Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de

Black Skull Island


Luigi Ferrini

Strawberry Studio

No. of Players:
2 - 9



G@mebox author Marco Klasmeyer writes about the game:

Sail Ho! Pirates! After a tremendous plundering it’s time to divide the booty, so the pirates meet at Black Skull Island to gain gold and treasures. But as you are pirates, of course you try to trick and cheat the others with your special pirate abilities for your own advantage as much as possible.

Black Skull Island is a fast and simple card game for 2-9 players explained in a couple of minutes. All you need is up to 19 pirate character cards, 72 booty cards (44 coins and 28 treasure cards) and a brief pirate character overview for each player. The pirate character cards are divided into sets depending on the numbers of participating players, so not all capabilities and characters are used in every player constellation. Each player only gets 2 pirate cards that he may look at and one booty card. The number of characters for all players in a set is always odd, thus one card is laid aside as the removed card. It may come back into play since some pirate characters can access it. Each player may play one card face down and keep the other one in his hand – that’s all. The played cards are flipped face up simultaneously and resolved in ascending order as depicted in the upper left corner of each card (values from 0-15, some values/characters may appear multiple times). Each character’s special ability is carried out completely before the next character card is on turn. These abilities comprise taking booty cards (simple coins or valuable treasures), exchanging face up or face down character cards, stealing or exchanging booty cards from the other players.


Each of these abilities is explained in detail on the appropriate character cards and as a short summary on the overview cards, which each player has for easier look up. After all character cards have been carried out the players take back the character card in front of him, however this might be not the card he has played before as the character cards might have been exchanged during the resolution phase. If a player has obtained 7 or more booty cards, the game will end and all booty cards will be evaluated (sum up depicted coins). The player with the highest number of coins wins. It is worth to mention that simple booty cards have only the value of 1 coin where treasure cards yield 0,2,3 or 4 coins. Booty cards are kept face down in front of each player as to not reveal the number of coins to the others, so the number of cards is just an indication but no evidence who is the player with the most coins and likely to win the game.


There are pirates that let you draw booty or treasure cards, some pirates allow stealing booty cards from other players, but there are also pirates that exchange cards between players and thus change either the current or the upcoming turn order. The turn order is important, especially when you want to collect coins (and keep them).


Some examples:

  • The Witch character card for instance (turn order 5) allows you take a booty card from another and swap the hand cards at the same time.
  • The Boatswain character card allows you to draw a treasure (may score 0-4 coins) and exchange a booty with another player (ideally give one coin of your own and steal a 3 or 4 coin treasure card from your opponent).
  • Finally, the Siren (turn order 15 – the very last) allows you to take any card – face up, face down, on hand – and exchange it with the Sirene and resolve the gained character card immediately.


Having explained the simple rules so quickly you might ask yourself where is the thrill and fun of playing Black Skull Island? The main points are the pirate’s special abilities, because they provide all the little nasty tricks and advantages to outplay the other players. Having only the choice between 2 cards seems to be a quite hard restriction, but it is also the key factor of the game. The turn order number and abilities of the pirates are known (at least after several rounds have been played), so all players do well know the pirate characters in the game. Most cards include two actions and involve other players, thus Black Skull Island is a quite interactive card game and allows you to directly take influence on your opponents. What works quite well in Black Skull Island is the back and forth of the treasury distribution. What you have gained in one turn you are likely to lose in the next and so on. And suddenly one lucky pirate has gathered the required 7 booty cards and the game ends – it can be a quite fast game. However, finishing the game does not automatically mean to win the game as the booty cards score very differently. The tense remains up to the very end of the game. Black Skull Island is also a fast game and should only take some 10-20 minutes. This encourages to play several wild chaotic rounds of treasury plundering.

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