I bought this game the other day and, like most of you, found the rules extremely chance-based. Unlike some of you, I do see some strategic possibilities, especially in a two-player game where you actually control half of what goes on...but like I said, these possibilities are limited.
Anyway, here are some rules I came up with:
If a pirate wins a skirmish, he may choose to take half his normal winnings (round down). If he does so, then the loser may not land at the nearest anchor until he has landed at a different one first. A pirate may only have one of these prohibitions active at a time...if he's forbidden from landing at a port, any previous banishment is lifted.
And a reason for defending your home port: A pirate may trade only as long as his home port contains treasure. If his home port is empty, his reputation as a trader is worthless and other ports refuse to do business with him. He may still raid other ports and skirmish pirates.
The game ends when three of the four ports are empty. The pirate whose port still contains treasure may add half of that treasure (round down) to his total for purposes of winning the game.
Diversity: At the end of the game, each set of four gemstones, one of each color, that a pirate possesses counts as 8 treasures for purposes of winning the game (i.e. 2 per stone). Leftover gemstones and doubloons still count as one each.
Trading Option: Instead of a normal trade, the pirate may spend his time in port speculating on a gemstone trade. He rolls one die. He then has the option of trading a number of gems equal to the die roll for 2 gems of his choice from the port. His turn ends whether or not he accepts the trade.
Worn out yer Welcome: Pirates may only stay in any port one turn before setting sail. They must visit another port, Dread Island, or engage in a skirmish before they may return to that port.
Zone of control - No pirate may enter the same square as another pirate at any time (even "just passing through"). If a pirate enters a square adjacent to an enemy pirate (horizontally or vertically) EITHER pirate has the option to force a skirmish.
Triangle confusion: Upon entering any "Triangle" square, a pirate must roll the wind die to determine which direction to move. If he rolls the compass, he may choose which direction to move. If he rolls the Dread Pirate logo, he is becalmed and his movement ends. If he rolls N, S, E, or W, his compass is fouled by the strange properties of the triangle and he moves that direction. Of course, if his movement lands him on another triangle square, he must roll again to see what to do. At the end of his move, he draws a card as normal.
Sharkbait: The sharks of Dread Island guard their treasure jealously. To pass the sharks, a pirate must distract them by throwing overboard either 3 jewels or 1d6 doubloons. If a pirate rolls the d6 for doubloons and doesn't have enough, he makes up the difference in jewels. If he still doesn't have enough, he discards all his treasure and loses a turn fighting off the angry sharks. The treasure thrown overboard washes up on Dread Island. The Dread Pirate is the King of Dread Island and the sharks don't bother him.
Movement - (Note: I borrowed the heart of this rule from another post on here) Roll the wind die to determine the prevailing winds. This wind persists until the Dread Pirate flag changes hands, at which time the new Dread Pirate has the honor of rerolling wind (and must do so).
Each pirate gets two "moves" per turn - each move must be in the one direction only.
N,S,E,W - With the wind, move up to 6. At a beam (sideways to the wind) move up to 3. Into the wind, move 1.
Compass - Variable winds. Each pirate rolls the wind die at the beginning of his turn, with the following results: N,S,E,W - move as above. Compass - Favorable wind - Pirate may move up to 6 per move regardless of direction. DP Logo - Becalmed, as below.
Dread Pirate Logo - Becalmed! Each pirate may move up to 2 per move regardless of direction.
The Dread Pirate is a canny sailor, well aware of the tricks of the winds. At the start of any turn, the Dread Pirate may choose to pay 1 treasure to Dread Island to reroll the wind die, for himself only, for one turn. This represents the DP finding a rogue wind current at the right time. He may then choose whether to follow the rogue current (mew roll) or go with the prevailing winds (old roll). After the Dread Pirate's turn, the wind returns to its former state.
That's all for now.