Monday, December 14, 2009

Blast from the past: Pirate Island Board Game (Sjörövarspelet / Sjörövarön)

Pirate Island board game from the 1950s

This is THE board game we grew up with in my family, and the one my mom played as a kid too in the 1950s. It has everything you want and is by now not only tradition in the family but a must. This summer we played it several times during our visit from the US.

Pirate Island board game from the 1950s

The story is simple, as are the rules, and still, no game is the same. The captain of the pirate ship has died but before he did, he hid the treasure on a pirate island in one of nine possible places. He ripped the island map into nine pieces, ate the piece where the treasure is, and handed the other eight pieces out to his six surviving pirates on his death bed. The survivors immediately set off for the island, each in its own boat, to shoot each other, get the map pieces, and then dig up the treasure and leave the rest behind. Nobody dies, if you get shot you just have to wait three turns, and there is no way of telling who will win, since you can easily steal the treasure from each other after it is dug up.

Players scheme, alone and with others, run in the wrong direction to fool the pursuers, shoot with the cannon to stop an escaping pirate that has the treasure, and you might fall into rivers or down cliffs if you are unlucky. Once the poor treasure drifted to sea on the escape raft, all alone, since the pirate that had it had gotten shot and fallen into the water off the raft. In that game, nobody won.

It is a classic game, and it is so well made and can't be bought anymore. The game board is printed paper but has fabric where it folds, and the six figures are heavy lead die cast (I think) and hand-painted (see photo above). They all have special names - it is the Chinaman with his yellow coat and hat and one gun in each direction ("Tjo-Pang"), the red-coated tall and skinny "Markisen" with two piccadillos aristocratically aimed for an imminent duel, the muscular African-American man named "Hannibal", a black and white man that looks like a lunatic ("The Rat from Marseille"), the fat, bare-bellied white "Svullo" with green pants, and the black-dressed "Kapten Hook-up" that shoots up in the air. They are all designed so you can hang the little metal treasure chest on them if they are on the run. Today's games are either electronic or plastic. Sigh.

Fredrik in Sweden decided to remake the gameboard into 3-D with styrofoam. Check it out, it is great, and they have a little film trailer on Youtube of the final version (see below). (Game rules in Swedish here). It is strange, but there is very little information about this game on the internet.


EH said...

Google for Sjörövarön and you´ll find more.

LS said...

Aha, I used the wrong name when googling... It seems like we have the oldest edition from 1941.

O.K. said...

This Christmas - At Barking Dog Plaza - "Sjörövarspelet"!