Pieces of Eight!

Pirate Warfare on Land And Sea!

Pieces of Eight is a set of rules from Peter Pig covering land and sea actions in the days of the famous pirates.The rules are supported by a lovely range of 1/450 scale model ships and figures in 15mm, and have proved to be rather popular amongst my wargaming friends at work. This page contains some local rules ariations, additions and other stuff that we have come up with as a result of our games so far.

1. Local Rules, Clarifications etc.

Return Fire (rule 19.5)

Ships may attempt to "return fire" under rule 19.5 whether they have moved or not, but are only allowed to fire each broadside once per turn. We use bits of cotton wool to represent broadsides that have fired, and remove them all at the end of the turn.

Captured Ships

If you captured a ship and put a prize crew on board it takes one turn for the prize crew to take command. The ship drifts for the turn after capture.


The rules state that boats have 3 "hit points". Since hit points aren't used anywhere else in the rules we assume that three hull hits on a boat will sink it, and that no morale rolls are required. We also assume that you can fire at the crew to kill any Fighting Points or guns that are embarked. Finally we assume that if a boat enters a hex with an immobile enemy ship that it can grapple and board without having to roll (but would have to roll to grapple if the enemy ship was moving).

Bow Rakes

The bow of a ship was better protected than the stern. Any raking fire that enters through the front of the hex attracts a +1 modifier instead of the normal +2.

Shore Batteries

Shore batteries are treated as immobile ships. They have no hull points or sailing points (so all fire is directed at the guns and crews). They may have up to 10 guns, which may be light, medium or heavy. They may also have up to 20 Fighting Points (in case you want to try to capture them by sending Fighting Points in boats to attack them). Well protected batteries (such as forts or those with decent stone defensive walls) can have an "armour value" of 1 or 2. This means that the number of hits froma single broadside are reduced by 1 or two before rolls against the crew and guns are made (for example, a stone battery with an armour value of 1 is hit three times from a ship's broadside - but only two damage rolls are made). Shore batteries cannot be grappled (and therefore attacked by Fighting Points) unless they are situated on the coast and have deep water alongside them. Landing stages will allow the use of boats (both to attack the battery or to send boats from the battery out to sea). As an added option you could allow Fighting Points to land at nearby beaches and march to attack the battery (at 10cm per turn).


2. Galley Warships and Barbary Pirates

Galley warships are those designed to operate under oar power. In Northern waters the ships are crewed entirely by naval crews. However, in the waters of the Barbary Pirates the oars are worked by teams of slaves, captured from unfortunate vessels or kidnapped in raids on coastal towns. If you are looking for suitable models to repres4ent Barbary Pirate vesels you could try the Arab dhows from the Grumpy 'Miniatures / East Riding Miniatures range (they are to 1/300 but look OK with the Peter Pig models)


Galleys come in Small Medium and Large sizes. Costs and numbers of Fighting Points are as for normal warships.

The number of guns that a galley can carry are as follows:

Small - Maximum of 3 guns, 1 of which can be Medium or Heavy
Medium - Maximum of 4 guns, 2 of which can be Medium or Heavy
Large - Maximum of 5 guns, 3 of which can be Medium or Heavy

Small galleys have 2 oar teams, Medium have 4, large have 6.

All of these guns are mounted as Bow Chasers. Galleys can also carry up to 4 Light Guns in broadside (but not Medium or Heavy guns.



Galleys can either move under oar power, or by sail.

If moving under oars they ignore the direction of the wind. They can move up to two hexes (roll 4+ to move an extra hex). They may either move and turn, or they may remain in the same hex and turn without moving forward (each counts as moving 1 hex). Galleys have a number of Oar Teams. If they are reduced to half the number of oar teams or less they can only move 1 hex (but may still roll for extra movement).

If moving under sail they are treated as normal sailing ships. Switching from sail to oar or vice versa takes 4 turns.



Galleys fire as normal vessels

Galleys take damage as normal vessels except hits on the hull may kill the oarsmen. If the firing player Gambles a fire starts on a 6, or an oar team is killed on a 5.



Barbary pirates add 1 to the number of Fighting Points because of their ferocity. If a ship is captured by Barbary Pirates the crew may be made slaves and added to the oar teams. Divide the total of the guns and fighting points of the captured ship on the turn it was captured (i.e. before losses were inflicted) and divide by 4. This is the number of oar teams that are available.


Land Raids

As well as loot the Barbary Pirates raided coastal towns and vuillages in search of hostages and slaves (they were also quite wide-ranging - on at east one occasion raiders from Algiers attacked townd on the coast of Ireland and carried off the inhabitants). During a land raid by Barbary Pirates the pirates may also take captives as slaves. One stand of Captives are taken for each square containing the town or "rough quarter" that is occupied solely by pitare stands (only one stand of captives can be taken from each square). Captive stands are controlled and moved as in rule 23.7 in the Native Village rules and they are worth 1 point if they end the game on the beach squares.

3. Chinese Pirates

Chinese Ships

Naval development in Asia followed a different course to that in Europe and the Americas. The most noticeable difference was in size. Asian warships even came tended to be smaller than their western counterparts, since they were designed specifically for the environment in which they operated, namely the bays, shallows, rivers and canals of China’s coast. The need to navigate in confined waters of the major rivers such as the Yangste was a prime consideration to Chinese naval architects, whose ships needed to penetrate hundreds of miles upstream to the cities of the Chinese interior.

The sails used by Chinese vessels developed along different lines to their Westren counterparts. Nearly everyone is familiar with the square lug sails of the traditional ‘Junk’. These were battened with bamboo and hung from a yardarm two thirds of the way up the ships mast. The bamboo battens kept the sails rigid even in high winds and allowed the ships to tack at extremely sharp angles. They were quite damage resistant, and removed the need for ratlines since sailors could climb the sails themselves using the battens as foot and hand holds. They were also particularly easy to raise and lower, since they were simply ‘hung’ and, when raised would fold back into their creases. Consequently ships with sail plans on the Chinese pattern could be effectively handled with very small crews.

The need to operate in coastal waters, shallows and on rivers meant that wind power was not always available, or was in the wrong direction to traverse the required course. Asian ships were often equipped with sculling oars, or to be ‘poled’ like enormous punts.

In common with Western ship design, which involved many standard ‘types’ of ship, Asian ship designs could be grouped into several distinct classes. The Kiangsu and Pechilli were standard forms of transport, often used by merchants and were also the traditional vessel of the various pirate factions. The common junk was used extensively on rivers but was also seen on coastal trade routes and occasionally on the open ocean. The Crooked Junk was typically a small vessel, similar in size to a 19th century oared gunboat. These craft were propelled by oars. Their sterns were designed to allow a sweep oar to propel and control the vessel in rapids. Developed as a result of European influence, the Lorcha was a hybrid, featuring a Western hull with oriental sails.


Chinese Naval Warfare

It is perhaps not surprising that the Chinese didn’t develop naval gunnery to the degree practised by the West. The majority of the actions fought took place in restricted waters, often on rivers in head to head encounters. Few cannon were mounted, the Chinese instead relying largely on close quarter actions and boarding. Thus the weapons developed by the Chinese tended to support this style of fighting. Typical weapons included fireships, rafts and burning torches, stink bombs, anti-boarding spikes, and primitive mines.

Stink bombs - these were small grenades, clay pots filled with gunpowder, sulphur, nails and other shrapnel and any other unpleasant substances which the maker had to hand. They were used in boarding actions, hurled by the boarding parties just before they stormed their intended victim, or thrown onto an approaching warship’s decks to disrupt the boarders before they made their attack. Being hand thrown their range was severely limited.

Mines - These were made from wooden barrels filled with gunpowder and rigged with a fuse. These would be laid by a ship and set to drift down upon an enemy. Chinese ‘minelayers’ were quite adept at estimating the anticipated speed of drift and could set the fuse accordingly. Nevertheless this was quite a haphazard weapon to use.

Fireships - Not quite on the grandiose scale of Western fireships, the Chinese equivalent was often made up of two small boats filled with combustible material, connected by a stout hawser or chain. A ship passing between the two boats would foul the chain and bring one or both of the boats alongside.

Spikes - These were arranged around a ships hull to discourage enemy ships from closing and boarding.


War on the Rivers

For "Pieces of Eight" players used to actions on the high seas, or even in normal coastal waters, the confined waters in which many Oriental actions were fought present some interesting problems. That is not to say that actions in open water did not occur (even on the rivers - the Yangtse is, after all, one of the world’s widest rivers), but since the Chinese vessels were really restricted to rivers and the littorals this is where most of the action will take place.

As alluded to already, operating a sailing vessel on a twisting river presents some unusual problems for sailing vessels constrained by the wind to certain courses. In many cases the ships boats would be lowered and the vessel towed. This would not present too much of a problem, but would of course expose the boat crews to extreme danger in action.

As well as wind constraints there would be depth constraints, possibly with narrow and sometimes shifting channels known only to local pilots (who may or may not be trustworthy…). Then there is the river flow itself - a typical regional river current of 1-2 knots would be appropriate, but could increase to as much as 5 or 6 in restricted areas or during floods (as an aside the depth of the Yangtse river could easily treble to as much as 60 feet during the rainy season!)

Most rules include some sort of rules to cater for shallows, but in these sort of scenarios they become somewhat more relevant. Referees and others should be aware of this challenging environment when writing scenarios, as they add considerably to the enjoyment and ‘feel’ of the game, and stop the scenario degenerating into an ‘open sea with lots of coast’ action as can often happen.


Additional Rules for China Seas Actions

Chinese Shipboard Weapons

Stink bombs - The use of stink bombs and grenades grants the user an advantage in the first round of combat. Roll a d6 and look on the table below for the effect on the boarding action in the FIRST ROUND only.

Die Roll

Stocks of these weapons were limited. Allow each ship equipped with stink bombs to use them once in any game unless specified by the umpire.


Poor attempt - no effect


Add 1 to Fighting Points


Add 2 to Fighting Points


Add 3 to Fighting Points



Mines - These are placed in the water at the start of a turn and drift one hex downwind each turn. If a mine comes into contact with a ship or vice versa roll a die - on a score of 1-3 it becomes entangled with the ship and moves with it until it explodes or comes adrift (roll 5+ in each movement phase of the ship for this to occur). On a roll of 4+ the ship has avoided the mine which drifts on. A vessel equipped with mines may carry up to three, and may launch 1 per turn. The launching player secretly notes the number of turns for which the fuse has been set to burn. At the end of that turn and each turn thereafter roll a die. If the result is 1-4 the mine explodes, causing sd6 hull damage to any ship in contact. On a roll of 5 or 6 the mine does not explode - roll again next turn. If two 6s are rolled in succession the mine becomes waterlogged, sinks and is removed from play.


Fire Rafts - These are placed in the water at the start of a turn and drift one hex downwind each turn. If they come into contact with a ship they become entangled on a roll of 1-5, and whilst entangled they will start a fire on a roll of 3+. A ship may disentangle itself from a fire raft on a roll of 5+ (roll at the same time as for degrappling). Once a raft becomes entangled with a ship and starts a fire it is removed from play. Roll a die for drifting rafts - on a roll of 6 the raft has burnt itself out and is removed (do not roll in the first turn the raft was launched)


Spikes - Vessels equipped with anti boarding spikes may damage an oncoming ship, and have an advantage in the first turn of boarding. If a ship collides with or attempts to board a spike-equipped ship, roll a die. On a roll of 6 the spikes cause 1 point of hull damage. In the first turn of the subsequent boarding action the boarder reduces their number of Fighting Points by 2 due to the difficulty of the boarding parties to cross the spikes.


Ship Data

Chinese warships tended to be lighter armed that their Western counterparts, so they may only carry Light Guns. The exception is the Lorcha which, being a hybrid Wester/Eastern design, can carryt he full range of guns (treat as normal Medium and Large warships for restrictions on types of guns and locations). Since their style of fighting was geared more towards boarding they can carry larger numbers of Fighting Points.

Type Size Points Max no. of Fighting Crew Max. No of Guns Notes
Kiangsu Trader Medium 100 12 4  Light Guns only
War Junk Medium 120 12 6  
Small War Junk Small 70 10 4 Light Guns only, Oared (may have oars only)*
River Junk Medium 120 12 4 Light Guns only. Oared (may have oars only)*
Pechelli Trader Small 70 10 4  Light Guns only
"Crooked" Junk Small 70 10 6 Light Guns only. Oared (may have oars only)*
Medium Lorcha Medium 120 12 12 Chinese sailing rig, European style hull
 Large Lorcha  Large  250  15  20  Chinese sailing rig, European style hull

*Oared vessels use the rules in section 2 above.

4. Pirate Links

Useful background info <coming soon>

Captain Kidd

Anne Bonny

Pirates of the Bahamas - useful info on the islands of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Spanish Main - loads of good stuff!

Philip Burn's Pirate Site - another excellent collection of links