Chrono Corsairs – Tasty Minstrel Games – Review

The game has an interesting theme and I liked the thought of mixing the two primary mechanisms.  I was definitely curious to see how the time looping would play out.

Kevin Billman



Theme and What is it?


Several competing pirate ships have been stranded on the shores of Ouroboros Island by a raging time storm. Trapped and doomed to repeat the same day over and over, the pirates will work to explore deeper and deeper into the island in search of treasure until the storm subsides.

Gameplay Mechanics


Chrono Corsairs is a game for two to five players published by Tasty Minstrel Games.  It is a mix of programming and area control mechanisms. Players are competing to earn points in the form of time crystals.  The game will play out over a number of rounds, each of which will have six phases, most of which include simultaneous play. The Vortex track, which shows the stability of the time storm, functions as the game clock.  The Storm Stability marker will advance one space each round, plus an additional space if anyone plays in Unstable Plan during the round. To set up, players will each take a ship mat which serves to track crew size, certain game upgrades, and their exploration plan.  The island locations are placed randomly as indicated, each with a random event token, and the decks are shuffled. Turn order for the first round is set randomly.

In Phase One, players advance the Storm Stability marker and then draw a card from the Anomaly deck, reading the effect that is next to the symbol matching the current position of the storm.  Next players will Select Plans in Phase Two. Players will draw a number of Stable and Unstable Plans, as indicated on their Ship mat, and select one of them to play. Once everyone has selected a card, the plans are revealed and placed onto the Ship mat, replacing either the default action, or a previous Plan.  If one or more players chose an Unstable Plan, the Storm Stability marker is advanced a single space on the Vortex Track.  

In Phase Three, players Run the Loop.  The phase has four parts: Sunrise, Morning, Evening, and Sunset.  Players will resolve each part of the day in turn order, taking their action or choosing to pass and receive a single doubloon.  Most cards include moving either Officers or Crew, all of which begin each day in the Harbor. When an Officer moves, they may take any number of crew with them.  When a player enters a location, if the time of day matches the Event token, they will resolve the Event token, revealing it if it is the first time. Players may also play one Artifact card before each of their turns.  These are often powerful abilities, but also award a number of time crystals if unused at the end of the game. Any time a Pirate dies or is killed, they are placed off the board and will return to the Harbor the next day.  If a Pirate is “Lost to the Storm” they are returned to the Ship mat and must be recruited again. After all parts of the day are over, play moves to Phase Four.

In Phase Four, players Find Treasure.  This section is built around area control.  Many areas only award benefits to a single majority holder, while some have the potential to award to a first, second, and third place player.  For determining majority, Officers and Crew count equally, but in the case of a tie, the player with the highest turn priority breaks the tie. Rewards are also influenced by the position of the Storm Stability marker.  This is a little tricky in the positions with a first, second, and third in that they only pay out to multiple positions if the Storm Stability marker is far enough along to activate multiple reward levels.

Players will Set Priority in Phase Five.  They will combine their total of doubloons and time crystals and the player with the lowest combined total will choose their position in turn order for the next, followed by the player with the second lowest total and so on.  Finally comes Phase Six: Outfit Ship. Players will use any doubloons earned from the current round to purchase upgrades on their ship mat, time crystals, or artefact cards. Any unused doubloons are lost. The next round then begins in Phase One.  If the Storm Stability marker reaches the final position on the Vortex Track, the game will end at the end of that round. The player with the most time crystals after the final round wins.

The game has an interesting theme and I liked the thought of mixing the two primary mechanisms.  I was definitely curious to see how the time looping would play out.

Game Build Quality


Chrono Corsairs comes with one game board, 5 ship mats, 10 plan cubes (2 of each player color), 10 Officer meeples (2 of each player color), 55 crew meeples (11 of each player color), 3 interior island tiles, 6 exterior island tiles, 4 mysterious cave tiles, 28 event tokens, 30 Stable Plan cards, 19 Unstable Plan cards, 9 Anomaly cards, 1 Storm Stability marker, 1 time marker, 35 Artefact cards, 5 flag markers, 65 Doubloons, 88 Time Gem tokens, and 1 Heart of the Vortex token.  The board and punchboard components are what we’ve come to expect from Tasty Minstrel: thick, sturdy, clean punches. The cards also have a great thickness and feel like they’ll hold up really well. The custom meeples are easy to distinguish and really add to the thematic feel of the game.

Artistic Direction


I really like the art direction of Chrono Corsairs.  The artwork on the cards is excellent and have a classic pirate feel.  The iconography from a readability standpoint is clear easy to read. The colors are crisp and really pop.  The island feels very vibrant. Unfortunately, from a graphic design/user experience perspective, the board feels cluttered and important information regularly gets covered during gameplay.  The tiles are double-sided, though both sides are sadly identical.

The box lists the game as 14+ and this is probably a little high.  The initial explanation is can feel pretty complicated, but once you see the game cycle in action, it makes a lot more sense.  Mostly the game focuses around some light programmed movement, using plan cards to move into the island and establish area majorities.  There isn’t a wealth of options for movement so it’s less about choosing from a lot of options as it is about maximizing efficiency from a few options.  The Artefact cards can offer some major benefits and the Anomaly cards will also keep you on your toes so players have to be comfortable adapting after their intended plans fall apart.



Chrono Corsairs is a fun, unique experience that plays quickly outside of the first round when you’re first putting all the mechanisms and game flow together.  As I mentioned, I like the art style and general concept of the game. However, I feel like there is some room for improvement. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the game was how much of the important iconography regularly gets covered up during gameplay.  When first learning, you want to reference the time of day icons on the ship mat, but as soon as you start placing down Plan cards, those icons are covered. This is obviously less of a problem as you familiarize yourself with the game.  

More importantly, the island spaces just aren’t big enough.  Depending on your island setup, you can easily see almost every player moving the bulk of their Pirates to the same spaces and building primarily the same routines.  The island spaces fill quickly between the event tokens and the Pirates which obscures the information on the tile. We had multiple times where we just had to queue our pirates up off the map and remind each other “oh, all those Pirates are there too.”  We also found that there was rarely a reason to compete for anything other than majority control because the second and third place rewards don’t activate until late in the game and if Unstable Plans come out to push the Storm Stability marker, you may only get one or two rounds where there is any benefit to not winning the full majority.

Overall, I enjoyed Chrono Corsairs and despite the above, it is a good game that provides a unique, light, gaming experience that uses programmed movement and area control in ways that I haven’t experienced in other titles.  I like the time loop concept as well and the way that it allows you to make iterative improvements to your program. I can see where it wants to go, it just feels like it doesn’t quite get there.