Pirates of Gold Cove Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 7 and up
  • For 2 to 7 players
  • Approximately 20 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Set sail for a pirate adventure by playing cards!


  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!


Captain Samuel Bellamy (also known as”Black Sam” Bellamy), an English pirate who operated in the early 18th century, said, “Nations rob the poor under the cover of law. Pirates plunder the rich under the cover of their own courage!” In this game, you’ll play as a pirate captain with your crew in search of treasure! The goal is to be as rich as possible, but don’t let the lure of gold make you blind. Play your cards smart, and Lady Luck might smile upon you.

Pirates of Gold Cove, designed by Shaun Cranford and published by MYNDzei Games, is comprised of 51 playing cards (in four different suits) and 40 coins (24 silver and 16 gold). The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card. The coins are made of solid plastic.

Making Ready to Set Sail

To set up the game, first you need to remove several cards based on the number of players in the game. The basic Pirates of Gold Cove can seat from three to seven players. You need to remove the numbered cards out of the deck that is equal to the number of players at the table. For example, if you are playing with five players, you would look through the deck and remove every card with the value of five. Removed cards can be put back in the game box.

Second, take the coins and place them in a pile off to one side of the game playing area.

Third, shuffle the remaining cards and deal the top five face-down to an exclusive pile referred to as the “Mystery Cache.” Place the Mystery Cache to one side as you will need it later in the game.

Fourth, deal the rest of the cards to the players, face-down, evenly.

Fifth, each player now takes a look at their hand of cards. The player who was dealt the green “Ship” card plays it face-up. If no player was dealt the green “Ship” card, it means it’s in the Mystery Cache. If this does occur, the player with the highest valued green “Sword” card plays first.

That’s it for the game set up. Gameplay continues in the traditional clockwise order.

Playing the Game

Pirates of Gold Cove is played in rounds and hands. A round of gameplay is summarized here.

Step One: Play the Lead Card

When the game is first set up, the lead card is either the green “Ship” card or the highest valued green “Sword” card. In subsequent rounds, it’s the card played by the person who is starting the round. The lead card determines the round’s card color that must be played by all if they have the colored card in their hand.

The only card that cannot be played as the lead card is the yellow “Wheel” card. This card can never start a round until a player is forced to play a card during a round that does not match the color of the lead card. This is referred to as “Painting the Ship.”

Step Two: Play One Card

Each player, in turn order sequence, must now play a single card from their hand. The card they play is based on the lead card for the round. Players must play a card of the same color from their hand. However, if the player is unable to (as they do not have any cards of that color in their hand), they can play any other card they like. This is referred to as “Painting the Ship.” The yellow “Wheel” cards can now be played as a lead card in subsequent rounds.

Step Three: Finish the Round

After all, players have played a card, the round ends. The player with the highest valued card that matches the color of the lead card wins the round, collecting the cards and setting them aside.

If the player who won the round collected three or more cards of the same color, they are awarded one Silver coin (which is worth one point). There is one exception to this rule.

There is a distinctive blue “Parrot” card referred to as “Salty.” If a player plays this card as the last card of the round, they are awarded a Silver coin. In addition, the same player determines who won the round. This can be any player, includes the player who played Salty—being selected as the winner earns that player a Silver coin.

This concludes the round. A new round now starts with the player who won the hand playing a single card to the table as the lead card.

Finishing the Hand

After all the cards are played, the hand is completed. Players now take the cards they collected from the rounds they won and review the cards they contain. Payment is now determined using the following order:

  1. The player who has the “Duchess Carmen” (14 of Pirates) card is awarded the Mystery Cache. Give that player the cards in the Mystery Cache now. If no player has the Duchess, the Mystery Cache is ignored this hand.
  2. The player who has the “Magistrate” (13 of Anchors) must place that card aside along with any card with an eight value. These cards are not counted going forward.
  3. Any player who has the Eight of Anchors, Eight of Swords, Eight of Wheels, or Eight of Pirates is awarded one Gold coin (worth five points) per card held.
  4. The player who is holding the 12 of Pirates and the 12 of Swords is awarded one Gold coin.
  5. The player who is holding the 12 of Anchors and the 17 of Anchors is awarded one Gold coin.
  6. Each player is awarded one Silver coin for every Wheel card they hold. The one exception is the Eight of Wheels, which is scored separately.

Finally, each player looks at the cards in their hand and combines the value of the Pirate cards they collected. Each player is paid in order from highest to lowest, with payment being equal to the sum of their collected Pirate card values. Use the Gold and Silver coins to help (Gold is worth five and Silver is worth one).

If there are still coins to be plundered, a new hand begins.

Ending the Game

The game ends when there are no more coins to award. When the last coin is passed, any additional scoring stops, and all players now count the coins they’ve collected. Remember, each Gold coin is worth five points, and each Silver coin is worth one point. The player with the most points wins the game.

Game Variants

There are several game variants available via the rules provided by the game. They are summarized here.

There is a two-player variant available if only you and partner want to set sail on the seas. Several cards are removed during the game set up, including the Duchess and the Magistrate. A dummy-hand referred to as the “Hook” acts as the third-player.

The base game summarized here is very family-friendly. If you are looking to make it less so, I suggest you use the game variant rule titled “Mutiny on the High Seas.” When the game begins, pass out all the coins equally to the players, with the player who holds the Ship card being given any extra. When scoring the Pirates, the player takes the coins to pay their salty crew from any opponent they like. Players who lose all their coins are out of the game.

To learn more about Pirates of Gold Cove, visit the publisher’s website.

Final Word

The Child Geeks enjoyed themselves, especially when they were highly encouraged to talk like a pirate as often as they could. You’d think this would get old, and you are right, but the Child Geeks leaned into it. According to one Child Geek, “Yargh! Me crew be the best on the seven seas, and this game is wanting more time with me, friends!” According to another Child Geek, “Leaping fish lips, this game about pirates is the next best thing to being a pirate!” The only aspect of the game the Child Geeks needed help with was the scoring, which is not as intuitive as anyone would have liked. We fixed this by creating small “cheat sheets” for everyone. This made scoring a much smoother process overall. When the last ship set sail and made way for the horizon, all the Child Geeks agreed Pirates of Gold Cove was an entertaining game.

The Parent Geeks enjoyed the game as well and did not speak like a pirate at all or for very long. According to a good friend of mine, “No, Cyrus. Just no.” Pirate speak or not, the Parent Geeks got into the game with the Child Geeks, and everyone at the table had a good time. According to one Parent Geek, “A classic set collecting and trick-taking card game with a heavy pirate theme. I liked it, didn’t think it was overly challenging and was easy to play with the kids. Good stuff for family gatherings.” Another Parent Geek said, “Easy enough rules, but the scoring is a bit cumbersome at first. Like how you pass out the coins and see your pile grow in front of you. I’d play this game again anytime.” The game was the most entertaining when the Parent and Child Geeks played together, but the Parent Geeks still found their games entertaining with just their age group, too. This resulted in the Parent Geeks giving Pirates of Gold Cove the gold medal.

The Gamer Geeks were not impressed. According to one Gamer Geek, “For the family, sure, I think this is a good game. For gamers who know their games, this is just a trick-taking card game with a few twists and a lot of pirate theme. Easy rules and OK gameplay, but not a game I would want to play at my table.” Another Gamer Geek said, “I am always amazed how the industry makes something so old as a trick-taking card game and tries to make it new and exciting. This game is neither. The rules are solid, but for old players like me who are starting to feel they have seen it all, I didn’t care for it.” The Gamer Geeks all agreed that Pirates of Gold Cove would be an excellent game for the family but never once suggested it was a game they would take on their ship.

Pirates of Gold Cove is not breaking any new ground here when it comes to innovative gameplay, and that is just fine. Like many of the Gamer Geeks, I’ve been playing games for so long that I am seldom shocked and amazed. But I stop well short of making that a needful experience for me to enjoy my games. I look for clarity of rules, depth of play, player engagement, speed of turns, and replay value. Pirates of Cold Cove doesn’t excel at any of these, but it does a good job. It’s one of those games I would happily play if someone suggested it, as it’s not without its charm.

But am I excited about it? No.

It is, after all, just a pirated themed trick-taking card game. The pirate aspect is there, make no mistake, but is like so much paint on the walls. You notice it, can’t help but recognize it, but that’s about all you can do with it. Card sets to collect have names like “Salty’s Chest” and “Maps,” but funny pirate names have no impact on the game other than further reinforcing the theme. Furthermore, there is no real “pirating” to be had here. No jumping onto other ships, no crossing swords, burying treasure, or even one cannon to be fired, which isn’t bad so much as odd. I kept feeling like the pirate theme was taken from a watered-down version of what a pirate was like. Heck, even Disney’s pirates drink, chase the ladies, and fire their pistols. Not even so much a catcall or a musket ball to be found among the Pirates of Gold Cove. I think they might be “weekend pirates,” comprised of a bunch of professionals who dress up like salty dogs every once in a while and then go home to their families and day jobs as accountants or dentists.

Pirates of Gold Cove will be a hit at your family table without a doubt. It’s very family-friendly, in both gameplay and pirate theme. Nothing eyebrow-raising or to squint at, which will keep the players focused on the cards they want to collect. If you are looking for a pirate adventure, you’ll need to look elsewhere. But if you are in the market for an easy to learn and fast to play a trick-taking card game where a player will most likely utter “Yar!” and other pirate terms, jump aboard, matey.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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