Treasure of Sandheap

Pirate Adventure Game

Copyright 1998 - T. Sheil & A. Sheil - All Rights Reserved

These is a very simple game for play on beach or in backyard, with plastic toy soldiers. The focus is on a fast-action game, easy to learn and easy to play. Our game is for small battles, only - with forces of 100 men or less on each side.

NOTE: these rules are very similar to Sandpit Showdown.  There are essential differences in weaponry and command.  Certain weapons do not act the same in this game, as we have taken into account such things as flintlock pistols and the differences between muskets and rifles.  (In this era, rifles could not be fitted with a bayonet!  Only muskets had the bayonet attachment!)

Here's what you need:

Making tools:

String should be cut in lengths of 4 feet, 3 feet, 2 feet and one foot. Each string is then divided by thirds. You can tie a knot to separate each 1/3.  The thirds represent Close, Medium and Long range.

The disk has to be four quarters. Draw a cross over the center to do this.

Click here first - The Basics of the Sandy Hook Battle Games


There are several kinds of characters possible in a pirate game.  Along with pirates, one may encounter several types:

Pirates: the heroes of our game, Pirates set about raiding merchant ships and ports between their searches for buried treasure.

Indians: Various tribes from the Caribbean and East Coast of North America tend to frown on pirate intrusions.  One never knows when their search for treasure might attract unwelcome attention from the local Indian tribe.

Africans: Tribes from the West Coast of Africa can be quite displeased with unwelcome guests.  A Pirate ship operating off the Gold or Ivory Coasts just might run afoul of the local tribe.

South Pacific Natives: when operating in the South Pacific, you might run across some of the natives: Melanesians, Polynesians, Maoris or Aborigines.  They don't always appreciate visitors!

Militia: The town militia, armed with muskets and cannon, will defend against incursions by pirates, privateers or enemy navies and armies.

Navy: A formidable foe, the Navy has large battleships which can sink even the hardiest Pirate vessel.  Navy ships come complete with swashbuckling sailors and musket-wielding Marines.

Privateer: basically, a pirate ship that has "gone legit."  Privateers are hired by the various navies as a sort of free-lance auxiliary fleet.  But privateers are still pirates at heart.  The only difference is that privateers take their orders from the Navy.

Marines: as if having them on a ship isn't enough, the Navy is known for landing units of these hardy infantrymen for assaults on forts, towns and hideouts.  Marines are well-disciplined fighters against whom pirates are no match on land.

The Army: Marines landing from the sea, the Army coming from land complete with musketeers, cannons, cavalry and all the trimmings of full-scale battle.  Pirates do not fare well against the Army on land.  Imagine being caught between the Army and the Marines!

Moors: Pirates operating off the Gold and Ivory Coasts might run across Moors.  The Moors use light, fast sailboats.  though they do not have many serious gunboats, they are formidable fighters.  Under the right circumstances, they can be equally formidable allies.

Moros: operating around the Phillipines means encountering Moros, a tribe who are as good with sailboats as they are on land.  Moros are Filipino Muslims; "moro" is Spanish for Moor.  The Moros fight as Moors, with most men using swords and a few brandishing muskets.  Moros have no artillery.

Conquistadors: Spanish troops in brightly-burnished helmets and breast-plates, armed with muskets, swords and pikes.  Where there are Conquistadors, there is gold!  They can be found in the Caribbean and along the African coast.  Conquistadors are the mortal enemies of the Moors and Moros.

Samurai: yes, Samurai.  There's always a chance of getting to close to Japan and meeting boatloads of these feisty armored warriors.  Samurai ships are actually long rowboats.  While at sea, they cannot use their matchlocks.  On land, don't be surprised to see a line of troops pointing their matchlock muskets your way.  While it might be possible to strike a deal with everyone else, the Samurai are inimical to everybody.

Chinese: the Chinese can be found almost anywhere in the Pacific, operating as merchants or pirates.  Chinese troops garrison the coasts and ports of Chine.  Most are armed with swords and spears, but muskets and light cannon aren't uncommon.  The Chinese are especially opposed to the Samurai, and will ally with almost anyone to fight the Japanese.

Shooting and Throwing Weapons:

Each weapon has a range and a damage factor, both expressed in numbers. Each also has a rate of fire. Note that though some weapons fire more than once per round, they can only fire at one target per round.

Note that the throughout these rules, range is often given as R and a number, thus R2 is a range of 2.

How We Shoot

Each side fires simultaneously.  Casualties are removed, starting at the front of the unit being hit.  

Roll 2 dice.  You need a 6 or better to hit at close range, 8 or better for medium range and 10 or better for ling range.

To hit troops fighting behind walls, you subtract 2 from the dice roll.

To hit troops hiding behind wagons or houses, subtract 1

If you fire at a unit that has not moved for one move, and you have not moved either, add 2 to your dice roll.

Cup rule for indirect/lobbing fire: Artillery, be it cannon, mortar or howitzer, chooses a target and fires. A die is rolled. 5 or 6 means a direct hit. A cup is placed over center of the blast, and everything inside is ruined or killed. If you roll a 3, the hit fell short and lands one cup-width to the front, 4 means to the rear, 5 to the left, 6 to the right. Again, a cup is placed over the center of the cup and everything inside is hit. (Of course, a stone wall will resist the blast. If the blast is outside the wall, everything inside remains untouched), This simulates a gun's tendency to be off target and create casualties also. And it shows why you never fire at a target too close to your troops!

Cannon direct fire: A cannon will hit any man in its path, hitting up to 5.  Place the range string from the cannon to its intended target.  Aim at the target as you would any regular shooting.  If it hits, anything in range behind him touched by the taut string is hit - he may hit up to 5 men.  We consider the 5th to have stopped the cannonball, so that anyone over 5 is unharmed.  

Cannons also fired grapeshot.  This is how it works: At an attacking unit of troops R1 or closer, artillery fires grapeshot. Lay the cup on its side, the bottom facing the gun. Everything under the gun is hit as if it were shot by rifles. Grapeshot can hit up to five targets and it does 5 damage. Those troops and things closest to the gun are destroyed first.

Mortars, howitzers and catapults cannot fire at targets in close range, as they are high-angle weapons.  They can only fire at targets, using the cup rule, at medium or long ranges.

To eliminate a target, the damage power of your weapon must be higher than that of your target.  If they are equal, flip a coin.  Heads it is damaged, tails the shell/bullet bounced.

Defense from Missiles

A piece or character escapes damage if the attacking weapon is lower than the target's rate given in the list below.  If the weapon equals or exceeds the number, it eliminates or destroys the target.  Here's the amount of firepower needed to remove each piece:

Natives, Indians, Africans, Moros, unarmored Moors , Pirates, soldiers, Marines, sailors , unarmored Samurai, unarmored Chinese - 1

Conquistadors, armored Moors, armored Samurai, armored Chinese - 2

Mortar - 4

Wood tower - 4

Wagon - 3

Fort's gate - 5

Ship's rear - 3

Ship's gun port - 4

Ship's hull - 5  (5 direct hits to hull needed to sink a ship)

Boat, sailboat - 3


The distance a piece can be moved per turn uses the same measurement as range.  This a move of 1 = R1


Different aspects of the land affect movement.  Here is how speed is affected:

Hills:  climbing a gently-sloping hill  - 10 degrees to 44 degrees- slows troops and wagon speed by 1/3.  A steep hill - 45 to 80 degrees - slows them 2/3.  (Hills over 80 degrees can only be scaled by climbers with climbing gear.)  Wheeled vehicles and horses cannot climb steep slopes.

Troops may push cannons up steep slopes at 1/3 the pushed cannon speed.

Going down hill on gentle slopes does not affect movement.  On steep slopes, movement is slowed by a third.

Rivers: on coming to a river, a unit must stop immediately.  If the river is fordable, all movement through the river is slowed by one half.  On climbing the far bank, the unit must stop.  

Bridges, Passes, Tunnels, Gates: when a unit comes to cross a bridge or go through a narrow pass or tunnel, choose one piece as the lead figure.  It moves as far as you wish, and everyone else follows behind.  

Lakes: crossing lakes involved using boats or barges.  It takes one move to get on the boat, and one move to get off.  A boat or barge can move R1 per turn.


Flip a coin. The winner decides who moves first. On one side moves, then the other, then both sides shoot. That is the order of battle.

When one group of troops gets within R1 of an enemy, they must stop immediately. Both sides may shoot during the firing phase; they fire range 1

When two groups charge each other after stopping at R1, every man with a pistol gets a free shot. This goes for both sides. Others must fight hand-to-hand.


There are two problems with boats: tides and windage.  These affect boats at sea.  

Tides: Before starting the game, you must flip a coin.  Winner decides if it is ebb or flow tide.  When within R2 of a beach, a boat will drift 1/3 of its movement range either toward or away from shore, depending on the tide.  Boats heading to the beach move an additional 1/3 of their range at Flow Tide, and lose 1/3 during Ebb Tide.  The tide automatically changes every twelfth turn!

Windage only affects sailing ships.  Roll a die.  The pips mean:

1 - no wind - sailing ships move only 1/2 speed

2 - East wind

3 - North Wind

4 - West Wind

5 - South wind

6 - breezes - no affect on ships

Ships heading directly into a wind lose 1/3 of their move distance; ships headed away from a wind gain 1/3 distance.

Boarding Party Rules for Hand to Hand

In a boarding party or a siege, men are not fighting as units while they defend the walls and bulkheads.  Each soldier in a fight roles a die.  If it is one man against one, high roll strikes.  In the first roll, the one with the higher score wins. Now we must see if he gets past his enemy's armor.  He rolls again.  He needs 1 or higher to eliminate a light soldier, 3 or more to kill a medium, and 5 or more to defeat a heavy.  Where one man fights several, he rolls only once but each of his enemies roll.  The one must choose one enemy as his target.  If he beats that man's roll, he rolls the second die.  All of the enemies who beat his roll get to roll for damage, however.  A roll is both offensive and defensive.  Offensively, it denotes a strike on one enemy.  Defensively, it is how well he protects himself against all enemies arranged against him.  Any enemy attacking him who beats his roll gets to roll for damage.

Note: three men can fight one man at once.  However, if his back is not to his own troops, a wall or open area, or fighting from inside a doorway, etc. a fourth can get behind him and join the attack.  

The first roll can be enhanced depending on your man's weapon.  Every fighter is considered to have a knife, along with any other weapons he is carrying.  Other weapons add to your roll.  The better the weapon, the more it improves your chances of winning.  

Here's what each weapon adds to a roll:

Knife, tomahawk, hatchet - 0

Bayonet, marlinspike, spear, shovel, pick - 1

Sword, cutlass - 2

Unit Hand to Hand Fighting

When two units come into contact in the open, they are involved in hand-to-hand fighting.  All infantry fight as 1 man each.  Heavy cavalry fights as 2 men (with exception noted below).

When fighting a unit of 6 or more spearmen, musketeers or pikemen, unless those spearmen / musketeers / pikemen are already involved in hand-to-hand combat with another unit, heavy cavalry fights as 1 man.  The spearmen are considered to have made a defensive square, which impedes horses.  However, spearmen / musketeers / pikemen already in a hand-to-hand fight cannot use the defensive square advantage.

To simulate close fighting on the battlefield, units cancel each other out.  We do this based on troop type:

2 soldiers / Marines or 1 heavy cavalryman (remember, he's acting as 2 troops except against spearmen) eliminate one enemy per turn.

3 pirates, Moors, militia and sailors eliminate one enemy per turn

4 Indians , Natives and Africans eliminate one enemy per turn

Eventually one side can choose to run - a side running is considered so panicked that it runs its normal speed plus 1/4 of that speed.  

When the numbers get uneven, the side with more troops takes the smaller side prisoner.  Thus if you don't have enough men left to eliminate any more enemy and he cannot eliminate your troops, he is taken prisoner.  

It takes one man to guard 8 prisoners and march them to his own lines.  once there, one man can guard 20 prisoners.  If the guard is killed, escaped prisoners must escape to their own lines or fort before they can fight again.  If they are attacked while escaping, however, they can defend themselves.

When musketeers and pistoleers are charged, half of them can fire once before starting the hand-to-hand combat.

Musketeers can fire only if their guns are loaded that turn.

Muskets are considered to be capable of fixing bayonets, and so it is assumed that any musketeer in hand-to-hand combat wields a bayonet.  The only exceptions are Samurai, Moorish and Moro gunners, whose muskets have no bayonet fixture.  They will use a secondary weapon for hand-to-hand combat.

NOTE - the concept is simple: pirates ought to stick to fighting on ship or in forts - they cannot handle attacks in the open.

Special Rules

Treasure: pirates seek treasure.  If a ship sinks, there goes your treasure.  A pirate will seek to capture a ship rather than sink it, except for Navy vessels which carry no treasure.

Prisoners (optional): any prisoners held on the tenth turn must be traded back for treasure.  The price is One Gold per prisoner.  Prisoners are exchanged one for one, and remaining prisoners must be exchanged for the Gold bounty.  Pirates can prosper or end up losing their earnings to the Royal Navy!

Natives, Indians and Africans (optional): while Natives, Indians and Africans can be commanded by a player, it is more likely that a certain part of the play area is considered their territory.  Any movement within R1 of their territory invokes an attack.  Roll 2 die to see how many will attack the offending unit that turn.  Natives and Indians fight until their numbers have been reduced to half.

Ports: you can designate certain places as ports for trade.  There will be ports friendly to the Navy, pirate ports, and neutral ports.  You can trade plunder for Gold, weapons, boats, troops, etc.  Attacking a port denies it to the enemy.  Once overrun, you can defend it with on troop per 8 civilians, in which case it is your port.  If you leave it, it becomes neutral.  A neutral port will sympathize with whichever fleet is in town, so if the Navy were at a neutral port, and the pirates attacked, the port would act as a Navy port until the Navy left.

There is no point in attacking neutral ports unless the enemy fleet is there.

Ports (optional): closing all ports to the enemy and holding them closed for 3 to 5 turns (decide before you start game) brings immediate victory.

A fleet can enter a neutral port and buy recruits at the price of 2 Gold apiece.  In a friendly or captured port, recruits cost only one Gold each.

Gold: a fleet starts with One Gold for each 3 men. A ship is considered to start with 5 gold on board.  Sailors can move gold to a port or other location to prevent its capture.  Gold must be transported in treasure chests.  Sinking a boat or ship containing a chest means losing that gold.

Other items may be captured.  These all have a gold value.  Among plunder:

Rum - 3 kegs of Rum = 1 Gold

Sugar Cane Molasses = 4 loads Molasses = 1 Gold

Silver - 2 Silver = 1 Gold

Small cannon = 2 Gold

Large cannon or mortar = 4 Gold

2 Gunpowder = 2 Gold.

Gold (optional): There are several kinds of ships and towns.  Special ships include:

Treasure ship - carries 20 Silver or 10 Gold

Rumrunner - carries 20 Rum

Gunrunner - carries 20 Gunpowder plus 2 small guns

Every fighting ship has 5 gunpowder on board, 3 Rum, 3 Molasses

After three rounds of fighting/shooting, a boat must give up 1 keg of rum for troop morale and 1 keg of gunpowder.  If a ship runs out of rum, it must break off and head for nearest friendly port to resupply.

A town that is plundered can yield 10 Gold, 10 Rum, 10 Gunpowder, or 10 molasses.  However, when buying fro ma town, a town can sell as much as you can buy.  (Extra supplies are considered destroyed when the town is sacked, leaving only a little to plunder).

Recommended Setup

Select a large area, designate certain places as islands and the rest as sea.  Each side gets to select 2 ports; 3 neutral ports are then agreed upon.  Each fleet begins from the friendly port furthest from the enemy.

You must garrison each of your ports with at least one unit of 10 men plus an officer.

There are several ways to play:

Capture all ports to win

Sink all the enemy ships

Play for a set number of turns, winner is the one with the most gold

One side defends ports, the other attacks

Use your imagination - we have suggested but four ways to play - you can think up many, many more!

A Few Hints and Tips

Ninja figures make good Samurai sailors.

You can use Mongols for the Chinese.

Revolutionary War figures make great Marines, Army and Militia types.

If you can, use East Coast Indian figures for added realism.

Saracens and Arabs are the best figures for Moors.  The sets sold with Foreign Legion figures usually have medieval weaponry and ancient flintlocks - perfect for Treasure of Sandheap!

You can use colored beads or chips to represent Treasure.

Pirate Campaigns

One afternoon of Treasures of Sandheap is fun, but how about an ongoing campaign?  Think of a complete series of battles.  You have a few scenarios: a pirate leader tries to expand his empire while competing pirates seek to dislodge him.  Maybe the pirate wishes to expand while the Navy works to shut his operations down forever.  Or pirates travel to exotic lands to gain treasure - he who gains the most at the end of the season wins.  Or even better, a scavenger hunt requiring pirates to go to various places to recover certain artifacts or special treasures!  Keep thinking - use that wonderful imagination of yours to invent a campaign of your own!  Don't be hesitant to pick up a few history books for ideas.  The real stories of pirates, explorers and navies offer plenty of raw materials for developing the King of Campaigns!

Ongoing wars have one problem: replacement troops.  Okay, so each town or fort you own can provide five replacements.  For example: if your force starts out at 40 men, and you and your friends agree to a weekly battle, then each town provides five men a week until your ranks are brought back to 40.  

If you start with two ports, and 20 men survive the battle, then for the next week's battle you will have a force of 30.  Lose a town and you lose those five replacements.  Capture and hold a town and you not only win five replacements per week, but your force is allowed to expand to 45 men.

Okay, but what if you're just out gathering treasure in the South Pacific or off the African Coast?  Instead of capturing and holding towns, you're seeking treasure.  No problem: 50% of all troops you capture will agree to join your fleet.  That expands your force  - and gives you a rather eclectic crew.

Next problem: how do you replace a ship that's been sunk?  It costs 10 gold for a sailboat, 20 for a small ship, and 30 for a full-sized ship.  

Of course, you will have to be creative in making your own Pirate World Championship Series Games.  You can add and revise and adapt these recommendations to make yourself one very fine Pirate Campaign.  And remember to think of your fellow Treasure of Sandheap players around the world.  If you hit on something that works well, let us know so we can spread the word.  Your excellent improvements can provide better gaming for everybody!

These are very basic, simple rules - adapt and alter them as you wish.  They are a nice game on their own, but can be applied with your own variations for your own special pirate game.  Let us know how you like them, and feel free to send any questions, suggestions or recommendations to our email address.

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