Chrono Corsairs strives to be Groundhog Day with pirates, where you can perform all manner of skullduggerous acts (including pushing enemies into bees), but where dead pirates wash up on shore the next morning with everyone else, to repeat the day anew. My initial reactions are here in this Chrono Corsairs Unboxing Reaction video, and my How to Play video is below:
Hi! It be the dread pirate Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and this is Chrono Corsairs, an area control, programmatic movement game for 2-5 players.If you’d like to see me and Rahdo from Rahdo Runs Through talk about what we thought about this game, head over to Rahdo’s channel. Otherwise, stick around, and let me show you how to play!
You and your merry band of brigands have washed up on the shores of a mysterious island in the middle of a time storm. The island is packed with treasure, but every day, you wash back up on the shore again, and your booty disappears, like when i use the treadmill. (i’m just kidding. I don’t use the treadmill.) Your goal is to uncover the timed events on the island, collect as much treasure as possible, upgrade your ship, and edge out your rival pirates in the pursuit of plunder. To do that, you’ll be programming your moves on your ship, which let you transport your officers and crew to different sections of the island. By the end of a given day, the player with the majority of pirates on each section of the island takes home the biggest prize. When the time storm collapses, whoever has amassed the most time gems wins.
HOW TO PLAY
The game clock runs across these nine spaces on the vortex track. The game will last a certain number of rounds depending on player count, but certain player actions can speed up the storm and cause it to collapse more quickly.
The time loop has four sections: dawn, daytime, evening, and dusk. On your player board, you have a slot that corresponds to each of these. You have two different kinds of pirates: officers and crew. You begin the game with 2 officers and 5 crew in the harbour. The rest of your crew members fill up these spaces on your ship. Your ship also has an identifying flag. A round plays out in six phases.
In Phase 1 … you move the storm stability marker ahead one space. The player with the nicest voice reads the top Anomaly card, and moves it over to the discard pile. Anomaly cards can modify the rules of the game, or add incentives or disincentives to the board, and you often have to choose an effect depending on how far along the storm is.
Next, you draw your plans, which let you program your pirates’ movement. We’ll come back to that in a second.
Then, you run the loop across the four time periods in the day. So at dawn … and in turn order … everyone does what’s written in the “dawn” section of their ship. Then, everyone does what’s in their daytime section, and so on. Since all players have the same instructions written on their ships, in the same order, everyone’s turn will go pretty much the exact same way… that’s why you draw new plans before you run the loop.
There are two different types of plans: stable, and unstable. You draw as many cards as your ship allows you to, and you can pay to increase your draw count later in the game. Then, everyone picks a card they want to use, and covers it. The rulebook doesn’t say what you’re supposed to do with the cards you’re not playing… so the best way to do this is probably to put the card you intend to play face-down on top of the stack, and use your hand to cover it. When everyone’s ready, everyone simultaneously reveals their chosen card and flips it face-up onto one of the four spaces on their ship. You can overwrite a pre-printed move… or even kick out a card that’s already there. The kicked out card gets sunk to the bottom of its deck.
If one or more players played an unstable plan, you move the vortex tracker ahead exactly one space. Unstable plans generally contain more powerful moves.
So when you run the loop, everyone’s moves will be identical, except in the slot that has the new plan.
The plans mostly let you to move your pirates to an adjacent island space of a certain type. These three areas are all adjacent to the harbour. The island has four different terrain types: beaches, jungles, volcanoes, and caves. And the board setup is modular. So the first hard-coded space on your ship tells you to move to an adjacent beach, but there may not even be a beach adjacent to the harbour.
The plans differentiate between officers and crew. When you move an officer, any number of pirates – including other officers – can follow. So you can move 1 officer, or an officer and 2 crew members, or both officers, or absolutely everybody. The pirate pieces block what’s written on the island space, but it’s helpful to know that every tile of its type has the same thing written on it – so all outer-ring volcano spaces are identical, for example. Jungles always give a mix of artifact cards and time gems as prizes, while volcanoes and beaches always give a mix of coins and time gems. The caves are the only completely unique tiles.
If you move onto a space with one of these event tiles, and the symbol on the tile … matches the current time of day … you flip it over and do what it says. Event tiles can be either good or bad. You could gain gold from a generous monkey, or get stung in the face by bees. This symbol means that one of your crew members forgot his Epipen, and dies. You put him at the top of the board for now, but since you’re stuck in a time storm, he’ll just wash back up on shore with everyone else tomorrow morning. This symbol means a crew member gets lost to the storm, which means he winds up back on your ship with your other unrecruited crew.
If you enter an area and the event tile is already flipped over… and it matches the current time of day, you do what the tile says … So bees only come out mid-morning. This way, you and your opponents uncover areas of the island that are either desirable or dangerous depending on how the sun hits em.
Plans aren’t all or nothing. You can choose to perform only part of a plan. So this says you can move a crew member out of a beach to another tile, and then do that a second time (it doesn’t have to be the same crew member or the same beach both times), and then collect 1 gold. If you wanted to, you could just perform one of these movements and take the gold, or skip the movements and just take the gold. You can also just decide not to do anything written on a plan, in which case you take 1 gold.
There are also these special artifact cards. You start the game with 2 of them, and you can earn more in various ways. You can play 1 artifact card on your turn, either before or after you resolve (or skip) your plan for that part of the day. Artifact cards get discarded to the bottom of the deck when you’re done with them. At the end of the game, any unplayed artifact cards in your hand are worth a certain number of time gems.
When the day ends, it’s time to rake in cash and prizes. You resolve the island areas one by one, starting with the cave tiles at the top left, top right, and middle. Then resolve the exterior tiles, then the interior ones.
Whoever has the majority of pirates on a given tile gets the best prize. And the prizes available correspond to where the storm tracker currently sits – either on the butthole, the spiky, the washing machine, or the collapse. Throughout most of the game, having the majority on a jungle tile is going to earn you some new artifact cards. This means draw one, draw two and keep one, draw three and keep one, or earn time gems as the storm collapses. All non-majority pirate crews on a space marked “1st” earn nothing.
On beaches and volcanoes, you’re winning gold in the first few stages of the storm, and time gems in the final stages. Note that volcanoes don’t pay out until the storm gets spiky. On tiles like these with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place markers, whoever has majority control gets the prize corresponding to the current state of the storm. Second place gets the next prize back, and so on. So if you tied for second place on this beach… and the storm was on the butthole, the majority red pirate would get 1 coin, and you’d get the next prize back which, at this point, is nothing. But if the storm was spiky, the red player would get 2 coins, and blue and yellow would tie for second over 1 coin. It even goes beyond 3rd place: if 4 different crews were competing for this space and the storm was collapsing, the first place player would get 5 time gems, s1econd place would get 3 gems, third place would get 2 coins, and 4th place would get one coin. All pirates count equally, so officers hold no sway here. If there’s a tie, the player with the higher flag on the turn order track wins it.
As you resolve each island tile, sweep the pirates back into the harbour.
With all the treasure collected, you count up the total number of time gems and gold coins you have. Sweep all of the flags off the turn order track. The poorest player gets to put his or her flag anywhere on the turn order track for next round, and then the next poorest player decides, and so on. If any players are tied for treasure, the player whose flag was highest last round gets to pick first.
PIMP MY SHIP
Because you’re stuck in a time storm, the coins you collected are going to disappear, so it’s use it or lose it. You can spend your coins to upgrade your ship in a variety of ways to make your next run at the island more successful. Spend one coin to move a plan card to a different space. If there’s already a plan card there, the two cards swap places. Pay 2 coins to move your cube to the right on either the stable or unstable plans track, which means you’ll be drawing more plan cards next round. Pay 2 bucks to recruit a new crew member, who goes into the harbour with everyone else. You can pay 3 coins for a time gem, and 5 bucks lets you draw a new artifact card. Time gems and artifacts are magic, so they don’t disappear at the end of the round. You can – and should – spend as many coins as possible, and you can buy different things multiple times. Once you’re finished your shopping spree, you discard any unspent coins.
After that, the time storm resets, and you make another run at the island, starting with the Anomaly phase.
After outfitting your ship, if the storm is in collapse, the game ends. Every 2 coins gets you a time gem. Your unplayed artifact cards are worth time gems too. The pirate with the most time gems wins, and the player with the highest flag on the turn order track wins ties.
To set up the game, randomly place the tiles on the board to build the island. The tiles are the same on the front and back. Put the event tiles face down in the box lid… hold the lid over your head, and place one tile on each section of the island. Shuffle and place the artifact cards, stable and unstable plans, and the anomaly deck. The stability marker goes here in a 2 player game, or here for 3 or more players, and the time tracker begins at dawn.
Everyone picks a colour and takes the corresponding ship mat, flag token, cubes, six standby crew, and two random artifact cards. Put two officers and five other crew members in the harbour. Shake everyone’s flags up in your hand, and deal them to the player order track from the top down.
And now, you’re ready to play Chrono Corsairs!
Hi! It be Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and… this feels awfully familiar.
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[Music – Board Game Boogie by Ryan Henson Creighton]
Rahdo Runs Through (with Ryan)
My copy of Chrono Corsairs is thanks to Rahdo, who asked TMG to send it along. One of Rahdo’s high-falutin’ Patreon supporters requested that he and i do another video together (our last team-up was on Tiny Towns), and he obliged. Since Chrono Corsairs is so full of random elements, we weren’t able to play this one head-to-head, but we spent a good long time talking about the game, and what we thought went right and wrong.
Get Your Own Copy of Chrono Corsairs
If time loop chaos with a lot of chance thrown in is your bag, consider adding Chrono Corsairs to your own board game collection! Shop using the Amazon link below, and i’ll receive a small commission.