This is a light, quick-to-play, and simple game. Simple in that it’s cards and dice.
There’s minimal need to explain what a card or dice is and their mechanics have been explored in a zillion games for thousands of years.
In keeping this game as text-free as possible, for universal play, the cards could actually be normal playing cards – two decks of playing cards could be paired down to end up with similar game play.
The type and number of cards for Mint Tin Pirates determines the speed of play.
I like how fast Ticket to Ride is played; player turns can go quickly and create a rhythm like a train clanking down the tracks (when we play Ticket to Ride, we pull up long YouTube vids of train sounds for an ambient background).
We wanted to have similar pacing for Pirates, both to make sure it can be played in a short amount of time (5 to 10 minutes) and to “replicate” what a pirate scuffle should feel like – fast and action-packed (based on extensive, first hand experience with pirate movies). =p
The first set of cards only had three types of events – sword, cannon, and captain – but that played too fast and had zero strategy (plus it had too many wild cards and “filler” cards which were just junk cards).
The next set had too many events – sword, knife, cannon, pistolet, hand bomb, mutiny, and Davy Jones Locker – but this led to too many hands before you could launch an attack. Frustrating for sure. =(
While play testing, and keeping track in a notebook, we used past prototype decks (just paper cut outs) and started swapping out cards and playing with the number of each. Within a few hands, it was clear what was working and what was not.
This wasn’t any sign of game design knowledge but rather that what would normally have been tossed into recycling turned out to be helpful. =)