Our step-by-step guide to the rules of how to play ShipShape Board Game. This is a very straight-forward, lightly pirate themed, puzzle tableau builder driven by a trick-taking like engine. Over three voyages, you will try to fill your hold and score the most points. ShipShape is for 2 – 6 players at ages 8+. The rules for how to play ShipShape have a couple of twists and turns but are rarely easy and should have you up in running in no time.

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In the late 17th century, mighty ships sailed the seas and brought all manner of goods back to port. As a savvy captain, you must skillfully use your crew to fill the ship’s hold with the best combination of treasure, cannons, and contraband (if you can smuggle it in) to earn gold. In the end, the player that amasses the greatest fortune will be declared the greatest sea captain of all time!

Direct your crew to fill your ship’s Hold with the most lucrative Crates, expertly stacking three crates on your Hold and scoring the bounty for Gold, Cannons and Contraband visiable at the end of each voyage (round) across the high seas. The player with the highest total of coins at the end of three voyages wins. Learning how to play ShipShape is easy, it is mastering it that is the tricky part.


Time Needed: Approximately 20 – 40 minutes.

This is a step by step guide for how to play ShipShape the strategic board game. Additional notions and special rules can be found below the list. These will be referenced for your convenience.

1. SETUP | Put Out Crate Tiles
To kick off how to play ShipShape setup, start by putting out the square “crate” tiles. Take an amount 3 times the number of players, shuffle them and place them in a stack in the middle. The orientation of the tiles does not matter at this point. These are what are pulled each round for players to build their own tableau. There are holes in the stack, you can look through it to try and see, but you cannot touch it or move around the table for a better angle.

2. SETUP | Separate Hold Cards
The Hold cards are what will be each player’s individual tableau card they will get throughout the three voyages. They have Voyage 1, Voyage 2 or Voyage 3 on the back, separate them into the three piles by this distinction. Shuffle each stack

3. SETUP | Deal Out Voyage 1 Hold Cards
After creating voyage stacks, randomly deal out each player one of the “Voyage 1” cards. Players put these face up in front of them. Put the remainder back in the box. Set asides the voyage 2 and 3 cards as they will be used later.

4. SETUP | Give Each Player Crew Cards
Each player should have their own set of 10 crew cards containing one each of the numbers 1 – 10 in the same color. These should be kept secret. Each player will need a little discard space next to their hold card for when these are used.

5. SETUP | Put Out Coin Tokens
The final step of how to play ShipShape setup before getting into gameplay is to put the coin tokens out. These are in increments of 1, 5 and 10 and should be handy so they can be accessed throughout the game.

6. GAMEPLAY | Play Three Voyages
The game is played over three voyages where your goal of each voyage is to score points by stacking drafted tiles onto a personal voyage card. A round consists of laying down crew cards to determine picking order at the same time, getting a tile, placing it, and then continuing this until all crate tiles are placed. Scoring takes place at the end of each round based on what is showing.

7. GAMEPLAY | Crew Card Laying
Each turn happens simultaneously with all players acting at the same time. Using the 1 – 10 crew cards in each players hand, players all select one card and then flip it over at the same time. Players take tiles from the top of the stack in order from high to low of what their crew cards show. Ties have special rules and once a card is used it goes to your discard pile. This is a strategic move, you want to try to control where you get a tile to build the best stack based on a little imperfect information you have.

8. GAMEPLAY | In Case of Crew Card Ties
If there is a tie with the crew cards laid, those get set aside for now. All the other players take tiles in normal order from high number to low number. Once all non tie players have gotten a tile, now the tie needs to be settled. The players in the tie need to simultaneously play a new crew card, and then based on that, the high to low taking rules apply to them.

9. GAMEPLAY | Replenishing Crew Cards
When a player has only 1 crew card remaining in their hand, they replenish their hand. Shuffle all the discards to form a new hand of the 1 – 10 cards.

10. GAMEPLAY | Placing Crate Tiles
Once you get your crate tile for each particular round, you then need to place it on top of you Voyage card, so the nine space grid fits over the nice space grid on the card. You can flip it or turn it in any direction, but the grids need to line up and once a tile is placed, it cannot be moved. In the end, you get points based on the symbols that are ultimately shown, or how “full” you ship is, so you are trying to build this stack in a way that maximizes points.

11. GAMEPLAY | Score Voyage
After all crate tiles have been placed on voyage boards, a round of scoring happens. There are three positive symbols (1) gold, (2) cannons and (3) contraband. It shows on the voyage card that gold is a total, contraband is a total except for who tried to smuggle in the most and the cannons have to do with total number amongst all players. There is a full ship bonus that if you filled up ever one of your nine spaces (no rats or blanks) you get 8 and if you have any rats showing that is a negative penalty as shown. Based on your final number, take that amount of coins from the stack to mark points.

12. GAMEPLAY | Repeat For Voyage 2 & 3
Just like in Voyage 1, deal out new voyage cards. The only change here is that instead after the cards are randomly dealt out, instead of it being whoever it goes to, the boards are now distributed by the “hold” number in the top right corner. The player with the most coins get the voyage card with the highest number, second most coins gets second highest and so on. If there is a coin tie, the player who had the lower ranked hold before takes the higher ranked hold this time. Scoring and gameplay is the same.

13. WINNING | Highest Coin Total Wins
The gameplay section of how to play ShipShape is now complete and now you just need to determine a winner. The player with the most coins wins. In the case of a tie, the player out of that with the highest ranked hold card



For how to play ShipShape with 2 payers all you need to do is add “Cap’n Happenstance”. This is a dummy player that is added to the game acting like a normal player but with their decisions happening automatically. Happenstance has a set of 1 – 10 cards but they are shuffled fae down and flipped at random. Same rules apply after that. When they get a crate tile, they move it directly on top of their stack without changing the orientation (whether it benefits them or not).


For how to play ShipShape with 6 players (or 5 players and a dummy) you need to add an additional stack of tiles. Here you setup like normal, but instead of the one stack of tiles, you double that up. Of the 6 players, 3 will be taking exclusively from one stack with the other 3 players working from the second stack of nine crates. When determining crew card order, you only go against the people in your group of 3, but when it comes to scoring and everything else, all 6 players are involved together. Configurations of the two sets of 3 players shift each voyage so everyone is with new people each time.


  • 54x Crates
  • 18x Holds
  • 60x Crew Cards
  • 112x Coin Tokens
  • 1x Rulebook


Hopefully, you can now say that you know how to play ShipShape. This is a quick and easy to play game but with two pretty solid strategic pillars in the trick taking board conrol and personal tableau puzzle building. While you have very few decisions to make (creating something easy and light to play) each one runs deep and could be the small thing that completely shifts the game (keeping things exciting). The touches of pirate theme throughout are on point and tie in with the gameplay well. With the rules for how to play ShipShape being so easy and the potential for fun being there, hopefully you now have to tools to go check it out for yourself.