Growing up I was a pretty big fan of children’s board games that utilized some sort of dexterity/action mechanic. While these games were meant for children/families, I still have a sort of soft spot for them. While I have played quite a few of these games over the years, I had honestly never heard of or even seen the game Flying Pirates which is the game I am looking at today. A dexterity game utilizing cannons that shoot pirates at ships? How could I not want to check it out? Flying Pirates doesn’t differ much from your typical children’s dexterity game, but there is something surprisingly fun about shooting pirates out of cannons to sink ships.
One of the favorite genres for children’s games in the 1980s and 1990s seemed to be the dexterity game where players would fling objects through the air trying to get them to stick on some sort of gameboard. As a young kid one of my favorite games was Jumpin’ Monkeys where you would launch monkeys at a tree hoping to get them to stick. We have taken a look at a number of these children’s games and while they are usually pretty basic, they are usually still pretty fun even from an adult’s perspective. As for Flying Pirates the game was actually made when I was really young, but I had never played the game or had even seen it before I recently picked it up at a thrift store. I bring this up because adult’s enjoyment of a lot of these type of games come from nostalgia. As I had never played the game before though, I had no nostalgia for it.
At its core Flying Pirates is very similar to your typical game from the 1990s era of children’s games that had you shoot objects through the air. Each player is given a cannon and a crew of pirates to shoot at the other player’s ship. You are hoping to get these pirates to stick to the ship’s sails in order to weigh it down and ultimately tip it over. That is basically all there is to the gameplay. In a way the game actually feels kind of similar to Jumpin’ Monkeys as the pirates are even shaped somewhat similar to the monkeys. You are also trying to get the pirates to stick on the sails which is similar to the branches/leaves of Jumpin’ Monkeys. Basically if you have ever played one of these type of games before, you should already have a good idea of what it is like playing Flying Pirates.
If you would like to see the complete rules/instructions for how to play Flying Pirates, check out our how to play guide.
Basically your feelings towards this genre of games is very likely to transfer to Flying Pirates. The game is not particularly deep as there is no real strategy to the game. The official rules have players shooting their pirates as fast as they want, but you could alter the rules to make players take turns shooting one pirate at a time. Basically you want to shoot your pirates as quickly as possible and hope they stick to one of the sails. Some players will be better at the game than others, but the game inherently relies on a lot of luck. If you generally don’t like this genre of games, I see no reason why Flying Pirates would change your mind.
Despite not having any nostalgia for the game, I still found it to be surprisingly fun. I will be the first to say that the game is one of those that you will play for a short period of time and then put it away for another day. With how basic the gameplay is, I can only see playing a couple of games at max at a time before starting to tire of the game. I would guess most games would take at most 5-10 minutes to complete as players are going to try and shoot their pirates as quickly as possible. Like all of these type of games though it is hard not to have fun shooting pirates through the air hoping that they will stick to a sail. Younger children in particular will likely really enjoy the game. I think some adults will even enjoy the game if they like these type of games.
I think part of this is due to the cannons. While the cannons just seem to utilize a simple spring, they are surprisingly fun to use. All you have to do is slide in a pirate and pull back on the lever. The cannons work surprisingly well as they consistently shoot the pirates pretty high into the air. I would say that they work better than most of the launchers used for these type of games. How the cannons are designed though basically only lets you shoot the pirates as the pieces have to fit properly in order to fire. The strength of your shots is locked in as well as you can’t adjust how much energy you put into a shot. The cannons themselves can’t be directly aimed either which is a disappointment.
This illustrates one of the issues that I had with Flying Pirates. Firing the cannons is quite fun, but they do eliminate some of the skill present in most of these type of games. There is no delicate touch required as you adjust how much power you put into a shot. The only way you can adjust this is to push the cannon closer or further away from the ship. The arc of the cannon can’t be adjusted so the only way you can aim is to move the cannon itself around. Pretty much the only skill in the game comes from finding the right location to place the cannon to launch the pirates so they stick to a sail. While this requires some skill, I wish there was a little more of it in the game as it otherwise ends up relying quite a bit more on luck than I would have liked.
The other issue I had with the game is with the components themselves. I give the game credit as the components look pretty cool. If I had this game as a kid I think I would have loved it. Just looking at the game, it looks fun to play. The game is designed pretty well. The problem is that due to the nature of the game, it is vulnerable to wear and tear. The copy I found at the thrift store had a broken mast which I had to fix with tape. The two ships were never truly balanced either as one ship started lower than the other which gave one of the players an advantage in the game. Unless you find a copy of the game that was rarely ever played, you likely will have to deal with some sort of issue which may impact the game to some degree. This is kind of a shame as it did end up impacting my enjoyment of the game some.
I enjoyed playing Flying Pirates even if I had no nostalgia for it. The game was obviously designed as a children’s game, but it has that sort of charm that will still make it appealing to some adults. There is something satisfying about shooting pirates through the air hoping that they will stick to one of the ships’ sails. The canons themselves are quite cool. The game is far from deep as it does rely pretty heavily on luck. There is some skill involved with aiming your cannon, but there is no way to adjust the power and your aiming options are kind of limited. The game’s components are also kind of vulnerable to wear and tear which may end up giving one of the players an unfair advantage. Despite not being the deepest game, I still enjoyed playing Flying Pirates. It is the type of game though that is best in shorter doses.
Ultimately your feelings towards the game will likely depend quite a bit on whether you typically like this genre of children’s games where you shoot objects through the air. If you have never really cared for this genre or don’t have any younger children to play the game with, I don’t see Flying Pirates being the game for you. Those who have nostalgia for the game or generally like these type of games though should have fun playing the game. With the game being kind of rare/expensive though and the various potential condition issues, I don’t know if it is worth it for everyone to pick up.
Year: 1990 | Publisher: Parker Brothers | Designer: NA | Artist: NA
Genres: Action, Children’s, Dexterity
Ages: 5+ | Number of Players: 2 | Length of Game: 5-10 minutes
Difficulty: Light | Strategy: Light | Luck: High
Components: 2 cannons, 20 pirates (10 each color), 2 pirate ships, 6 sails/masts, 1 game board, instructions
- Surprisingly fun to shoot the pirates.
- Easy and quick to play.
- Relies a lot on luck as the amount of skill is a little limited.
- Not much different than your typical game from this genre.
Recommendation: For fans of children’s action dexterity games that are intrigued by the shooting pirates out of cannons premise.
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