games and books


Mint Tin Pirates

2-player, 5- to 10-minute battle game


Min Tin PiratesAye, sworn pirate enemies!

Destroy their crew or sink their galleon to win.

Beware the Pirate Ghost!

Pair of Dice Paradise
Awarded Pair of Dice Paradise Wings

Two pirate captains are resolute on getting rid of each other. But there’s no easy fighting on the high seas with waves, wet gunpowder, and slippery hands. Cannons, pistols, bombs, and knives don’t always hit their targets.

Treasonous desertions from the opponent’s ship and summoning lost pirates from Davy Jones’ Locker sometimes work and sometimes fail.

And when all seems lost, the Pirate Ghost gives you one last fighting chance!



Game rules - setup & play

Pick your color and roll dice. Higher roll goes first.

Place your pirates on your ship and matching damage cube on your ship’s damage counter.

Place the gold cube and Pirate Ghost between the ships.

Shuffle and deal 5 cards face-down to each player.

Place remaining deck face-down.

  1. On your turn discard and draw up to 2 cards, if desired.
  2. Play a matching pair, if possible and if you want to, or your turn is over.
  3. To play a matching pair—roll the dice. If total matches any of the card’s bottom numbers, it wins! If not, your turn is over.
    • Knife/Pistol/Bomb/Cannon - Take an opponent’s pirate and place it beside your ship as a lost pirate. Count cannon hits with damage cube. Four hits sinks ship and you lose the game.
    • Desertion - An opponent’s pirate becomes one of your crew.
    • Davy Jones’ Locker - Raise any lost pirate and place on your ship.
    If you played a pair, win or lose, draw 2 replacement cards.
  4. Next player’s turn.

Doubloons are wild and can be used to complete a pair.

If needed, shuffle discarded cards to continue.

Top right number is the total number of that card in the deck and its chances of success:

      !!! best       !! fair       ! least

Pirate Ghost!

First one to lose all their crew places the Pirate Ghost on their ship and discards 2 cards.

Pirate Ghost plays with only 3 cards (or 4 cards with the gold). Pirate Ghost is always the last to be lost if you gain back any crew. Losing the Pirate Ghost loses the game.

Dice doubles!

Place gold on your ship and play with an extra card!

If the other player rolls a double, they take your gold and an extra card, and you lose your extra card.

Game interrupted?

Each pirate on your ship is 2 victory points, lost pirates you’ve claimed are 1 victory point each, and gold is 1 point.

Most victory points wins!

Mint Tin Pirates Setup

So small to carry, perfect for travel, and quick to learn, but so much depth to finesse. Thanks for creating that!
Paul W.

Mint Tin Pirates’ cards



Rules in French by Francois

Excellent French translation of the base rules in a PDF.

Rules in German by Erik

Outstanding German translation of the base rules in a PDF.


Pair of Dice Paradise’s video review
by Chaz Marler (written review here) • jump to Pirates video section


Mint Tin Pirates gameplay
by Kate & me


Mint Tin Pirates tweet

Mint Tin Pirates contains:

Mint Tin Pirates Maurice


Six Variants

1) Sea Dog Pirates - longer playtime, with Jeff R. mods

Mix any, or use all, of these suggestions to make longer games.

  1. Each pirate can be injured once and continue to fight. This requires reshuffling discarded cards at least once.
    Successful Knife/Pistol/Bomb attacks lay down an opponent’s standing pirate first until all are laying down. Once all the opponent’s pirates are laying down, subsequent successful attacks take an opponent’s lying down pirate and place it beside your ship as a lost pirate.
    • Desertion - If all opponent’s pirates are standing, take one and place as part of your crew. If any are laying down, you must take them first.
    • Davy Jones’ Locker - Raise a completely lost pirate and place them on your ship. You cannot take an injured pirate.
    • When playing an attack, only show your cards if the attack is successful and then discard face-down (reduces card counting).
  2. Cannon attacks only damage the ship—they don’t injure or claim pirates.
  3. Use the gold to do one cannon damage repair.
  4. Throw the gold back into the sea, don’t use an extra card, and to gain the favour of sea demons proclaim “Ye cursed demons of the depths, this treasure and our souls to ye so that we may rid the seas of our scurvy foes.” Then slide your damage indicator back. You decide if you can do this only once per game or an unlimited number of times.
  5. Improve your chances with three of a kind.
    • Decide if this should apply to all cards, to attack cards, or to hand weapons only (not cannons).
    • Extend the successful rolls by one each way. For example, a knife and pistol was dice roll of a 6 to an 8 but is now a roll of 5 to 9, hand mortars (bombs) were 5 to 9 and now are 4 to 10. This forces harder decisions on hand management.
    • Replace the three cards once played.


2) Mint Tin Pirates solo variant - The Ghost Ship by Nick Shaw

A fantastic single-player version that plays very well. Link goes to BoardGameGeek.

Here's a Pocketmod rule book of this variant by Nate Johnson (Pocketmod folding instructions).


3) Semi-Cooperative variant - Pirates vs. Aliens by Nick Shaw

Combines Mint Tin Pirates with Mint Tin Aliens. Link goes to BoardGameGeek.


4) Last Man/Ghost, Gets The Gold! by Matt Choules

In this three-way battle royale (2-player vs. AI or 3-player) and/or a semi-co-op variant of Mint Tin Pirates, the aim is simple:

Kill or sink your enemies, steal or keep the gold, and be the last Captain standing—be it Pirate or Ghost!

The Ghost Captain hates the living and wants to make all living-kind suffer for as long as possible—to begin he will randomly fire upon either of the Pirate ships. Once one of the rival ships weakens or a crew member is killed (by the hand of the Ghost or other Pirate Captain) the Ghost Captain targets the strongest Pirate Captain.

The strongest is determined by the number of surviving crew, if tied then by ship health, if tied again then the Pirate Captains are equal and Random Firing commences or will recontinue.

The Ghost Captain may be alone aboard the Ghost ship, but has the strong advantage of getting a turn between each turn of the living Pirate Captains. For example:
Player 1 > Ghost Captain > Player P > Ghost Captain > Player 1 > Ghost Captain …

As a Pirate Captain, you face the choice:

  • Sink the Ghost Captain first to inherit the gold and then try to take out the other Pirate Captain (either their ship or crew),
  • or
  • take out your rival Pirate Captain first and then face the Ghost Captain alone.

The second option is risky as when you’re the strongest or only surviving player the Ghost Captain will always target you, and you alone.

Of course, if you spend all your time destroying the other Pirate Captain then you’ll have to face the Ghost Captain with likely a damaged ship or reduced crew.

You might want to strike up an alliance with the other Pirate Captain to weaken or destroy the Ghost ship but know that alliances can be very self-serving and there can be only one winner!

It’s recommended to play without the Advanced Rules for a few games if this is your first playthrough—once you get the hang of the game—choose to use the Advanced Rules at your own risk …

Note: Matt’s versions need an additional pirate ship. You can draw your own or grab the Print and Play zip. If you only want the single PnP sheet with the ship (and instructions) then grab the US Letter or International A4 PDF.

Two-Player Version

Pirate Captains
Play as normal (five-card hand, discard and draw up to two cards at the start of their turn, play pairs to attack).

Players must announce who they’re targeting before they roll.

Cannons and hand mortars (bombs) are the only effective weapons against the Ghost Ship; knives and pistols have no effect because they can’t hit the Ghost Captain. You must sink the ship to defeat the Ghost Captain and steal the treasure.

All weapons affect other player ships and crews (as per the original rules) except bombs, which only affect the crew and not the ship.

If or when a player is sunk or all crew have perished, all cards in that player’s hand are discarded from the game.

Dice doubles have no effect on the gold (as per the original rules) which remains on the Ghost ship until sunk, at which point it is transferred to the ship of the Captain that sunk the Ghost ship. This signals a win if there’s no other Pirate Captain alive.

Advanced Rules

  • The first defeated Pirate Captain takes on the role of the Ghost Captain (assuming not already sunk)—a recommended rule to play!
  • At the start of their turn, a player can recover a single overboard crew member, but at a cost of one ship damage. The player then continues his/her turn as normal.
  • Players may play two doubloons to increase their hand limit from 5 to 6 for the rest of the game. Doubloons spent in this way are lost at sea and removed from the game. Each player may do this only once per game only (meaning the maximum hand limit is six cards).

Ghost Captain
The Ghost Captain has no cards and on their turn a single card is drawn from the draw pile and played as if it is a pair of cards.

The Ghost Captain refuses to share and will not take on any shipmates when drawing a Davy Jones Locker or Desertion card. When drawing either of these cards they’re lost at sea (removed from the game) and the Ghost Captain’s turn ends.

The gold cube serves as the health marker for the Ghost Captain’s ship.

The Ghost Captain plays between each turn of the living Pirate Captains. For example: Player 1 > Ghost Captain > Player 2 > Ghost Captain > Player 1 > Ghost Captain …

The Ghost Ship targets the strongest player (or sole surviving player). The strongest player is determined by ship health and then living crew members. If tied then Random Firing continues until at the start of the Ghost Captain’s next turn until one ship or crew is weaker.

Random Firing
On the Ghost Captain’s turn, if both Pirate Captains have an equal number of surviving crew and ship health, then chance chooses for the Ghost Captain. Each Pirate Captain roles a single die, the lowest score loses and the Ghost Captains continue their turn with that Pirate Captain as their target.

Random Fire is interrupted only if one Pirate Captain has more crew or ship health, or if one Pirate Captain ship is sunk or crew wiped out.

Advanced Rules

  • If the Ghost Captain draws a doubloon card then the Ghost Ship’s health increases one point (to the max four). There’s no limit to how many times this can happen so beware! Doubloons spent in this way are lost at sea (removed from the game).
Three-Player Version (Battle Royale)

Same as above but a third player controls is the Ghost Captain. Pirate Captain players do not inherit this position once they’re sunk: When any player is sunk, or crew is killed, they’re out!

If the Ghost Ship is sunk, the gold transfers to the ship of the player that delivered the final blow.

Advanced Rules

  • If the Ghost Captain draws a Davy Jones’ Locker or desertion card, they put that card in the discard pile (not lost from the game), then draw two new cards, and the Ghost Captain chooses which to play or resolve.


5) Mint Tin Pirates: The Multiplayer Experience by Sorry Man, I Farted

We found that if you take two copies (or three for a six-player game) of Mint Tin Pirates, shuffle the decks together, and use these simple rule modifications you can have a four-player game that’s just as quick, but even more cutthroat than the original.

The rules of play are exactly the same as the base game except that you must declare who you are attacking before cards are played.

  • All dead pirates go to the center of the play area.
  • Play with one gold.
  • Alliances are allowed and encouraged, breaking alliances is encouraged even more.
  • The Pirate Ghost is removed from play in a multi-player game, no second chances.
  • You live by the sword or you die by the sword.


6) Mashup with Mint Tin Mini Skulduggery by our Official Pirate Privateer

Here’s a fantastic long-playing privateer mashup of Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Mini Skulduggery.

Start playing Pirates, but … doubles gets you Skulduggled! Instead of getting the treasure—play a game of Skulduggery—using the doubled rolled as the spirit number. It’s a game within a game!

Complete the entire game of Skulduggery and use the skulls you end with to continue Pirates.

Here are the twists:

  1. On Mint Tin Mini Skulduggery triples you can:
    • Add one crystal skull to your Pirates’ crew. And then, if you become the Pirate Ghost, add that number of bonus cards to your hand for that turn. After that turn, discard the extra cards, skulls, and treasure back to the depths from whence they came!
      • or alternatively
    • Add one crystal skull to your crew. And if you become the Pirate Ghost, the crystal skull counts as crystal crew which can be lost OR used as a doubloon.
    Once you add a crystal skull to your crew, you can’t take it back to use in that game of Skulduggery. In a 2-player Skulduggery game, can you play with the second crystal skull? That’s up to you!
  2. All skulls earned in Skulduggery can be used for any one of these per turn at the price of 5 skulls each:
    • Repair one damage to your ship.
    • Bribe your opponent and steal their treasure!
    • Draw 2 extra cards for one turn and then discard back to hand limit for the next turn.
    • Add +1/-1 to any card’s bottom numbers to increase their chance of success.
    • Use 5 skulls as a doubloon.
  3. The winner of Mint Tin Mini Skulduggery gets the treasure to be used as normal.


Mint Tin Pirates creation


Mint Tin Pirates - design backstory

Two pirate galleons crossing paths in the high seas—maybe classic 16th-century Spanish galleons—are often depicted in pirate movies. Or they could be French Corsairs or any ship you like (even steampunk ships).

The ships are about 10 yards apart. A warm breeze blows and gentle sea swells are interrupted by an occasional abrupt wave. I think back to when I was ten—my father had a 32-foot red snapper fishing boat and we’d go out in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast.

The 1600s saw the first European use of the hand mortar and cast iron bomb (grenade). I think of a hollow cannonball filled with black powder with a fuse. These weapons weren’t sophisticated and their damage could vary greatly. Similar to something used by Wile E. Coyote.

I imagine 12-pound cannons on these ships. A ship wouldn’t have many twelve-pound cannons because of the tremendous weight of the cannonballs and the cannon itself; this was an important factor for sailing speed. Eight-pound cannons were more common. Twelve-pound cannons take more black powder and are slower to load but they pack a huge punch.

Flintlock pistols are single-shot weapons and it wasn’t uncommon for a pirate to have several of them. I picture a pirate shooting these and handing them to someone hiding below the rails to reload as quickly as possible. That could result in poorly-packed shots and maybe even the ball rolling out!

DerringerAs a young teenager, my dad gave me a .50 caliber percussion cap brass derringer replica. He never intended me to actually shoot it, but I carved out an oak bullet mold, melted lead tire weights, and I cast a dozen balls for it! I somehow obtained percussion caps (these came out after flintlocks and work in the same manner), some black powder, and wadding (this holds the powder and ball in place).

I shot at an aluminum pie tin and saw how incredibly inaccurate a non-rifled pistol is! Rifling makes a bullet spin as it travels down the barrel and makes it fly straight.

The knife, or throwing dirk in this case, is a balanced knife designed to be thrown with some accuracy. As a kid, I had some throwing knives and they were simple—like carnival sideshow ones. I laced leather shoelace handles onto them and imagined I was a pirate.

Throwing a knife to hit a target isn’t so hard, but having the point hit, and not the handle takes practice and some luck. Imagine doing that on a rocking ship with sea spray in your face—you’d be a heck of a pirate to hit anything!

So now you see my perspective on these weapons, which is a combination of research mixed with a little of my naive experience.

In Mint Tin Pirates, one card represents that you have the weapon and the second card represents that it’s ready (ready to light for the bombs, loaded for the cannons or guns, and sharp for the knives).

The card pair represents a weapon that’s ready to be used.

The dice roll represents the luck inherent to the weapon and the conditions at hand (waves, sea spray, wind, smoken and chaos).

A bomb fuse could fall out, you could miss with your throw, the enemy might kick it away, or they could move out of the way.

The cannon could be packed too tightly and blow up, it could miss with the pitch of a wave, or have too little or too much powder, or even wet powder.

Plymouth GinNaval trivia: The British Royal Navy traditionally sailed with Plymouth Navy Strength Gin (57% versus 41%). It’s said that if this gin spilled on gunpowder, the powder would still light!

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!

Like cannons, pistols are very inaccurate at more than a few feet and, in the heat of battle, reloading is sloppy at best.

Cannons have high odds of success (wide range of dice values) but it’s devastating when they miss and they take longer to untie, roll back, clean, reload, roll forward, re-tie, aim, and then fire (thus there are fewer in the deck).

Bombs are broadly damaging in their explosion, so luck favours them a bit but not as much as cannons.

Knives and pistols could be in good supply and more accessible, but their accuracy stinks, so the odds are lower for success.

Continuing to more fantasy and imagination—Davy Jones’ Locker and the treason card!

Davy Jones’ Locker is the watery grave that a fallen pirate is condemned to but, as in Hollywood movies, there are ways to get those pirates back! That has a lot of unknowns and needs plenty of luck to pull off your evil magic ways.

The treason card—there are only two in the deck because they can drastically turn the tide of the game. But I thought they should be there because one of your pirates might think the riches of the other ship are better. And, honestly, how much loyalty do pirates have?

I hope this sheds some light on the attacks and the luck found in Mint Tin Pirates.

In the heat of a sea battle—with old tech weapons—luck abounds! But you can still play strategically and, as some reviewers have said, the strategy can as be deep as the sea itself, but that’s all in your hands. =)

Now, that gold and ghost …

Snake eyes is rare with only a 2.8% chance of being rolled. Something special should happen for doubles—for this is surely good luck smiling down on a band of misfit pirates.

What could that luck be? A gold treasure perhaps? It adds something to fidget with while playing and it does favour the bearer of the gold with more resources in the form of an extra card.

The pirate ghost is a nod to Scooby-Doo! And helps with a potential runaway leader. With such a short playing game, a runaway leader isn’t a big concern, but this is a way to address it.

As a ghost, weapons should not have the same effect—after all, it’s a ghost!

But … that means complicating the already minimal rules. Since it’s paranormal, a little creative license leads to a two-card handicap which represents the challenges a ghost faces. And it’s truly a last measure—a last go in the battle.

Oh, another thing about Mint Tin Pirates—the cannon damaging to the ship is a way to keep the game from going too long. And the game is balanced to play, most of the time, without needing to reshuffle the deck.

But if you find it too fast, you can play the sea dog variation that Kate and I leisurely enjoy. You can also double the cannon hits by counting down and then back up the damage track.

Mint Tin Pirates is all about light and casual play that lets you be part of the surroundings and let's you say “Yes!” to that guacamole on the side! =)

What’s next?

A Kraken Edition with a custom coin and a beast that both crews must battle?

And how about a silver edition?

Mint Tin Pirates silver edition
Five gram, hand-poured, silver bullion—a perfect fit!

Mint Tin Pirates: Pizza Party Edition?

Six player, big hinged tin, an island with treasure, and coves for ship repairs! Form alliances, betray others, and be ye a scurvy dog!

Mint Tin Pirates Pizza Party


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