The lowly Sloop of War My brother picked up the board game Dread Pirate on Boxing Day. The game components themselves are perfect for a pirate game: metal doubloons, an old map printed on cloth for a board, nice wooden die, &c.

The widely-noted problem with Dread Pirate is that the play is just not that interesting. You have three basic ways to get ahead – fighting other ships, raiding ports, and trading – and all three involve nothing more than a roll-to-see-who’s-higher.

Still, putting it nicely, this board game has a lot of potential. So, to make things more interesting, I’ve cooked up some alternate rules, titled Dread Pirate: The Black Spot Rules. They are available for PDF download here:

The rules currently affect only the fighting and raiding aspects of gameplay. In designing these rules, my goals were:

  • To add room for additional strategies in gameplay
  • To increase the level of realism in battles and raids to something a little more satisfying
  • To require as few new components as possible, and to retain the level of old-world tactility set by the original pieces.

The result is a system of ship upgrades and a new battle format that goes a long way towards improving the strategy/luck balance of the game, and needs only a chess board and pieces in addition to the game itself.

As far as I know, this is the only serious attempt that has been made at an improvement on this game. If there are similar efforts out there already, I have been unable to locate them in my five minutes of searching.

Improvements Needed

At this point, I am very much interested in receiving input from people who would like to improve on these rules. I am not a board game expert or even a very frequent player of many different board games, so I feel as though the problem calls for more experience being brought to bear than I have at my disposal. So I have published this as a draft meant to be improved-upon. See the Final Thoughts section at the very end.

I just picked up this game on clearance at Borders but I was disappointed with it. I found your new rules interesting but I would prefer to use the original board and pieces. I plan to create cards for the different types of ships you mentioned so that we can continue to use the excellent ship pieces. The card each player has will indicate which upgrades have been given to their ship. Maybe we can trade ideas and I can give you the cards to integrate with the rules once I am done with them to make a black spot rules version 2.

Eric Vanderburg ·