Ahoy, mateys! Just in time for Talk Like a Pirate Day, Thing 12 Games has launched a Kickstarter campaign for Dice of Pirates, a pocket-sized dice game about searching for gold and plundering your opponents.
What Is Dice of Pirates?
Dice of Pirates is for 2 to 6 players, ages 9 and up, and takes about 15–30 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $10 (plus shipping) for a copy of the game. I think the rules are easy enough that it could be learned by even younger players (I did play with my 4-year-old as well) but they may need some guidance; the game is about pirates and stealing gold from each other, so it’s up to you whether your kids are okay with that.
Dice of Pirates Components
Note: This review is based on a pre-production prototype, so the photos do not reflect the final look and quality of the game. All of the components in the prototype were 3D printed and the dice were hand-colored.
- 7 dice
- 24 Gold tokens
- 10 Plunder tokens
- 1 ship
The dice are six-sided dice and they’re all the same: they have 2 ships, 1 kraken, 1 gold, and 2 plunder (crossed swords). The tokens are small plastic tokens, and there’s a small plastic ship. Everything will fit into a little mint tin.
I’ve seen the final production version of Dice of Crowns (the previous title in this series) and it turned out pretty nicely, with engraved and painted dice—the finished product also comes in the little tin.
How to Play Dice of Pirates
The goal of the game is, of course, to get gold—specifically, 7 gold coins to win.
Choose a starting player. The starting player gets 1 gold, and everyone else gets 2 gold. Place the rest of the gold and the plunder tokens in a supply.
Roll the Bones
On your turn, you roll all available dice—at the beginning, that’s all 7 dice, but later on some dice may not be available. Each face has a different effect:
- Kraken: Kraken dice are locked and cannot be re-rolled. If you have 3 kraken, your turn ends immediately and you collect nothing regardless of the other dice. Pass the dice to the next player.
- Ship: You’ve been blown off course! You hand the die to an opponent of your choice and they’ll get to roll it in a special ship phase.
- Coins: You found gold! If you get 3 coin dice, you get 1 gold token; 6 coin dice gets you 2 gold tokens. (Note: you can’t collect gold and plunder in the same turn.)
- Plunder: You raid your opponents! If you have at least 3 swords, you may attempt to plunder—see below.
After every ship phase has been resolved, you may re-roll all dice of the same type (other than kraken), again using the above results. Once you decide to stop, if you haven’t fallen prey to the kraken, you may either collect gold or plunder an opponent, and then the dice are passed to the next player.
If an opponent hands you a ship die, you get to roll it, and then check the effect:
- Kraken: Give the die to any player of your choice. If it’s the current active player, it counts immediately toward their 3 kraken. Otherwise, the player holds onto the die and will start with that kraken at the beginning of their next turn.
- Ship: Give it back to the active player. They may re-roll it later.
- Plunder: Give it back to the active player. They may use it for plundering.
- Coin: Choose what face to set the die to. If you leave it as a coin, you take one plunder token, and then give it back to the active player as a coin. If you choose ship or sword, return it to the active player as above. If you choose kraken, give it to any player of your choice.
It wouldn’t be a pirate game if you couldn’t steal from other players, right? If you have at least 3 plunder dice, you may use them to attack an opponent. First, set aside your other dice—they will not be used for the plunder phase. During the plunder phase, dice may pass back and forth between the attacker and defender. Everyone may roll dice simultaneously, resolving them as they are rolled.
Roll all your plunder dice:
- Kraken: Set the die aside—it is no longer part of the plunder phase. (Note that 3 kraken do not end your turn during plunder.)
- Coin: Set the die aside; it will allow you to steal one coin at the end of the plunder phase.
- Plunder: No effect; re-roll this die.
- Ship: Pass the die to your opponent.
The plunder phase ends when there are no more ships or plunder dice. The defender adds up their coin dice, and then may choose to spend plunder tokens—each token spent counts as one coin die. Then the attacker adds up their coin dice and as many plunder tokens they want to spend. The winner (with the higher total) gets to steal the difference from the loser.
The game ends as soon as any player has accumulated 7 gold tokens—they win!
Mercenary Pirate Ship
The ship is used for the advanced rules.
You may hire the ship for a cost of 2 plunder tokens. When you take part in a raid, the ship counts as 1 extra coin die.
However, the mercenary only likes working with the best pirates. If you lose combat while the ship is with you, it moves to the victor.
There’s an alternate win condition: to win, you must acquire 7 gold tokens and be in possession of the mercenary ship.
The two-player game is a little different. Each player starts with 5 coins, and the rest of the coins and the plunder tokens are returned to the box. In this case, when you resolve coin dice, you take the gold from your opponent rather than from the supply. You don’t use plunder tokens, but otherwise the game is played as normal. To win, get all the gold from your opponent.
Why You Should Play Dice of Pirates
Last year I reviewed Dice of Crowns, the first game in this series from Thing 12 Games. It’s a light dice game with some press-your-luck elements, but with the added twist that other players may get to roll dice during your turn. I described in my review some of the interesting results that can lead to—for instance, a player may not have as many dice to roll on their turn, because so many of the dice have been distributed to other players. That can happen in Dice of Pirates as well, if players decide to give krakens to another player rather than the active player.
Dice of Pirates has some similar mechanics to Dice of Crowns, but with just enough of a twist to make it feel fresh. You’re trying to get gold from the supply with the coin dice, and the ship dice are a little bit like the scroll dice, where you hand them to other players to roll. I do like the decision to be made when you roll a coin die: if you give the active player the coin back, you get plunder tokens, which can help you later, but the coin die may also help the active player. Knowing when to take a plunder token, and when to give it up so that you can hand somebody a kraken instead, is a fun puzzle to figure out.
The new mechanic this time is the plunder: you get to face off with one opponent and try to steal coins from them.
This part of the game can be pretty fun and it feels a little like ships taking shots at each other as you both roll at the same time. It’s not a speed-based phase, but you can both just roll as quickly as you can until everything is resolved, and, then find out who wins and who loses. Plundering an opponent isn’t without risks, of course—if you roll poorly, you stand to lose gold to the person you attacked. Usually you choose an opponent who has more coins than you, but of course you also need to beware if they have a lot of plunder tokens stored up. Do you go after the leader? Maybe—because they’re ahead and you want to knock them down a few pegs. But, again, if you don’t fare well in the battle, you may end up handing them enough gold to claim the victory.
One caveat is that you can’t just rely on plundering alone, because at the beginning of the game everyone only has 1 coin. If nobody ever gains coins from the supply, there’s simply not enough gold in the economy to win by plundering each other. Eventually somebody has to find some gold, or nobody can win. The downside, of course, is that as soon as you start getting gold from the supply, you become a target for other players to plunder.
The two-player variant is okay, but I think the game is better with at least three players, simply because of the way the plunder works.
If you liked Dice of Crowns and you want a new spin on the game, you’ll probably like Dice of Pirates as well. If you enjoy quick dice games or you’re looking for something that you can carry in your pocket for a lunch break game or for travel, it’s worth checking out. It’s not a heavy game so it’s not for those who want a lot of strategy, but it’s great as a filler game.
For more information about the game or to make a pledge, visit the Dice of Pirates Kickstarter page!
Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.