Pirates Scenarios

These are some home-made scenarios for Pirates of the Spanish Main and its sequels. If you try them out, I'd be pleased to hear how they worked out for you.

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The Isles of El Dorado (simplified 06/2007)

This is a simple economic-addition scenario. The idea is that, instead of building your whole fleet at the beginning, you build it progressively throughout the game, and that the wild islands continually produce wealth. This scenario will work for as many players as you want (3-4 is best). This is a game that will play quickly at the beginning, and get slower and more interesting as the fleets grow.

You will need an opaque mug, preferably a wide one, to hold treasure coins. Set up the wild islands (three islands, plus one for each player), then a home island for each player. Create a treasure pool made up of at least 54 treasure coins (six cards' worth), plus (optionally) one unique treasure per player. Put all the coins into the mug and mix them well. Put four treasures on each wild island. Each player gets 12 points to spend on ships and crew at the start of the game.

At the start of each player's turn, that player can spend his/her treasures to buy ships and crew; one gold is worth one point. You can save for big ships, or spend your gold as soon as it comes in. You must overpay if you don't have exact change for what you buy. The coins you spend go into the mug. Unique treasures do not go back in the mug if they are removed from the game.

At the end of the last player's turn, put one coin from the mug on each each wild island that has less than four coins. If a fort is on an island, newly-added coins on that island go into the fort. Such coins cannot be spent until they are brought back to the player's home island.

Play for 16 turns. The winner is the player with the most masts afloat at the end (count all masts currently standing on all your ships). Gold on the home island is a tie-breaker if needed.

Thar She Blows!

This is a very different scenario, in that there are no wild islands. Lay out a home island for each player (at least 5L apart), and build your fleets as usual. Each player contributes the normal amount of treasure coins (no unique treasures), which are set aside, face-down.

This scenario adds a fifth kind of orders a ship can be given: Whaling. Your ship must be at least 2L from any island, and 1L from all other ships, to get these orders. If you give a ship Whaling orders, it remains motionless, and you roll a die for that ship.

  1. If the ship has no treasure, nothing happens. If it does have treasure on board, it is rammed by a rogue whale! Roll another die, and remove that many treasure coins from the ship. If you run out of treasure coins, start removing masts. If you rolled a 6, the ship loses all its cargo and becomes a mastless derelict, regardless of size.
  2. Nothing in sight but seagulls.
  3. An experienced crew can find whales where landlubbers see only the ocean. If your ship has treasure aboard, treat this roll as a 5 (see below); if not, nothing happens.
  4. Nantucket sleigh ride! Roll a die. If it comes up 1-3, the whale got away; if 4-6, you caught the whale (as if you'd rolled a 5, as below).
  5. You caught a whale! Add 1 treasure coin, chosen at random, to this ship's cargo.
  6. You found a pod of whales! Fill your ship's cargo holds with treasure coins.

Since there are no islands to explore, Explorer crew have a new function as expert lookouts. Perched in the crow's nest and searching for whales, an Explorer lets you add +1 to a ship's die rolls for Whaling orders if it has no treasure on board. Explorers can't help with a Nantucket-sleigh-ride roll.

All the other usual rules apply. If hunting whales bothers you, you can say you're fishing for tuna or marlin instead of whaling. If fishing bothers you, you're probably too sensitive to be playing a game about pirates anyway. Arrr!

The Midas Touch

If you buy a pirate enough rum, you'll hear all kinds of stories, from the plausible to the absurd. One tale that keeps going around is the legend of Captain Midas' Doubloon, a cursed coin that turns men and ships into solid gold. Most men wouldn't go near such a dreadful thing, but there are some gold-crazed sea dogs who would risk it all for the benefits it could bring.

Set up for a 40-point game as usual, except that the treasures should include exactly one 6-point coin; this is the Midas Doubloon. Play as usual, with the following additional rules:

  1. The Midas Doubloon gets explored and taken aboard like any other treasure coin. Unlike unique treasures, you don't have to take it.
  2. At the start of each player's turn, if one of his/her ships has the Doubloon, one of that ship's crew turns into gold (the ship loses one crew). If the ship has no crew left, one of its masts turns to gold (it loses a mast). If all the masts are down, the ship becomes a normal derelict; the Doubloon can do no further harm to that ship. Crew and masts that turn to gold aren't worth anything -- the gold crew get buried at sea, and the gold masts are so heavy that they must be jettisoned to avoid capsizing the ship.
  3. The ship with the Doubloon can throw it onto a ship (friend or foe) that it is touching, as a free move; the ship that receives it can't throw it back onto the ship it came from. You can also unload the cursed coin onto any explored island. Neither of these actions stops the Doubloon's effect on the ship that had it at the start of the turn.
  4. You cannot unload the Doubloon in a fort -- they won't take it.
  5. If a ship brings the Doubloon back to its home island, all other gold on that ship is worth +1 more than its face value. The Doubloon itself is worth 6, and goes out of the game once it has arrived at a home island.

The Golden Goose

There are legends of an island, hidden in fog and surrounded by dangerous reefs, where lives a marvelous bird that lays golden eggs. Is it just a children's fairy tale? Is it real? Can it be found? And if you succeed in harvesting its bounty, will your "friends" let you get away with it?

Start by placing one island in the middle of the play area. This is Goose Island, and it is not considered a wild island. Players take turns placing the following terrain: two Reefs in direct contact with this island, and six Fog Banks within L of the island. These Fog Banks should be fairly evenly spaced; it's okay if they touch each other. Each player then sets up two islands as usual, as long as no island is within L of the fog surrounding Goose Island.

Players get 40 points to buy their ships and crew. Each player contributes two sets of treasure coins (each containing 6 coins and worth 12 gold), one set for the wild islands and one for the Goose. Sets of coins for the Goose cannot include unique treasures. Divide the wild-island coins evenly among the wild islands. Place five of the Goose coins on Goose Island.

Play the game as usual, with these differences:

  1. No one can build a fort on Goose Island or leave crew there.
  2. Exploring Goose Island doesn't work like it does elsewhere. You choose coins at random, and you can't look at them until after you've loaded them onto your ship. Ships and crew with special abilities to look at or swap treasures don't work on this island.
  3. At the start of each player's turn, if there are between one and four coins on Goose Island, add random treasures from the Goose's coins until there are exactly five coins there. If there are five coins on the island, the Goose's nest is full and she lays no eggs. If there aren't enough Goose coins left to add up to five, put all the remaining coins there. When the last of the Goose's coins is in play, announce that the Goose is done laying for the season. There will be no more coins added for the rest of the game.
  4. If someone takes all the Goose coins off the island before the Goose is done laying, he/she has killed the Golden Goose, and no more coins get added for the rest of the game. The player who killed the Goose gets a -1 penalty on all his/her ships' boarding rolls for the rest of the game, because the others are so angry at him/her for this heinous crime.

The Live Volcano

Volcanoes are popular choices for people who make their own islands. But, after putting all that work into a gorgeous-looking volcano, are you going to just let it sit there? Of course not! Volcanoes can erupt, you know, and that's bad for nearby ships.

At the end of each turn, one player rolls a die. If it comes up 1, the volcano erupts, and every ship within 2L of it loses one mast from flying lava bombs. Ghost ships are unaffected if they are ghostly that turn. Any crew who have been left on the volcano island are killed, and if anyone was foolish enough to build a fort on that island, the fort is destroyed. Gold on the island is unharmed. Once the volcano has erupted, it will not erupt again for the rest of the game.

Do not use the Volcano unique treasure if you play this scenario.

Paradise Island

Sailors in the Caribbean aren't the most literate lot in the world, or the brightest. It should surprize no one that they often get their stories confused, and that's probably what happened with the tale of Paradise Island. Someone must have heard a missionary describing Heaven with its streets of gold, then got to thinking about the perfect place for a pirate to plunder, and conjured up a sailor's dream. Who wouldn't drop anchor at an island where they use gold to pave the streets? Of course, there is no such island. Or is there?

Set up for a normal 40-point game, but add one wild island in the middle of the map. This is Paradise Island, and it has the following attributes.

  1. Instead of getting a portion of the usual treasure coins, Paradise Island gets its own set of coins, two each of 1's, 2's, 3's, and 4's.
  2. Paradise Island is a totally peaceful place. No ship docked at this island can harm another or be harmed in any way whatsoever; this includes the ship's crew and treasure.
  3. Because Paradise Island is such a wonderful place, some sailors are reluctant to leave. For each ship that starts its turn docked at Paradise, roll a die for each crew on that ship. On a roll of 1 or 2, the crew deserts and is removed from the game.
  4. If a ship docks at Paradise Island and explores it, that ship can take away treasure coins equal to the number of empty cargo holds it has on board. This represents big lumps of gold, hastily dug up from a street when the locals weren't looking. For example, a 2-point coin from Paradise takes up two cargo spaces. Mark the Paradise coins with a tiny PotSM die to distinguish them from normal treasure.
  5. If a Paradise coin gets taken from a ship by boarding or by a special ability, the ship that takes it must have room for it, according to the same rules as for picking up such treasures. If the receiving ship doesn't have room for it, the Paradise coin stays where it was; the receiving ship gets nothing.
  6. If a ship carrying Paradise treasure sinks, such treasure is lost. Rafts and Divers can't recover it.
  7. A Paradise coin that makes it to someone's home island is worth 3 times its face value. Such coins are off-limits to ships that can steal from other people's home islands.

Ted the T-Rex

Somebody somewhere posted a picture of a dinosaur stomping around a wild island and attacking a ship that docked there. This idea seems just too cool, especially if you play with young people.

Use a plastic dinosaur that is smaller than the biggest ship. Put it on a wild island, preferably one with lots of gold. When a ship docks there, roll a die. On a roll of 1, the dinosaur bites off one of your masts. On a 2, it eats one of your crew (or steps on him, if it's a plant-eater). Each turn, the dinosaur tries to attack only the first ship that docks there. It cannot be killed or otherwise removed from the island.

To make a "Lost World" game, put a dinosaur on every wild island.

Rain Squalls

One common kind of "terrain" that you don't see in Pirates is the rain squall. The history of naval battles has many examples of captains using local storms to hide in, usually to good effect. But don't forget that the high winds in such squalls can be a mixed blessing to a sailing ship.

The easiest way to make your own Rain Squall terrain is to use the blank backs of the original PotSM islands, which had no terrain printed on them.

A ship that touches a rain squall is instantly pulled into the center of it. Such a ship cannot attack, ram, or board; nor can any other ship attack, ram, or board it. When the ship leaves the squall, roll a die. On a roll of 1, the ship loses a mast from the winds in the storm, and then leaves the squall in any direction it wants; start its move from its location in the center of the squall. On a roll of 2-3, the ship leaves the squall unharmed. On a 4-6, the ship leaves the squall as on a 2-3, and gets an extra S move this turn from the storm's winds.

The Other World (new 07/2007)

There is a lake, studded with islands, somewhere. No one knows where it is; the only way to get there is to sail your ship into a whirlpool and hope it comes out in one piece. But if you can find this lake, your dreams of gold will be satisfied at last by the heaps of treasure on the islands there.

Set up a gaming area with no wild islands, just home islands and 2-4 whirlpools (and any other terrain you wish to use). Then set up a separate gaming area with only wild islands, the same number of whirlpools as in the first area, and such terrain as you wish to use. Put the usual amount of gold on these wild islands. A ship that wants to load gold will have to brave two whirlpool passages, one to the lake of wild islands and one to get home. An enemy who might want to guard your return route will be thwarted by not knowing which whirlpools you'll use.

For a real twist, combine this scenario with the "Lost World" rules under "Ted the T-Rex" above.

The Pirates' Race (new 01/2008)

This scenario is dedicated to those captains who value speed above all else. This game will be a lot more fun with three or more players.

You will need 12 wild islands. Lay them out in an oval with roughly S+S between each island. These also mark the race course. Then put a home island for each player at least 2L from the nearest wild island and at least 3L from any other home island. Don't put them inside the oval.

You will also need a mug with at least four cards' worth of treasure coins (no 7's or uniques). Mix these well, and put one coin on each wild island, face down. Each player gets 40 points to build ships and crew. Place them at your home islands as usual.

When the starter's musket fires, the game proceeds according to normal rules, with the following exceptions:

When all surviving ships have returned to their home islands for the last time, determine the winner according to the normal rules.

Convoy Command (new 01/2008)

Picking off an isolated ship here and there is safe, but you're limited in what you can get. The real money can be found in convoys of merchant ships. Because such convoys are usually escorted, this can be a dangerous game, but there are pirates who like it that way.

One player controls the convoy; the other will attack it. If you have three players, the third will also attack the convoy. With four or more players, two control the convoy (each controls half) and the rest will attack it. Your play space should be roughly 3' (1m) wide, and at least 4-1/2' (1.5m) long. There are no islands in this scenario.

Each attacker gets 40 points to build a fleet. The convoy gets as many points' worth as all the attackers combined. The convoy also gets three merchant ships (see below) for each attacker. If the convoy has two commanders, divide the convoy fleet points and the merchant ships evenly between them. One commander has to be designated "first commander;" this determines whose ships will move onto the table first.

A merchant ship has no more than 4 masts, at least as many cargo as masts, and a speed of S or L. The total mast count for each "threesome" of merchant ships cannot be higher than 7. They cost no points and carry no crew; their cannons and special abilities do not work. Fill each merchant ship's cargo holds with randomly-chosen treasure coins (no uniques), which are placed face-down on the merchants' deck plates.

The attackers set up their fleets along the two long edges of the game table. Each ship must be no more than L away from another ship in that attacker's fleet.

At the start of each turn, the first commander rolls a die, which determines how many ships he/she can bring onto the table in that turn. Ships moving onto the table are all placed with their sterns on the table edge at once, and then each moves normally. You do not have to bring in the full amount of ships rolled, but you must bring in at least one merchant ship for every fighting ship, until you've brought in all of one kind or the other. Once all of the first commander's ships have moved onto the table, the other convoy commander's ships can start moving on the following turn.

The convoy commander's job is to bring his/her merchant ships from one edge of the table to the opposite edge; they cannot move off the side. The attacker's job is to steal as much gold as possible, either by boarding merchant ships or by dismasting and towing them off the side of the game area. If any ship is sunk, all its treasure is lost.

Merchant ships must move straight ahead at their full move, unless doing this would cause a collision with any other ship. In that case, the merchie can swerve to the side or slow down.

Play until all merchant ships have moved off the table, been sunk, or have had all their gold taken away. The convoy player adds up the gold in the merchant ships he/she moved off the end of the table. The attacker adds up the gold he/she stole from boarding and from merchant ships he/she towed off the side of the table. High score wins.

Treasure Island II (new 02/2008)

This game takes gold-hunting to an entirely new level for 2-6 players. Set up six wild islands in a circle in the middle of the game area, with S+S between each island. Put three Reefs in the middle of the circle, touching each other to make one big obstacle. Number each island with a Pirate die, 1-6. For treasure, use six each of the numbers 1-4. Set aside your 5's, 6'es, and 7's in a separate pile. Don't use unique treasures. Build your fleets as usual.

At the start of the game, each player can load only one gold coin from each wild island. Your initial goal is to find coins of four different values, which represent the four pieces of an old treasure map, and bring them home. Once you have at least one of four different numbers at your home island, you've assembled the map, and you know where to dig for the good stuff. Also at this time, the restriction on loading one coin per island is removed for that player.

Roll a die; the wild island marked with that number becomes Treasure Island for that player. If that island is already someone else's Treasure Island, roll again. Choose four coins at random from the pile of high-value coins, and put them in a face-down stack on this island. No one can load these coins off the island except the player whose "map" sent him/her to that island. Each of that player's ships must dock at its home island when the four map pieces are there, or spend a turn touching a friendly ship that has docked there, before it can load from the high-value stack.

The winner is the first player to bring all four high-value coins from his/her Treasure Island to his/her home island. If no one can do this, determine the winner by the normal rules.

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Not All Ships Can Acceptably Race (new 09/2010)

The game map is a large Race Day race track (the one-page oval track won't work). Place treasure coins in two out of each three spaces of the outermost lane (coin, coin, empty, repeat all the way around); no unique treasures. Each player gets 30 points to spend on 2 ships with 6 masts total, and crew and events. No forts, flotillas, canoes, subs or sea creatures. +5-point crews can't buy a third ship.

The player whose ships have the highest combined speed places his/her ships in starting spaces #1 and 2 on the map. The second-fastest player puts his/her ships in starting spaces #3 and 4, and so on.

S equals two map spaces, and L equals three spaces. Ships must stay within the lines of the map space they occupy.

Ships can move none, some, or all of their total move each turn. A ship must get closer to the finish line with each space it moves. Only one ship can be in a map space at a time. Ships cannot move through each other. If a ship cannot finish its move because the track ahead is blocked by other ships, that ship moves as far as it can and then stops (unless it rams; see below). Friendly adjacent ships may swap crew as free actions, but such crew cannot use their abilities in the turn they change ships.

A moving ship can choose to "shake it out." Add 2 spaces to that ship's move for the turn, then make a mast check — choose one cannon and roll two dice, ignoring all modifiers. If one or both dice "hit," nothing happens; if both miss, remove that mast.

When a ship moves, a ship that was directly behind that ship may draft it — it may immediately move one space as a free move.

A ship that ends its move in a Walls space has its maximum move reduced by S the next time it moves, unless its move is already S. Ships that shoot at a ship in a Marbles space get +1 on their cannon rolls. Walls and Marbles count as terrain for ships and crew that can ignore terrain (at last, a worthwhile use for that ability!).

Loading treasure takes one move-space (half an S move or one-third of an L). If you want to look at the coin(s) before loading, that takes an additional move-space. An Explorer abilty negates all move-space penalties for loading coins. Unloading coins is a free move. Loading treasure ends your move.

Combat takes place according to the normal rules. A Smokepot Specialist may target one ship within S range and try to spin it (see below). A derelict ship with gold on board may leave a coin in its space and go to Pit Road as its action for the turn. If a ship sinks, its treasure is divided as usual, and it then goes to Pit Road as a free move. A sunk Eternal ship can do a free Repair action on the turn it lands in Pit Road.

Pit Road is the home island for all players; the finish line divides it into two map spaces if the map does not already divide it. Mercenaries can dock there. As soon as a ship enters Pit Road, its turn ends. For Repair actions, roll a die, and repair 1 mast on an odd number, or 2 masts on an even number. A ship that can dock at an enemy home island and load treasure can load other people's unloaded treasures at Pit Road. Such a ship cannot unload stolen treasure until it has left and re-entered Pit Road. A ship in Pit Road, along with its crew and cargo, cannot be harmed or affected in any way by any enemy ship, crew, or event; nor can such ships harm or affect other ships. Players may place extra crew in Pit Road at the start of the game or during the game, and swap them onto their ships there as a free action; such crew can't use their abilities on the turn they are swapped.

If a ship attempts to enter an enemy ship's space, that ends the moving ship's turn (return it to the space it just occupied), and the other ship is rammed. The ramming ship may board, or it may try to spin out the other ship. For a spin, the rammed ship makes a mast check; if it has a boarding bonus, it may add that bonus to one of the two rolls. If the check fails, the ship spins; repeat until you pass a mast check or until the ship is derelict. Ships that cannot be boarded or pinned cannot be spun; ships that cannot ram can still board or spin other ships; ships that can board others from S range cannot spin them from S range. If a ship tries to spin another ship and fails, that other ship cannot spin the first ship, but may board it. Ghost ships are immune to all this while ghostly.

Completing one lap by crossing the finish line on the track counts as ten gold in a player's score. Completing a lap by going through Pit Road counts as five gold.

Other changes: Ships never become pinned. Abilities that happen when a ship becomes pinned, or is in contact with another, now happen when one ship rams or touches another. Abilities regarding treasures on wild islands treat any track space with a coin as a wild island. Marines can be left in map spaces in the outermost lane where there are more than two lanes; they function there as if dropped on a wild island. A Schooner can turn so that its bow is temporarily in an adjacent empty map space, only while shooting cannons, and must get back in its own space when done shooting. A Windcatcher can move 1 extra space if you roll a 1 at the start of its move. Switchblade blades hit adjacent ships on both sides. A Scorpion can drop its hook on a ship in the space directly in front of it.

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