New rules trial: same suit combat

16 Nov 2014 by Chris

I’ve been playing some games with my (now) 8yo daughter, and trialling some extra rules which work particularly well for Card Pirates 2.0. Here’s the second one:

Same suit combat

When attacking and defending, all combat cards a player plays must be of the same suit. The defender does not have to follow the attacker’s suit, but must still play only cards of any one suit when defending.

This works particularly well with advanced sailing, which I’m thinking of making the default rule at the moment now card come more plentifully. It forces the player into agonising choices about keeping a sole 10 card, or using it to sail to a particular island, or catch up with their quarry. Assembling a killer combat crew becomes that much harder and more skillfull.

What do you think?

New rules trial: middle start square

15 Nov 2014 by Chris

I’ve been playing some games with my (now) 8yo daughter, and trialling some extra rules which work particularly well for Card Pirates 2.0. Here’s the first:

Middle start square

Leave the central square clear of cards at the start (one more in the draw pile), and place all the players in the middle.

If the players all start in the middle, it leaves a bunch of cards at the beginning for someone to collect later, it shows your intentions much more clearly right from the start and it prevents the luck of having a suited card from the island you start on.

What do you think?

Card Pirates 2nd edition: smaller map, more exploring, more predictable game length, easier defeat recovery, faster game setup, and more!

16 Jul 2014 by Chris

I wrote the first edition of Card Pirates last summer, and was surprised at how fun the simple initial version of the rules turned out of be. It provided a ton of entertainment and was good enough for us to start work on an iOS port which is currently about two thirds complete.

As I’ve been playing and tweaking it, a number of issues have surfaced, particularly around game end:

In order to fix this, a few major and related changes were needed, which now forms the 2nd edition of the game. The rule changes are detailed below, and the rules page has been updated to reflect these changes. The coming iOS version of the game will use the second edition of the rules - we are playtesting them in earnest now.

Card Pirates is now easier to play and more exciting. It’s a more predictable length, it’s more strategic and it’s definitely more fun. See what you think!

Reduced map size

I have reduced the map size to 5x5, but put the islands right at the edges. This means more exploring, a feeling that it’s harder to get places and game that feels more risky to sail in. Anything that increases player dilemmas is a good thing!

It also means that outside edge cards are more likely to be explored - these were often ignored in the 1st edition.

Card stack and draw each turn

The extra cards are now kept in a ‘card stack’ next to the board. Every player each turn takes one card from this stack before moving. Now we control the cards being fed in, the hand size is much more uniform overall, only really being affected by combat and burying choices.

Dead cards and island sailing cards added to stack

Dead cards from combat, and cards used to sail from islands, are now added to the bottom of this stack. By putting dead cards on the stack, combat now lengthens the game which gives people a chance to recover if attacked hard. Also by making island visits potentially lengthen game, any move that makes players points will give the others extra chances to catch up.

Game is additionally over when card stack runs out

The game is over when the last Jack is placed, as before, but also at the end of the turn in which the card stack runs out. Both of these things are quite easy to see coming. The only way to force the end game abruptly is to play the last Jack, but that requires you to hold the Jack rather than a more expensive card, so ending the game this way could cause you to lose.

It also now makes more sense to grab the Ace with a Queen or King, as that prevents the game ender gaining three points on their last turn.

Only two players per sea square

Players can no longer sail into combat with two other player ships in the square. This prevents players from being hounded if they’re already down: they’ll get at least one move before being attacked again.

Also, it’s more thematic - attacking a ship with another nearby was a huge risk for a pirate as they might have both turned on the attacker.

Players can drift diagonally, and on four cards

Diagonal drifting makes sense now there is more sea between the islands, and the extra card before drifting reflects the fact that players pick a card up each turn.

That’s it for the new rules. It makes more a much more fun experience: I’d encourage you to check out the new rules, especially if you’ve played the old game, and see how much of a difference it makes!

Rules 1.6.0: playing more than one combat card when attacking

12 Jul 2014 by Chris

I’ve tweaked the rules for attacking and defending: players can now choose up to three cards to attack and defend with.

This changes the game in interesting ways. Choosing more than one card is a big risk: you stand to lose a lot of your crew by doing so, as all cards used are always lost in the attack. However, the attacker does not have to play all three: this means a defender has more chance of winning if they have a decent crew. They do have to be careful not to sacrifice their whole hand though, as that would leave them very vulnerable. Overall, it makes combat a lot more strategic than simply “does the other ship have a 10”, which was how combat often went beforehand.

One drawback is that it might potentially encourage hanging around islands in order to pick up a slew of cards than end up there. Card drops are quite random, and unless you are cleverly card counting you are unlikely to know which suits other players will play in combat. However, after a big fight it could leave a large stack of cards right next to a lucky player. If this proves to become a problem on 3/4 player games, I’ll think about introducing a rule to only allow the picking up of one face card per island visit.

What do you think? If you try it, let me know how it affects your games!

Development update: RubyMotion, screenshots and new movement movie

03 Jul 2014 by Chris

We’ve been working hard an iOS version of the game recently. We’ve switched away from MonkeyX to RubyMotion and have got the basics of the game in.

We currently have a hotseat version with movement, burying, drifting, card pickup and exchange and a captains log. We’re working on finishing combat and getting in Game Center support so you can play easily with friends.

Here are some screenshost of the board and some of the panels:

english-island map-board sail-ho

What do you think?

Art style and new website

12 Mar 2014 by Chris

We’ve not been talking about Card Pirates much recently. Richard, Bryony and I have been beavering away creating a new art style and sorting out the basic mechanics of the game.

We’re finally ready to show what we’ve been working on, and have put together an upgraded website to show off the art style.

What do you think?

new website

The official alternative ending

21 Jan 2014 by Chris

I’ve just released rules version 1.5.0 with one important change: the addition of an alternative ending:

The game ends when all treasure has been reclaimed and all the island face cards have been replaced by Jacks, or at any point there are no facedown cards on the board.

I’ve realised that someone can artificially extend the game indefinitely if they’re holding the final Jack. If they want to keep the game going, it’s probably because they have a low score, and therefore are likely to not have a ship weighed down by treasure and therefore less manoeuvrable. They could then potentially dart around the map without being caught for a long time before another player can catch them.

This is a viable strategy in some ways: it forces the other player(s) to risk burying treasure in order to take on more crew cards and find that vital final Jack. If it goes on for too long though it’ll become boring, so this rule adds a final stop gap: if there are no face-down cards left then the game is automatically over.

In theory a player could keep burying treasure to avoid this, but then they’ll run out of cards quite quickly which would make them vulnerable to an attack, so hopefully this will put paid to delaying tactics.

Cross platform development with Monkey-X

17 Jan 2014 by Richard

We are currently at the end of our first week of development on the mobile version of Card Pirates. I thought it would be a good opportunity to quickly introduce you to the platform we are using to develop the game and the reasons why we chose it.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I sat down with Chris and played Card Pirates for the first time. If you haven’t already played it, do it! It takes a very short amount of time to pick up the rules and the game is seriously fun! My first thought was “Why have you not developed this into a computer game yet!?” Chris is an extremely talented software developer, a mentor to myself and is understandably in high demand, so I offered to help out. We discussed platform choices and decided the game would work best on mobile devices. We wanted to target both iOS and Android, so the development platform had to be cross-platform and allow us to develop the game in relatively short amount of time (we set ourselves an ambitious deadline).

Introducing Monkey-X! Monkey is primarily a games programming language (often extended further) which when compiled can be translated into a number of platforms, including C++, C#, Java, Javascript and ActionScript. More specifically the games can be run on iOS, XBox, Android, HTML5 and Flash platforms with little to no code changes. For us this is a huge win. There are number of technical challenges that we need to overcome in terms of device resolutions and networking, but for the huge wins in cross-platformability these are relatively minor.

We have ended the week with basic movement and a very crude title screen (apologise for the programmer art). This may seem fairly insubstantial, but we have a lot of base code for loading resources, managing screens, shuffling and dealing cards, drawing the map, calculating valid moves and actually making those moves on the game board. Phew.

We are certainly aiming for a more playable demo for next Friday, so watch out for that! In the meantime you can log in to our new twitter account to get updates, or our facebook page - or you can keep coming back to this blog for more. Sign up to receive updates on the upcoming mobile/tablet app:

Don't worry, we won't give your email address to anyone else. Looking forward to posting more information soon!

Announcement: Card Pirates the video game!

08 Jan 2014 by Chris

Exciting news: today my friend Richard Patching and I started working on Card Pirates the video game!

I’ve been looking for an excuse to work with Richard for ages, and I’m really excited about collaborating on this project with him. We’re planning to blog on development progress over the next few weeks. Richard is going to be taking charge of the development, and I’m going to take the lead on the design and business side of things. We’ve already managed to get some concept art for how the game will look: we’ll be talking more about that soon. Card Pirates will start out on mobile devices: we’re initially going to build it for iOS (iPhones and iPads) with a view to making an Android version soon after.

You can log in to our new twitter account to get updates, or our facebook page - or you can keep coming back to this blog for more. Sign up below to receive updates on the upcoming mobile/tablet app. Look forward to posting more information soon!

Now on Board Game Geek

04 Sep 2013 by Chris

Card Pirates is official: it’s now on Board Game Geek - the number one board gaming fan site.

Visit the Card Pirates entry

Pretty cool huh! If you’re playing it, do add a review and some images…

New variant: Advanced Sailing (I really like this one)

30 Aug 2013 by Chris

I really like this last variant that we came up with on holiday. It makes the game so much more interesting and potentially much harder to play. It’s called Advanced Sailing.

The deal is this: when you want to land on an island you have you use a crew card that’s the same suit as the island suit that you’re trying to land on. That means that if you’re trying to land on Heart island, you must do this with a Heart crew card. You are also no longer allowed to drift onto an island square.

This can get extremely tricky. If a particular island is surrounded by a sea of cards with different suits, it’s a little bit like treacherous rocks before you get to the harbour. It’s hard to approach the island as you keep picking up cards of the wrong suit on the way. With three or four players you only have a few cards, so the cards you keep in your hand become even more difficult to deal with. You end up burying valuable cards in the vain hope that you might return for them later, only to have an opportunist pick them up.

Advanced Sailing demonstration

In this game, Club island is difficult to get to.

This variant is probably only worth trying when you’ve played a few times. It is trickier and more strategic, and can be quite frustrating, and results in lower scoring games. You might want to play with Simple Politics to keep the game length down.

See how it affects your games! Is it frustrating, or do you prefer the extra strategic choices? Let us know!

New variant: Solo play

28 Aug 2013 by Chris

My nine-year old son is I think determined to break his own all-time Card Pirates playing record. He can’t seem to either stop playing, or when he’s not playing, asking for another game! We made these Solo Play variant rules specifically for him!

The game plays as normal, with some simple exceptions: you get all 12 of the extra cards at the beginning of the game, but each time you sail or drift you must discard an extra card from your hand. The discarded card is put to one side, plays no further part in the game, and is not counted for scoring. The game is over as normal, or when you can no longer move or wish to move. You then count up your score to see how you did!

What do you think? More importantly: can you beat a score of 16?

1.3.0: Upgraded politics

27 Aug 2013 by Chris

Another variant that we came up with on holiday was to do with the politics and intrigue on the islands. We decided that the game was normally over too quickly when we end it just as the Aces are removed, so we changed it so that all the different islands had to have a Jack on it - that is, no further exchanges are possible.

This makes for a potentially much longer game, and makes the Jacks as ‘game enders’ that much more valuable. Trying to guess when the game is going to end is a big part of Card Pirates, so that attacks can be timed appropriately.

Thanks to an identical suggestion from someone else I now think that this should be an integral part of the normal game. I’ve therefore switched the rules around: playing until the Jacks are placed is now the standard rule, and the old Aces rules is now a “Simple politics” variant. See what you think!

New variant: Random Island Placement

26 Aug 2013 by Chris

I’ve just been away with the family for a couple of weeks, and lots of games and playtesting ensued. We came up with some great variants which I’m going to be adding to the rules over the next couple of weeks.

The first variant: Random Island Placement!


At the beginning of the game, each player takes it in turns to take a piece and place an island on any square they like with their token on it, before they look at the cards you’ve gained. This creates much more uniqueness for each game: especially when combined with some Advanced Sailing rules that we came up with that I’ll reveal later. It also works brilliantly with Treacherous Seas….

See what you think! We noticed it added more randomness to the length of the games, and allowed more luck to creep in: how did you find it?

1.2.0: Changes to drifting

11 Aug 2013 by Chris

I’ve been considering whether the drift rules work correctly or not. Thematically, drifting fits - you don’t have enough crew to man the boat, or your boat is too weighed down with treasure, special cards or landlubbers to sail properly.

In a three player game you only start with a few crew cards: in a four player game you have even less, which means that you are constantly fighting for crew as soon as you get a bit of treasure. Burying treasure “lightens the boat”, which should make drifting in light winds with half a crew much easier.

After some thought and a few more playtests, I’ve changed the drifting rules:

Let me know what you think of the new rules!

Trumping other potential placements with a Jack

10 Aug 2013 by Chris

After playing for a few turns you start getting a sense of who has which cards, especially if the other players start taking them off you by attacking you! It also pays to watch who seems to be clearly heading for a particular island…

Example: At one point my daughter and I were racing to an island to drop off a King or Queen there in return for the Ace. Unfortunately my son managed to get there first with a Jack: he ransacked the island!

This trumped both cards: as you cannot replace a lower card with a higher one, once the Jack is exchanged on the island no further exchanges are possible.

Therefore a Jack is possibly the most powerful face card in the game. It’s worth the least points, but it can always be exchanged on an island for something else, and it can stop any other higher card taking treasure.

1.1.0: Burying treasure now part of main rules

09 Aug 2013 by Chris

We played with the “Burying treasure” variant last night. It was so fun that I immediately decided it had to be part of the main rules. It’s not that complicated and adds some interesting strategic options.

My motivation in burying my treasure was that I had a lot of face cards and two Aces, and only one crew card. Therefore I needed to cut my card count down in order to be able to drift, and not have to place a crew card, thereby building up a crew for an attack - you need at least two crew cards to attack at the moment. However, I left my treasure too close to my daughter’s ship: she promptly dig the lot up. I attacked her immediately, but was very unlucky and managed to draw two ‘2’ cards from her hand. She went on to win with 9 points to my 1. Ouch :)

Telling great stories

08 Aug 2013 by Chris

Loving the chance to tell pirate stories with my kids through playing Card Pirates. The island interaction is a basic way of doing this: in the manual it has some plot ideas for what happens when different cards are exchanged.

Here are a few other ideas below, which I’ve incorporated into the rules:

Can you think of any other story lines that will fit nicely?

Version 1.0.1: rule clarifications

07 Aug 2013 by Chris

I’ve clarified a few rules after more play testing last night in version 1.0.1 of the rules:

Great fun was had last night. My 7 year old daughter attacked me twice in a row early on, without waiting for a perfect opportunity, which served her very well. She stripped my ship of all treasure maps and decent crew, leaving me to drift for the next few turns. She ended up winning her first game with 6 points to her old brother’s 5. I only scored 1 - clearly I need practice!

The game is quite variable in length - it really depends how many face cards get dealt initially, and whether they are hard to find or not. We took 30 minutes last night and ran out of time, although there were probably only 10 minutes or so left. If you do run out of time, it’s easy to simply count the points to decide the winner after any round.

Representing wind speed

06 Aug 2013 by Chris

When playtesting the game, we are always looking for thematic story like events that we can use to tell the story of the game. Last night we had a situation looking a little like this:

Trying to get to Club Island - which way to go?

I needed to get to Club Island in a couple of turns. It’s interesting that I found myself saying: “I’ll take the North West route around that storm that’s due West, as the wind looks better there.”

What I meant was this: I was planning to get to the 8 of clubs at 1 north east of me in my first turn. I could then guarantee to get to Club Island on the second turn, as I could then use the 8 to move straight there. If I went South West, I might not get the card I needed at to 2 or 3.

Of course, I could go through the storm at 4, but then I’d have to place down an extra card to move there, which I could ill afford at the time.

It’s fun that upturned cards in the sea, left by others as they travel through, effectively represent known good/bad sailing conditions as you pass through, which is a lot like wind speed, and weather.

First version of rules now available

04 Aug 2013 by Chris

The first version of the rules (version 1.0.0) are now available here.

I’m looking for feedback and will continue playtesting. Please do let me know if you try the game!