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Pirate Alliance --- the board game


Pirate Alliance is a 4-7-player bluffing board game about players with different identities obtaining their own goals through lying, gaining trust from players and resource management. The players, as pirate captains are having a meeting to form an alliance against the coming Navy Army, captains came in with different goals fight upon the leadership in this alliance and select fellow pirates into the alliance. It is a game space full of confusion and twists in response to social overconfidence. 


May 2017

Game Trailer

The final product and the layout

Showing & playing on Parsons 2017 Thesis show

The idea

The project is my thesis project initiated by the question how appropriate unknown can make a game fun. I am a video gamer and a board gamer myself, and as I've played tons of different games, I recognize that a great part of my urge to keep playing a game comes from the feeling of exploration. That said, I ask myself, how does exploration happen? And the answer is properly-designed unknown. So I decided to make this board game with many different aspects of the unknown that entices players to guess, reason, and make decisions after processing. 

Secret Hitler

The Resistance: Avalon

Twilight Struggle

Here are 3 reference games from which I learned a lot about game design. Twilight Struggle inspired me by its complication within simple 1 on 1 logic. Secret Hitler and The Resistance: Avalon impressed me in a similar way, the asymmetrical information delivery to different players to create interesting space of unknown for each of them. 

The story

There was a sea, where pirates live for generations. And one day, the pirate scout spotted the Navy fleets were marching against them. The Pirates had survived many times from the Navy's attack because they have this Pirate Alliance, established immediately in response to Navy's attack as a tradition. However, this time, the Navy had some new tricks. They bribed off a few captains in this alliance and tried to break the pirates from the inside....


The game happens at the meeting of the Pirate Alliance, where powerful pirate captains gathered to form the Alliance's Army. The Traitor captains want to sabotage the meeting and form a weak Army, and the Pirate captains are trying to find out who is the Traitor and survive from the Navy. 

Pirate meeting scene in Pirates of the Caribeens

The game 

This board game is suitable for 4 to 7 players. Players all act as a pirate captain in this game, who would have a handful of pirates in their own crew. Everyone gets a role at the beginning, either Pirates, Traitors or Swinger, and the amount of each depends on the number of players. The game is they have 5 rounds to fill in 10 slots in the Pirate Army in order to fight the Navy, and each round there is a Grand Captain choosing 2 pirate cards into the slots from every player's donation. Different roles have different objectives: Pirates want to form a strong enough army against the Navy to retain their honor, Traitors want to make a weak army for Navy's good, and Swingers don't want either of them wins, they want a tight fight. Pirate is the main category of different cards in this game. Each pirate has the power against the Navy and the power against other pirates in a form of number, and they all have different rarity and special effect, therefore, designing and balancing the pirate cards is a big part of my work. 

Character Cards for the 3 roles

The design of some of the Pirate Cards

Sketch of designing Pirate Cards

Playtest and evolution

The toughest thing of making board games is I have to do hundreds, or maybe thousands of playtesting to make sure the game actually works, which contains three goals: first, it is fun; second, it speaks itself; and third, it is balanced. And those 3 goals are in a sequence. To make it fun takes iterations and iterations, and I took about 10 different versions of the rules for eventually making this board game fun and playable.  


Click HERE to see the iteration log.


Version 1.0

Version 2.0 and playtesting

Version 3.0, playtest and game parts

Early and final art comparison

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