The best pirate board games come in all shapes and sizes. Despite being pretty horrible by all accounts, pirates have managed to become ‘fun’ retroactively – mostly by wearing silly costumes that are great to dress up as. The mythical pirate, a swashbuckling, backstabbing adventure seeker, caring only for treasure and the high seas, is a great theme for a board game. Check out the best pirate games below.
Pirate board games run the whole depth and breadth of the hobby, and we’ve a diverse range of titles to share with you. If you’re looking for lighter fare, you might also find these family board games float your boat.
The best pirate board games in 2023 are:
- Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends – best open world game
- Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest – best for beginners
- Jamaica – best racing board game
- Merchants and Marauders – best historical board game
- Skull King – best pirate card game
- Forgotten Waters – best pirate RPG board game
Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends
The best open-world pirate board game is Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends.
Steamforged’s Sea of Thieves board game, Sea of Thieves: Voyage of Legends, tasks you with becoming the most famous pirate on the seven seas, but how you achieve that goal is up to you. Will you scrap with skeleton kings, complete missions, trade in treasures, or just get in the way of your friends, and shoot their ships full of holes?
An open world pirate board game where the road to victory is fairly open-ended, Sea of Thieves is fantastic fun. It’s highly satisfying tackling the game’s objectives in your own way, then seeing the fruits of your hard work as you upgrade your ship and hire special crew, becoming an even leaner, meaner pirating machine.
Your two ships start out as tiny sloops, but by the end of the game are multi-sailed monstrosities that can zip round the board, duffing up pirates and giant sharks, and carting boatloads of treasure around.
While it’s quite a big board game, and a little daunting – perhaps even a touch confusing – when you get started, once you’ve got the wind in your sails in Sea of Thieves, it actually has quite an arcadey, casual feel. Despite the theme, and plenty of chances for opportunistic PVP, salty moments are unlikely, because a sunken ship is not an enormous setback, and a couple of handy catchup mechanics helps to level the playing field.
But there are still plenty of opportunities for trickiness, thanks to the Fortune cards. Drawn each turn, these provide awesome one-time use abilities, like special cannonballs that debuff your opponents, or a speed boost for your sails.
Overall, Sea of Thieves is a tad complex to set up and to teach. But its open world approach allows players to get invested fast. It feels great to play, and from cursed dice rolls to ‘gotcha’ card play, is full of little moments that are sure to make you and up to three friends laugh (in a pirate-y accent, of course, aha harr).
Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
The best pirate board game for beginners is Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest.
What’s better than pirates? Sky pirates, of course. Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest swaps soggy salt-soaked decks and sea sickness for the open skies, as you play a captain in an airborne pirate fleet.
Each round, players will send a crew member to collect a share of the loot from an island. High-ranking crew members get first pick, while lowdown scurvy dogs activate their abilities first. The game is all about working out what loot you need to grab, picking the right crew member, and trying to predict what your opponents will play.
There are a wide variety of crew cards (40 total) but each player starts with the same crew members, and your hands will slowly diverge over the course of the game. There’s plenty to pay attention to, but not so much going on that you’ll suffer choice paralysis. Libertalia is simple enough to work as a kids board game, but strategic enough to be fun and provide plenty of replayability.
First released in 2012, the game got a new lick of paint with the 2022 Winds of Galecrest remake, that adds the sky pirate theme, and also casts the pirates as anthropomorphised animals. The airship and animal themes are just window dressing, but this is more than just a reskin, with plenty of new cards and mechanics to keep things fresh.
The best pirate racing board game is Jamaica.
Pirates are always racing: racing to be the first to reach some long-forgotten treasure or mystical pirate item, racing to escape the long arm of the law. But racing board game Jamaica takes a more literal approach. It takes place in an alternate history where ex-pirate turned governor Henry Morgan invites all his pirate pals to a celebratory race around the island of Jamaica.
In Jamaica, the winner of the game is the one with the most treasure – which can be earned by your final race position, but there’s gold aplenty besides this, with loads of opportunities to take detours for more treasure, and steal loot from your opponents.
Actions are chosen simultaneously, speeding up gameplay and requiring you to make plans based on what you reckon others will do. Jamaica is a breezy tactics game with plenty of player interaction and fun, but risky combat.
Merchants and Marauders
The best historical pirate board game is Merchants and Marauders.
The life of a pirate is free and open, and that’s reflected in Merchants and Marauders, an open world adventure board game where you’re able to choose your own path to victory. While historians probably still baulk at it, it’s easily the most real history-inspired game on our list.
The end goal is to become a legendary figure of the Caribbean and accrue 10 glory points, but these can be gained in all sorts of ways, such as completing missions, performing daring combat feats, claiming booty, and pulling off the deal of the century.
A key part of Merchants and Marauders is deciding if (yo ho, yo ho) a pirate’s life is for you. You can play the entire game as a white hat merchant trader, sticking to the sea’s highway code, using the proper turn signals, etc. Or switch at any point to the black, tricorn hat and go marauding.
Each play style provides its own risks and rewards, from other players coming after your bounty if you’re a rule breaker to NPC and player pirates claiming your coffers if you’re a successful merchant. If you want an adventuring pirate game with plenty of PVP, Merchants and Marauders holds up spectacularly.
The best pirate card game is Skull King.
A trick-taking easy card game, like Spades or Oh Hell!, but with a more pirate-y aesthetic, Skull King has a few tricks up its sleeve that makes it great.
Firstly, bidding on trick numbers is done simultaneously, so you can easily end up in scenarios where the group has collectively guessed they’ll take far more or far fewer tricks than are actually available, and everyone is desperate to win or lose. There’s also a number of special cards like pirates, and the titular skull king that change up trumps.
For a minimalist card game, Skull King does its best to inject some good pirate-y flavour. You have to say “Yo ho ho” and slam your fist on the table, showing the number of tricks you’ll take with your fingers, for instance. Well, you don’t have to. The pirate police won’t come knocking if you ignore this guideline. But obviously if you don’t do this we’ll think you’re no fun.
The best pirate RPG board game is Forgotten Waters.
Pirates aren’t exactly known for their teamwork skills, but in coop board game Forgotten Waters you’ll set sail together for adventure and treasure, playing out one of five scenarios. Half board game, half game book, Forgotten Waters has the energy of a good D&D campaign.
It’s a storytelling game at its core, all about making choices and exploring. The pirates within are the silly and fun variety, and the writing is fab. It’s also fully voice acted on a companion website, which is good if you don’t like reading out loud. Mechanics take the backseat, but they’re not absent – with plenty of skill checks, and some resource management and worker placement going on too.
Each player assumes a different role on the ship with different responsibilities, a personal story (and these aren’t all nefarious hidden agendas like you might expect), plus a unique ending. Forgotten Waters has great attention to detail, from the (optional) ambient sound effects on the companion app, to a very fun pirate name generator for character creation.