The product development of Pirates Crossfire  (for SmartGames) 

Raf Peeters, March 2021

Pirates Crossfire

Who let the dogs out?

Normally I try to avoid themes with violence when I create new puzzle games for SmartGames. But Pirates Crossfire is an exception. Although sea battles are without any doubt cruel, stories with pirates are part of my childhood and more fantasy then reality for me. Recently I watched the movie “Greyhound” about a sea battle during WWII, that was exciting from the first until the last minute, because you never know when the enemy will be in sight. Or even more frightening, when the good guys will be under enemy fire .


Already more then 10 years I wanted to do something with the concept of “line of sight”. It’s used in brainteasers like the “Queens’ Problem” and means that you can’t place anything on the gameboard in a straight line of a queen on a chess board, no matter the distance. This is results in a different kind of packing problem then most other puzzles, where the correct position of a piece often depends on adjacent pieces.

A theme with cannons on ships is perfect for this. The game has 2 different ships: pirates and navy. The concept differs from the queens’ problem, because ships have an orientation. And in this case, you only have a line of sight on the left and right side of your ships where you have canons, but not on the front or backside. You are also not allowed to fire diagonally. Apart from the “line of sight” concept, this is also an ordinary 2D packing problem where all puzzle pieces should cover the game board.  With so many restrictions it was really hard to find a good set of puzzle pieces that had enough interesting problems. 

Therefor there are 4 different kind of challenges or modes:

- nobody can fire at each other

- the pirates can fire at the navy

- the navy can fire at the pirates

- everybody fires at each other at the same  time

Every mode is slightly different, because the number of pirates and navy is not identical. Each type features challenges from easy to hard. In the beginning you get a lot of extra hints about the position of some ships, but the hardest challenges only show you the position of the 2 pieces with rocks. Those pieces not only define your challenge, by altering the usable space on the game board, but have also another function: ships can hide behind the rocks and be safe for enemy fire.

Although the design of the ships is simplified, the final look really brings this fantasy world to life. Although the game play and rules are straightforward, you do need to pay attention when checking the solution to see of all conditions for that specific challenge are met. That’s why the recommended age is 7+. Like other classic games in this category, there are 80 different challenges, 20 for each playing mode. To avoid using single use plastic we created a cardboard insert to keep all parts in place during transport. It looks a bit strange, because all pieces are placed upside-down on top of it. But this was the simplest way to do it.

Example of a challenge (left) and solution (right) of Pirates Crossfire, where the navy ships win and the pirates got sunk


Pirates Crossfire includes 4 playing modes. Challenges require placing all of the Pirate Ships (black sails) and Navy Ships (white sails) on the gameboard, but the object of each playing mode is different:

MODE 1: PEACE (nobody looses)

Place the pieces so the Navy Ships and Pirate Ships cannot fire at each other (no line of sight anywhere on the board).


Place the pieces so the Pirate Ships can fire at all the Navy Ships, but none of the Navy Ships can fire at the Pirates.


The Navy Ships can fire at all the Pirate Ships, but none of the Pirate Ships can fire at any Navy Ship.

MODE 4: TOTAL WAR (nobody wins)

All Ships can be hit by at least one enemy Ship.


1) Choose a challenge. Place the 2 rock pieces on the game board as indicated. These pieces are now fixed and cannot be moved.

• Easier challenges also show the position of some ships. These hints only indicate the position and color of the ships, but NOT their orientation.

• A white circle with an anchor means that there MUST be a Navy Ship on that position. It can be any of the 4 Navy Ships. 

• A black circle with a skull indicates that there MUST be a Pirate Ship on that position. It can be any of the 3 Pirate Ships.

2) Place all puzzle pieces with Ships on the game board. All Ships must be used, even if the hints show fewer than 7 Ships.

A) Ships have cannons on their left and right sides. They cannot fire from the front or back. Thus a line of sight will always originate from the side of a Ship. 

B) Ships can fire at any enemy Ship that is in the line of sight of their cannons. Ships can fire any distance (1 to 5 squares) in a straight line, either horizontally or vertically.

C) Ships can only fire at enemy ships when there are no obstacles in the line of sight of their cannons. Obstacles can be other ships or the 3 high rocks. Ships can fire over the low rock next to the palm tree.

D) Ships will only fire at enemy ships. Ships of the same color can be placed safely in the line of sight of each other.

E) Sometimes some ships will shoot from both sides (destroying 2 enemy ships at once).

F) In TOTAL WAR MODE all Ships fire at the same time.

3) There is only one solution, which can be found at the end of the challenge booklet.


You can choose to finalize a complete playing mode (starter to master), before going to the next playing mode. Or you can opt to solve the easy levels of each playing mode first, before trying harder levels. Whatever method you prefer, please check which playing mode you are in before you try to solve a challenge!

There are often many ways to fill the game board, but only one solution is correct. Check carefully if all conditions are met:

• Is there a Navy Ship / Pirate Ship on every position indicated in the challenge?

• Are all ships that need to be destroyed in the line of sight of enemy cannons?

• Are all ships that need to be victorious safe for enemy fire (either because they are not in the line of sight enemy cannons or because they are protected by high rocks)?

Website ©2021 Raf Peeters

Products and images: © Smart