Pirate Party: Women of the High Seas

Pirate Party: Women of the High Seas

When I first started designing a card game, a pirate theme seemed like so much fun!

Pirate Party card game has been through numerous playtests and revisions but has always featured a historical pirate captain for each suit in the deck. As I started reading up on the history of pirates of the Caribbean and Barbary Coast corsairs, I discovered some of the most powerful and successful real-life pirates were women!

Anne Bonny woman pirate of the caribbean pirate party women of the high seas a card game from Seaport games

Anne Bonny

As I dug a little deeper, I discovered several books, articles and fan fiction about historical women pirates and this really intrigued me. I imagined there were probably a few women pirates, such as Anne Bonny, who dressed and acted like men to sneak by.  Just like there were women soldiers who disguised their gender and fought in wars.

Ching Shih powerful female pirate captain pirate party women of the high seas a card games from Seaport games

Powerful Pirate Captains

There are accounts of very powerful and successful female pirate captains who did not hide their gender throughout history. Famous woman pirate captains, such as Ching Shih, ruled the seas.

Sayyida al Hurra pirate queen of Morocco pirate party women of the high seas a card game by Seaport Games


Historical accounts vary and some facts may have inaccuracies, but there were female pirate captains spanning different eras, coming from regions around the world, representing many races, religions, and socio-economic levels.

Sayyida al Hurra was a Queen of Morocco and also a pirate captain. She raided Spanish and Portuguese ships to fight against the colonialism of North Africa and the forced religious conversions of Muslims.

What circumstances would cause a woman to choose the life of a pirate? Considering that many civilizations did not allow women to have any power, independence, or inherit wealth, how did famous female pirates become leaders of fleets of ships and command hundreds and even thousands of men? What were the political or economic motivators?

box for pirate party women of the high seas card game. 2-4 players ages 10+

Pirate Party: Women of the High Seas

I quickly realized these courageous women need to have their stories uncovered and uplifted!

The Pirate Party card game now features six historic women pirate captains – one for each suit.

Pirate Party: Women of the High Seas from Seaport Games is coming soon to Kickstarter.

I’ll be posting sea stories about these these legendary women pirate captains in the future. Which pirate captain would you like to hear about?  

Pirate Party: Women of the High Seas is coming soon!  Follow along and get first access to the game and game news.


Marge Rosen

Marge Rosen

Game Designer

Marge is a game designer and owner of  Seaport Games, an indie tabletop game design studio and publisher.

Women Pirates

Women Pirates

Were there any famous female pirates? 

Happy International Women’s Day!  Let’s celebrate these famous female pirates. 

Women pirates, female pirates, Anne Bonney, pirate party, card game

Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny (1697-1733). Engraving from General History of the Pyrates (1st Dutch Edition 1725) by Captain Charles Johnson 

Anne Bonny was one of the most famous female pirates of all time.

Bonny was an Irishwoman that dressed like a boy from childhood.   She married then moved to Nassau in the Bahamas, a safe haven for pirates of the Caribbean.  

She had an affair with another pirate captain, John “Calico Jack” Rackham, escaped with him and became his lover and partner. Anne disguised herself as a man aboard ship, but was happily surprised to meet another woman pirate aboard Calico Jack’s sloop named Mary Read.

In popular culture, Bonny is featured in the video game, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag


Mary Read, Mary Reed, Mark Read, famous female pirate, pirate party card game, women pirates

Mary Read

Mary Reed (1685-1721), also known as Mark Read, was an English pirate.  Read lived most of their life as a man, favoring men’s clothing from an early age.  Read acted and lived as a man and even served in the British army. Read worked as a “powder monkey” carrying gunpowder to the cannons on a British ship.  It is reported that she fell in love with another soldier, revealed her gender, and the two married.  After her husband’s untimely death, Mary Read returned to living as a man.  

In 1715 Read sailed to the West Indies, but the ship was raided by Buccaneers and she joined them, either by choice or by force.  Read developed a reputation for ruthless violence and foul language.  

In 1720, Reed met Calico Jack and joined his crew.  Shortly after, Mary Read was captured along with Calico Jack and Anne Bonny.  All three were sentenced to hanging, but Anne and Mary had their executions stayed because both were pregnant.


Ching Shih, Cheng I Sao, Chinese pirate, famous female pirate, pirate party card game

Ching Shih

Ching Shih (1775-1844), born Shih Yang, also known as Cheng I Sao, was a Chinese pirate captain.  

She was a prostitute or madame who worked in a floating brothel.  Cheng developed  skills of manipulation, deception and survival which she leveraged to become one of the most successful, feared, and influential pirates in history.  

In 1801 she married Cheng Yi, a successful pirate captain.  This was one of many strategic partnerships that launched her great pirate career, leading to success and prosperity. She commanded a fleet of hundreds of ships know as junks that raided the fishing vessels, merchant ships, and coastal villages of Southern China.

After her husband died and she secured the fleet’s leadership position, Ching Shih started uniting the fleet of 50,00 men by issuing a code of laws. Some sailors were allowed to bring their wives and children to live aboard ship.

Ching Shih inspired the character Mistress Ching, played by actress Takayo Fischer, in the 2007 film Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.


Corsair to Admiral

map paper pirate party card game parchment blog news

Corsair to Admiral

Barbarossa (Red Beard)

Barbarossa was the most feared corsair sailing the Mediterranean Sea during the early 16th century.   He sank ships, seized many Spanish galleons, and attacked coastal castles for the Ottoman Empire. Barbarossa retook Algiers from Spain in 1526.

Originally named Khizr, he was born on a Greek island to a family of sailors.  Khizr began his career as a corsair under his elder brother Oruc.  In 1516 they captured Algiers from Spain and Oruc named himself the Sultan.

After Oruc’s death in 1518, Khizr inherited his brother’s nickname – Barbarossa (Italian for “Red beard”) and received the honorary name Hayreddin.

With his successful pirating exploits and excellence in seamanship, he later became a grand admiral in the Ottoman Navy.  He was also known as Hızır Hayrettin Pasha, the King of the Sea and Pirate of Algiers.

How Many Pirates can you name?


A person who attacks and robs ships at sea. A rogue, scoundrel or lawless adventurer of the sea. Also known as corsair, buccaneer, privateers, raider, rover, marauder, freebooter, picaroon, and sea wolf, among others.

Pirate legends and the allure of pirate treasure made some of the most infamous pirate captains the inspiration for novels, pop culture, and blockbuster movies.

How many real, historical pirates can you name?

Did you have to search to find more than three names?

Barbarossa, Italian for Red Beard, sailed the Mediterranean in the early 16th century as a corsair attacking Spanish galleons and coastal castles.

Blackbeard, born Edward Teach in England, sailed the Atlantic and Caribbean in the early 1700s during the Golden Age of pirates. He joined the Royal Navy and also sailed as a privateer before becoming the most well known pirate captain in the world.

Black Bart, born John Roberts, was a Welsh pirate who raided ships off the Americas and West Africa between 1719 and 1722. He was the most successful pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy as measured by vessels captured, taking over 400 prizes in his career.