Trade Winds

These comments copyright 1997 by Steffan O'Sullivan
Additional comments by "Dave" appended below
This page last updated June 20, 1998

Trade Winds, 1960 from Parker Bros., was probably my favorite game in my pre-Avalon Hill days. (My older brother got his first AH game in 1961, and although I played it with him then, I didn't really plunge into the genre until about 1963.) I found out in 1995 that Trade Winds (abbreviated TW hereafter) is descended from a British game, Buccaneer (abbreviated BUC). My copy of BUC is dated 1958, though I have no idea if that's the earliest incarnation or not.

TW is a game of adventure in the Caribbean Sea. It's for from two to six players, but like most games rated as such, is better near the upper end of that scale. The game consists of a handsome board, including a vacu-form island in the center, lots of loot (gold bars, barrels of rum, pearls and gems), tiny plastic ships which can - and must - actually hold the loot, and two decks of cards: the Crew deck and the Chance deck. There are no dice in the game.

The play is simple: each player chooses a home port and ship of matching color. Each is dealt a number of crew cards, which allow you to sail and fight. There are a number of neutral ports in the game, which contain some crew cards and some treasure. Treasure Island, loaded with loot, is in the center of the board. The board consists of squares (20x20, but some are taken up by islands), along which you can sail orthogonally or diagonally. Each player can decide to go to Treasure Island and draw a Chance card, hoping to get some loot, or can trade in the neutral ports, or can turn pirate and raid other players. You may choose your actions freely each turn.

Movement is in a straight line only. You may begin your turn by turning your ship to face any direction you want, at the cost of one movement point. You have movement points equal to your total crew card value. Crew cards range from one to three, and have the number printed on both the front and backs of the cards. Thus, anyone can check your speed by looking at the backs of your cards. The numbers on the back are all the same color, but the numbers on the front (which you keep hidden until in battle) are either red or black.

Your combat power is equal to the difference between your red and black crew cards. So if you have a speed of 14, as your opponents can see by the backs of your cards, they still have no idea if your combat power is zero or 14 or somewhere between. An excellent system - one of the goals is to amass a crew of a single color, the better to fight with.

The Chance cards range from simply collecting loot up to a certain value ("Take treasure up to five in value, or collect two crew cards" is a sample card) to good fortune in the future to bad luck right now - either for you, or an opponent, or both. Somebody's got to take some Chance cards in order to for somebody to win eventually, and sure enough, they make it fun enough to want to go for Chance cards, even when you know there's a fair number of bad cards in the mix.

That's basically the game: the first one to amass 20 value in treasure wins. There are lots of little things to intrigue you along the way: there are eight ports, and the ones not used for home ports are neutral, with treasure and crew available for trading. There are four islands, and three corner bays. Some of the Chance cards direct you to these places, others require you to lose crew cards to one of the islands, etc. There are rules for "drifting" - when you lose all your crew cards - and how much treasure a ship can carry, and what happens after combat, and the value of the various types of treasure, and so on.

All in all, a very enjoyable game, one that can be played with all adults, all children, or mixed, and everybody still have a good time. The replay value is fairly high due to the variety in the board and chance cards, and it takes maybe an hour to an hour-and-a-half to play a game. If you can find one, pick it up!

[Note: eight months after posting this, an interesting article on Trade Winds appeared on I asked the author if I could append it to this article, and he said yes. So a different view appears below, after my comparison of Trade Winds and Buccaneer.]

Trade Winds vs. Buccaneer

In case you have one of these two games, and want to know the differences . . .

TW is obviously descended from BUC, but there are many differences, a few of them significant. I think most TW changes are for the better, but haven't thought them all through yet.

Boards: TW is smaller than BUC: 20x20 instead of 24x24. Not only that, there are less usable spaces, which brings it down to 356 playable spaces from 536 playable spaces, or only 2/3 the number of spaces you can actually have your ship on. There are two extra islands in TW, each 2x2. You cannot land on these - they are merely obstacles to have to sail around. Also, the two places you get blown to by chance cards (Fort Charles and Krum Bay in TW), are set off the map into the corners more - you have to come out diagonally only, and can only go one or two spaces since these extra two islands are in the way of moving any further. The board is prettier in TW, BTW.

More Board talk: the ports in TW are Caribbean ports; in BUC they are European and Asian - which doesn't make a lot of sense. The two always neutral ports are diagonally adjacent to each other in BUC. In TW, the two non-player ports are opposite each other. In TW, when you lose treasure or crew to an island, you have your choice between what BUC calls Flat island and Pirate Island. In BUC, all lost crew go to Flat Island, only. In BUC, you may pick up a Chance card from any space adjacent to Treasure Island. In TW, you can land anywhere adjacent to Treasure Island, but are only allowed to pick up chance cards if you are on the four adjacent spaces that are on the opposite side of the board as your home port! Also, the diagonal spaces adjacent to Treasure Island are impassible rocks in TW, though you can pass diagonally between them and Treasure Island.

Yet more on the board: In BUC, you can do a spiffy little four-move diagonal to the adjacent port. In TW, adjacent ports have different colors for diagonal entrance and exit moves, so it takes more sail power to make it in two moves to an adjacent port.

Cards: Crew card composition is identical. Chance cards are slightly different - not only do some have slightly different wording (TW's "take four crew cards if your crew is four or less" instead of BUC's "take four crew cards if your crew is three or less", etc.), but a few are changed, and each have at least one card unique to the game. There's only one Capt. Kidd's chart in TW, and instead of having to go to a corner to redeem it, it's good for 7 trading value in any port, OR you can use it to take an extra turn. Long John Silver (BUC) is named Henry Morgan in TW, but is otherwise the same. TW has one less "take treasure" card, and one less "take 2 crew" card, but there is an additional card that forces you to swap crew cards with another player. There is also no "blown five leagues" card in TW.

Rules: There is one significant rules difference: in TW, you can only change your direction at the beginning of your turn, and it costs one movement point. In BUC, you can only change direction at the end of your turn, and it's free. This makes it harder to catch someone in TW - I actually prefer BUC's rule here. Also, in TW you must move at least one space each turn - I don't think this is true for BUC, but I could be wrong. We certainly allow the ability to sit in a harbor on your turn in TW, at any rate.

Combat: no differences, except you can attack in harbors in TW, which are safety zones in BUC. I'm not sure I like that in TW, either.

Carrying Treasure: In BUC, you can carry any two treasures in your ship. In TW, you can carry up to 19 points worth of treasure. (Treasure values, the same in both games, range from two for a barrel of rum to five for a gem.) TW has a rule that if you overload your ship in your greed and drop a treasure, it goes back to Treasure Island - this rule is lacking in BUC.

Trading in ports: no differences, except that TW treats rubies and diamonds as simply "gems", and you can put any three in your safety zone. In BUC, you have to three gems of the same color to put in your safety zone.

Checking an opponent's sailing move doesn't result in his losing his cards if he's cheated in TW - merely going back to where he would have been. You actually lose cards in BUC. I kind of like BUC's cheating rule better - more appropriate for pirates.

I can't think of any other dissimilarities - they're basically the same game, with some minor details and a couple of major differences.

A Different View of Trade Winds

Posted to by Dave (, posted here with permission of the author.

Subject: Re: Pirate Games [Trade Winds]
Date: 9 Nov 1997 05:48:26 GMT
Message-ID: <643ira$>

At a recent con here in NJ, I brought a copy of my Parker Brothers, Trade Winds game copyright date 1960. (I just recently bought it in a net auction and have two-thirds of another copy from my childhood). All the people were pleased and sort of surprised at how well this old game plays in the 90s.

Basically, you are one of six pirates operating out of one of eight ports. (At least two ports every game exist just for trading purpose, any port without a player in it, also is a trading port.) The board is a large beautfiul game board with a square pattern for spaces. The middle of the board is cut out and Treasure Island is stuck up through the middle of the board. The pieces in this game are a throw back to when family baord games came with beautiful components. You get six plastic ships that can hold treasure, Treasure Island is filled with wooden barrels of rum, pearls, plastic gold bars and little gems. You also get two decks of cards. One deck supplies all the pirate's crew, the other for ships to draw when visiting Treasure Island.

Each player is dealt six Crew Cards. They come in denominations of 1, 2, or 3 and come in two colors, red and black. The numeric value of each card is printed on the back. Everyone is entitled to see the speed of your ship (the sum total of all your crew cards) but only know your combat strength (absolute value of red total - black total) when they engage you in combat.

The goal of the game is to get 20 points of treasure in your home port. You can do this many ways which is what makes this game so fun. You can hang out on Treasure Island and draw cards until you find some that give you treasure. But beware, some can blow you far away or make crew desert you. (Crew deserting you isn't always bad if you 'desert' the right color crew. Speed goes down, fighting strength goes up!)

You can trade for treasure. All neutral ports hold some treasure at the start of the game that can be traded for. Any player's home port with treasure in it is also free game for trading while the owner's not home! Treasure comes in 4 denominations, 2 point big barrles of rum that barely fit in your ships up to the tiny 5 point gems. Every point of treasure is equivalnet to a point of crew enabling you to trade treasure for crew or crew for treasure or any combination. (agina, trading crew of the 'wrong' color for either trreasure or crew of the right color can be a winning strategy).

Lastly, you can just build up a strong fighting force and plunder all the ships you can find on the high seas. But look out for someone pulling the Yellow Fever cared on treasure island or all of a sudden YOU could be the one everyone's gunning for.

The clever movement/combat system, the beautiful game board and pieces, and the rich game play (many ways to win, lots of things to do, constantly changing situations) might not make this a good pirate SIMULATION, but as far as I'm concerned it's still the best pirate GAME ever.


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