Marvin’s Pirates Go!
Marvin is my five year old son.
He and my wife (with whom he graciously shared some credit) developed this game during the Great Lockdown of 2020.
It’s a pretty simple game; a five year old can play it.
It’s nice in that it’s not entirely random like so many games for that age group,
but instead has a small amount of strategy.
Note that some of the rules don’t seem to have much of an actual effect on gameplay.
That is intentional: it gives little kids the feeling that they’re doing something interesting
without letting them paint themselves into a corner.
What You Need
- A standard deck of playing cards, shuffled. Jokers are optional.
- Eight pirates (we use little plastic pirate figurines that came as part of some other toy set)
- Eight shield markers (we use coins)
- Damage counters (we use little pieces of paper, or just keep track in our heads)
- Three prizes:
- The cave (we use a little plastic cave from some toy set)
- The ship (we use the pirate ship from the same toy set as the pirate figurines)
- The fort (we use a little Lego fort)
- Play proceeds in turns,
with each player drawing the top card of the deck
and taking an action based on the value of the card.
- Cards are discarded after use into a discard pile.
- If the deck were to ever somehow be exhausted,
shuffle the discard pile into a new deck
(I don’t think it is actually possible to play long enough
to exhaust the deck).
- Each player has four pirates.
- Each pirate has four hit points.
- When a pirate’s hit points are reduced to zero,
that pirate has “fainted” and is out of the game.
- If a player has all four of his/her pirates faint,
he/she loses the game.
- Pirates are arranged in a two-by-two square.
- The front row of pirates (closest to the other player)
is the guard row; the back row is the captain row.
- It is not possible to attack a captain pirate until the
guard pirate in front of it is defeated.
Hits and Shields
- Some cards cause different amounts of damage to be dealt
to one opposing pirate, called hits.
- Some cards and prizes allow for a shield to be placed on
- A shield absorbs one hit of damage to that pirate, and then
- Shields do not stack: once a pirate has a shield, it cannot
get another shield.
- At the beginning of a player’s turn, they may use one
prize power, but only if they actually hold that prize.
- A player may have more than one prize, but can only use
one prize power per turn.
- The prize powers are:
- The ship allows you to swap the position of two pirates,
or move one pirate into an empty position. This can be used,
for example, to turn swap a captain with a guard.
- The cave allows you to take one captain off the board.
When the other captain is defeated or if you lose the cave, the hidden captain has to
- The fort allows you to place a shield on a guard pirate,
but only if there are two guard pirates on the board.
- If the player has one or more prizes, optionally use one of their
powers if possible.
- Take the top card of the deck and take the associated action:
- 1, 3, 5, 7 - deal one hit to one pirate
- 2, 4, 6, 10 - add one shield to one pirate
- 8 - immediately knock out one pirate, regardless of shields or remaining hit points
(this is called a “one-hit kill” and is a major source of excitement or anguish)
- 9 - deal two hits to one pirate (this is called a “slash” and is only slightly less
exciting than the one-hit kill)
- Face Card - take one prize from the prize bank or the other player
- Joker - miss the rest of your turn