I've always been interested in making things in Pirates more realistic to resemble real life because I'm so interested in Age of Sail naval warfare. If you're like me, there are a lot of different things you can do.
(I put this together off the top of my head as a "rough guide" for people to look back at. Any ideas/house rules/threads/documents that you contribute would be much appreciated!)
- 90 degree move rule
No ship can turn more than 90 degrees when moving. In reality a ship wouldn't simply turn around almost 180 degrees just because the sides of her hull didn't overlap. (This is an old house rule that I use in my games, which can be broken when ships are otherwise surrounded and cannot move without breaking the rule.)
- Every ship has the ability of El Acorazado
Since when did every cannon shot eliminate a mast? This is my personal favourite, although I've used it just once, for the Century of the Empires game
- Instead of having derelicts sink after they've been hit once, they need to be hit twice as many times as they originally had masts. In this way, it takes 2 hits to sink a derelict one master, 4 for a derelict two master, and so on.
This really makes things more realistic because ships rarely sunk in combat (more likely burnt, blown up or scuttled).
- Return Fire
There have been numerous ideas presented for this idea, many of which can be found in the linked thread (also this
As with return fire there are many different variations, of which I've found a lot on BGG
(ctrl+F "wind" to find some of them. A bunch of them are very old and therefore have no thumbs ups. I was going to test at least three variations in January but I ran out of time).
It would be great if there was a way for players not to know how many coins were on opposing ships, since even this knowledge (without knowing the values) can be quite valuable. Other than an honor system I haven't thought of a good way to make the gold game more realistic. As woelf plays, it's good to use non-standard (30) totals of gold and keep gold face down on HI's in all games. A friend of mine also suggested a box that would house all of the treasure, which is mixed up into different boxes and placed on islands so that nobody knows how many coins are on the different wild islands.
- Play with larger build totals
Normally I wouldn't call a group of 1-4 ships a "fleet", but rather a squadron (or duo/trio/etc. with less than 4). Most naval battles were not 1-on-1 confrontations but rather larger fleet actions between opposing navies. It's difficult to make things actually realistic in Pirates, but if you want to try you can really jack up the build total. I've played three 5-player 500 point games (one of which was a deathmatch scenario), as well as numerous cumulative campaign games and even more games with a point limit of 100 or more. The biggest issue with this is the obvious time and space constraints, which have increased for me lately and sadly will only continue to increase in the foreseeable future.
This is a nice big list of different scenarios, some of which are based in historical contexts.
- Combine the naval aspect with a land/trade aspect.
This is something that comes up in campaign games, where the build total increases exponentially as gold is spent to launch more ships and hire more crew.
- Use proxies for historical ships from custom sets
You can create your own stats for your favourite historical ships.