wind for him. 

The main question before us now:  Is he trying to slip past us with a heavy load of cargo, or is he intent on boarding and capturing our ship?  Right now, we have no clue.

His ship is smaller and faster.  If he is loaded up with just cargo and we both just sail across the board unscathed, he will win.  An all cargo load will give him 10 points.  We can only make 6 now because of the guns and crew we carry.  That would be a 4 point loss.  Not too bad, but it’s better for us to win right?

If he is loaded up for a fight, then all we need to do is slip past him.  If we can pull that off, the score will be our 6 to his 0.  That’s the best we can hope for unless we get a chance to capture his ship or something. 

 Turn 2

No change in wind.  Wow, we are closing fast.  I guess this makes sense since we are both moving at maximum speed!  The Magnifique turns about to a starboard tack to the NW.  It is towards us!  Is this an aggressive move?  Not necessarily.  They are running out of table over there and needed to turn about anyways. 

The wind shifts a little.  Coming out of the NE now.  No big deal.  We still have the advantage. 

(Movement in this game is simultaneous.  Both players pick their course and speed in secret.  They reveal at the same time and then move.  -Similar to Sails of Glory or X-Wing miniatures.)

We are about to close.  This next move is probably the most important in the game.  Huge decision to make!!!  Depending on how we move, we could easily end up in firing range.  We still have no indication of his intent. 

What should we do?  At this point, I think we are looking to engage.  We may be out gunned.  If that’s the case, we can try to run.  We do need to test the Magnifique and see what she’s made of.  I like our position and heading.  I continue ahead but slow to a crawl.  Let’s see what Ty does. 

Turn 3

Doggonit!!  That sounded good didn’t it?  Caulk up another boneheaded move for me!  The Magnifique comes about and lines up a perfect raking shot on us.  We can’t even fire back.  Let’s see what she does.  If they have any gumption to fight, she will certainly open up now. 

And she does.  She fires 2 sets of guns.  Ok, that clears that up.  Now we know.  She is armed to the teeth and looking to take us down.  Firing on us is an act of Piracy.  Ty switches his flag to the Bella Donna.  Now we get points if we can sink him! 

Ok, now let’s let’s get a damage report.  Hopefully this won’t be too bad.  We draw 2 damage cards for a long range shot, 1 extra for the 2nd set of guns and 1 more for being raked. 

(These are the crude play test graphics.  The graphics wizards should have the final art ready soon.)

Ok, a mix.  A fire.  No big deal.  We can get that put out.  Two sail damage cards.  Not cool.  That will reduce us to minimal speed.  We are going to need to get that fixed.  Finally a hull shot.  That means Ty can randomly pick one of our ship cards to destroy.  What does he pick? 

Our guns!!!  Noooooooooo!  We only had 1.  Now we cannot return fire.  We are a sitting duck.

Now what do we do?!  It’s not over yet.  It’s important to keep a good attitude in this game.  I’ve seen things turn around from situations like this.  We still have a fighting chance.  It is a different game now.  With no guns, we’ll have to run for it.  We still have a strong crew though.  If boarded, we could win.  Maybe the wind will help us!

Noooooooooooooooo!!  The wind slows down!  With our sail damage, that brings us to an all stop.  We are dead in the water. 

Turn 4

Ok, what can we do?  The good news is that we have 2 crew left.  That means they can fix 2 things for damage control.  I put out the fire and repair one of the sails.  If we don’t get clobbered to bad in this next shot, we might be able to slip away for a win! 

The Bella Donna comes around and fires another shot.  It is still long range, just barely.  It is also still a raking shot.  Now one good thing about this, is that right now, Ty doesn’t know that he blew out our only guns.  We haven’t been able to fire at him yet.  For all he knows, we have a full compliment of guns ready to blaze away at him as soon as we get a shot. 

Another interesting puzzle for Ty:  We came to an all stop, why?  Did we do that because we had to or because we wanted to?  He doesn’t know!  All of that is hidden.  He may think that we are incapable of moving now.  Hopefully this will lead to him into making a blunderous move!  Let’s keep our fingers crossed.  Brace for impact.

Ok.  Not too bad.  A new fire, a hull shot and 2 breaches.  The hull shot destroys one of our cargo cards.  Fine.  Right now we need the crew cards!  We can deal with this. 

The wind picks back up again!  Hurray!!

Turn 5

Alright, I bring her about, 45 degrees to port and at best speed which is 2, just 1 notch slower because of the remaining sail damage.  No thoughts of glory now.  All we want to do is run and escape off the South side of the table.  If we can do that we win 4-0.  -We are down 2 points for our destroyed cargo. 

Now just a darned minute.  Belay that order!  I need to think about this.  I already made 1 bad move.  This is another key moment.  I need to think about this from the enemy’s perspective.  What are they going to do?  They can’t turn 90 degrees to starboard because that will put them in irons.  The wind is coming from that direction.  They won’t break off and turn to port because they think they are beating us now.  That means, they will most likely go ahead slow or turn slightly to starboard, right? 

If they do that, and we move 45 degrees to port, we’ll get blasted with another broadside, but this time at short range!!  We got lucky last time.  We want to minimize those shots at us before our luck runs out!

Ok, so how about we instead turn hard to starboard?  That could line up a raking shot on him!!  We can’t fire at him but he doesn’t know that yet.  It is still very valuable for us to line up a raking shot on him because then he can’t fire at us! 

Now the down side to all this is, that we could very well end up in boarding range after this move.  That’s not good but it’s better than the alternative right?  We have 2 crew.  He has at least 2 crew.  He has 1 more card that we haven’t seen.  That is mostly likely another crew.  So we are probably outnumbered for boarding but not by much.

The way I see it, if we’re going to get boarded, better that it happen now right?  We are as close as we are going to get to parity.  If we take another broadside, we might take a crew hit.  We can’t reduce his crew with broadsides.    

So we can try to run away by turning port.  He’ll most likely get 1 more good shot at us.  That could sink us.  It could also kill our crew and slow us down so that he can easily capture our ship for a massive loss:  -6 to 10.  If we are lucky yet again, we’ll slip away for a moderate win:  4 to 0.

If we turn starboard, we will most likely be boarded.  We are not favorites but we could win:  9 to -5.  I like this option.  A better reward for the risk!  New heading:  90 degrees hard about to starboard.  Let out the main sheet!

What does the Bella Donna do?  All Stop.  Woo Hoo!!!!

My crafty thinking actually paid off!  We have indeed lined up a raking shot.  The Bella Donna can’t fire at us now!  We can’t fire. Not firing on them raised an eyebrow.  We would have fired if we could.  Ty knows it now.  We know that he knows.  Well, it was fun while it lasted.  Yep the jig is up. 

Time for some damage control!  We have 4 damage cards.  Our 2 crew can repair 2 of them.  Which 2?  If we don’t fix the breaches, we’ll take on water.  If we don’t put out the fire, it will spread.  If we don’t fix the sails, we may not be able to get up the speed to escape! 

Ok, I’m going to put out the fire.  If that spreads, it can get out of control really quick.  I don’t like to mess around with fire.  I have the other crew fix the sails.  We need all the speed we can get now.  It’s time to run.  The breaches will take on water but not enough to sink us.  At least not this turn.    

The wind shifts back to the north. 

Turn 6

Ok now.  Time for another crafty move!  To make points off our cargo, we have to escape off the south edge.  The problem is that if we turn that direction, (port) we are liable to get blasted.

The Bella Donna can’t turn starboard because that’s where the wind is coming from.  What will they do?  Probably come around to port to try to line up another shot on us as we escape.  Think, think.  Ah!  I know:   All Stop!

Yes!!!  The Bella Donna turns hard to port and we line up another raking shot on her!  Ha!  They are so lucky I don’t have guns.  We’d be hauling their sorry carcasses off to be hanged now. 

I patch the 2 breaches in the hull.  We can pump out the water next turn.  No change in wind. 

Turn 7

Ok, now what?  We could just sail dead ahead and run off the map to the right side.  We’d get 0 points then and Ty would get 2 for the damage he did to us.  Hardly seems worth it. 

We can’t turn starboard.  Straight or port will likely get us shot at.  Hmmmm…   Now, what if we come about hard to port?  Maybe we can slip in behind her and then make a run for it!  Let’s try that:  90 degrees, hard to port. 

Whoa!!!   The Bella Donna stopped!  Neither of us have a shot.  I was afraid of this but guess what?  Lady luck winks at us yet again!  We are just a hair’s width out of boarding range.  Thank goodness!!

The wind slows a bit and we do indeed get all the water bailed out. 

Turn 8

We are down 1 in speed because of the wind but so it he.  His ship is faster.  Ours is slower but, his is slower while running (heading down wind).  While heading south like this, he is actually down 2 in speed (1 for the slow wind, 1 for running).  We are as close to even with him as we are going to get.  I think it’s time to make our run for it!  Do we go port or starboard?  Let’s go 45 degrees to port, best possible speed!

Ty reads my mind with the same maneuver.  He fires a broadside.  Brace for impact.

Medium range.  We take 3 damage cards plus 1 for a second gun. 

Well, the bad news is that we have 2 fires and a hull hit.  The good news is that we didn’t take any sail damage and that the hull hit destroyed another cargo.  If it had destroyed a crew, our ship would have burned and sunk!  We wouldn’t have been able to put it out.  We still have a fighting chance!

Oh no!  The wind dies off!!

Turn 9

Well, I guess the upside here to the wind dying off is that it will stop the Bella Donna dead in her tracks.  She is already -1 in speed for running. -2 for wind brings her down to 0 for speed.  We’ll probably take another broadside.  Let’s see if we can start putting some distance between us in the mean time:  Ahead full. 

We put out the fires but they get a raking shot at us. 

Ok, now it’s getting ugly.  Two fires, 2 sail damage, we take on 1 water and we have rudder damage.  That means we can’t make any course changes until we get it fixed.  The wind picks back up again.

Well, not looking good now.  We can still keep her from sinking but if we take one more blast like that, we’re done. 

Turn 10

We limp ahead at minimal speed.  The best we can do.  I’d like to fix those sails but if we do, the fire will rage out of control!  Hmmm….   We could fix 1 sail and put out 1 fire.  That will spread to another fire next turn but we can deal with that later.  That will get us making more forward progress sooner, which will improve our chances of escaping.  We are very lucky we haven’t lost any crew yet.  We still have a chance of winning if they board us.  Let’s see what the Bella Donna does now.

Well, would you look at that?!  Even at minimum speed, we shot ahead pretty quick!  We are on the inside track.  The Bella Donna was slower for running and turning but she’ll pick up speed now that she’s on a beam reach.  Hopefully fixing that sail early will be the edge we need to win this race!  No broadsides this turn.

The wind shifts!!  Out of the NE now.  Not good.  If it shifts 1 more notch to the East, we are in big trouble. 

Turn 11

Ahead full!

Oh no!  The Bella Donna does indeed pick up speed.  She swoops around, into boarding range.  Well, here we go.  At least we have a full crew and a fighting chance, but we are still the under dog.

First, Damage Control. Should I put out the fires?  Hmmm….    If I don’t, and the Bella Donna beats my crew, they will likely not have enough to stop the fire!  My ship will burn and sink.  That means they won’t get any points for capturing my ship.  On the other hand, if I win, my ship will still burn & sink, and I won’t be able to save it.  I have 2 crew now.  Just enough to put out the fire and stop it for good.  If even 1 of my crew dies in the boarding attempt, (very likely) I won’t be able to stop it later.  Well, I guess I’d better go ahead and just put the darned thing out now while I still can.  She has been a good ship. 

Boarding Party

Ty indeed has 3 crew vs my 2.

Round 1:  I kill 1 of his crew!

Round 2:  He kills 1 of my crew! 

Round 2:  He kills my last crew!  Nooooooo!!!

I lost.  He does seize my ship.  The fire is out but there is 1 breach and 2 water.  He can easily fix that with his 2 crew left.  Final score:

Me:  -6 for losing my ship.

Ty:  1 for seizing what is left of my ship, + 2 for taking the cargo on board to market for a profit for a total of 3.  He would have made more if he hadn’t of damaged my ship so badly.  Still a 9 point total victory.  Not bad. 

I fought well.  If I hadn’t lost my gun in that opening shot, this could easily have been a very different fight.  Even so, I gave him a good run for his money.  It’s all kind of my fault for giving him that first raking shot to begin with.    

If there was another player or two, this could have been a totally different situation.  Sure, Ty took my ship but now his crew is spread pretty thin.  He also has a lot damage to repair on the Dauntless before it becomes operational.  Another nearby player could have swooped in and easily stolen his prize.  Maybe even his ship as well! 

Could he fix the Dauntless in time and fight off an attack in his weakened state?  Possibly but it sure wouldn’t be easy. 

Even given all this, I still came close.  I was only 2 moves from escaping off the board for a victory!