Captains of the Golden Age is set in a fictional East-Indies in a time when pepper was worth more than gold!
Each player starts the game as a captain on a small ship with an empty cargo hold. The amount of sails on your ship determines how far you move. Crew is used for boarding. Cannons deal damage to other ships and the size of your cargo hold determines how much cargo you can load and carry. Each player has a deck of cards that can be used as temporary buffs to sail further, carry more cargo, or change the tide of battle.
Over the course of the game, each captain gathers resources to upgrade their ship or trades its cargo for valuable pepper to get shares in the Trading Company and ensure victory. You can board other captains' ships with your crew to steal cargo or attack them with your cannons to temporarily damage their ship. Trade, upgrade, attack and defend yourself, but beware of the pirate who will try to steal your cargo!
Each player’s turn consists of four phases. Only the sail phase is mandatory; the rest of the phases may be skipped if they are not relevant (depending on where you sail during the sail phase):
PHASE 1: THE SAIL PHASE
Every turn starts with the sail phase where you move your ship across the game-board. You may sail a maximum of one tile per sail segment on your ship and an additional tile per sail card you choose to play.
PHASE 2: THE COMBAT PHASE
When you sailed to a tile with another player on it, you may now choose to attack that player, (except in The Orient and The Republic) either by boarding with your crew or by bombarding with your cannons. You start combat by using your captain card (turning it face-down). The defending player automatically defends against the chosen type of attack, even if their captain is tired (face-down).
The outcome of combat is determined after both players are done playing cards. The player with the most segments and played reinforcement cards of the chosen type combined wins. In case of a draw, nothing happens. After the attack, even if you chose not to attack, all player(s) on the tile (with face-up captains) may choose to attack you as well!
PHASE 3: THE HARBOR PHASE
If you sailed to one of the seven land tiles on the game board during the sail phase, you may now take the action(s) on that land as described below:
If you sailed to one of the four resource islands during the sail phase you may load resources of the type produced by the island equal to the number of hand icons depicted below your rightmost (undamaged) cargo hold segment.
>The Republic/The Orient
Here your captain may rest (turn face-up) and you may repair (turn face-up) all damaged segments on your ship for free.
You may build ship segments. Pay the cost in resources that is printed on the back of each segment you wish to buy.
You may buy shares in exchange for pepper. (Only in the Republic.)
You may trade resources for pepper. (Only in the Orient.)
Here you may hire the Notorious Pirate to block one of the four resource islands. Take his Spyglass and secretly turn it onto the island of your choice and put it face-down on the table.
You may trade one resource or pepper for one resource of your choice (not pepper) here as well.
PHASE 4: THE CARD PHASE
During the last phase of your turn you may choose the cards (if any) you have earned this turn. After you have chosen the card(s) you earned this turn, your turn ends and the next player’s turn begins. You can earn cards in three ways:
By ending your sail phase on a sea tile.
By resting your captain (turn face-up) in the Republic or the Orient.
By buying a share in the Republic with a reinforcement card icon depicted on it.