Our step-by-step guide to the rules of how to play Plunder A Pirate’s Life Board Game. This game is a combat and area control game that has you managing your resources in a way that is going to get you to ten victory points the fastest. The theme and quality of components are top-notch and the game has something that each and every member of the family should enjoy. The game even makes our list of the best pirate board games. Learning how to play Plunder A Pirate’s Life does have many steps but you will be sailing and plundering in no time.

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Adventure and riches await any swashbuckler brave enough to take the helm and command a fleet. Wage war against rival captains. Build and upgrade your ships with masts and cannons to increase speed and firepower. Conquer islands and exploit the land to gain valuable resources. Navigate dangerous waters and avoid the ever-wandering storm. Are you ruthless enough to prevail? Do you seek gold and infamy? If ruling the seas is your ambition, it’s time to unleash your inner pirate. Its time to plunder!


Time Needed: Approximately 60 minutes.

This is a step by step guide for how to play Plunder A Pirate’s Life, the robust development and sea commanding board game. Additional notions and special rules can be found below the list. These will be referenced for your convenience.

1. SETUP | Build The Frame
To kick off how to play Plunder A Pirate’s Life setup, you need to build the outside board frame. There are large strips of either numbers or letters and there are four corner pieces. The frame should form a 12×18 tile rectangle where numbers 1 – 18 go along the top and bottom and the 12 letters A – L go along the sides.

2. SETUP | Add in Map Boards
The game comes with 6x large square game board pieces. They are separated and not one board so they can be randomly rearranged each game. Place all of these randomly in your rectangular frame to complete the full game board.

3. SETUP | Put Out Spinners
There are two cardboard spinner tiles. These have numbers 1 – 18 and letters A – L respectively in a circle with a plastic arrow in the center. The idea is that you can spin the arrow and randomly get one of the letters and numbers. This is to correspond to the game board, you find where the letter and number intersect and that is the chosen square as needed. Place these near the game board.

4. SETUP | Put Out Resource Cards
You pick up and collect different resources to buy things throughout the game. These are different textured cards that represent the 4 types: Wood, Iron, Rum and Gold. Place 10x of each resource, face up, near the board.

5. SETUP | Create Resource Card Deck
Take the remaining resource cards you didn’t use in the above step, shuffle them all together and then place them in a face down stack. Place these next to your previously placed 4x resource card stacks.

6. SETUP | Put Out Treasure Card Deck
Take the treasure cards, the ones with the beige back and large red X, shuffle them and place them in a face-down stack.

7. SETUP | Put Out Plunder Point Cards
The smaller hook handed cards are the plunder point cards. These represent your victory points since it is the first person to hit an overall total that wins. Place the stack of these with the other stacks of cards you placed

8. SETUP | Place “X Marks The Spot” Tokens
To start, you need to place 3x of the red “X Marks The Spot” tokens to represent treasure that can be grabbed during the game. To do this, spin both spinners to give you a letter and a number. Finding the intersection of these two spaces on the gameboard will give you a single space. Place the X token there and do this a total of 3x times. This would be 4x times with 5 or 6 players.

9. SETUP | Place The Storm
The storm is the plastic, wire-y square frame that is the size of 9x spaces. Spin the two spinners to determine a spot, just like you did with the treasure, but here the storm’s center goes over that space, and the rest of it covers other surrounding spaces. This cannot start of the port of a one skull island, but that’s it.

10. SETUP | Choose Player Color & Grab Materials
Everyone chooses their player color and then takes all the corresponding player pieces that go along with it. This includes (1) 3x color ships, (2) color flag tokens and (3) reference card.

11. SETUP | Determine Starting Player
Everyone rolls one of the six sided die to determine space drafting order. The highest places first, second highest second and so on.

12. SETUP | Players Pick Starting Island
Each player picks one of the 1 skull islands to start on. There are islands that have 2 or 3 skulls on them as well, you cannot pick those. Place your colored flag on that island to signify ownership. Place one ship in that island’s port (water space with anchor).

13. SETUP | Draw Initial Resource Cards
The final step of how to play Plunder A Pirate’s set up before getting into gameplay is to draw initial resource cards. Each player draws 3x resource cards from the face down resource deck.

14. GAMEPLAY | Kick off Gameplay
The first player to take a turn is the last player to choose their starting 1 skull island. They will take their entire turn then it will pass to the player on their left to do the same thing, continuing around the circle until the game ends. Turns are made up of multiple different steps.

15. GAMEPLAY | Step 1 | Draw Resource Cards
From the face-down resource deck, draw one resource card for each island you control.

16. GAMEPLAY | Step 2 | Roll For Move
Roll the “sailing die”. This is the one with the white pips, but you can also tell because the “1” has the square frame storm symbol on it. The total of this 6-sided die determines how many moves you can make for the turn amongst your fleet.

17. GAMEPLAY | Dealing With The Storm
The storm is the square frame that starts randomly on the board and affects 9x total spaces. If you rolled a “1” with the storm symbol for your move roll, this triggers the moving of the storm. Spin the two spinners to determine a new center point. For all other rolls it stays put. If you ever come in contact with the storm, you need to pay two resource cards to go in or out and you no trade can take place within it.

18. GAMEPLAY | Step 3 | Perform Actions | Move
The total you rolled for your move is the amount of spaces you get to move for the turn. You can only move up and down, not diagonal, and only over the sea, not through islands or other ships. Your move is split up between all of your ships, you can give it all to one, you can split up accordingly, or you can use none at all. This movement doesn’t happen all at once, this is your total for the whole turn, that you can split up amongst the actions you are taking. For every mast a ship has, that ship gets +1 to movement for the turn.

19. GAMEPLAY | Step 3 | Perform Actions | Build
The reference card shows you the 5x things you can build. Turn in the resources shown to get that thing. For a new ship, these start in the port of an island you control and always start with 3x life pegs. For the cannon (extra strength), life pegs (extra life) and masts (extra movement) upgrades, these get added to one of your existing ships as long as there is room. For the pluder point, that is a victory point that goes toward your overall goal of trying to get 10 total.

20. GAMEPLAY | Step 3 | Perform Actions | Attack & Conquer Island
To attack and attempt to capture an island, you need to be in its port. You roll the red 6-sided attack die and “the island” rolls the black 6-sided defense die. If it is unowned, any player can represent the island, and if it is owned by another player, they defend. Take your score and add any multipliers. Ships get +1 for each cannon equipped and islands get +1 for each skull symbol. High score wins with tie going to the attacker. If you succeed, place one of your flag tokens on the island. Your attacking ship is done for the turn. If you lost, remove a life peg from your ship and if that was the last one, your ship sinks.

21. GAMEPLAY | Step 3 | Perform Actions | Treaty Negotiation
In addition to just attacking, you can take more philosophical actions like threatening or bribing. Before attacking someone, they can say they will not attack if you pay them a gold and an iron, for example. You can do whatever you want but you need to stick to it, if you take resources to not attack, you then must not attack. The restrictions are that you need to be in a place to make such a move. You need to be directly next to their ship or in their port.

22. GAMEPLAY | Step 3 | Perform Actions | Battle Enemy Ship
Attacking another ship happens almost exactly the same as attacking and island. Players in the fight roll the attack and the defense dice. Each ship gets +1 to the roll for each canon upgrade it has and the high score wins, with the tie going to the attacker. The loser removes a life peg from their ship and if it was the last one, their ship sinks.

23. GAMEPLAY | Step 3 | Perform Actions | Conduct A Trade
Trading is very open in that you can trade any amount of resources for any other amount of resources from one player to another. To trade, however, you need to be in a position to do so. You can trade with a player when – (1) You are in one of that player’s ports, (2) that player is in your port, (3) that player is docked at a merchant island, (4) that player has a ship directly next to one of yours or (5) all players if you are docked at a merchant island.

24. GAMEPLAY | Merchant Islands
If you are docked at a merchant island, not only can you trade with all players, but you can trade with the bank. Here, you can exchange any two resource cards for one resource card of your choice.

25. GAMEPLAY | Step 3 | Perform Actions | Hunt For Treasure
If your ship passes over one of the red “X Marks The Spot” treasure tokens, remove it from the board and take a card from the top of the treasure card deck. This is most likely going to give you a random amount of gold, but could also do things like have you steal resources from other players. If the “X” token is direct on land, you just need to sail up to an adjacent coast to get it. You can ignore this if you don’t want to take the treasure card. After you remove the X, spin again to place a new one.

26. GAMEPLAY | Step 4 | Turn End
You can perform as many actions as you have required move points or resources for, it is entirely up to you. You end the turn when you are done completing actions and/or movement, you have lost your last remaining ship or if a treasure card tells you to do so. After this step, turn moves to the player on the left and continues until game end.

27. GAMEPLAY | Turns As A Shipless Captain
If you find yourself starting a turn with no ships, no worries, that does happen. The turn structure is handled differently. Like Monopoly, everything keeps happening around you, but you need to roll doubles to get out of jail, and upon failure can spend some resources to get a new ship. For full details, see the key information section in this how to play guide below..

28. GAME END| One Player Gets To 10 Plunder Points
You get plunder points by owning ships or collecting them along your journey. The moment someone hits a total of 10 all together, the game ends and that player is the winner. For a full list of what give points, see the key information section in this how to play below. Learning how to play Plunder A Pirate’s Life is easy, there is just a lot at fist so it takes a few games to get acclimated.



Resource Island: Any island marked with skulls. These can be conquered and provide resources to their owner. An island can only have one owner.

Merchant Island: Any island marked with a barrel. These cannot be owned, but allow for trade.

Normal Island: These simply occupy space and disrupt your course.

Land Barrier: These don’t occupy space, but they limit the direction in which ships can move.


1. Draw a resource card for each island you control as usual. If you have no islands, take any one resource of your choice.

2. Roll two dice, if you get double, you get a new ship.

3. If you do not roll doubles, you can do one of the following to gain a new ship – (A) normal resource build, (B) trade in a plunder point, (C) trade in five gold or (D) disavow ownership of an island and remove your flag.

4. You can only gain one ship per turn in this manner. Ships start in the port of an island you control and start with 3x life pegs like normal.


As you have seen along the way of this how to play Plunder A Pirate’s Life guide, there are many different ways to get plunder points. Here is the reference list:

  • Each ship in your fleet counts as 1x Plunder Point
  • Each island you control counts as 1x Plunder Point
  • Sinking another player’s ship gets you a plunder point card
  • Treasure cards can award you plunder point cards
  • Exchanging 5x gold cards as shown on the building reference card gets you one plunder point card


Instead of using all 6 board panels (for a 3×2 board), you instead use only 4 of the panels to make a 2×2 board. There are only 12 numbers used, so 13 – 18 are not used. If they come up in the spinner, spin again. The other difference is you only use 2x “X Marks the Spot” tokens instead of 3.


  • 6x Board Tiles
  • 10x Grid Boarders
  • 4x Grid Corners
  • 2x Compass Spinners
  • 150x Resource Cards
  • 56x Plunder Point Cards
  • 55x Treasure Cards
  • 18x Ships
  • 36x Flags
  • 6x Reference Cards
  • 18x Ships
  • 36x Flags
  • 18x Mast Pegs
  • 18x Canon Pegs
  • 36x Life Pegs
  • 1x Storm
  • 4x X Marks The Spot Tokens
  • 1x Attack Die
  • 1x Defense Die
  • 1x Sailing Die


We hope you can now say you know how to play Plunder A Pirate’s Life. This is a very thematic pirate game that has you building up your fleet and heading out to attack and plunder. Actions are a bit limited by the luck of the roll but you have many different paths to victory that you can take to becoming the ultimate pirate. Whether you are taking over islands or engaging in combat with your enemy, you will feel like a pirate. Learning how to play Plunder A Pirate’s Life does have many steps but you will be out exploring the seas in no time.