Pirates CSG Rules – Start Here, Complete Game, and More

Pirates CSG Rules

Pirates CSG Rules

My Basic Rules

Here at Pirates with Ben, you can always be sure to find the Pirates CSG Rules in all their various forms and formats.  If you’re a beginner, the Start Here Rules are what you’ll want.  However, that document assumes you only have one pack to start playing, which is part of the reason why I created My Basic Rules that you can use if you’d like (they include some of my own house rules, which I firmly believe make the game better).

Once you have a decent sense of the Start Here rules, you can move on to the Complete Game Rules.  This is a much more advanced version of the game, but the way it’s intended to be played.  These rules are also found in my custom rule set linked above.

Now that you’ve got the main rules, you should be ready to play full games of Pirates CSG without too much trouble.  However, there are some very good supplemental materials that can greatly aid in your playing time.  Woelf‘s Master Keyword List is a classic document containing all of the keywords ever made.  This is great because Wizkids only printed keywords in the Complete Game rules associated with that pack’s specific set.  If you use a copy of the MKL, you’ll never have to search through various Complete Game rulebooks just to find one set-specific keyword.

Unfortunately, Wizkids made a number of contradictions, gaffes, and confusing wordings in the rules and abilities for this game.  That is where another fantastic document from Woelf comes into play.  The Pirate Code (FAQ).  This is a life saver.  Although it’s much larger than any of the other Pirates CSG Rules documents, “the Code” (from Pirates of the Caribbean and of course pirate history) is an incredible resource that will answer nearly ALL of the potential questions you could have about the rules of the game.

Finally, although it’s far less necessary than any of the above documents, the Reference Diagrams (also by Woelf of course!) contain a number of useful tidbits.  Veteran players will not need them for the most part, but they can be quite useful for beginners.  Even after playing hundreds of games, I learned of a towing option I had never thought of or realized before!

Now that you have all of the Pirates CSG Rules, go forth and PLAY!!

Ocean Play Mat – Many Options for Pirates Players

Ocean Play Mat Options – Which is Best?

A member of the Facebook group asks:

What do you use for a play mat? I’ve used a sheet once but it bunches and moves. Neoprene playmat?

I don’t quite have a favorite ocean play mat, but I’ve used many great options in the past.  In this post I’ll answer this question in detail, providing pictures and analysis for the ocean play mats that I use.

“Official” Options

European Pirates of the Spanish Main ocean play mat map

This is the mat that comes in European packs of Spanish Main (Unlimited Edition).

There are various “official” mats you can use.  For starters, European Spanish Main Unlimited packs contain a basic small plastic mat. (thanks to Holofernes and others for the detailed Wikipedia page)

Gale Force Nine released a vinyl map that you can see here.

Probably the most “famous” is from the Plunder Pack.  However, it’s both the least appealing and not very practical.  Although I DON’T recommend the map, the Plunder Pack itself is quite cool.

Pirates Plunder Pack map

The Plunder Pack map – dull, gray, boring, and prone to excessive creases from folding in storage.

Better Options!

Although the above ocean play mats are better than playing on less nautical surfaces (such as a wooden table or a random rug or carpet), it’s both cheap and effective to get something that really beautifies your games.

The answer?  Basic chunks of fabric.

In 2015 I went to Joann Fabrics and bought 5 different yards of blue fabric for a grand total of about $17.  At about $3/yard, I can honestly say it was one of my “best buys” of Pirates CSG ever (despite not buying any actual Pirates stuff) and transformative for both my games and associated Battle Reports.  Since that awesome purchase, I’ve used almost nothing else in my games.  I’ve attempted to rank them here.

#1 – Light, tropical, textured, “Caribbean” blue

This is a light blue fabric that makes you feel like you’re playing a game of Pirates CSG in the Caribbean!  I call it a “textured” fabric because it’s not a solid blue color, with some variation throughout to make it look a bit more like real water.

Caribbean Sea blue ocean play mat

The English and Spanish feel right at home in the “Caribbean”!

#2 – Silky shiny blue

This one is by FAR the most unique ocean I have.  It’s a completely different material than the other 4 fabrics I use, making it quite distinct.  It’s silky, smooth, shiny, and cool!  It doesn’t fold like the other fabrics, being much more susceptible to sliding around in your hands.  However, you can still wrap or fold it up easily for storage.

Silky blue ocean mat

Gorgeous and luxurious!

#3 – Dark textured blue

This is just like the “Caribbean blue”, but with darker shades of blue.  Creates more of a “deep sea exploration” feel as compared to the more tropical light blue.

dark textured blue ocean

Darker version of the other textured blue fabric.

#4 – Basic light blue

This solid colored fabric is a little more “boring”, but still provides infinitely more thematic element than the brown table below it.

Basic light blue ocean fabric

Starting setup for an “Other Worlds” game.

#5 – Basic dark blue

More of a “navy blue”, this may be the most boring of the bunch, but it still turns Pirates CSG into more of a seafaring experience.

dark blue ocean fabric

Custom islands and terrain can enhance your games even further!

Bigger Options?

If you’re like me and occasionally need a larger ocean (or oceans), there are still various options.  You can use a blue bedsheet that you may have lying around, or bought for cheap.  You could also buy more than a yard of fabric – 2 yards would give you quite a lot of space.

To avoid any extra purchases, you could also simply connect multiple (different) yards of fabric together to create one ocean.  This has the added benefit of creating a “separation” of ocean colors/textures on your map, which can be great for designating a more tropical look or a more menacing deep blue Pacific look.

Here are a few more oceans I’ve played Pirates on:

ocean play mat

Combination of bed sheet and fabric yard used in the Sea of Allost (Command the Oceans).

I’m planning to get even more ocean fabrics in the future, especially shiny ones that look like glossy water.  For example, you could use a big blue photography background for a Pirates ocean!  A simple search reveals tons of great options for affordable prices.  Just one yard can vastly improve your Pirates games forever.  😀

A Question (or two) for You

Which ocean play mat is your favorite?  Do you generally prefer lighter or darker colored oceans?  Comment below and I’ll respond!  Feel free to even rank all of them if you’d like.

Thanks for reading and let’s get in touch about Pirates CSG!  (a7xfanben@gmail.com)

-Admiral A7XfanBen

Best Crew – Optimize your crew complements to WIN

Another part of the Q&A series here at Pirates with Ben.  This was asked in the Facebook group – a question about

which crew to use.

Best Crew

Captain

Best Crew to Use

Captains and helmsmen are the most important. I’m not the biggest fan of explorers but they can be quite good as well. In terms of named crew, anything that gives extra actions is extremely good (SAC/EA/SAT/etc). It does depend on my strategy and the ship though. Empty gold runners can work pretty well, but you’re not going to have an “empty gunship”, so a lot of times the percentage of crew in a fleet is massively biased towards gunships (meaning 75-90% of crew points spent could be assigned to gunships, for example).

C+H necessary to stay competitive

Best Crew

Helmsman

Specifically, if a ship has a base move of S+S or slower, she nearly always needs a helmsman for your fleet to stay competitive (exception is empty gold runner that gets +S with no cargo). Even the recent Savage Shores anniversary game is a good example of this. Gunships always need captains, and almost always need helmsmen too.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  If you don’t use captains and helmsmen on your gunships, you will not win against competent opponents.

Extreme Cases

However, a gimmick fleet might go with very little crew or many “abnormal” crew that don’t get pure results, but are VERY fun to use. These fleets often still use captains and helmsmen as a “backbone” of sorts, in addition to the wacky stuff that make them fun and unique.  That said, if you’re strictly looking to WIN, you’re better off hammering the basics to ensure optimized fleet building.  Personally I get a little bored of winning with the same fleet or strategy all the time, so I like to change it up!

Check out my Building a Fleet page and Gameplay page for more information.  You may also find some specific crew on eBay.

Unsinkable ships – Eternal no more!

This is the first in what could be a nice long Q&A series.  From my Eternal keyword video.

XxMrLimeyxX asks:

Is there absolutely no way to eliminate a ship with eternal built in? And if no does this cause any gameplay issues for smaller games or against opponents with a small variety of ships?

Eternal is underpriced by a point or two, but it’s not as powerful as it sounds. With the right tools and strategy, it’s not a big deal to counter. Best way to sink an Eternal ship permanently is with a canceller. Cancel the Eternal ability right before you take the shot to sink the ship.

Turn the tables

You can also capture Eternal ships and use them against your opponents. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to eliminate any oarsmen on the ship first, since they prevent dereliction and therefore capture. This is one of my favorite ways of dealing with Eternal because you can capture an enemy ship instead of “sinking” it and then immediately scuttle it and try to warp it back to YOUR home island instead of theirs! I was able to do this in CG3.

There are a few niche things you can use to make Eternal less effective too – simply leave the ship with no masts and refuse to sink it. Or use the Periscope UT to cancel the ability like you would with a canceller.

If you don’t have many tools available to help you with the above methods, simply sink the ship as quickly as possible and try to win the game before it comes back.  Repairing an Eternal ship to any level of respectable health (likely 3+ masts for any gunship) can take a while.  Not to mention how long it will take for the ship to get back in action.  By simply blasting the ship away each time it approaches, you can minimize the threat by keeping it repairing at home rather than causing chaos on the battlefield.

Where it DOES get nasty

The tricky part is when you combine Eternal with other defensive stuff – such as a submarine with a canceller aboard as well. Think USS Mercury with both Ralph David (Eternal) and DNT (Canceller), with an oarsman. That’s when it gets a bit OP, but that kind of combo is really only valuable in deathmatches or big games, not so much competitive games with gold.

Eternal mostly only causes gameplay issues in deathmatches. My favorite house rule there is to only allow it to work once. So if Eternal is used in a deathmatch, the second sinking is permanent.

Thanks for the comment and let me know if you have any other questions.

Unsinkable ships

Captured Eternal ship carrying Davy Jones at the lower right after my Americans nabbed him in VASSAL Campaign Game 3 – click for details!

How to repair your ships – for Pirates CSG

How to repair your ships – for Pirates CSG

A question was asked at the Facebook group – how do you repair broken masts?

I do a simple tape job system. I rip off a very small slice of tape and put one on each side of a broken mast. It can still be a bit wobbly or fragile, but usually holds up fine and sometimes can even be taken out and replaced again as normal. If you do this I recommend the very clear tape and not what they might call “transparent” (which is more like a fog color I think).

The few times I’ve tried glue with Pirates stuff it went horribly and I would almost rather just leave masts as-is than deal with any complicated or time consuming solutions.

I have left a few ships damaged for a while (Concord from RV being the main one I remember) – as long as you can see the cannon die marking and there’s some sail, it can almost look cool like the ship is just permanently damaged (depending on the break of course).

Check out this video I made about repairing basic mast breaks.  This solution is especially great for repairing the typical break where you have a mast that has splintered near the base.  With a thin piece of tape carefully applied to both sides to hold it in place, you should have your ship back into action and sailing in no time!

Question of the Day: How do you prefer to repair mast breaks?

Do you want to see more videos like this?

 

Alternative “solution”: Make shipwrecks!

If you have multiple mast breaks, your ship is beyond salvaging, or you simply want to experiment with a different solution, you could repurpose a broken ship as a shipwreck!  I created this Shipwreck Cove and it’s quite a neat aesthetic to have in games.

How to repair your ships

My Shipwreck Cove creation during a game

Pirates CSG Megacards – Collection Review #21

Collection Review Episode 21: Pirates CSG MEGACARDS!! (Wizkids Pirates CSG)

Question of the Day: What is your favorite Pirates CSG ship/creature that comes on a megacard?

Ocean’s Edge Megapacks have the OE stuff from this video: https://goo.gl/eYjiYM

It can be tough to narrow down the search without looking for specific ships, but eBay is your friend for collecting: https://goo.gl/CM4rQj

Additional QOTD: How man CRS episodes do you think are left?

~~~~~

Recently I did another “video blast” with lots of content produced, so I’ll have plenty of videos for the foreseeable future in addition to the podcast and Hourly Campaign. The Start Here Rules tutorial is now above 2000 views, so that’s great!

 

Here’s the picture I decided to include in the youtube thumbnail.  It shows all 5 of my 10 masters (Celtic Fury barely visible beyond the Baochuan) in play during Command the Oceans (click the picture to read the battle reports).  Really shows what can be achieved in this game with massive scale.

Pirates CSG 10 masters

Pure epicness.

What is a pokéship?

Originally posted to Miniature Trading on June 23rd 2017

What is a “pokéship”?

crsluggo wrote:
Please excuse my ignorance, but I see this term “pokeship” referenced from time to time on this site. What defines a pokeship? Is it good, bad, indifferent? Is there a set or sets in which they appear frequently? What are some examples of a pokeship?

(NOT laughing at you, I’m laughing at the concept and silliness of it all lol)

LOLOLOLOLOLOL Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing

XD

As far as I know the termed was coined by Holofernes back when the last sets were being released.

You’ve probably heard of the Pokemon phenomenon, which I happened to grow up with and love, hence why it’s even funnier to me haha. (scroll through post heh)

Pirates CSG Scythe Scorpion ship

Scorpion ship literally called “Scythe”

What is a Pokeship

Scyther card from 1999

Pirates CSG Bombardier

The Bombardier uses flamethrower! XD

What is a pokéship?

The mighty Charizard

Pirates CSG Skin Flayer Switchblade

The Skin Flayer, a Switchblade

Kabutops

The hoist is a lot harder to pin down…

Pirates CSG Hoist Buscador

The Buscador, a Spanish Hoist ship

Mawile

Savage Shores – Mini Set Review

Savage Shores

Pirates of the Cursed Seas Savage Shores Scavenger Pack Box

Follow this link to find the Savage Shores!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates of the Cursed Seas: Savage Shores

Average auction box price: $21.33 (as of November 2018)

Cheapest place to buy: eBay

Factions: Pirates, English, Spanish, French, Americans, Cursed

Features/New Stuff: Hoists, Native Canoes, cargo masters, navigators, Great Turtles, trade currents

Ben’s Rating: 16/20

Pirates CSG Savage Shores Native Canoes

3 sets of American native canoes in Economy Edition (2015)


Savage Shores (SS, 2008) became the last set of Pirates CSG.  The set was only the size of half of a normal set (just over 50 game pieces), released in Scavenger Pack boxes instead of the normal game packs.  It featured a bunch of new game pieces and ship types despite the small size, and was notable for being the best set for gameplay since at least the Caribbean set.  A small blaze of glory before the game went out of print just days after release. You can find all of the game pieces in the Master Spreadsheet, and I’ve ranked the Top 10 here.

Ratings

– Art: 4/5. Definitely stands out, but some ugly ships keep it from a perfect score. I think the named crew artwork was exceptional.
– Set Quality: 4/5. Some great stuff, mostly good. The sea monsters, lack of generic crew, and somewhat unbalanced pieces (navigators, cargo masters, American canoes, Libellule, hoists) keep it from a 5 for me.
– New Content: 4/5. Canoes and hoists are both fantastic, arguably too much so. Hoists are the most excusable Pokeship (if they are even considered to be one) simply due to how interesting they are in terms of gameplay. Navigators and cargo masters are both frustrating to deal with in large games, but they’re a welcome addition to most players.
– Collectability/Misc: 4/5. The set was almost too easy to acquire, and the box idea caused some consternation among people who didn’t or couldn’t (or still can’t!) complete 10 masters. The SR’s were relatively common as well, but I give the set a 2/3 for collectibility. The Miscellaneous score gets a 2/2 due to the set’s good reputation and a kind of positive farewell after the long decline. The set is generally viewed with very positive vibes due to it being so unique in so many ways, and a beacon of hope that unfortunately never was.
= Overall: 16/20. Very good but not all-time great.

Discover the Savage Shores here!

Below you can check out the entire Set Review Podcast episode for a full overview of all the game pieces.

Rise of the Fiends – Mini Set Review

Rise of the Fiends

Rise of the Fiends pack

Click to buy Rise of the Fiends!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates of the Cursed Seas: Rise of the Fiends

Average auction pack price: $1.29 (as of November 2018)

Cheapest place to buy: eBay

Factions: Pirates, English, Spanish, French, Americans, Cursed

Features/New Stuff: Name change (Pirates of the Cursed Seas Pocketmodel Game), Scorpions, red islands/terrain, story inserts, 2 glow in the dark Special Edition ships

Ben’s Rating: 11/20

Pirates of the Cursed Seas: Rise of the Fiends

A Scorpion ship in action


Rise of the Fiends (RotF, 2008) signalled the decline of the Pirates game. New “pokeships”alienated much of the player base and the set was smaller than most that came before it, with an abundance of slow ships.  Only a few of the widely despised Scorpion ships were even produced, and the red islands didn’t make things any better.  Interestingly enough a lot of the regular ships and crew were pretty decent, the saving grace for an otherwise poor set. You can find all of the game pieces in the Master Spreadsheet, and I’ve ranked the Top 10 here.

Ratings

– Art: 4/5. Very colorful ships and crew – many great, but some a bit over the top. Most of the larger ships are quite beautiful. Using different artwork for generic crew is cool, but it does make it a bit confusing and harder to use for new players. Actually one of the most interesting sets for artwork, but too much focus on the red theme was detrimental (mostly with the red island/terrain cards, which look truly disgusting next to any other set’s). I don’t like the cards either – the red and yellow looks great with SM and CC, but combined and brighter it seems unappealing for some reason.
– Set Quality: 3/5. I’ve underrated this set many times, but it has a lot of interesting game pieces. However, there’s a bunch of mediocre stuff as well. Most ships are either slow or have small cargo holds, so it’s not a good set for getting gold at all. There are a few balance issues with the extremes of the set – mostly the San Cristobal and Blood Money being OP, while stuff like Merrow and some of the 1 masters should not have been made.
– New Content: 1/5. I nearly put 0/5 and said “am I allowed to do this?”, but flotillas and the glow in the dark stuff just barely make up for the atrocity of scorpions and the Hostile/Loyal stuff. Scorpions are my least favorite ship type, though the sharks are up there as well. Only one of them stands out, while all the flotillas are usable and quite good. The Hostile/Loyal keywords feel like an unnecessary gimmick to lower point costs (Eternal for one point?), though I do like when flavor text is part of the gameplay. The Turbine and Double Catamaran randomly thrown in at the end of the set really show that the game was completely coming off the rails at this point. The Turbine keyword is underpriced and weird from a historical perspective, while the Double Catamaran ship type is way too wide and big, not to mention awkward. Though the ship types weren’t new, I love the glow in the dark concept.
– Collectability/Misc: 3/5. Another small set, but a decent one to collect. Positives included a cool variety of SE’s and LE’s, some of which are very expensive to acquire. Negatives include a silly rarity distribution with generic crew and an SR pack that was too common. Not much to say about the story inserts. Throw in the mythical Ochobrazo, and it’s definitely a unique set for collectors. The Miscellaneous score is 1/2 since the set is just not that great when you consider everything. Throw in the odd name, “Rise of the Fiends”, and you can’t even find a sea creature outside of an SE kraken nor an abnormally strong Cursed presence. (sure they got Scorpions and a 10 master, but any of the large gunships from the set easily outclass them)
= Overall: 11/20. Not one of my favorites, but the positives of the set are pretty cool.

Get Rise of the Fiends here!

Below you can check out the entire Set Review Podcast episode for a full overview of all the game pieces.

Pirates of the Caribbean – Mini Set Review

Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean pack

Click to buy PotC on eBay!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates of the Caribbean

Average auction pack price: $3.01 (as of November 2018)

Cheapest place to buy: eBay

Factions: Pirates, English

Features/New Stuff: Rarity based numbering system, different die cutting method, no pennants, UT’s on crew cards, krakens, pack art variation

Ben’s Rating: 12/20

Wizkids Pirates of the Caribbean game

The Black Pearl surrounded by The Kraken in the PotC 10th anniversary game, just like in the movies!


Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC, 2007) saw Wizkids partner with Disney to produce a movie-themed set, with only the Pirates and English as playable factions.  It’s a very unique set, and it changed the design of the ships along with the rarity/numbering scheme.  For me it’s a fantastic collaboration that makes perfect sense given how similar DJC and OE already were to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but there are some issues.  The lack of a Cursed faction and the collation issues (a whole booster box full of commons, for example) plague the set.  Great idea, imperfect execution.  You can find all of the game pieces in the Master Spreadsheet, and I’ve ranked the Top 10 here.

Ratings

– Art: 3/5. Design changes actually annoyed me, as I found the old look more pleasing and I like using pennants. However, limiting how often the ships break is definitely a good thing. In addition, more rounded hull and mast tabs usually make for easier assembly.
The actual artwork was pretty cool and fun to look at. However, a bunch of it was reused from earlier sets, but the biggest problem was the total failure to make the Endeavour, Dauntless, and Interceptor look ANYTHING like the ships from the movies. An inexcusable gaffe that nearly ruins the experience of playing those ships (so silly looking that the excellent Flying Dutchman and Black Pearls don’t make up for it). Notable for introducing the split card colors which stayed until the end. I did enjoy the crew and UT pictures, as it really ties the movies into the game quite well. I think the kraken design and artwork is about as good as could be expected.
– Set Quality: 3/5. Lots of good ships with a few great ones as well. This gave the Pirates and English that many more options (including very nice crew options), which neither of them really needed. I deducted a point for not having other factions, and another point for the OP stuff (mostly Captain Jack Sparrow, but the Endeavour, Cursed Captain Jack and Kraken Gong have all had somewhat detrimental effects on the game).
– New Content: 3/5. Krakens were quite well done overall, as a relatively playable sea creature that effectively incorporated the movie theme. The Parley keyword can be confusing at first and is probably underpriced a little, but it’s definitely a cool addition to the game and another effective movie tie-in. Going a little deeper, this set also introduced a handful of new “1 of 1” game pieces such as CJS, Calypso, the Hai Peng, and Jailhouse Dog. Most of the unique stuff was either confusing or ruined some of the fun, but there’s no denying the importance of those and other game pieces on modern competitive play.
– Collectability/Misc: 3/5. Mostly negatives here unfortunately – a small set is easier to collect (which can be a good thing), and there wasn’t much extra stuff (SE/LE/PR pieces) to get. The real problem was when the distribution went awry, with some packs having all commons, and in extreme cases, “god boxes” full of SR packs. Throw in just 2 factions, and even the PotC name can’t save the set from having major collectibility problems. However, the partnership with Disney was absolutely perfect for a game like Pirates, so the Miscellaneous score is definitely a 2 and could be bumped to a 4/5 overall if you value intangibles more than collectibility (or are just a huge PotC fan heh). Though, the change to a rarity-based checklist was a negative.
= Overall: 12/20. A great effort with Disney’s help, but with some glaring flaws that make the set quite polarizing.

Find Pirates of the Caribbean on eBay!

Below you can check out the entire Set Review Podcast episode for a full overview of all the game pieces.