Frank's LEGO® Pirate Gaming Page

See my LEGO® Pirate Links page for general pirate links.
See my LEGO® Pirate Ships page for information on pirate ships.
See my Pirate Gaming at Brickfest 2000 page for a report on the Pirate Game I ran at Brickfest 2000.
See my Pirate Gaming at BricksWest 2002 page for a report on the Pirate Game I ran at BricksWest 2002.
See my Pirate Gaming at GenCon 2003 page for a report on the Pirate Games I ran at GenCon 2003.
See my LEGO® Pirate Creations page for my own creations.


There are a few options for rules for pirate gaming:

The game I am currently exploring is Evil Stevie's Pirate Game, sometimes referred to as "The Pirate Game" or "Steve Jackson's Pirate Game."



For people who would like to work on ships, some things to think about (The following includes some extractions from the rules at for my games:

Ships and boats are divided into Classes, based on size:

A ship's class determines:

  1. How many guns it can carry. The number is equal to its class.
  2. How many hull hits it can take: 10 times its class, with a minimum of 1.
  3. How many rigging hits it can take: 5 times its class, with a minimum of 1.
  4. Whether there is a bonus or penalty to hit it with cannon fire.
  5. Starting crew in the Battle Game (6 per class)

Per Steve's communications, every ship has at least one rotating cannon mounted on the deck or so. Larger ships have 2-3 rotators. The maximum number of broadside cannon (firing through a gun port) is 5 (to get 5 broadside cannon on my red/white/dk grey modified BSB, I had to put a cannon in the captain's cabin - this cannon can also fire out the stern).

I would suggest the following for numbers of rotating cannon (note the overlap in class ranges):

In general, rotating cannon are more flexible (though there may be situations where a similarly placed broadside cannon could be brought to bear when a rotator can't since a full broadside may be fired at any target that at least one of the broadside cannon can hit).

Broadside cannon may be moved from side to side. The rules aren't clear on if this takes time or not. I need to clear up a few issues like that with Steve. Moving the cannon from side to side may be accomplished by any of the following means:

We will also need some merchant ships, which generally will be smaller. Many of these will be cutters. I talked with Steve once about making custom built class 3 ships, and he said that it would be reasonable to make those with the 10 wide hull sections (make a 10 wide ship which is a little longer than a 12 wide ship with 1 center section). Brigs should be similarly sized to a 12 wide ship with no center sections (6268, 6250), these should be wider than 6 wide (Steve uses inverse slopes to widen a 6 wide hull to 8 wide). Short 10 wide ships would be reasonable for brigs also.

See also:

Potential New Cannon Rules

I'm tempted to revisit the cannon rules. One thought is to have one broadside cannon per center hull section, plus one (i.e class-1 for 12-wides), and have the advantage of 16-wide ships be that they get 2 swivel mount cannon on the foredeck, and have cannon on both sides, so if there are targets on either side, they get a LOT more shots than a 12-wide. This would give 16-wide tubs (no center sections, class 3) generally the same firepower which can be brought to bear on a single target as currently allowed (though as 2 swivels and 1 broadside instead of 2 broadside and 1 swivel), and the larger ships one fewer cannon, but the large ships would have a huge advantage in fleet actions, and would also be able to replace lost cannon (say 1 turn to move a cannon from one side to the other - though that would still be a free move on a 12-wide, though perhaps requiring two crew).


Key to people responding:

(FF) Some general thoughts on the game:

(RR) It says that the ship can turn once at the beginning of its movement. What if you want to move 6", turn, then move 6", does it take extra crew actions for this?

(BS) Yes.

(RR) If you didn't use the free turn in the beginning, can you apply it in the middle of your move?

(BS) No. The purpose is to allow you to change course based on the events as they stood at the end of the previous game turn.

(RR) It says all damage is simultaneous during combat. Does that mean ALL combat, or each type of combat? For instance, if a pirate is shot by a cannon, does he still get to fire his musket? Or if a pirate is killed by a musket, can he still attack with his cutlass?

(BS) Hmmmm, well, I handled cannon fire during ship movement, then resolved minifig combat. Part of this is answered below.

(FF)Yes, the two types of combat are distinct. Each phase is taken in turn, and all activity within a phase is simultaneous.

(RR) If a sailor needs to move to accomplish something like loading a cannon, does he get to move and load the cannon in the same turn, or does his movement count as his action during the turn and he'll load it next turn?

(BS) Kinda grey - movement isn't specifically listed as an "action". At the same time, boarding combat specifically says you can move and fight. Significantly, the other actions don't list movement. I would think not for cannon.

(FF) Note that movement is during a separate phase from cannon fire or small arms fire, though crew is allowed to move 1" to dodge cannon. I'd be inclined to allow crew within 1" of a cannon to man the cannon.

For my own game, I will be doing some thinking about cannon. I've been thinking about changing how many cannon are allowed etc. So I will probably revisit this. I do want to end up with less complex rules if at all possible.

(SB) Depends... It says in the rules to ignore the placing of figures during ship-to-ship combat (i.e. the captain doesn't need to be by a cannon to fire it, you don't need 4 crew in the rigging etc.). In boarding actions however it's a different manner. In this case I would say that any crew member not by a cannon in the cannon firing phase, can't contribute to the firing of that cannon (although the 1" rule mentioned here seems fine to me, but I run my games a little loose in distance interpretation anyway).

(RR) If a sailor wants to be 'prudent' (aka jump overboard on a sinking ship) does he need to declare that as his action during the turn, or can he fire a musket and then jump before the hull damage phase?

(BS) Move and fight, fight and move. Since there aren't any reload rules, I'd probably opt for not allowing movement and firing, but as the rules stand, I would think you can.

(FF) Based on the phasing, movement comes before small arms fire, so I would say "being prudent" is a movement action.

In fact, looking at the phasing, I'm inclined to move crew movement to before cannon fire (hmm, no, just changed my mind). Part of me also wants to require some of the sailing crew to be aloft, but I'm not sure how to handle this, and not all ship models can actually have crew aloft (though I'm converting ships to studs up spars, I finally completed my first SES which has been languishing for over a year without spars and sails - not only did I do her with studs up spars, but she also got red spars, I also finally fitted out the Red Seas Barracuda with her red spars - thanks everyone who traded me red 1x4 plates with towball).

I think the purpose of putting crew movement after cannon fire was to allow the crew phases to be skipped if they didn't matter much due to distance between ships.

(RR) When a cannon is close to 'crossing the T' of another ship, is the attacking player required to take the crossing the T minus to hit in exchange for two damage rolls? Or can they decide which way they want to play it? If they have multiple cannons, could they choose differently for each?

(BS) The ship does not magically turn sideways, so no, you shouldn't have a choice. You have a narrow target but if you hit it, the ball is going to travel along the length of the ship, creating havoc.

(FF) Here's a thought for a pretty simple rule for determining if you're crossing the T. From the cannon closest to the enemy ship, trace a straight line the direction the cannon is pointing. If the line crosses the curved portion of a bow or stern section and exits the ship in a different hull section, you are crossing the T. This actually amounts to just about 45 degrees to either side of the centerline, so perhaps that's the best rule, though that seems a bit restrictive, on the other hand, it also fits the compass points. So, I'm inclined to make the simple rule stand. Another simple rule would be 22.5 degrees to either side of the center line. This also is a reasonable measure to use since it fits with how you determine which compass point your ship is on in gauging wind effects.

(SB) Nope, you have to take the -2 (which is due to the way a boat's hull is angled to deflect shots). IIRC, rigging and deck shots aren't at any penalty though...

(RR) A player doesn't want his ship to move, but hasn't dropped anchor. However, he doesn't want to spend any crew actions sailing so all of his guys could shoot their muskets. I say at this point the referee gets to move the ship according to the unmanned ship rules. My friend who didn't want his ship to move, pointed to the rule saying you can just let the wind slip from your sails. Who is right?

(BS) He has left the ship to drift. The rule about spilling wind is if you are actually moving (and have commited at least some crew to sailing). Without some sort of "way" (movement through the water) a ship had no control ("She's not answerin' the 'elm, Cap'n!"). If he's just flapping his sails, he's at the mercy of the tides, current, and wind.

(RR) Tactical Question - It seems to us after playing, that its vastly more effective to always aim at the deck and never bother with grapeshot. It takes forever to do enough hull or rigging damage to make them worthwhile. Grapeshot is just to risky and doesn't do enough damage to justify the risk. I could see where in a campaign game if you were just trying to escape another foe that rigging shots could be worth it. Do you think we just aren't following the rules properly?

(BS) I'm not sure I agree with the results that you get from the rules as it stands, so I tend to feel it is a matter of balance. Historically, shooting up the rigging (a favorite French tactic) didn't work that well in actually winning a fight. If the other ship had carronades (short range cannons that throw heavy shot), or I was trying to sail away, I'd think about it. Grapeshot was something you only really used prepatory to boarding (or preventing such). Hull shots: it wasn't that easy to sink a wooden ship quickly. But I'm not sure that aiming at the hull and the deck was something that was that precise. You could aim low, hoping for a below waterline hit, but you caused the most casualties with solid shot by hitting the hull (flying splinters). I'm in favor of combining the two charts for solid shot.

(FF) Per post 419 Steve Jackson himself admits that the damage charts are flawed. He indicated he would like to encourage more hull shots.

(SB) Rigging shots are useful if someone's outrunning you and you want to capture the ship intact... Deck shots are useful when closing to board (esp. if using grapeshot) and Hull shots are good for ranged battles with a ship you don't particularly want to capture (Warships mainly), especially if you outgun your opponent...

(SB) Why is there a -6 to hit with Grapeshot - it fires out of the cannon in a cone, so it's pretty hard to miss at close-ranges. Wouldn't a harsher range-modifier be better?

(SJ) We've tried several things. I'm still not happy.

(SB) I decided on a -1 penalty to hit with grapeshot for every 6" you are from your target. It seemed to work pretty well...

(RR) Hull Damage - I'm pretty down with this now, except for *when* you roll for possible hull damage for sinking.

First quote from the rules:

When a ship is down to 20% of its hull hits, it begins to take on water, which has the effect of adding more hull hits! Roll a die at the beginning of every turn that a ship is at or below the 20% level (shown on record sheet). On a 1, 2 or 3, one more hull hit is taken.

Second quote from the rules:

(7) Damage control. After damage control, assess new hull damage caused by existing hull damage or by fire. Remove any ships sunk by this new hull damage.

Step 7 is clearly not at the beginning of the turn, yet it says that's when to "assess new hull damange caused by existing hull damage" which I can only surmise to be sinking damage. So when is the proper time?

(FF) I'd be inclined to say do it at Step 7. The only thing between Step 7 and Step 1 is shark activity. It just means you lose one turn of swimming away from sharks if you suddenly find yourself in the water as the ship goes down.

(RR) So, a Class 1 Cutter starts with 12". Its first hit is ignored, so its still 12". The second hit goes to 11", third to 10", and fourth to 9". Ack! The example says 8" for the fourth?! The example for the Class 3 ship just says 'loses an inch', but doesn't tell us the end result so that doesn't help.

(FF) In programming parlance this is the common "off by one" error. The cutter goes from 9" to 0" on it's last hit.

(RR) Hand to Hand - The rules indicate there are actually three separate phases for H2H combat, but the separate Turn Phases document has combined the Musket & Pistol phases. Quote:

(5) Individual combat. Muskets first, then pistols, then other weapons. A hit is a kill; all dead pirates fall into the sea.

Quote from Turn Phases document:

"Anyone have musket or pistol fire?"

If Muskets indeed get their own phase first, this makes them vastly superior over Pistols, since the pirates killed in the Musket phase will not get a chance to shoot back with their Pistols. (I think everyone agreed that combat damage is only simultaneous if it occurs during the same phase.)

(FF) I'm sure this is a result of simplification. When I ran, I ran all small arms fire simultaneously.

Sources these Q&A came from:

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Page last updated November 2, 1999

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