Island Placement Strategic Meta

Island Placement Strategic Meta

Lately I’ve been thinking about some rabbit holes.  Specifically, those involving the thinking man’s strategic aims when setting up for a game or playing it.  This is one of my absolute favorite topics in Pirates CSG – competitive optimization from thinking through options and deciding on a best course of action.  It’s a bit more theory and less experience-based than I usually am, but it’s real fun for me to think about.  These snippets come from the Pirates CSG Discord server and I hope to add more over time.

The player who goes first chooses the location of the first island. The second player chooses the location of the final island, which they can place 6L away from the island in play that is already in the most remote location. Then the second player chooses the home island location of the first player, which at that point, why not put the first player as far away as possible?

I can’t believe I haven’t thought of or noticed this before, at least not to a clear strategic goal. This makes it seem like the optimal standard setup (1v1 at 40 points with 6 total islands) would pretty much always have at least one island farther out than all the rest, or would even make the island placement look a lot less like the typical circle or pyramid shape I’m very accustomed to seeing since people often default to placing islands no more than 3L away from other islands.

I think the follow up is: Does an “island placement meta” emerge where because Player 1 knows they will be placed 6L away from an island to start the game, do they place their 2nd and 3rd islands (the 3rd and 5th to be placed) the maximum distance (6L) away from other islands because they know that they will HAVE to place Player 2 at an island that would otherwise be closer? It is suddenly obvious that they will want ALL the islands to be 6L apart to minimize their relative distance to getting gold compared to Player 2.

This could also exacerbate the existing “issue” of speed being the most important attribute in the game along with extra actions. If both players are well aware that one of them (50% either way) will start the game 6L away from the nearest island, they are almost forced to build speed fleets that attempt to make up for such a distance. Which results in more Hai Peng/Banshee’s Cry/Lord Mycron type fleets. This in turn forces the other player to build a more competitive fleet as well, and results in even less average or below average ships and crew from being used.

You would see the ships you’re going up against, but would have to make educated guesses on the crew. That’s where experience and having a somewhat encyclopedic knowledge of the game pieces could come in handy. A bunch of face down crew on the Hai Peng and a potential Mycron ship is a pretty decent bet you’ll be seeing some crazy S+L+S+Lx2 stuff going on in the game. But opponents could also bluff what their crew setups are or just lie about what they have, which gets into the strategic elements I’m also thinking about…

I’ve just been thinking more in-depth about the rules than usual in the past month or two. Plus I keep going first and losing, though this certainly isn’t the reason why. XD

When you go as deep as the rabbit hole goes, you could even say everything is playing the game. Even what you say to the other player prior to meeting up. Bluffing that you’re using a casual fleet and saying the roommate took your tin by accident that morning. XD

I might lose competitive games in the future because I’m bringing this topic up right now. O_O

I just think if you “reverse engineer” it or go backwards, Player 1 realizes that they will have terrible positioning either way. Even if the first 4 islands are set up in a square 6L apart, and Player 1 puts the 5th island 6L away from a corner of the square, Player 2 can still place island 6 (which they know will be 1’s HI) 6L away from the square in the same direction. I think I’ll have to draw this out or make a video about it soonish.

Player 1 would want some powerful ships to stop P2 from getting gold home. This could even affect fleet building for everyone involved – if you know you’ll get screwed with a gold fleet in Player 1 position, BOTH players might just hedge their bets and bring loaded fleets with minimal points invested in gold running.

Terrain is vastly harder to talk strategy about and theorize a “meta” around, simply because it’s FAR more variable than the islands. So many types of terrain, with so many places they can each go on the ocean

I countered my own idea from earlier. Player 1 would anticipate Player 2 placing the final island as far away as possible, and therefore would likely place island 5 in the middle. (this is very basic with the first 4 all maximally 6L apart. Then P2 picks the final location 6L off a corner of the area which they choose as the P1 HI.

I think P1 starts to depend on whirlpools at this point.
the rules don’t specify about agreeing on the TYPE of terrain, so players would potentially just bring a lot of everything and base their choices on whether they go first or second.

Man the meta continues! Because with terrain, P1 can now try to MAKE other islands more appealing for P2 to choose as P1’s HI! By putting whirlpools near a faraway island, it could make P2 think twice about making that P1’s HI.
Maybe this all circles back to the official HI selection choice rule being quite good?

Continuing the discussion on the Discord on 9/27/2021:

This gets into more island placement strategy. Player 2 knows they can put P1’s HI wherever they want. They can place it near their own HI with the full intention of blasting away on their turn (the end of “round 1”) because they had HI protection while P1 doesn’t (unless they keep ships there and likely forfeit actions).

This could also dramatically impact terrain type selection AND placement by P1 because they know they’re going first and will have their HI chosen by P2. If they think P2 will blast them in R1, it could benefit them to place fog banks near as many islands as possible so they can hide right after the game starts if necessary.

How to Play Pirates CSG Solo | Solo/Solitaire Games of Wizkids Pirates

How to Play Pirates CSG Solo

The Saber goes ballistic with a suicidal double switchblade assault!! How to Play Pirates CSG Solo

From my 6×150 game, one of the best games (and solo games!) I’ve ever played. Click for the battle report!

Over the years, some players have asked how to play Pirates CSG solo, without any “real” opponents.  These are sometimes called “solitaire” games.  Although it may sound lame or boring at first, playing Pirates CSG by yourself can still be a great experience.  I myself have played more games solo than against human opponents, and perhaps someday we’ll even be able to play against AI.

The most important thing about playing Pirates CSG solo is that you need to treat each fleet equally.  Playing favorites is too easy and will just result in your favorite faction or fleet winning the game.  It’s extremely important to go into the game with the mindset that every fleet will be designed and played optimally.


When making fleets, be sure that they are at least somewhat equally balanced.  That said, it’s okay to have that Cursed or Mercenary fleet as a “Team Chaos” fleet that clearly won’t win.

For the map, decide on a method that doesn’t always benefit the fleet that will go first.  Remember to alternate the turn order when placing islands/terrain/etc.  Also, consider completely doing away with the conventional setup rules and simply designing a map that doesn’t have an unfair home island location.


As usual, the biggest key is to play each fleet as if they are desperately trying to win.  Every single turn.  Make every decision that you would make if you actually controlled that fleet against your human rival.  Before starting each fleet’s turn, do a quick review of what they’re doing, how they can win, what they should do next, and long term planning.  If it’s a game where there is a set amount of gold in play (for example, 1v1 standard with 30 total), make sure to keep track of what each fleet has explored and make strategic decisions based on that (for example, if the first fleet finds 14 gold at the two islands they explore, they know they’ll need to get at least 2 gold from the opponent or elsewhere to win).  If it helps, you could even switch your seating position to be in that fleet’s point of view on the map.

There may come a time where you know that an “enemy” ship has the Explosives UT, but the fleet you’re currently controlling doesn’t technically know that.  If they should ram the ship to try to steal gold, even if it’s your favorite ship you might lose in the explosion, you have to do it.  Or else, live with an “asterisk” game that you know was flawed by playing in a way that doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation.  I myself have been guilty of this a few times many years ago.  It might start with a “free reroll” when you’re mad a cannon doesn’t hit, but then the other fleet has to get one too – except theirs doesn’t work out.  Messing with the “balance” at all just leads to compounding issues and a wrecked game of inconsistencies.  Trust me, it’s not worth the mess of trying to unwind what should have happened.  🙂

A Few Tips

  • Have rules documents and The Pirate Code ready – you may need to check things often
  • If it’s too tempting to “remember” the face down crew in the other fleet (ex: avoiding a canceller), try just having all crew in play face up from the start of play.
  • With no audible gameplay discussion needed, feel free to blast Pirates of the Caribbean music (or whatever you want) loudly to get in the epic mood! 😀

What is solo play great for?

  • Testing out new fleets
  • Competitive play to see which fleet is best – this is because when you play against yourself, there essentially cannot be a competitive disadvantage that can occur when players of unequal skill/experience levels play each other.
  • Games that cannot be played with real opponents – for example, games that last for multiple days, or games that are bigger than what your playgroup is interested in or capable of playing.
  • Testing custom game pieces – before unleashing your latest crazy custom on your unsuspecting play group, try it out in a game to make sure it’s not too OP (overpowered).

Who should probably not play solo games?

  • “Faction fanatics” who only ever play with one faction – good luck keeping it fair!  🙂
  • Players who need the social aspect of board gaming to enjoy playing

Last but not least, feel free to check out Cadet-Captain Mike’s post on the topic if you want a more procedural guide.

Thanks for reading!  Feel free to comment below any tips I missed about how to play Pirates CSG solo!

Question of the Day: Do you enjoy playing Pirates CSG solo?  Is there anything about it you actually like more than playing with people?

Legal Research and Outreach Collection Post

This is a collection of all the legal research and outreach I’ve done regarding the patents/rights/IP to Pirates CSG and things related to it.  As new developments or findings come in I plan to update this post with the most recent stuff at the top.  Feel free to contribute your own findings and facts in the comments.

Wizards of the Coast (WotC) has this patent (# 7201374) on the Constructible Strategy Game (CSG) concept.  It is set to expire on 10/20/2023.  Here are a variety of links related to it.

.gov version
WotC Announces CSG Patent
WOTC, WIZKIDS SETTLE LAWSUIT | WizKids Gets License for PocketModel Game | Posted by ICv2 on June 25, 2008 
Awesome 2008 thread on HCRealms (especially response #33)
Wizards of the Coast Awarded Patent for Constructible Strategy Game  (May 22nd 2007)

Civil Action No. C07-0809MJP
GamingReport: WizKids files suit against Wizards of the Coast concerning CSG Patent

This is from February 7th, 2019:

Zev Shlasinger from Z-Man games answer about Pirates CSG game status

From Mike Selinker, one of the original game designers:

Mike Selinker on Pirates CSG license

This quoted section is how this all started for me, back in the summer of 2016.

I’ve looked at the patents that Wizkids had/has a few times now. Being relatively young and rather inexperienced with this sort of thing, I have some questions:

-Is this the best place to go for locating the patents that are relevant to Pirates CSG?

On that list of 12, only the bottom/least recent 5 were filed before Pirates went into production. However, I can’t seem to find much info on which patents are relevant to Pirates specifically.

I’m trying to figure out when the patents related to Pirates expire. I started with this, and also found this patent term calculator.

This patent seems to list the first two (bottom in the list) patents of the 12 as being relevant to Pirates.

Then I went to and pasted 6,899,333 as the patent number with 10243980 as the application number. I don’t really get most of the tabs, but based on the faq/information stuff in the links from a few paragraphs above, it seems that the patents expire if the maintenance fees aren’t paid on time. Also, patent number 6,899,332 has two expired “parents”; does that matter?

Also, it appears that anyone can pay the maintenance fees, even as a “guest”. How does that work? Does the payer receive the right to the patent or does the company/legal entity still “own” it?

Is this research going anywhere or am I way off base?

Thanks everyone.

This site has the actual documents you can look at. It’s amazing how much stuff you can find online! I don’t understand much of it, but it appears as though the patents in question (assuming they are the ones relevant to Pirates, perhaps the license is the only thing that matters) are still in NECA’s possession. (looks like they switched banks in 2015, IP “security agreement”)


From the Contacting NECA thread:

godmason wrote:
Do we know when the company’s exclusive rights to the property expire?

Probably not for a while. After some reasonably deep digging last year, I MAY have located the patent or patents that apply to Pirates.

At the time the fees due this year hadn’t been paid, but from this you can see that they have now been paid, albeit with a late fee. (and now I see this so it doesn’t look like we could have just bought it out anyway)

It seems that this latest “11.5 Year Window” is the last one listed, but I don’t know what it means or when it potentially expires.

I just went and downloaded the Patent Term Calculator and filled it out the best I could. I found out that most patents expire 20 years after the filing date. From the calculator, it says the patent may expire on September 13th, 2022. (disclaimer: this is assuming I’m even looking at the right patent in the first place, but either way it seems like a “Pirates patent” would expire by 2024 since the game first came out in 2004) I don’t know if NECA/WK can renew or extend it from there, but I do see this:

An expired patent can only be renewed through an act of Congress, and in rare cases, a patent may be extended for a few years.

So hopefully that wouldn’t happen. I don’t know if there are other ways for them to get around it and find loopholes.


Messages Regarding the Return of the Game

This is my message to Wizkids and their response in April 2017:

Legal Research and Outreach Collection Post Wizkids cannot receive the idea

Message back from NECA after sending them the same message about the survey results:

Not much integration between Wizkids and NECA


More from the Contacting NECA thread at Miniature Trading

My message to Wizkids about the SCS set going for $482. Said their page had seen it, no message back. (the link DID go to the expired listing, it’s just that eBay has changed their site a bit and now try to link to “suggested” active items when you look at ended auctions)
need help determining

More promising, some messages between another member of the active Facebook group:

irishbandit89 wrote:
need help determining

need help determining

And finally, possibly the most promising, another member from here and FB got an interesting response back:

juulm wrote:
need help determining

So at this point, we should “share our enthusiasm”!

NECA Facebook page
Wizkids Facebook page

At this time it is worth a reminder that a Petition to NECA was started and signed back in 2011, but nothing really came of it.  (new petition here)

Some other threads worth checking out from the Thread of Threads:
Could WE restart Pirates?
How did they do it?

Please leave a comment below with your thoughts on this!  In addition, if you have any potential solutions, go ahead and share!  Additional questions for the legal side of things that I haven’t thought of are also welcome.  Thank you!!


Pirates CSG Podcast #46: Former Rules Arbitrator Tony Vigil! (Piranha)

Pirates CSG Podcast #46: Former Rules Arbitrator Tony Vigil! (Piranha)

You can listen to the audio via ShoutEngine!

You can also listen on

Tony Vigil (Piranha) was the Rules Arbitrator before Woelf.

His store:


Questions of the Day

Piranha: What is your favorite house rule?

Ben: What is the most difficult Rules situation you have come across while playing Pirates CSG?

Thanks for listening!  Feel free to answer the Questions of the Day below!

Here is the thread for this podcast at Pirates with Ben:

The Pirate Code:

Find all the game pieces in the Master Spreadsheet:


Past podcasts:

Take the podcast survey!

Feel free to rate and review the podcast on iTunes:

Pirates packs on eBay:

Sign the Petition!

Join the Forum at Pirates with Ben!


The following should eventually be updated from ShoutEngine so they will be available when they get the podcast.



Google Play Music:



Trading Pirates CSG – A Great Way to Expand Your Collection!

Trading Pirates CSG – A Great Way to Expand Your Collection!

Trading Pirates CSG

I acquired these pretty ships via trade!

One of my favorite ways to expand my collection is by trading Pirates CSG with other community members.  Often when you open fresh packs, you eventually end up with some duplicates (dupes) of various ships, crew, and other game pieces.  Unless you want to sell them or give them away, trading is a great option that can net you some brand new Pirates CSG plunder in return!  How great is that!

Many Options Available

As of this post in late 2019, there are plenty of options available for trading Pirates CSG.  I just released a Buy/Sell/Trade version of the Master Spreadsheet.  It includes all of the game pieces and is ready for you to use.  Just hit File>Download to make a copy for tracking your personal collection!  Once you have your copy, you can edit it however you wish so the data appears the way you want it.  In my opinion, an even better option can be to have your own shared Google Sheet (just like the one above) that you provide a link to.  That way, people can simply click a link to get your full updated collection ready for trading, rather than having to download a .xlsx file/etc that needs constant re-uploading to be up to date.

What about finding people to actually trade with?  I recommend the Buy/Sell/Trade Facebook Group and The non-eBay Sales & Trades thread.  There you will be able to find many of the current community’s active traders.

There are other options as well!  BoardGameGeek has a trading section for each game.  The Pirates section at Pojo has a sub forum for trading.

My Personal Trading Experience

The main reason I recommend trading so highly is because I have been very successful with it.  Trading Pirates CSG has allowed me to grow my collection on a budget.  It allows you to connect with various other “pirates” in the community of fans.  When I first joined the Pirates CSG community in June 2011, I joined the (at the time) “Big Three” of Miniature Trading, Pojo, and BoardGameGeek.  Most of my trades were through MT, though I did one at Pojo as well.

Just to give you an idea of the scope of potential trading operations, here is my record of trading at MT.  122 total trades, 73 references from fellow traders, and many dozens of ships and crew acquired, nearly all from duplicate stuff I had that other people wanted.  Incredible!

I hope that you can have a great experience with trading Pirates CSG.  Feel free to leave a comment below with your own experiences – if people share some great trading stories, it might get other people to post their haves and wants as well, furthering the community driven game that we love!

Adventure Book – A Unique Item from Pirates CSG

Pirates CSG Adventure Book

The Adventure Book is a unique, one-of-a-kind item that was never fully released.  Only one copy is known to exist.  It sold for $53.33 in an eBay auction back in 2011.  Between the awesomeness of J_ARRRRR_P and Woelf, we now have the entire contents of the book available!  The scenarios were released in 2011, and official Wizkids documents provided by Woelf show most of the stories, save for the last one.  (which J_ARRRRR_P has, and I may be “revealing” for the first time in a podcast or video)

Courtesy of the above users, here are the documents.

Adventure Book Game Scenarios (.doc file download)

Adventure Book Official Documents from Wizkids (.zip folder download)

The writeup on Wikipedia:

2009 – proposed but not released – a “Pirates Adventure Book” box including new ships, crew and treasure: one Pirate fleet with ships Charming Mary and Mercy, and crew Sean ‘Cannonball’ Gallows; and one Cursed fleet including ships Demon’s Heart and Wraith, and crew El Fantasma; also four Unique treasures (a Red, Blue, Yellow and Green ‘Gem Shards from the Eye of the Leviathan’); a new plastic Map with 6 preprinted islands on it, and four “fiction pieces” with scenarios.

Here is the original thread at Miniature Trading concerning the scenarios!  (I think the reason I didn’t comment at the time is because it was my first year getting back into the game and my obssessive nature with it didn’t kick into high gear until late 2014/early 2015.)

Pirates CSG Adventure Book thread at Miniature Trading Page 1

Pirates CSG Adventure Book thread at Miniature Trading Page 2

Pirates CSG Podcast #45: Former Wizkids Product Manager Tiffany O’Brien!

Pirates CSG Podcast #45: Former Wizkids Product Manager Tiffany O’Brien!

You can listen to the audio via ShoutEngine!

You can also listen on

Tiffany O’Brien is one of the key figures of Pirates CSG history, having held multiple important positions at Wizkids while the game was still in print!

Questions thread:

Questions of the Day:

(Tiffany) What is your favorite set packaging?

(Ben) Did you ever play the SOE (Sony Online Entertainment) digital version of the game?


Find her on Instagram:

Past podcasts:

Tiffany O'Brien, aka Eileen Brigid O'Brien

Tiffany’s crew, Eileen Brigid O’Brien from Mysterious Islands!


Thanks for listening!  Feel free to answer the Questions of the Day below!


Take the podcast survey!

Feel free to rate and review the podcast on iTunes:

Pirates packs on eBay:

Sign the Petition!

Join the Forum at Pirates with Ben!


The following should eventually be updated from ShoutEngine so they will be available when they get the podcast. 



Google Play Music:




This is meant to be a comprehensive post of all the information and data I have saved from Miniature Trading.  All card info (stats, abilities, etc) can be found in the Master Spreadsheet.

I pulled pictures from the Miniature Trading database with httrack in 2018.  The first two links are folders of the biggest versions of the pictures, sorted into one folder per set.  Hardly any of these pictures were taken by me.  Google Drive just shows my name as the default creator. If there are any game pieces missing pictures that had been at MT, httrack didn’t pull them.

Shared Google Drive Folder of Miniature Trading Pirates CSG Database Pictures

Zipped Folder Version


ALL Miniature Trading database pictures files pulled from httrack
-Here is a folder you can download to have all the pictures. It includes all the file sizes that the httrack download yanked from the site. “big” are the folders with the full size pictures. Feel free to make your own copy.

Before I figured out how to use httrack to pull only picture files, I made sure to get full page screen captures of all the Pirates sets from the MT database. So for full redundancy I have that too. Enables us to see pictures as if we are still on MT after the site is gone.

Google Drive folder with full page screen captures of all Pirates database pages

I couldn’t find an easy way to put the miniature pictures into the Master Spreadsheet without a) making every miniature entry massive due to the picture resizing the columns and rows (making it hard to see more than 1 or 2 pieces at a time) and b) doing in a timely fashion that wouldn’t require me to upload all 1,000+ miniatures into the spreadsheet individually (this is probably more doable but arguably pointless due to a; people can easily make their own personalized versions of the Master Spreadsheet if they want).

Google Drive folder with saved MT Forum pages/threads/etc.
-You can change this to List View and sort alphabetically to find things easier.
-I also re-posted them under the Miniature Trading Forum Threads category.

Folder with Fleets (All of mine are in the Fleets category here)

Folder with Miniature Reviews

Miscellaneous Folder

Folder with original Command the Oceans thread

Folder with a few Battle Reports

Economy Edition ruleset by cannonfury

Here is a .zip folder of a large httrack download of Miniature Trading.  It is about 1.3 GB in size and contains a TON of stuff.  For all I know there may be enough in there to recreate parts of MT somehow.  No idea how to use it or what to do with it, but I got around to making a .zip copy so I could share it with everyone.

For maximum redundancy here are links to Imgur folders where I have saved some of the above as well.

Pirates CSG Podcast #43: Jason Mical! (former Wizkids Communications Manager)

Pirates CSG Podcast #43: Jason Mical! (former Wizkids Communications Manager)

You can listen to the audio via ShoutEngine!

You can also listen on


Jason Mical was the Wizkids Communications Manager from 2003-2006.  Questions list on Pirates with Ben:


Questions of the Day: If you were to name a Pirate ship, what would you name it and why? (from Jason Mical)

What is your favorite flavor text of any game piece? (from Ben)


His website:

His YouTube channel:

Expanse RPG:


Find all the game pieces here:

Master Spreadsheet (stuff from Wizkids):


Past podcasts:


Take the podcast survey!

Feel free to rate and review the podcast on iTunes:

Pirates packs on eBay:

Sign the Petition!

Join the Forum at Pirates with Ben!


The following should eventually be updated from ShoutEngine so they will be available when they get the podcast.



Google Play Music:




Thanks for listening!  Feel free to answer the Questions of the Day below!   Jason Mical podcast!