Tag Archives: Pirate Island

Our games by year…

Following on from our birthday post last month, I thought it would be interesting to show when we published each game. I’ve excluded translations to keep things simple…

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2018

2019

  • Christmas Lies (the festive version of Hollywood Lies) by Steve Hatherley

2020

2021

2022

2023

One of the things that amazes me is how my memory has changed everything. I think of A Speakeasy Murder as one of our newer games, but it’s now over seven years old! And was it really in 2009 when we published The Karma Club?

Adding eight pirates to Pirate Island

We’ve just tweaked Pirate Island so that it now works with up to 32 pirates. I’m going to explain the how and the why of doing that.

The why

Pirate Island had been bugging me for a while – because it’s actually a bit fiddly to prepare.

Pirate Island
Scout Master Richard running Pirate Island – and on his 50th birthday as well!

Pirate Island is a team game, where the pirates are all members of a ship’s crew, trying to be the best pirate crew. To be the best, they have to enter contests, track down treasures and trade items with each other.

Everyone in Pirate Island plays a pirate. Either a Captain, a Gunner, or a Crewmate. And in keeping with our other murder mystery games, each of them has a character sheet.

A full game of 24 pirates has eight ships, each with three crew. However, with only 23 pirates, then we use seven ships with three pirates, and one ship that has only two pirates. That two-pirate ship is functionally the same as the one it replaced, except that it has a different name and only a Captain and a Gunner. By having four such ships (with two and three pirate versions) Pirate Island is fully flexible for 6-24 players.

But it’s a bit fiddly to prepare. Unless you are absolutely certain of your numbers, you have to print out all the ships just in case someone drops at the last minute. Or you get an extra unexpected pirate. Pirates can be so unpredictable!

When we came to Trick or Treat / Monster Mash, we simplified all this by creating team envelopes that didn’t require specialised roles. That way a team can be two or three (or more!) monsters – and there’s no extra printing required.

So one of the things that I wanted to do, given time, was to do the same with Pirate Island and tweak it to make it simpler to print and run, along the lines of Trick or Treat.

That’s not what happened, though.

What happened next – the Cub Scouts

Instead, I was contacted by a friend, Richard Salmon, who had purchased Pirate Island and wanted to run it for his Cub Scout group (the 1st Nork St Paul’s Scout Group). The problem was that he had over 30 cubs coming, and that would mean an awful lot of the generic extra Crewmate character. We had written the additional Crewmate to allow for one or two extra pirates – not nine!

Could I sort something out?

So rather than my original plan, I made the more-or-less identical ships more unique. The main change I made involved the pirate quests.

Questing for Treasure

Treasure map

In Pirate Island, each ship has a map to a pirate treasure (such as Blackbeard’s treasure, or the wreck of a treasure ship). To find the treasure means solving three puzzles, and the answers are scattered amongst the pirates – so they have to team up to solve them.

The more-or-less identical ships had the same treasure map, so I made them all unique. Instead of writing brand new clues, I simply re-used existing clues from the existing quests. (I had to choose the clues carefully to make sure that I didn’t accidentally give them all to one ship.)

Other changes involved tweaking item cards a little and checking that I hadn’t messed the game up anywhere else.

Feedback

So how did the new, expanded game go? I asked Richard for feedback and was told that:

“It went very well – they all seemed to have a good time.

“Took a bit of time to get started and the motto and performance contests were less popular. The quests all seemed to work out and there was a flurry of trading of items at the end. The winning team got nearly fifty doubloons, but some only collected a dozen or so (mainly because they didn’t do the contests).

“With cubs if something not engaging them; they start chasing one another about and generally messing; we didn’t have any of that for the hour they were playing; so that means they were really quite into it.”

Here are some photos from the scout group’s Facebook page. And here.

Overall

So while we’ve adjusted Pirate Island, we’ve taken it in a different direction than the one I had originally expected. I’m very happy with the way this has turned out, and maybe now that Pirate Island is bigger more groups will think about giving it a try.

And it really works for cub scout groups!

Peaky Writing Weekends

Players scheming in a corner in Venice
Players scheming in a corner in Venice

Last month Mo and I attended the annual Peaky freeform writing weekend along with 27 other like-minded writers and players of freeform roleplaying games. We formed into six groups and over the course of Friday evening and Saturday each group wrote a freeform. On Sunday we played five of them. It’s a fabulously intense, creative weekend and it’s one of the highlights of my year.

(A quick aside – a “freeform” is a type of live role-playing game. There are different flavours of freeforms and many are very like our murder mystery games, although they don’t necessarily contain a murder and they tend to be more fantastic than our games.)

The Peaky writing weekends started in 2001. The first few were held in Edale, in the Peak District, and that’s how the weekend got its name. In 2004 we moved to Upper Rectory Farm Cottages in Appleby Magna and since 2006 that’s been our permanent home.

Upper Rectory Farm Cottages

If was building a venue just for Peaky, I’d probably end up with Upper Rectory Farm Cottages. It’s perfect – eight or so interconnected but fully self-contained holiday cottages, plus a large refectory. This gives each group space to write, plus a large space for communal meals and playtesting.

This year I co-wrote Venice, a 15 player game of families, politics and power set in 16th Century Venice. Mo co-wrote What Happened in Blackpool, a very experimental game for 12 players set the night before a wedding. Other games were based on M*A*S*H, the villains of James Bond and Old Harry’s Game (a Radio 4 comedy set in hell).

We’ve published a couple of the Peaky games – Pirate Island and Monster Mash/Trick or Treat.

Peaky also publishes some of their games – you can find them here. A word of warning, though – they are less refined in terms of instructions compared to our games (they assume you know how to host a freeform) and they aren’t as flexible with player numbers. Oh, and I wouldn’t run any of them for a very conservative group. But they are cheaper, and if you’ve played one of our games you should find everything pretty familiar. I should note that I’ve had a hand in all of them at some level, whether as co-author or proofreader.