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Crimson Steam Pirates logo


Crimson: Steam Pirates (previously known as Crimson) is a turn-based pirate warfare strategy game for iOS devices and the Google Chrome browser. The game was developed by Seattle-based developer Harebrained Schemes and published by Bungie's Bungie Aerospace division on September 1, 2011.


Original logo before "Steam Pirates" was added.

Bungie.net provided stats, various online support tools, and discussion forums for Crimson: Steam Pirates until the site's relaunch in 2013.


Crimson catch and release

The beginning of a voyage

Command your fleet and your Steampunk crew using an elegant action interface. Crimson: Steam Pirates' turn-based gameplay provides an addicting mixture of strategy and action as you anticipate your enemies' moves and counter them, luring them into a deadly hail of weapons fire while uncovering the mystery brewing in the Caribbean.

Crimson gameplay1


There are two game modes: "sagas" (single player missions) and "duels" (local two-player competitive games). The first "chapter" of sagas titled "Tales of Captain Blood: Chapter 1" is included with the free download and contains eight missions. Additional chapters are available via in-game purchase for $1.99 each: "Tales of Captain Blood: Chapter 2" and "Tales of Captain Blood: Chapter 3." There were 24 voyages total that told the tale of Thomas Blood's adventures.

Crimson gameplay2


The duels included with the free download include "VIP Defense" (defend a helpless ship against enemy attack) and "Shipwreck" (race to rescue shipwrecked crews and use their abilities to defeat the enemy). Additional duels are listed as "Coming Soon." In the duels, players take turns setting up their moves, handing off the device to the other player once finished . After each player has set up their ships' moves for the next turn, the turn plays out those moves simultaneously.



From the perspective of 1888, it appears that events have long been pointing inevitably toward the conflicts now being waged across the Caribbean:

1777... While studying in church archives in Lisbon, an abbot named Faria discovers a notebook filled with sketches and notes by Leonardo da Vinci, written during the inventor’s final year of life in France. The notebook will come to be named the Codex Faria after its discoverer, often titled Abbe Faria in his native Spanish.

1783... As Abbe Faria promotes the existence of autosuggestion and hypnosis before a panel formed by the French king Louis XVI, Faria approaches a member of the panel, American ambassador to France Benjamin Franklin. Aware that Franklin is a follower of French ballooning experiments, Faria gifts Franklin with the Codex, showing him its sketches of mechanisms designed to motivate vehicles of all sorts. Franklin enjoys reading the Codex during his time in France, and adds notes of his own to the book.

1797... Young American inventor Robert Fulton journeys to Paris to study. An acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia, Fulton is given the Codex Faria, left behind at the American embassy when Franklin returned to the United States. Fulton studies the Codex while designing early torpedoes one of the first submarines, the Nautilus.

1811... Five years after launching his first steamboat, Robert Fulton attempts to build an improved steam engine inspired by his own work and the Codex Faria. The result is the first “steam drive”, capable of burning at higher efficiency than normal steam engines but lacking the hotter-burning fuel necessary for its improved operation.

1814... Imprisoned for nearly twenty years in the infamous Chateau d’If for his participation in the French Revolution, Abbe Faria befriends a young man named Edmund Dantes in the adjacent cell and teaches him all he knows before he dies–including the secrets of the Codex Faria.

1815... Forces under the command of Major General Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans report that local coal shoveled into the boilers of their gunboats burned hotter than usual. Samples of the coal are studied and found rich in a reddish new element named Areium, which proves to be the perfect fuel for Robert Fulton’s steam drive.

1838... Escaped from the Chateau d’If, Edmund Dantes uses a lost treasure to take on the identity of the Count of Monte Cristo. He makes a flashy arrival in France aboard a balloon drawn from the pages of the Codex Faria, an arrival watched by a young boy named Henri Giffard.

1842... Decades of prospecting reveals rich veins of Areium on the islands of the Carribean and the coastlines surrounding the sea. A “Red Rush” of miners hurrying to establish claims and colonies across the area begins. Mined Areium also fuels the steam drives of the armed convoys carrying the rare mineral back to American ports as well as rich markets for Areium in England and France.

1852... In news stories of the Areium rush in the Caribbean and the bloody attacks by pirates and competing nations on convoys carrying the valuable mineral, the spilled blood and red mineral leads papers to call the region the “Crimson sea” for the first time.

1855... As the Count of Monte Cristo funds aggressive research by England’s Aerial Transit Company into adapting steam drives to powered gliders, Henri Giffard flies the first steam-driven dirigible in the skies over Paris. Giffard Aerostatique goes on to build dirigibles for companies and countries around the world.

1860... Abraham Lincoln is elected President of the United States, leading the southern portion of the nation to secede and form a new Confederate States of America. A civil war between the Confederacy and the remaining Union states begins, a war that will be known as the American War of Secession.

1862... Powered by electric generators spun by tiny steam drives, Giffard dirigibles flown by the Union enter into aerial battles against “zeppelins”, flying battle platforms designed by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin for the Confederacy.

1864... The British mail packet Trent arrives in England, bringing two Confederate diplomats and sparking the “Trent Affair” as ambassadors from both the Union and Confederacy vie for the crown to commit to their cause exclusively. Given a promise that the Confederacy will outlaw slavery, and concerned that the Union might try to claim Canadian holdings, Queen Victoria allies with the Confederacy. By the end of the year, English troops have massed north of the Niagara River within striking distance of New York City, and English ships are blockading a dozen major Union ports along the Atlantic coastline.

1866... Emboldened by the success of the Confederacy, talk begins in the western territories of a “Frontier Rebellion”. Union President Lincoln sues for peace, and a ceasefire is signed in June.  Union forces are sent to west to help keep the peace in western states, and Union engineer Cyrus Harding leads the construction of fixed defenses between the Union and the Confederacy as what were battle lines become borders.

1872... The Aerial Transit Company improves upon its existing three-winged design and flies the first biplane across the English Channel.

1874... As Areium mining becomes increasingly difficult, the Confederate freighter CSS Stephens is captured by French military ships and its cargo of Areium taken. Publicly, the incident is blamed on pirates, but the leaders of both France and the Confederacy prepare for war.

1876... Geologists and miners alike declare that the Areium deposits in the Caribbean are nearly mined out, and that the Red Rush is at an end. Prospectors search around the globe for new sources of Areium, especially after small samples are brought back from the Arctic.

1879... Pirates raid and pillage English Aerium mining colonies in Jamacia. Though Queen Victoria requests that no nation purchase the stolen minerals, they find a market in the Confederacy and France. Particularly enraged by the betrayal of her one-time Confederate allies, Victoria promises to reward any captain who sinks or interdicts those nations’ ships on the Crimson sea.

1887... At her Diamond Jubilee celebrating 60 years of her reign, Queen Victoria proclaims that not only will the sun never set on the British Empire, it will shine ever brighter as the growing empire enters into a golden era. The speech and carefully organized pageantry are thrown into chaos by the an assassination attempt on the Queen–the fourth in ten years. The Queen herself identifies the would-be assassin as Thomas Blood and offers a reward for his capture. Though many believe Blood long gone, a week later he adds insult to attempted injury by stealing the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London…and then successfully escapes the country. The Queen increases the bounty on Blood’s head: whomever catches him will receive not only a reward but a title and lands.

1888... Thomas Blood is captured in the Canary Islands, and claims by Blood that Victoria herself ordered him to make the assassination attempt are laughed out of court. The crown jewels are sent back to Queen Victoria in London, and Blood is loaded aboard a transport ship bound for an English labor colony along the shores of the Crimson sea…

Development and Trivia[]

  • The title "Crimson" was trademarked by Bungie on May 4, 2011. It was previously speculated to be the name of an upcoming Bungie title but was proven false by Bungie's press release.
  • According to a Gamasutra postmortem article[1] by developer Harebrained Schemes' Aljernon Bolden, Crimson's total development cycle was 12 weeks with seven developers from Harebrained Schemes.
  • 99% of the game was built in Lua script using an open source game development platform called Moai.
  • Most of the animation effects in Crimson: Steam Pirates (turning paddle wheels on ships, explosions, fore ship wakes, etc.) were created as flipbook animations in Flash.
  • The battlefield of air, sea, and undersea is done with just three layers.
  • The island terrain is made of four layers altogether.
  • Bungie did sound design for the game, tons of testing, and provided lots of mission and design feedback throughout the process.



Previous Sources Containing Speculation (Before June 30, 2011 Announcement)