By Alana Joli Abbott
It should come as no surprise to anyone that I love a good pirate game. (While wearing my hat as a writer and game designer, I even created one!) So it is with great pleasure that I'm watching Outland's Kickstarter campaign for Dustin Dade's Scourge of the High Seas.
I'm really excited to finally get a chance to play this game. Dustin's playtest tables have been so full when Outland has attended Planet Comicon that I haven't gotten to try it out yet!
While I'm waiting for copies to exist for backers (and those of us at Outland still waiting for our copies, which feature gorgeous art by Shannon Potratz), I decided to reminisce about a few of the pirate games I have loved over the years. They're all…really old—don't judge!
In the early 2000s, I played a game on my PC that was all about trading and bringing goods from one port to another to make a profit. Sure there was pirate combat, but Tradewinds captured the sense of adventure and exploration I wanted from a pirate adventure. It was definitely in the realm of casual play games, but I think I played it through six or eight times before the company, SandLot, moved on to Tradewinds 2. It looks like there are at least four more recent updates to the game since I last played, which might just keep me busy while I wait for Scourge…
A friend of mine introduced me to this cute, kid-friendly puzzle game years back, and she and I joined a crew together to…honestly, I don't even remember what the goals were, for sure. I just remember we'd get on the game, beat puzzles together with strangers from somewhere across the globe, and feel very piratey. It was very cute, the puzzles themselves were just challenging enough to be entertaining, and we got to create our own pirates. Yarr!
I will fully admit I didn't win this game alone. The game play for Galleon on the original Xbox was tricky, and I ended up tag teaming with my husband to get through it. (We even had a friend who was a more expert gamer than either of us get through a particularly difficult lava surfing scene.) While in hindsight, I'm guessing there were some issues with gender dynamics in this one (just look at the cover), that's true of a lot of early Xbox games, and it's nice to see some forward momentum in video game writing since then.
But, this is one of the first games I played that used calligraphy magic, and I loved that aspect. Both female characters had a lot of personality next to the somewhat forgettable player character (he's in the middle). There were some awesome sailing scenes, some great monsters, and plenty of puzzles and action sequences to win. We didn't find that this one had a lot of replay value (see: having to have a friend come over to lava surf for us), but I remember a lot of this game fondly almost twenty years after finishing it.
Back in the days of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5e, my favorite game was set in Kenzer and Company's Kingdoms of Kalamar. My character was a cleric of the Traveler, born and bred in the Reanaaria Bay region of Tellene. I couldn't wait to get into the extra goodies, equipment, and rules in the guide created just for characters like mine. I remember the ship resources and rules being some of the better 3.5 rules created for ocean travel.
This is technically a very biased love, because Choice of the Pirate is an interactive novel that I wrote. However, when I was trying to recall some of the details from the long-ago playthroughs of the games I mentioned in this article, I found some additional love for Choice of the Pirate—it just got listed in a recent article about the 15 Best Pirate Video Games on LucroRPG. The game covers your (the player character's) career as a pirate, in which you can support the mysterious Pirate King, choose to side with the Crown to end his reign, or try to become the Pirate King yourself. There's swashbuckling and sorcery and lots of good (I hope!) fun.
What are your favorite pirate TTRPG, VRPG, or board games? Let me know what else I should play while waiting for Scourge of the High Seas…and don't forget to check it out on Kickstarter!