Pirate Game Setup

Steve Jackson has been experimenting with simpler setups than documented in the main rules. I am finding a lot of merit in starting every player off just the same, with the standard cutter setup (below) and no special crewmen. This is very fast . . . setups can be created in advance and handed out quickly. (Plastic or paper cups are good for holding ten crewmen and a Captain!) If there are not enough cutters, then brigs may be given one gun and played as cutters.

As they are handed their setup, those players who costumed well, or otherwise earned some consideration, are given extra crew, or invited to pick game slips for “non-combat specials” or special crewmen.

This setup sheet requires muskets to be bought, but for sail-and-shoot games with no economics more complex than “steal stuff and sell it to buy bigger ships,” I find it best to assume that all pirates have muskets.


PLAYER SETUP for ___________________________

Players may join the game at any time. Start by visiting the Head Referee to see if you get any costuming bonuses. Then visit the Sutler and fill out this Setup Sheet to choose exactly what you get.

Each player starts with a Pirate Captain (whom he should name), a small ship (which you should also name), and a crew. Each player will also get a clipboard with a record sheet and movement plot for your ship, and a ruler. (Ignore the “Crew” number on your Ship Record. In a simple sail-and-shoot game, you get more crew than is shown there.)

When you are outfitted, you can embark on your career.

Players start with their choice of:
____ A Cutter, one cannon, 10 men, and 15 bonus points, or
____ A Brig, 15 men, and 10 bonus points.

Each crewman comes with a pistol. Those without a hook-hand also come with a cutlass. Muskets must be bought. Fill in below to spend the bonus points:
____ points for extra pirates, at 1 point each.
____ points for muskets, at 2 muskets for 1 point.
____ points for special abilities, at 3 points per ability. Note below abilities you are buying. Specify which ones are going to the captain, or whether any man gets more than one ability!

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Manning the Fleet

Everyone has one Captain, and the men they start with. If you want more crew, you must hire them.

Regular Crew:

You may have as many ordinary pirates as you can hire, as long as they can stand up (or sit down, or grab the rigging) on your ship. Any pirate who falls off is overboard, and must swim back or feed the sharks.

Special Abilities:

You may buy these when you start, and add them to any pirate you own. Later, if you are lucky, you may be able to hire more special crewmen.

Special crew are never hit in combat, unless there are no ordinary seamen left. Pirates may have more than one special ability, but only one nationality. So you can have a Completely Loyal Polish Gunner for 7 points, or even a Completely Loyal Polish Gunner who is an Old Salt and a Navigator for 13 points, but you can’t have a pirate who gets both +1 to damage control and +2 with a cutlass, because that would make him both Scottish and French.

If you hire more special crew later, note them on this sheet.

Indicate which figures represent special crew by marking on the figure (on the back of the legs, so it can be erased easily) with a grease pencil.

Captains may be given special abilities. All captains are already navigators and have a +1 with all weapons. Extra weapon bonuses from a nationality DO add to this. A French captain would have a +4 with a cutlass. Zut alors, me hearties!

  • Navigator: Can read maps, record the position of islands, and so on. Does not get lost. Captains have this ability automatically.
  • French Swashbuckler: +2 with cutlass, and 2 to any sword attack against him.
  • Polish Gunner: +1 to hit for the cannon which he serves.
  • German Mercenary: +2 with two-handed axes and halberds, and 2 to any sword or axe attack against him.
  • Dutch Helmsman: +2″ to ship movement any turn he is at the helm (that is, handling the ship rather than fighting or doing anything else). This is not an initiative bonus, however.
  • American Rifleman: +2 with a musket (because if he has it, it’s a rifle).
  • Scottish Engineer: Automatically succeeds, by himself, in any damage control effort (that is, he is the equivalent of a six-man damage control party).
  • British Mutineer: This pirate fled the rigid discipline of the Royal Navy. He is familiar with all the British ships that are normally found in these waters, and knows his way around the Navy bases. The referee will use him as a conduit for information at appropriate times.
  • Spanish Mutineer: This pirate escaped from the Spanish treasure fleet. He knows about the treasure ships and their captains. The referee will use him as a conduit for information at appropriate times.
  • Indian Archer: +2 with bow and arrow (treat as musket). Nobody except Indians and Islanders can use the bow and arrow.
  • Islander: This native decided to join the pirates and see the world. +1 with spear, and can use bow and arrow (treat as musket). Natives can swim like fish, at 4″ per turn (other pirates can barely dog-paddle). If they fall overboard, they don’t drop their weapons, and they automatically make it back to the ship. If you have an Islander, you have a chance of recovering sunken treasure, rescuing men in the water, and so on (roleplay it).
  • Completely Loyal Henchman: You saved this pirate’s life, and he will never play you false. If you place him in charge of a prize crew, you may control that ship’s actions as well as those of your own ship, wherever it goes. If you leave him in charge of an island base, the men there won’t rebel or steal your goods.
  • Old Salt: Knows what the next change in wind speed and direction will be, though not when. It’s up to the Old Salt’s player to remember to ask the referee…
  • Expert Captain: This special ability applies only to the Captain, and cannot be bought. It gives +1 on initiative. The way for a Captain to be recognized as expert is to defeat a ship of at least twice his Class, or to perform some equivalent feat (this will also aid Reputation, of course). It’s entirely a GM decision.

Where to now?

Version of January 3, 2011
These rules are not licensed or approved by The LEGO Group.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2010, 2011 and used with Steve Jackson’s permission.