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A quick and casual card game of combat on the high seas for 3 - 8 players.
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2 Player and Turn Order Variants

Posted by Troubadour Games (Creator)

Greetings all!

There are some unofficial variants for Scalawag! that I wanted to share, some of which I mentioned at the KublaCon demo. The game as defined by the rules is how I would recommend you learn to play, but here are a few other options to spice things up once you are familiar with the core game.


There are two variants that affect turn order; both adding to play time and increasing the chaos dramatically. They should only be used for games with 5 or more players.

1) At the start of a round, shuffle the Ship Flag Cards used to determine the seating positions and turn over the top card to determine which player should take their turn. Once that player completes their turn, turn over the next Ship Flag Card and so on.

This variant adds a considerable amount of luck to the game, but doesn't add too much to the play time. Some fun tension is created each time a Ship Flag Card is rolled to see who gets to act.

2) At the start of a round, shuffle the Ship Flag Cards used to determine the seating positions and deal out a new seating arrangement, requiring the players at the table to move to a new location with their Ship Mat, tokens, and cards. The first Ship Flag Card dealt is the first player to take their turn for that round, followed by others in clockwise order.

This variant adds to the play time significantly (rearranging seats) and increases the luck, but really adds an interesting twist with the new adjacency relationships that will be created each round. It also works great with Allegiance Play, as the hidden partnerships have a better opportunity to help each other as their positions shift about.


This variant provides an additional mechanic to offset the advantage that would be gained by being the first player to act each round.

At the game start, a game of English, Spanish, Pirate (ESP) is played to determine the first player position for that round, using the Allegiance Cards following the rules of rock-paper-scissors (English beats Spanish, Spanish beats Pirate, Pirate beats English).

For the game start only, matching Allegiance results cause the players to play another game of ESP until a winner is determined.

In later rounds, each player will secretly bid 0, 1, or 2 Compass Points from their own supply (if they have them) prior to playing ESP. The player bidding the most Compass Points (ties in favor of the current first player) will also win at ESP on a matching Allegiance result (e.g. English vs. English). All Compass Points bid are returned to the common supply, regardless of the ESP outcome.

The overall result of this added mechanic is that the first player position for each round generally stays the same once it is obtained (the current first player winning ESP outright, or with matching Allegiance results). The player in the second position can steal the advantage away with a bid of Compass Points at the right time, or bluff the current first player into spending Compass Points to maintain their advantage.

The bidding of Compass Points each round really embraces the fiction of the two warships maneuvering to gain the upper hand in the battle. Being caught without Compass Points prior to the bid leaves a player vulnerable, so more cagey spending should occur throughout the game.


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    1. Troubadour Games 2-time creator on

      Scalawag! has a defined turn order, starting with the first player and continuing clockwise around the play area. Knowing when you act in a round certainly influences your choice of Captain's Order (e.g. my neighbor ahead of me has five Compass Points, enough to fire on me next turn, I should use Steal the Wind now to steal two away).

      The turn order variants described in the update provide an alternative for player groups that would prefer to introduce more luck and chaos into their game.

    2. Brian Scott on

      You could roll a die to determine first player if you would prefer. I see no reason why you couldn't do that. This was just a list of a few variants in regards to the Turn Order to change up the game a bit if you'd like to.

      Here is the setup listed in the rules (as they currently exist) as it regards to turn order in case you were wondering how it suggests to setup turn order:

      1. Place around the play area as many Ship Mats as there are players. Choose one of the
      Ship Mats to be the first player position.

      2. Shuffle the Ship Flag Cards corresponding to the chosen Ship Mats (matching the flag
      symbols) and deal one to each player. Players then seat themselves at the Ship Mat that
      matches their Ship Flag Card.

    3. Dave Meyer on

      why not just add a die to the game and high roll or lowest goes first? i havent yet read the rules so i do not know if a die would make a difference in/during the game