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Dead Reckoning

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Play OverviewPlay Overview

Dead Reckoning (2021) is a role-play game where you power up sailor cards to command a pirate ship, trade, hunt treasure and take control of islands. Unlike other card games, you're not trading cards but levelling them up by applying upgrades and advancements. This, along with how ship battles are resolved by dropping cubes on the board, makes it a unique and joyously complex experience.

Play involves setting up your ship and picking a set of 12 sailor cards. Get to know your crew as you keep them for the entirety of the game. Each turn you set sail in your ship to visit and seize control of the islands. The islands let you collect advancements and fortify them against other players. You can also go after other ships and islands in cannon battles that use a block-dropping mechanic. The game ends when one of the players has completed four of the various achievements: Exploring the ocean, Completely levelling up sailors, Sinking enemy ships and so on.

Along with the drive to build up your stock of barrels and coins, there are longer-term aims of advancement and powering up your crew and ship:
  • Upgrade your ship with guns, speed and cargo space, before using it to load cargo and treasure.
  • Upgrade your crew by adding advancements and level-ups with transparent overlay cards that make them unique to you. Do you focus on production, attack, bosun or finances?
  • Upgrade and fortify islands to defend them produce treasure and buy advancements for your crew.

Finally, there are also live-action battles where you take on other player ships, non-player ships and buildings in your current location. Each player gets cubes from their cannons and drops them into the (not so) miniature cardboard ship. Where they land determines whether your shots explode (resulting in more cubes). Your crew abilities can also let you drop more cubes. At the end of the action, you count up what goods you landed on and who took damage.

The result is a game where you become attached to the cards in your hand because you spend time and effort to upgrade them into the ultimate pirate crew. It feels like a combination of a deck-building game and a board game, taking the best elements from these games and creating a coherent whole.

Our examiner, Andy Robertson, first checked Dead Reckoning 2 years ago. It was re-examined by Ellen Robertson and updated 5 months ago.
Too complex for your family? There are lots of games similar to Dead Reckoning. Here are some easier younger-rated games:

Play StylePlay Style

This is a Battle and Role-Play game with Collecting, Dexterity, Strategy and Traversal elements. You can play with 1 to 4 players in the same room.

You can play this game in the following styles:


Learn to Play: This takes 1 hour to learn. The layered complexity of the game means that you need to grasp a range of different aspects of play before you can compete.

We suggest the first time you play you should:
  • Practice movement, using the sail track on your ship. You can't move diagonally and distance depends on hoisted sails.
  • Practice movement of your barrels to dock/island and coins to treasure chests, depending on the different symbols.
  • Practice how sails can't be hoisted if you have cargo near them, but how you can offload/reload at a dock to get around this.
  • Practice what the different crew abilities let you do, get into the habit of covering up crew actions with cubes as they are taken.
  • Review the different advancement cards, their cost (along with where that must come from, ship or dock etc) and their benefits.

Play Time: This game will take between 1 and a half hours and 2 and a half hours to complete.


This game is good if you want to:

Age RatingsAge Ratings

Skill Level

13+ year-olds usually have the required skill to enjoy this game. This is a complex game that requires players to keep track of multiple actions during their turn. They also need to pursue long-term plans rather than just rush in and fight other ships. There's both patience and cunning required. Things can also turn around quickly, so younger players must be willing to lose their lead at the last minute.

Content Rating

We rate this suitable for 3+ years-olds.


There are no additional in-game purchases, loot boxes, adverts or subscription costs.

DetailsGame Details

Release Date: 01/05/2021

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Players: 1-4

Genres: Battle, Role-Play (Collecting, Dexterity, Strategy and Traversal)

Accessibility: 14 features

Components: Board, Cards, Figures, Placeables and Tokens

Developer: Alderac (@Alderac)

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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