Review: Pirates of Nassau – battle of cutthroats

Pirates of Nassau - packaging

Ship on the horizon! shouted the man in the guard basket. Tension was almost touchable on the Royal Navy vessel along its crew. A moment of uncertainty lasted perhaps for too long, when the guard finally leaned back and said: It’s Fat Sally! Pirates!

Boat really sailed under crossed bones and there was a giant fat figurine swinging on its front. Dimensions of its stomach surprised everyone at first glance. Fat Sally had a very low draft and that was good news: captain of guardian ship New, that it is fully loaded with loot and treasure. What is happening right now aboard the pirate ship? And do they have a chance of escaping from the clutches of the Queen? All these answers can be found, if you play . At least this once, with us..

Board game Pirates of Nassau is the first game of , company located in the British Isles. Its author is , but also and contributed to its development. Players can see thein work in late 2011, but the game was very much available in . And we have it today here, so we can present it to you.

Pirates of Nassau - game is ready

Pirates of Nassau box could not have any title on it and you would already knew, that the theme is pirates and sea navigation. The title image is depicting fighting ships. On the home page of rules, which will peek at you under the lid as first, you will find a portrait of angry pirate. Maybe he was just attacked by Royal Navy, judging by his expression. Or maybe its just author, when he learned about our review. Who knows?

But it would not be a board game, if there were not many other components, that create the proper sea adventure for all mankind. Main part of the game is of course a game board, which itself is very special. On both sides, there are columns for cards and small components. But the main surprise comes in the middle. Sea part is divided into three rows, each counting six positions. Some are permanently occupied by ports, others are waiting for passing ships.

You will find a plethora of chips in the box – money, crew, ship parts, tokens to mark looted ports or paper figures of hostages. You must fold another paper parts to form them into an improvised chests. There must of course also be a deck of cards, which consists of two – a package of the Royal Navy and the other with commercial ships. They are waiting as stuffed ducks at sea, until your crew robs it. Last cards to mention are color-coded for each player and contain portrait of their fleet captains.

Pirates of Nassau - game in progress

The rest of the pieces is already made of harder materials. The largest of them are the four reces, from which each player assembles the ship. Their number is the same as the maximum of players – five. Each ship has a name and when you look at it, you will see a lot of boxes, that are ready to be filled with any improvements you like – the crew, cargo or sailing improvements.

Now we will introdukce a wooden trio – rum, gunpowder and unspecific cargo. These tiny pieces are made of wood (lightbulb!) and can be obtained from invaded ships or ports. All other components are then coupled with player colors – pawns for labeling notoriety, which decides, who will be hunt down by the Queens ships. Then there are three dice and especially one miniature of a ship in each color. This is the one, you will travel with on the board.

Thus we have exhausted all the components and we can throw ourselves into the game itself. Because we already know a bit about what boats and game board looks like, we can begin preparation of the game. You can choose any ship according to your taste and it just put its four reces together. All captains are beginning with ships without any improvements and its only up to them, which way would they point thein ships.

Pirates of Nassau - game in progress

You divide merchant ships deck into three smaller ones, according to the number of helms and place them in the tray to the right of the sea – cards with one rudder in the upper row, two in the middle and three all the way down. The higher the number and more to the right, makes the place more and more away from home port Nassau. And thats precisely, where all players will go back to each round, to put good use to their booty. You must now use every deck to fill the vacancies in its line.

You put Royal Navy deck completely above them. But first you have to sort cards, that do not belong to the game, according to number of players participating in the match. You then uncover as many navy cards as there are players.

Each of player puts his pawn on the number near zero of the notoriety track. In the left column, which represents the port of Nassau, you must put so many improvement from each kind (crew, ship components and hull), as there are opponents. Players then take all thein colored parts – cubes, one ship miniature, captain cards and chest. Rifling can finally begin.

Pirates of Nassau - cards

And what is actually happening throughout the match? Game is player over several turns. Every turn consists of nine stages, which are played gradually by players. We will take you now for a simplified tour, which explains the fundamentals of this game.

The key to everything happening in Pirates of Nassau are dice. They are rolled by each of the rivals at the start of each turn. Their result will be very important for the whole turn, so you should all take a good look not only at yours. Their will help you to sail the ocean. But before we begin to describe the movement itself, it is important to mention, that there are also transits between those rows on the board. And they are numbered just like the proper places.

The player, who starts the round, can choose from one of his three dice and move his ship for as many spaces forwars, as there are dots on this dice. He can choose any of his dice and he should not chase the outcome. Except for some cases, when the correction of throws is allowed, but that is not currently addressed here. Alternatively, a player can move his ship to a transit location. This will automatically move him to number 7.

Pirates of Nassau - game in progress

He then continues (after other players first move) with a second move and then the third. This time the initial position is the actual place, where the ship is located. Player can navigate in both directions, but again only by the number of dots on his dice. Or he can jump over to the neighboring transit location. Third shift finishes all movement and makes the most important stage in the round over.

But surely you are missing something here – at the end of each of the three movements, a pirate can make one action. The main are smuggling from port, harbor assault (if you are located inside a port) and the main one: attacking a merchant ship. Smuggling is a safe bet, but you get only one piece of goods according to the type of port and your choice.

Much more interesting but also more dangerous, is to fight port or ship. Both is done in a very simile way. The player first selects one of its captains and plays it. The character commands the attacking ship and it adds some extra capabilities to it. In order for the attack to be successful, the player must not only overcome the merchants firepower, but also be faster than him – outsail it (not in case of port). Player compares the sum of speed and firepower with the attacked ship and only if he wins in both, he managed to plunder the ship. Ports have defensive numbers and are therefore more difficult to conquer.

Pirates of Nassau - cards

For every ship or the port, which players attacks and plunder, he must move his pawn on notoriety track. The figure is also moved by other activities, which are not addressed in detail here. But in the end, result is all the same. Namely when it comes to deciding, who will be attacked by Royal Navy, the first is the player, who got most notoriety points. But it works a bit differently in the game itself – players get to choose cards from the Royal Navy offer. The player with lowest notoriety gets to pick first. Whoever gets the ship and not the empty sea card, must fight with the navy. If he loses, he loses part of the cargo as well as notoriety points.

After returning to Nassau, players can shop improvements for their ship. This items can brings a higher speed, better shooting or other special skills. You will certainly have use for all of them, when you are out there, at sea.

At the conclusion of the turn, you perform maintenance – moving of nonplundered ships and adding new ones as well as the Navy ones. Whole game ends, when cards of the Royal Navy deck run out. And who becomes the best pirate? It will be determined by the final score. This is comprised not only from notoriety, but also the crew, the quality of the ship and wealth.

Pirates of Nassau - game in progress

Pirates of Nassau is a game, where pirates really live. From beginning to the end, you will feel like one of them, just let the beard grow and start to swear. Atmosphere is really incredible. But Richard Glazer benefits more from lots of strategic options, that the game offers.

The sheer number of different options to improve your ship is great. Although you always have only limited choice, which is supplied only at the end of the round. But there is nothing easier, than to wait until the next round. Or just take another path and upgrade ship in a different way.

You have to plan your boat trip and you must be careful about it. Although dice determine the basic limitations, where you can move, for you. But almost every turn can you reach some interesting places. There are transfer location behind it all. They help a lot, because you do not have to depem on lucky rolls of high numbers. The more and farther away from Nassau you are, the more difficult are the opponents. Open sea is dangerous place.

Pirates of Nassau - tokens

Additionally, you must constantly watch the Royal Navy offer and try to stay at the best possible position on notoriety track on the end of the round, when it comes to selecting one of these ships. This fight can often decide about your true existence as a pirate. Although you can never die here, you only lose stuff.

It might seem, that the game contains only a little interaction. And yes, it is true. There were suggestions around our gaming group, that players should fight among themselves. It is perhaps a pity, that game does not contain this option and maybe some additional rules will address this. But there are conflicts present in the form of picking cards, which others want.

Another limitation is apparent in suggested number of players. Pirates of Nassau authors recommend three players and more to play it, but it can actually be play well in two. Simply adjust the number of cards for the Royal Navy deck and thus shorten match by one round. Few chips will lose some of thein power, but the resulting experience will still be worth it.

When you play with more players, you could encounter another problem – namely pirate ships take up much space, as well as board and stock piles. Therefore, the Pirates of Nassau will need a big table to be comfortably played in more than three.

Pirates of Nassau - cards

A little splodge over the beauty of this game lies in workmanship. Do not get us wrong, the game includes nice ship miniatures, neatly-arranged board, and puzle maps of your ships. But all those nice components are let down by paper. Chests and hostages and made only from simple paper, to be folded and played with. But this small flaw in the processing has no significant effect on the gaming experience.

Either way, the author of Pirates of Nassau deservers recognition. This is excellent and so far the best pirate game, that we have played (we have not played Merchants and Marauders, so we can not compare). This theme is much neglected right now, and the more we are pleased by quality of this game. It allows for a real strategic decisions. You will fight not only with pirates, merchants and navy in the game, but also with difficult choices. And now feel the waves of fun!

DesignerRichard Glazer, Tom Merrigan, Gabrio Tolentino
ArtistPeter Casson, Betty Le Bon
PublisherGung Ho Games
Year Published2012
# of Players3 - 5
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4 players
Recommended with 3, 5 players
(3 voters)
Playing Time90
Mfg Suggested Ages10 and up
User Suggested Ages10 and up
(1 voters)
Language DependenceNo necessary in-game text
(1 voters)
CategoryNautical, Pirates
MechanicArea Movement, Dice Rolling
FamilyCountry: Bahamas
Primary NamePirates of Nassau

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

Review: Pirates of Nassau – battle of cutthroats
Final word
Pirates of Nassau are the real pirate game. The one, who does not steal, cannot win. Yet you have to be careful and not to ambush too many valuable ships, so you avoid the position of most wanted pirate. Because that is the one, Royal Navy is after in the first place. Precisely ballancing on the edge of the knife is the biggest magic of this game. It will guarantee you lots and lots of fun. But you must add many other things, which this game offers. In the first place, you can upgrade your ship every turn - crew, mast or hull. All these options are entertaining. But you cannot stop thinking even, when you are enjoying yourselves. Pirates of Nassau is primarily a strategic game about using dice numbers, upgrading your ship correctly to fit your strategy. And then using their strength properly. Only this way can you escape Royal Navy and reach safety. That is the only place, where you can spend your wealth..
Reader Rating0 Votes
pirate topic
you navigate through dice
robbing of ships and ports
large boats and cannons
Royal Navy hunts you down
you must maintain balanced state and be not the most aggresive player
upgrading of ships
really strategic game
can be played in two
few little glitches in manufacturing of tiles
needs lots of space
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