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Hoist your sails, watch for sea monsters, and mind those tricky tides as you travel from island to island collecting and delivering goods to earn the most gold.

Take command of a merchant ship as you manage both your hand of navigation cards and your ship's cargo hold while charting the best course on the map!


  • 78 Goods Cubes
  • 4 Anchor Tokens
  • 4 Ship Boards
  • 4 Ship Pawns
  • 4 Monster Standees
  • First Player Token& Drawbag
  • 4 Monster Sightings Cards
  • 32 Navigation Cards
  • 12 Island Cards
  • 36 Order Cards
  • 12 Event Cards
  • Rulebook

Object of the Game

Tricky Tides consists of three rounds. In each round, players will:

  • Play hands
  • Set sail
  • Pick up or deliver

After three rounds, the game is over! The player with the most gold at the end of the game wins!


Each player chooses a ship pawn, which represents your merchant ship. Give each player a ship board corresponding to their pawn color. Give each player an anchor token.

Set any extra ship pawns, ship boards, or anchor tokens aside. Place all of the goods cubes into the draw bag. Shuffle the monster sightings bonus cards and deal one to each player, coin side down. You may look at your card, but keep it hidden from other players.

The first player is the player who most recently was on a boat. This player is the leader and gets the rum barrel leader token. Each player EXCEPT the leader draws one good from the draw bag to add to their cargo hold (the spaces on their ship board).

Shuffle the island cards and randomly form a 3 card wide x 4 card tall play area, or "map", in the center of the table with all of the islands face up. Make sure that all islands are oriented so that north is facing the same direction.

  • In a 3-player game, flip over the 2 islands showing the unclaimed ship color so that they show open sea.
  • In a 2-player game, flip over the 4 islands showing unclaimed ship colors.

The islands that contain icons matching your ship color are your starting ports. Beginning with the player to the right of the leader and proceeding counterclockwise, place your ship on either of these islands.

Shuffle the order cards and place one face-up on each island's East shore (the outlined area on the right side of each island). Do not place order cards on open sea. Place the rest of the deck off to the side, face down.

Populate the goods on each island by randomly drawing a number of goods from the draw bag equal to the number listed in the lower left corner of each island. Place the goods on each island.

Shuffle the navigation cards. Deal each player 8 cards face down. Set any extra cards aside. 'You may look at your own cards, but do not reveal them to your opponents.

You may find it helpful to orient all of your cards in your hand so that the compass points north the same direction as the cards on the map.

Game Play

Starting with the leader, players select one navigation card from their hand, placing it face up in front of themselves. The navigation card determines what direction they can move their ship and in what order they set sail.

  • Starting with the leader, each player selects one navigation card from their hand and places it face up in front of themselves, announcing the suit (octopus, sea dragon, shark, or whale) when they play it.

  • Play continues clockwise until each player has played one card.

  • Each player must play a card of the same suit that the leader played if they can. This is called "following suit".

  • If a player cannot follow suit, then that player plays a card of their choice.

  • When all players have played a card, the player who revealed the highest card in the suit that led wins the hand!

  • The winner of the hand is the new leader! The leader will take the rum barrel leader token. They will sail first and lead the next hand.

Example: Edmund is the leader and leads the hand by playing the 3 of Sharks. Anne follows by playing the 5 of Sharks.

Henry has no Sharks in his hand, so he plays the 8 of Sea Dragons. Although 8 is the highest card, it is not in the suit that led, therefore it cannot win the hand.

Anne wins the hand, as her 5 of Sharks is the highest card in the suit that led, and she becomes the leader.

Set Sail

Players will move their ship one space in a direction given by the navigation card they just played. The order in which players set sail is determined by the number and suit of the navigation card.

The compass on the navigation card shows the directions that yon may sail...and the directions that are unavailable due to the tricky tides! Available headings are highlighted in the suit's color; unavailable headings are not highlighted.

Beginning with the leader, set sail by moving your ship one space to an adjacent island card in a direction listed on your card's compass.

When sailing, be sure to read your navigation card's compass such that north on your card corresponds to north on the map.

Example: Playing the 5 of Octopus card allows you to move Northwest, Northeast, East, Southeast, or Southwest.

  • You may not sail off the map. In some instances, you may have no sailing option that would allow you to remain on the map. In such cases, leave your ship docked at the card you are on. This counts as sailing, for purposes of picking up, delivering, or event cards.

  • If you are able to sail in a direction listed on your card's compass, you must sail. Once per game, you may discard your anchor token to ignore this requirement.

  • More than one ship pawn may occupy the same island at the same time.

  • You may sail through an open sea card to the next available island as though that island were adjacent, so long as you maintain the same direction. An island is considered "adjacent" if only open sea is between it and your ship. You can also elect to stop on an open sea card.

  • After sailing, you may immediately pick up OR deliver goods (see "Pick up or Deliver" on the next page). Then place your navigation card in a discard pile. Tour turn is over.

  • After the leader has sailed and taken their action, all other players may now sail. The order in which they sail is:

    • On-suit (of the same suit that the leader played) from highest to lowest.
    • Off-suit from highest to lowest. If there is a tie for highest off-suit card, the player clockwise from the leader (the current player with the rum barrel leader token) wins the tie.

Example: Anne (the new leader) won the hand and sails first. Edmund sails next because he played the next highest on-suit card. Henry sails last because he played off-suit.

Pick Up or Deliver

After sailing, players can either pick up or deliver goods to the island they sailed to.

  • If picking up goods, add ALL goods of one type from the island to your cargo hold. Do NOT replenish goods you've picked up with new goods from the draw bag; goods are replenished only at the end of the round.

  • Tour cargo hold can only hold 7 goods at any time. If you amass more than 7 goods, you must dump goods overboard.

    Dump Goods Overboard

    Return goods of your choice to the island that your ship currently occupies until only 7 goods remain in your cargo hold. If your ship currently occupies an open sea card, return the excess good(s) to the draw bag.

    When all players have sailed and picked up or delivered, the hand is over. The new leader plays a new card to lead the next hand.

    When all players have two cards remaining in their hand, the round is over. Immediately discard these last two cards.

  • If delivering, you must have all of the goods in the appropriate quantities shown on the order card.

    Return all goods matching those listed on the order card to the draw bag and take the order card, placing it face down in your play area for end game scoring. Replace the order card with a new one from the order card deck.

  • When delivering, you may exchange 3 sugar, 3 coffee, 2 silk, 2 spice or 1 gold for 1 good of your choice.

  • If you choose to end your sailing movement on an open sea card, you may not pick up or deliver this turn.

Event Cards

Once you are comfortable and familiar with the basic game of Tricky Tides, you can introduce the event cards. These are cards that will slightly alter the rules of play for one round.

During setup, shuffle the event cards together and place the deck face down within view of all players.

After placing your ships, draw the top event card and read it aloud. Place the event card face up on top of the event deck. All players are affected by this event for the round.

At the beginning of each of the following rounds, before the first hand is played, return the previous event card to the bottom of the event deck, draw a new event card, read it aloud and place it face up on top of the event deck within view of all players.

The effects of event cards are resolved prior to picking up or delivering.


For further advanced play of Tricky Tides, you can introduce the monsters! Each monster has a unique ability that adds extra challenges and opportunities into the game.

During setup, place the monster standees above the islands that show the icon of the corresponding monster.

Each hand, the player that plays the lowest on-suit navigation card activates the monster that matches the suit that was led. (If the Low Tide event is active, this changes to the highest on-suit navigation card).

Monsters are activated before any player sets sail. Monsters may move in any direction available to ships. If the Edge of the World event is active, monsters may similarly loop around the map.

Monsters may move one space in any direction, provided:

  • They may not stop on open sea cards. Monsters will continue moving in the same direction until they reach a new island. If a monster will not eventually reach a new island when moving in a given direction, you may not move it in that direction.

  • Monsters may not occupy the same island as another monster. In some cases, this may mean the monster can not be moved. This satisfies their movement requirement.

You may move the monster first then use the monster's ability, or use the monster's ability and then move. In all cases, if possible, the monster must be moved, and its ability must be used.

Monsters may not affect gold cubes in any way.

Monster Abilities

  • Shark

    The shark will eat goods off of the islands. Choose one good from the island the shark occupies and place it on your ship.

    If this causes your cargo hold to go over 7 goods, dump goods overboard.

  • Octopus

    The octopus can use its long arms to move goods between islands. Move one good from the island the octopus occupies to an adjacent island, OR move a good from an adjacent island to the island the octopus occupies. You may not move goods into open sea.

  • Sea Dragon

    The sea dragon breathes magic fire onto goods and transforms them. Choose one good type on the island the dragon occupies. Replace all the goods of that type on the island with an equal number of goods of a single different type from the bag. Return the original goods to the bag.

    f an equal number of replacement goods is not available in the bag, leave any goods not able to be transformed on the island.

  • Whale

    The whale spouts new goods onto the islands. Draw 3 random goods from the draw bag and choose a single good to place on the island the whale is on. Then pick a direction (north, south, east, or west) and place the next good of your choice on the next space on that direction.

    • Continue to the next space in the same direction placing the last good.

    • If a good you place lands in open sea, return it to the bag.

    • You must choose a direction that results in you placing at least two goods onto the map.

    • If you draw gold from the bag, draw new goods until you have three non-gold cubes available to place. Return the gold goods to the bag.

Ending the Round

To prepare for the next round, replenish each island by drawing goods from the draw bag. Place goods on the island until the number of goods on each island equals the number listed in the lower left corner of each island card.

If you are playing with the event cards or monsters, there may be more goods on the island than indicated on the card. If so, do not add or remove any cubes.

Reshuffle all the navigation cards and deal each player 8 cards face down. Set the rest of the deck aside. Play proceeds in the same manner as the first round, with the leader playing a card to lead the next hand.

After three rounds, the game is over!

End of the Game

Add up the value of the various order cards you have collected, apply monster sightings bonuses, and gain extra gold for the goods remaining on your ship. The player with the most gold wins!

Tally the gold listed on each of your order cards. Next, look at your monster sightings bonus card and tally the indicated amount of bonus gold for each matching monster symbol on your order cards.

Finally, tally 1 gold for every 3 sugar, 3 coffee, 2 silk, 2 spice or 1 gold good remaining in your cargo hold. The player with the most gold is the winner!

In the case of a tie, the player with the most order cards wins. If there is a tie for most order cards, the player with the most goods wins.

Example: Henry gains 17 gold from order cards. Referring to his monster sightings bonus card, he then gains an additional 3 gold each for his octopus order cards, 2 gold for his whale order card, and no bonus gold for his sea dragon order card, bringing his total to 25.

Henry then gains 1 gold for his single gold good, and 1 additional gold for the two red spice goods. Because he does not have a set of 3 black coffee goods, he gains no bonus gold for them. Henry's final score is 27.

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