First Impressions: Pirates of the Dread Sea, by Dead Earth Games

Over the last couple of years I’ve started to really enjoy a skirmish game. I’ve played, and continue to really enjoy, Frost Grave, Burrows and Badger and Stargrave. For me a good skirmish game delivers a really fun narrative experience with an efficient ruleset. Yes, the warbands should be balanced, but unlike mass battle games, I really want to get a feel for the members of my warband and for there to be the potential for each of them to play a part in the story.

How did I end up trying Pirates of the Dread Sea out?

Paul, at Pandemonium Miniatures, dropped me a line to ask if I had some free time to run through the game as he is looking to run a demo at the FLGS. I’m always keen to get a game in so was only too happy to make some time, although I’ll be honest pirates are not a theme I’ve ever really gotten too excited about.

Of course, it always helps when you get introduced to a new game if there are a few nicely painted miniatures on hand and some decent scenery. Bristol Independent Gaming provided the scenery, and Paul brought his fantastically painted crews (and of course the rules knowhow).

The miniatures we used are all the official miniatures for the game, made by Dead Earth Games (just like the game itself), and frankly they’re lovely. However, good miniatures do not necessarily make a good game.

How does Pirates of the Dread Sea play?

The game uses two six-sided dice and some card decks. As you would expect it involves warbands facing off against each other to complete a randomly chosen scenario. The rules were pretty straightforward, and by the third turn I felt I knew enough about the system to be confident on the key actions like combat and shooting.

Something else I really liked was the dynamic between shooting and hand to hand combat. The shooting in the human and dwarf warbands is really short range, and black powder weapons need reloading which means characters can’t stand around on the board edge taking pot shots at each other, which in my view is a very unpiratey behaviour. Hand to hand combat seems much more efficient, which encourages movement.

Throughout the game you can also play random events. Each player holds three cards detailing events throughout the game, which they can use anytime to do all sorts of things from deciding what treasure goes where to stopping an enemy crewmember shooting. I’m a big fan of random events in skirmish games and really liked the way these worked.

The verdict

All in all, I really enjoyed the game we played. Relaxed, fun and really easy to get into, but with far more to explore. I’m definitely taken by the Dwarf crew, the models are lovely. Hopefully it won’t be long until I have another excuse to splice the mainbrace and delve into the secrets of Davey Jones’ locker. I would definitely recommend giving this a go.

Published by Eddie Bar

Fantasy storyteller, reader and wargamer.

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