The best pirate board games range from fantastical narrative adventures to historical open-world strategy games. 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 light fare, you might also find these family board games float your boat. If you prefer plotting a careful course, these are the best strategy board games. And of course, you shouldn’t miss our selection of the best board games of all time.
- Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
- Merchants and Marauders
- Skull King
- Forgotten Waters
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.
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
On the more historical end of our pirate board game list is Merchants and Marauders. The life of a pirate is free and open, and that’s reflected in this open world adventure board game, where you’re able to choose your own path to victory.
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.
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.
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.