Learn to Play


Learn to Play

Conquering Corsairs is a card game in which you take the role of pirates, trying to gain plunder and prestige to become the most feared and famous ship to sail the Silver Seas. You will take your ship to strange and dangerous locations, recruit new crew members to your cause, do battle, and stow plunder in your hold!


The objective is to have the most plunder at the end of the game. You gain plunder by exploring and taking control of locations, and stowing cards in your hold.


There are four groups of pirates in Conquering Corsairs, which we call factions. Each player controls a ship belonging to one of these factions, which is marked with an icon, above the name bar, as follows:
The green leaf icon represents a troupe of swashbuckling elves called The Etterian Spiral. The elves are concerned with magic, prestige and ship movement making them versatile but not specialized in any one area.
The skull icon is for a horde of undead, known widely as The Greedy Dead. The Greedy Dead's powers focus on bringing dead pirates back to serve their necromantic masters and manipulating cards that have been discarded.
The blue mask icon is the symbol of The Taghmart Armada, southern smugglers and tomb robbers. The smugglers have great ability to produce rations (needed to recruit new pirates) and cycle through cards to get to the best ones quickly.
Finally, the red crow icon represents northern raiders referred to in whispers as The Crows of Ruin. The Crows are strong, focusing on quickly taking control of locations and pounding their enemies with runic magic and the gigantic fists of their Ice Trolls.

Your faction provides you with a set of pirates that only you can recruit to your cause, ensuring that there isn't a single strategy in any given game that will work for all players.


The game includes the following components:

12 location cards:
The location cards are square with a stone motif, and look like the below. They have a defense value in a red tower next to their name, which is how much strength will be required to take control of it.

8 ship cards:
Ship cards are in landscape orientation and have a watery background. They have a rations production value in a golden barrel, a strength value in a red cannon, and an icon for the faction above their name.

6 copies of 6 action cards: Actions have sandy backgrounds and a sword for the name bar. Actions have a cost in the bottom right hand corner in three golden barrels, which is the amount of rations required to buy the card for your deck.

6 copies of 12 pirate cards:
Pirates have wooden backgrounds and a ships rail for their name bar. Pirates have a rations production value in a single golden barrel, a strength value in a red pistol, and cost in the bottom right hand corner in three golden barrels.

5 copies of 8 faction pirate cards:
These pirates look very similar to the common pirates, but also include the icon for their faction next to their name.

There are also 50 yellow tokens for counting plunder, 10 colored tokens for each player, and a faction token to represent your ship on the map of the Silver Seas.

Setting Up the Game

1. Build the map of the Silver Seas. Shuffle the location cards and deal out a three by three grid of cards, face-down.

2. Prepare the common supplies. Now we have to find out which pirates will be available to join your crew during the game. Pick or randomly select 8 sets of common pirates or actions without a faction icon. Put all six copies in piles, which we call common supplies, in the middle of the table. Everyone can recruit cards from these piles to customize their deck during play.

3. Randomly determine the first player. Find the Pirate King card and three other cards. Deal them out randomly to each player, and the player that receives the Pirate King card is the first player and Pirate King for the first turn. The turn order will proceed clockwise from the first player

4. Choose a faction. In turn order, each player selects a faction, then a ship card and a faction supply pile from that faction. Place the ship card in front of you and the faction supply pile nearby. Only you can recruit cards from your personal faction supply

5. Prepare your starting crew. Each player takes 6 Swabber cards, 3 Conscript cards, and one of the five pirates from their faction supply. Shuffle them together; this is your deck.

6. Place your ship on the map. Starting with the first player, each player takes the appropriate colored token to represent their ship and places it on one of the face-down location cards at a corner of the map that doesn’t already have a ship token on it.

7. Collect tokens. Everyone takes the set of colored tokens that match their faction, and puts one on the card with their ship counter. This is an Exploration Token and marks the fact that you’ve explored the location. You can look at cards marked with your own Exploration Tokens at any point during the game, and you can do so now.

At this point, your setup should look something like this:

For your first game, use the following sets of cards:

1. Use these locations: Arena of Blood, Clifftop Prison, Fortified Town, Mermaid Haven, Naval Base, Pirate’s Cove, Trading Port, Treacherous Reef, Treasure Island

2. Use these common supplies: Oarsman, Sailor, Buccaneer, First Mate, Master Gunner, Captain, Run Out the Guns, Press Gang

4. Pick from one of the these combinations of ship and faction supply:

Reading the Cards

The text of a card sometimes has a list of words in bold text on the first line. These are the card’s traits. Locations can be Magic, and one of Intrigue or Force. Intrigue locations are easier to sneak into surreptitiously, whereas Force locations have to be stormed, cannons blazing. Pirates can also have traits, especially Officer (a crew member in charge of the ship) and Undead (the walking dead). These traits may be referred to in the text of other cards, such as Force in Run Out the Guns.

The text of the card includes any abilities the card might have. You can think of abilities as breaking the usual rules of the game. Abilities on cards take precedence over the rules in this rulebook.

If the ability begins with the name of a season (Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter) or with Combat, the ability can only be used in that phase. For example, Clifftop Prison’s ability may only be used in Spring and the Buccaneer’s can only be used in Combat.

Each ability may only be used once in a turn, per card. If there is a second colon (“:”) in the ability, then the text between the colons is a non-rations cost that must be paid in order to use the ability, such as discarding a card. If the cost is not paid, then the ability cannot be used. If there is a choice to be made as to which cards are affected, then the acting player makes the choice, unless otherwise noted in the ability’s text.

If the ability does not begin with the name of a season or with Combat, then this is a feature that is always available. For example, The Mistwalker may always move diagonally.

Playing Cards
Pirates may only be played in Spring, unless a card tells you otherwise. Pirates remain in play until their strength is used in Combat, until their rations are used to pay the cost of a card in Fall, until a card effect dismisses them, or until the end of Winter.

The abilities on action cards will always be preceded by the name of a season or with Combat, and may only be played during that phase. If an action card lists multiple abilities in different phases, you may choose which season to play it in. Once an action’s text has resolved, it goes straight into your discard pile.

Special Terms
There are some important terms to understand in the card text:

Playing the Game

There are four phases, called Seasons, to a turn:

During each Season, play proceeds in turn order, beginning with Player 1, then Player 2 and so on until every player has had a chance to use abilities in that Season. Thus all players act in Spring, then all players act in Summer, then all players act in Fall, then all players act in Winter. Then, unless the game has finished, you start the next turn again at Spring.

In Spring, all players draw 5 cards from the top of the deck. If at any point you need to draw a card, but have no cards left in your deck, then you take your discard pile and shuffle it to form your new deck.

Then in turn order, each player can bring as many pirate cards into play from their hand as they would like, and takes any Spring actions on those cards. Players can also use Spring abilities from action cards, their ship or locations that they control.

In turn order, each player may use Summer abilities from their cards, move their ship and perform one of the following two actions, either before or after moving their ship:

Combat Steps:

  1. Declare attack and reveal target. First declare which location you’re attacking. If the location is face-down then return all Exploration Tokens to their respective players and flip the location face-up.
  2. Determine attacking pirates. Select which of your pirates are attacking from those in play. You must assign at least one pirate to attack, thus if you do not have any pirates, you cannot attack.
  3. Use abilities. You may use Combat abilities from attacking pirates, your ship, by playing action cards or from other locations you control. Any ability on a pirate not in the combat that brings itself or another pirate into the combat may also be used.
  4. Calculate Strength and Defense. Add the strength of all attacking pirates, your ship and any bonuses from any locations you control or abilities that were used. This is the total strength of the attack. Take the defense value of the location and add any applicable bonuses from card abilities. If the location is already controlled by another player, the location gains +2 defense. If the controlling player’s ship is on the location, add the strength of the ship to the location’s defense. This is the total defense.
  5. Determine the outcome. If your total strength is more than the total defense, then you take control of it! If not, you have failed.
  6. Resolve effects. If you took control of the location, replace any control token already on it with one or your own. If you took it from another player, gain 1 plunder. Resolve any other effects from taking control of the location, such as gaining plunder or drawing cards, as specified in abilities or on the location.
  7. Dismiss Pirates. All of your pirates in the combat are dismissed (sent to your discard pile).

In turn order, each player may use any Fall abilities, and spend rations to recruit a card from one of the common supply piles. Abilities and recuiting may be performed in any order. Unless you have an ability that allows you to recruit more than one card, you can only recruit one. Pirates that contribute rations when recruiting a card are dismissed and then the card is placed in your discard pile.

In turn order, each player may use any Winter abilities. You may also stow a card from your hand in your hold (under your ship card), face-down. Abilities and stowing a card may be performed in any order. You may look at the cards in your hold at any time you wish. Other players may ask how many cards are in your hold at any time, but you only have to tell them how many cards are there, not which ones they are. You must also tell them how many plunder tokens you have if they ask.

Determine the Pirate King
Once all players have completed the Winter phase, each player adds up their total prestige to determine who is the Pirate King for the next turn. Prestige is the reputation that each player has, and is represented on cards by a pirate hat (). Each prestige icon on a controlled location, ship, or pirate still in play at the end of Winter is worth 1 prestige. Each player also gets 1 prestige for each card they have left in their hand. The player with the highest prestige is the Pirate King. In the common event of a tie, the current Pirate King decides who it will be.

Clean Up
All cards that remain in hand or in play are put in their owner’s discard pile, and either the game ends and total plunder is tallied, or the game continues to the next round.

Game End

The game ends at the end of the Winter phase if one player controls 4 locations (or 5 in a two player game), or if a number of supply piles equal to the number of players in the game have been run out. These may be either common or personal supplies. Otherwise, the game continues and starts again at the beginning of Spring. At the end of the game, each player calculates their plunder. Add up:

The player with the highest total wins, and is the ruler of the Silver Seas! If there is a tie, then the player with the fewest cards in their hold wins. If it is still a tie, then the current Pirate King decides who wins. (It’s good to be the King!)

Advanced Rules

After your first game, or whenever you feel like branching out, there are some additional rules to make the game more interesting.

Sailing the (Complete) Silver Seas
Instead of playing with the nine starting locations, add back the other three locations that you took out. Create the map by shuffling all the locations and dealing out a three by three grid of nine locations. Don’t look at the unused locations.

A Crew of Misfits and Vagabonds
To determine which cards to have as common supplies, create a randomizer stack composed of one copy of each card. Shuffle them and deal out the top 8. Then pick any combination of ship and supply from the same faction.

Mine! All Mine!
Once you’re familiar with the cards, you can try a process called drafting. From the randomizer stack deal out 8 minus the number of players, so 6 for a 2 player game, 5 for 3 players or 4 for 4 players. Turn them face-up as these will form common supplies. Then deal each player 3 cards face-down. From those three cards, each player looks at them and selects one of them to be a common supply then passes the other two to the player on their left. Once everyone has passed their cards, each player then selects one as a second personal supply to go along with their personal faction supply. The remaining card is discarded.

Leading ... from the Back
Instead of the Pirate King going first, the Pirate King decides at the beginning of Spring, before drawing cards, whether she will go first or the player to her left will go first (and thus she will go last in each season).

Mercenaries and Sellswords
The Ninja card is a special pirate from the Ibvati Mercenary faction. Any other faction can select the Ninja as if he (or is it a she?) were a regular faction supply in step 4 of the game setup. This rule will take effect in the first expansion.