Review: Piraten Kapern

Carmen D. Lade

Do you like dice games? What about pirate adventures? Do you think you know when to press your luck and when to pass? If your answer was “yes” in at least 2 of the previous questions or you would be interested in a fun, quick, dice game then Piraten Kapern is an excellent option. Its dice are unique, its mechanics fresh and yo ho ho, it will carry you in hostile waters, searching for treasures and fighting other pirates in a most entertaining way. Let’s analyze it in our review!

Game Overview

Piraten Kapern is the German name of the game published by AMIGO Spiel, as it has not yet seen a wider release in English-speaking countries. It has been designed by Haim Shafir, the well-known board game designer from Israel and was originally introduced with the name “Otsarot o Tsarot” by Shafir Games in Hebrew and English.

The game contains a set of pirate cards along with 8 dice. During setup the pirate cards are shuffled and placed at the center of the table in a face-down pile. Each turn, the active player draws a card from the pile of pirate cards, reveals it and places it in front of him. Then he starts throwing the dice, having in consideration the card he drew. The dice are not the ordinary ones, with sides numbered from 1 to 6, but depict swords, coins, diamonds, parrots, monkeys and skulls. The goal of the game is to gather the most points by rolling sets of as many identical objects as possible. In the first roll, all dice must be rolled. After that, the player decides how many dice he will keep and how many he will re-roll trying to improve his score. Later on, he can reroll the dice he kept from previous rolls. A player may throw all dice as many times as he likes, trying to make the best combinations, but here comes the catch: whenever a skull is rolled, that dice is put aside and cannot be re-rolled. If a player rolls cumulatively 3 skulls, then his turn is over and he scores no points for the round. This means that a player should seek balance between his desire to score more and the threat of not scoring at all. Also at each re-roll, at least 2 dice must be used.

After the active player chooses to end his turn (or is forced to do so, by having rolled 3 skulls), his points are written down on the special scoring booklet provided by the game, his card is discarded and play continues with the next player on the left. When a player reaches 8.000 points, all other players are entitled one more turn, in order to try to achieve a higher score.

There is a special case that allows players to hurt their opponents, by reducing their score and that is achieved by having rolled at least 4 skulls in the first roll. In that case, the active player goes to Skull Island. He keeps the dice with skulls he rolled aside and rerolls all other dice. His goal now is to roll as many skulls as he can. He may keep rerolling but he must roll at least one skull in each roll in order to go on, otherwise his turn ends. In this turn, the active player doesn’t score any points but all other players deduct from their score 100 points for each skull he rolled.

Now let’s see how the different pirate cards influence gameplay:

  • Treasure chest. It allows you to protect your treasures. After each roll you may put on this card or take back from it any number of dice. Even if you run out of luck and roll 3 skulls, you will score for the dice kept on the treasure chest.
  • The Sorceress allows to reroll a skull once during your turn.
  • Monkey business! All monkeys and parrots you roll in this turn are grouped together and are considered as one element. For example, if you roll 3 parrots and 2 monkeys, you are considered to have “five of a kind”.
  • The Captain. Your score is doubled for this turn. If you go to Island of the Dead, opponents lose double points (200 points) for each skull.
  • Skulls. You begin your turn having the number of skulls shown on the card. This counts toward the limit of 3 skulls for disqualification.
  • Sea Battle. You are engaged in a sea battle. Your goal in this turn is to roll the number of swords depicted on the card in order to win the battle. If you succeed, you get the bonus points shown on the bottom of the card in addition to your normal score. Otherwise you lose the battle, your dice are ignored and you must deduct the indicated bonus points from your score.
  • Diamonds. You start your turn having 1 diamond. It counts for its face value as well as for a set.
  • Coins. You start your turn having 1 coin. It counts for its face value as well as for a set.


The main components of the game are the dice and the cards. They are all beautifully designed, with bright colors and attention to detail. The cards are made of thick paper, however sleeving is recommended due to card shuffling at the beginning of each game. The dice are of high quality, having the various symbols engraved on them. The scoring booklet provides an easy way to write down the scores whereas the scoring card is a significant aid in remembering the way points are scored. That leaves nothing to be desired, as components are concerned. 9/10


Piraten Kapern is a quick dice game that will provide entertainment for all ages and all kinds of gamers. The game could be compared with Yahtzee, the classic dice game but the only real comparison stems from the fact that in both games, players try to roll the best combinations of dice. Piraten Kapern extends this basic idea and enriches it with the random element of the pirate cards that either help you increase your score or make things more difficult for you or even hurt your opponents. Unlike other dice games, the outcome of each turn will not be completely governed by luck. Players will have some control of their fate (their score) through the most interesting mechanic of the game that poses a real challenge: the presence of skulls in the dice. Sometimes your turn will be practically ruined if you get 2 or 3 skulls in the first roll. Rolling 4 or more, of course is excellent because you go to Skull Island. However the most common situation is that you will be getting some nice rolls with 1-2 skulls and there is the big challenge. When having 2 skulls and a decent score will you be greedy and ask for more or will you be able to contain yourself and vote for safety? The line between a ridiculously high score and total failure is indeed thin! Mastering this mechanic, that is knowing when to stop rolling the dice, will take time but will also keep you wanting to play more and more of this game. Although Piraten Kapern is very simple, the designer has managed to include some player interaction in it through the function of the Skull Island, which gives you the opportunity to turn your bad luck against your opponents and lower their scores. Such an effort should always be accounted for as well as encouraged. 7/10

Learning Curve

The rules of the game are very easy and they are efficiently explained in the 2-page rule leaflet. Explaining them to a new player doesn’t take more than 5 minutes. 9/10


The pirate theme is a perfect match for this game. It’s easy to picture yourself being a pirate and playing this game during a hot, quiet night as you wait for your next big adventure at sea. The illustrations on the cards and the beautiful, engraved dice help a lot to create the right atmosphere. A big accomplishment for such a simple game. 8/10


With easy rules and zero setup time, Piraten Kapern will often find a place on your gaming table. You can play it with friends, family, gamers and non gamers. Due to its small size, it’s an excellent companion for trips or even for a fun day at the beach. Just put it in your bag, bring along your best friends and it will surely keep you from getting bored at any given time. A great filler as well, between heavier games. It will set your mind on far away places and times and you will have some really fun time. 8/10


Did I mention the word fun? Seeing your opponents rolling that third skull and getting ruined for the turn will surely put a smile on your face. But when they go to Skull Island or it is your turn to roll the third skull someone else is going to have more fun than you. So, it seems that throughout the game there will definitely always be someone having fun which surely fulfills the purpose of the game. 7/10


  • Challenging and original mechanics
  • Suitable for all ages and all kinds of gamers
  • Simple rules
  • Short duration
  • Compact size, can be carried anywhere


  • Luck plays a big role in the game. If you want to have total control, then this game probably isn’t for you.

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