Skip to Content

How To Play Pirates Cove (6 Minute Guide)

How To Play Pirates Cove (6 Minute Guide)

Is there anyone out there that can honestly say they haven’t dreamed of being a pirate? Now is your chance with Days of Wonder game Pirate’s Cove! In this 3-5 player game, you play as the captain of your own pirate ship, and it’s up to you to sail, fight, and plunder your way to glorious infamy. If you’re ready to embrace the swashbuckling buccaneer inside you, it’s time to jump on into the salty waters of Pirate’s Cove!

If you don’t own Pirate’s Cove already, check it out here on Amazon.



Your goal in Pirate’s Cove is to become the most famous and feared pirate of the High Seas within 12 months (turns). There are numerous ways of collecting Fame points, such as winning battles, telling tall tales in the Tavern, and burying gold and treasure.


Place the board map in the center of the playing area. There are three card types to place around the board: Treasure cards, Tavern cards, and Legendary Pirate cards.

Place all the Tavern cards, shuffled and face down, on the matching area of Tavern Island. Distribute 12 Treasure cards to each of the five outer islands on the matching areas

provided. Remove from the Legendary Pirate deck the “Royal Navy” card, which should be placed face up beside the board. Shuffle the remaining Legendary Pirate cards and then place them face down beside the board.

Each player chooses a Pirate ship miniature of their chosen color, as well as 4 strength markers and one Fame marker that are the same color. Also distributed to each player are the Pirate ship mat, a Captain’s wheel,  one Tavern card, and a total of 9 gold (one doubloon worth 5 and four worth 1).

To begin with, each player places their Fame marker on the Jolly Roger starting spot of the Fame track that runs around the edge of the board. Whenever a player receives Fame points, their marker should immediately be moved accordingly.

Every player should place their Captain’s wheel and Pirate ship mat in front of them and place their strength markers on the starting points of each four rows of the mat. To begin with, all markers are placed at the second mark from the left, as indicated by a small skull icon. Player’s gold is kept beside their ship mat. All other doubloons and treasure (small brown cubes) are now to be placed on Treasure Island.

Lastly, a Legendary Pirate ship must be placed on the board. It begins at Tavern Island, so place the black ship piece there, and draw a Legendary Pirate card from the stack. Place this card face up by the ship piece. If playing with 3 players, a second Legendary Pirate goes into play and begins off Cannon Island. Draw a Legendary Pirate card for this one as well, and place beside its black ship piece.

            There are 12 months, or turns, per game. Each turn is broken into 6 phases.

            Note: Before beginning turn one, players have a chance to strengthen their ships. Players can upgrade any or all of the sections of your ship by paying an upgrade cost, found in white next to that level. Costs are cumulative, so count all costs between strengths levels.

            Variation Note: While listed as a game for 3-5 people, there are existing 2 player and 6 player variations that many have adopted. Two such variations have been officially listed by Days of Wonder at can be found at their official website.

Pirate Ship Details:

            Each Pirate ship mat comes with 4 rows that represent 4 distinct sections of the ship.

  1. The Hull, which number dictates how much treasure you can store.
  2. The Crew, which when paired with cannons dictate how many die are rolled in battles
  3. The Cannons, which when manned by the Crew dictate how many die are rolled in battles
  4. The Sails, which increase your ship’s speed.


            The Westward order of the game, also known as clockwise, routinely comes into play for some actions. The islands in Westward order are Tavern, Hull, Sail, Cannon, Crew, and Treasure Island, and finally Pirate’s Cove.

Treasure Phase:

            The top card from the stacks of Treasure cards on each of the outer island is flipped over to reveal the rewards for capturing that island that turn.

Navigation Phase:

            Players secretly set the arrow of their Captain’s wheel to the island they wish to sail to and plunder. Captain’s wheels are revealed simultaneously and ship pieces are moved accordingly.

Combat Phase:

            Beginning with ships off Tavern Island and proceeding in Westward order, resolve any combat. Whenever there are 2 or more ships are present on the outer islands, combat ensues to determine who gets to plunder the island. Combat may occur at Treasure Island if a ship runs into a Legendary Pirate moored there. Combat continues until one ship remains at the island; or until all player ships have been either crippled or fled to Pirate’s Cove.

            Variations Note: There is a popular variation known as “parlay” or “negotiation” where instead of requiring a battle between ships, Players at the same island may choose to negotiate peace terms, divvying up the booty and upgrade offered by the island.

Plunder Phase:

            Beginning with Tavern Island and moving Westward, any surviving ship at an outer island may now plunder it and receive the rewards indicated on the Treasure card.

Upgrade Phase:

            Beginning with Tavern Island, ships may now use the islands’ various upgrades.

  • Tavern Island: Players may purchase up to 3 Tavern cards for 2 gold each
  • Hull, Sail, Cannon, and Crew Islands: Players may upgrade the respective ship sections by paying corresponding costs.
  • Treasure Island: Players may bury gold or treasure, receiving 1 fame point per treasure, and 1 fame point per 3 gold pieces. Players may also upgrade ship sections by 1 level for double the regular costs.
  • Pirate’s Cove: Players may draw either two Tavern cards, or 1 Tavern card and 2 gold, and repair their crippled ships.

Move Legendary Pirate Ships and Check Treasures Phase:

            Legendary Pirate black ship(s) are moved one island westward each. Pirate’s Cove is a safe haven, so after Treasure Island, black ships move back to Tavern Island.

 If a Legendary Pirate was defeated during combat, draw a new card from the Legendary Pirate deck to replace it.

Check Treasure loads, any treasure on board a ship that is higher than its hull capacity is thrown off board. This treasure is returned back to Treasure Island.

End of Game Phase:

After 12 rounds, each player reveals any Fame cards they hold and moves their fame marker accordingly. Any treasure or gold coins that were not buried on Treasure Island are worth no fame.

The pirate with the most fame points is declared the winner: if two or more players are tied for the most fame, these players must fight to the death to decide the winner.


Time to Play: 60-90 minutes

Alternative Titles:

La Crique des Pirates





Suggested Player Age: 8+

Community Suggested Player Age: 8+

List of Expansions: N/A

Community Rating: 6.6/10

Popularity: OVERALL 1,107  –  FAMILY 324

Difficulty: Moderate

Published Year: 2002

Creator/Publisher Credits:


                Paul Randles

    Daniel Stahl


    Cyrille Daujean

    Julien Delval

    Swen Papenbrock

    Markus Wagner


    Days of Wonder


Official Game Site

Official Game Rules


            2003 Tric Trac Nominee

2003 Tric Trac d’Argent
2002 Spiel der Spiele Hit mit Freunden Recommended

If you like this game, you’ll also like…

If you don’t like this game, maybe you’ll like…