Ahoy!: My Ten Best Pirate Board Games on the Seven Seas

Pirate board games are not commonly released. Guess the demand from landlubbing board game aficionados just isn’t enough.

But that’s ok mateys! There have been enough published in the last few years (or decades, in Loot’s case) to satisfy even the most buccaneering players among us.

Grab your rum, hop on the Jolly Roger, and come sail away with some my favorite pirate board games.

Merchants and Marauders

Number of Players: 2-4 Players
Playing Time Estimate: 180 minutes
Recommended Ages: 10 years and up

Merchants and Marauders is one of the better ranked games (just over 200th when this was published) over at BoardGameGeek. And deservedly so!

The game is beautifully done and includes nice quality pieces and board. Despite being made of plastic, the ships are quite something. And the game strikes every pirate theme nerve.
It has something of a choose-your-own-adventure feel to it, with each game feeling much different than the last. You also have multiple captains to choose from, which additional avenues for replayability. Despite their different abilities, the captains mostly do not give any one play a significant advantage or disadvantage.

The game, though, can feel more like an event than a game night. The game is extensive and turns can take quite a while. So, if anyone in your group grows bored during not-so-brief pauses between turns, then this game may not be the right one to hit the table. Or, if you are like me and overanalyze your turns–Hey, I’m working on it!–then, again, it may best to leave this one on the shelf; or, you know, speed your shit up.
Ultimately, if you’re a pirate-lover (or lover of pirates), then you owe it to yourself to play this game at least once!


Number of Players: 3-6 Players
Playing Time Estimate: 30-60 minutes
Recommended Ages: 8 years and up

Picture it: It’s 1675, and you’ve just been handed the keys to an island (the game’s namesake Jamaica).

So, what do you do?

Well, if you’re the main character depicted in the game, you throw the most awesome pirate race this side of the Atlantic!

Your objective in this game is to accumulate the most gold during the course of the race. It requires balancing making stops to loot for gold with keeping your boat advancing towards the finish line. And even pirates obey race rules: the game ends when someone crosses the finish line.

I believe most anyone would enjoy this game (unless you’re looking for a deep, immersive strategy game). But where Jamaica truly shines is with non-gamers, which can mean those who rarely play games or generally have only played “classic” games.

The game is essentially a roll-and-move game (think Sorry or Candyland), but with several layers of strategy added on. Each turn, players roll dice, but the but use those rolls to determine what actions to take based on cards in each players hand. Players choose which cards to play (face-down) and then the turn ends with all players flipping their cards and resolving actions based on the dice and cards.


Number of Players: 3-6 Players
Playing Time Estimate: 20 minutes
Recommended Ages: 8 years and up

Loot is an older game (originally released in 1992) that keeps getting an updated look. It’s also one of the quickest games on this list, requiring only around 20 minutes to complete a playthrough.

Like many of the other games on this list, Loot is a relatively lightweight game that solidly incorporates the pirate theme. Not only that, because of its lightweight nature it can serve as a great introduction to bidding mechanisms for children or new adult gamers.

Players have dual roles: defend their trading ships as travel through pirate-infested waters and use their pirate ships to attack opponents’ trading ships.

Loot ends up being a quick auction-based game that requires little pre-game explanation before getting started. Follow the simple rules and play until all cards from the deck and one pirates’ hand have been been exhausted.

If your interest is piqued, check out our full review of Loot.

Black Fleet

Number of Players: 3-4 Players
Playing Time Estimate: 60 Minutes
Recommended Ages: 14 years and up

Winner of one award and nominee for couple others, Black Fleet is a lightweight game that has you exploring the high seas of the Caribbean.

Black Fleet aims to be more family game than deeply strategic, but it still maintains a variety of tactical elements. For example, each player is responsible for maneuvering three different ships (merchant, pirate, and navy). It’s just enough that younger players may struggle initially but not enough to engage adults long-term. That said, it provides more depth than many more commonly sold family games.

Note: I have not tried the game with less than 4 players, but several reviewers have indicated that the game loses some appeal with lower player counts due to the game’s dependency on player interaction.


Number of Players: 2-5 Players
Playing Time Estimate: 45 Minutes
Recommended Ages: 8 years and up

Imagine its 1672 and you are leading a jailbreak from a fortified prison. In the game, you must determine the best way for your six pirates to escape the fortress of Cartagena and hop in a boat destined for Tortuga Cove.

Cartagena is a great family game that fits into the mold of Ticket To Ride, arguably better than the classic lightweight game. One primary advantage of Cartagena is the ability to complete a game in around half the time

The game revolves around a simple question each turn: Should I draw cards or play card?

Drawing card actually delays your escape in the short-term by forcing you to move backwards; so, players have to weigh the trade-offs. There are other strategy-based decisions that go along with this. For example, circumstances may dictate you may further back than normal; or you may be able to draw an extra card; or performing a certain action will prevent the other pirates in your group from escaping first.

Dread Pirate

Number of Players: 2-4 Players
Playing Time Estimate: 60 Minutes
Recommended Ages: 8 years and up

Dread Pirate makes no bones about what a real pirate’s objective should be: accumulate more bounty than all other pirates!

Over the course of the game, pirates travel to ports where they can acquire (through trading or raiding) more jewels and engage in skirmishes for the chance of more treasure.

The game ends once all jewels from pirates’ starting ports have been taken or transported to Dread Island.

The best part of the game is its aesthetics and adherence to theme; however, the game is super light on strategy and is largely dependent on who rolls the dice higher/lower.

Rum and Bones: Second Tide

Number of Players: 2-6 Players (though I recommend 2)
Playing Time Estimate: 60 minutes
Recommended Ages: 10 years and up

Rum and Bones: Second Tide is one of those instances where the sequel is better than the original. Second Tide improves on the original (e.g., reduced downtime between player turns) while maintaining the elements everyone enjoyed.

The components are top-notch: great-looking artwork, sturdy materials, and nice boards.

The base game features two factions that have varying heroes (and, in turn, powers/skills) that are balanced fairly well. You also have the option of purchasing additional factions to further diversify the game.

Each turn involves you activating either one of your heroes or your pirate crew in order to attack the other player’s ship. At different points in the game, you may instead be forced to deal with the kraken who has the ability to incapacitate your team in short order.

Overall, Rum and Bones: Second Tide is a fun, beautiful game with just the right amount of strategy and replayability (especially if you are willing to purchase expansions). The only downside could be the time involved in each play session: plan for around 60 minutes with additional time to set up and put away the game.

Dead Men Tell No Tales

Number of Players: 2-5 Players
Playing Time Estimate: 60-75 minutes
Recommended Ages: 8 years and up

Dead Men Tell No Tales’ biggest draw, other than having my favorite pirate board game title, is that it is currently the only pirate-themed cooperative game. Players work together to board Skelit’s Revenge, a ship filled with skeletons and large amounts of treasure. During each player’s turn, he/she decide whether to take an action or pass their actions to another play; this allows players to maximize the abilities and actions of the entire team.


Number of Players: 2-6 Players
Playing Time Estimate: 45 minutes
Recommended Ages: 10 years and up

Libertalia, 2013 Spiel des Jahres Game of the Year recommendation, positions you as a pirate captain who is competing with other pirate captains to attack a ship and gain the most booty.

You have the same cards as your opponents at your disposal: 9 cards are randomly selected, and then each player finds those cards from their respective deck and puts them in hand. So, you will need to figure out how to best leverage your character’s unique abilities in order to gain more treasure than everyone else.

The cartoonish artwork and surprising replayability makes this a great one to add to a board game collection.

Pirates Cove

Number of Players: 3-5 Players
Playing Time Estimate: 60-90 Minutes
Recommended Ages: 8 years and up

Pirate’s Cove is a getting a bit long in the plank at this point: It was originally released in 2002. Back then, though, it was recognized as a great overall game when it won a top 10 game of 2002 award.

In Pirate’s Cove you are a novice pirate who is seeking the eponymous legendary hideaway. With only a map and a ragged ship, you begin your adventure.

The adventure takes place over 12 rounds, each of which involves you traveling to one of six islands. You, as well as other players, secretly decide which island will be the destination. If multiple players end up on the same island, their ships enter combat to determine who gains the island’s rewards for the turn.

Dice rolls add some luck elements to the game, but the game largely revolves around planning your turns, knowing when to engage (or not!) in combat with other ships, and sometimes bluffing your destination (e.g., let others fight over the best island and reap the rewards from a slightly less attractive option).

The primary downside of this game is its price: even on the secondary market (e.g., eBay) it’ll cost you around 60-70 dollars.

About Wesley Lyles 117 Articles
Wesley is a jack of all trades hobbyist. Though much of his spare time is spent playing board games (especially solo card games like Legendary), Hearthstone, Rocket League, and MLB The Show.e He also enjoys most sports, but pays way too much attention to baseball and football.

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