Pirate game

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Pirate game
Type: running game, wide game
Number of players: 20 or more
Location: outdoors, large area, best in a forest
Equipment: small sheets of paper
Duration: 30 minutes or longer
Preparation: prepare the cards with harbor names

The pirate game (or harbor game) is a running game and wide game. It can be played with any (larger) number of participants; the more, the better. You need to prepare a few things! The game is suitable for participants from age 10 or older (depending on the actual rules you use). It is a variation of the game smuggling.


  • You need lots of small sheets of paper with the names of the different harbors you use. Prepare at least two or three times as may cards as you have participants!
  • Additionally, you will need similar cards with a pirate symbol.



The trainers are assigned harbors. They are spread over the playing field (not too near to each other; best in some kind of secluded but obvious and easily reachable location (hilltop, clearing, skirt of a wood, ...). The trainers get the playing cards with the harbor names (a selection of all harbors, except their own); reserve a few cards for the participants, though! If you play at night, the harbors can use lights ("lighthouses") to be found more easily.

Some trainers or older, faster participants, represent pirates. They get all the pirate's cards.


The participants are the merchantmen. They all get a card with the name of a harbor. Their task is to deliver this card to the correct harbor. If they reach the harbor, they trade their card against a new one of another harbor. Usually, they also earn a point (the harbors note their name, or give them some token, or stamp/sign their score card, etc.). Then, they continue their mission.

Between the harbors, the pirates lurk. They try to seize the merchantman's goods. No force is used for that, a merchantman is robbed as soon as he is touched by a pirate. He then has to give his card to the pirate, and gets a pirate card in return. He can change this pirate card in any harbor to a new card. Usually, the pirates' task is not to overly influence the game, but to make trading not too easy and to encourage participants to use hidden trails through the wood instead of just marching from one harbor to the other. Of course, the game gets more interesting with this kind of opponent :-)

The pirate's cards are necessary to prevent cheating by the merchants. This way, they cannot just claim to have already been seized by a pirate; if that was true, they would be able to show their pirate's card.

The pirate deliver their seized cards back to the harbors for further distribution. They also take the cards of the harbor that have reached their destination and forward it to another harbor (so it can be used by another player).