Pirates at Ocean’s Edge – Mini Set Review

Pirates at Ocean’s Edge

Pirates at Ocean's Edge pack

Click to buy Ocean’s Edge!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates at Ocean’s Edge

Average auction pack price: $1.30 (as of November 2018)

Cheapest place to buy: eBay and Hill’s Wholesale Gaming

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

Features/New Stuff: Whirlpools, Sea Dragons, Titans (giant crabs), Sharks, Catamarans, Windcatchers

Ben’s Rating: 12/20

Pirates at Ocean's Edge

OE 10th anniversary game in progress, showing many of the new features of the set


Pirates At Ocean’s Edge (OE, 2007) was a large set that got produced in huge quantities, featuring a ton of different ship types as well as new types of sea monsters.  Due to the massive production, it’s both the cheapest set and the easiest to find.  It features the “Big 6” factions together again, marking the end of minor factions being introduced in their own sets.  OE is a great set for beginners due to the variety, quantity, and price.  Highly recommended if you’re on a budget and just getting into the game, though it can get boring once you’ve used the stuff from the set a lot.  It’s also not balanced at all, as some game pieces are terrible and some are among the best in the game. You can find all of the game pieces in the Master Spreadsheet, and I’ve ranked the Top 10 here.

Ratings

– Art: 1/5. The ugliest ships are from this set. Overall the artwork is quite boring (Le Musarde lol – even the French got it), with a couple standouts (Zeus). Some of the ships are absolutely garish, and not in a good way (Salte el Tiburon).
– Set Quality: 3/5. A lot of mediocre and extremely boring ships. However, I didn’t give a 2 because there are some absolutely amazing finds here – the brief return of 6 masted junks, a few cool SE’s, two All-Powerful crew, surprisingly playable sea creatures, and some good 5 masters (except for the “new” Acorazado). In addition, the sheer quantity, especially when including the SE’s and LE’s, gives a ton of options for playing, which is great.
– New Content: 3/5. Titans are the best sea creatures by far, and can be rather good. Sea dragons aren’t so hot, but they’re also few in number. The sharks are absolute trash, so thank Wizkids for not releasing any more in later sets (or condemn them for even releasing them in the first place!). Catamarans have always seemed overrated to me, and their disproportionate size looks silly. Windcatchers have always seemed like a glorified 3 masted schooner, but the ones that came out are certainly interesting to play. I happen to love whirlpools, despite them not being realistic at all. Obviously a ton of new stuff – once again the sheer quantity helps the score because it gives options and pleases most people to some degree even if you only like one or two of the new things.
– Collectability/Misc: 5/5. I rate the collectibility as a 3/3 easily, and though I would normally put the miscellaneous score as 1/2, the collectibility is so high that I’m giving the overall category 5/5 (collectibility breaks the scale heh). The biggest set ever, extremely cheap packs (great for new players), very easy to get most of the main set. SE tins rereleased some older ships, while they and the SE’s weren’t terribly difficult to find. Throw in megapacks, the legendary Zeus, and a tough LE set to collect, and you have a crazy collector’s dream while still being the most accessible set to new players due to how common it is and the low price.
= Overall: 12/20. A set famous for being very diverse, common, and cheap. The prevalence of OE makes it very easy to get sick of; I have once again tired of it after a short renaissance around 2017.

Use eBay to sail towards Ocean’s Edge!

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

Pirates of the Frozen North – Mini Set Review

Pirates of the Frozen North

Pirates of the Frozen North pack

Click to buy Frozen North!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates of the Frozen North

Average auction pack price: $2.48 (as of November 2018)

Cheapest place to buy: eBay (usually)

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

Features/New Stuff: Vikings, Icebergs, Longships, Icebreakers

Ben’s Rating: 11/20

Pirates of the Frozen North game

Viking fleet during the Pirates of the Frozen North 10th anniversary game played in 2017

 


Pirates of the Frozen North (FN, 2007) saw the Vikings sail into battle aboard their Longships.  The Vikings are another very poor minor faction, as they have small fragile ships and have trouble in the gold game.  Icebergs were featured as a new terrain option.  FN is another slow set, but there are a bunch of very solid game pieces among the mediocre stuff.  You can find all of the game pieces in the Master Spreadsheet, and I’ve ranked the Top 10 here.

Ratings

– Art: 3/5. Pretty much all of the longships are interesting, but most of the regular ships are not. The repetitive UT’s and mostly boring named crew don’t help. However, the French and Americans have some very pretty ships, and I think the rather dull look actually fits the theme rather well, keeping the score from being a 2. Though the white look of the cards is also very thematic, it’s hard not to prefer the vibrancy and color of the first 5 or 6 sets in terms of cards.
– Set Quality: 3/5. FN continues the trend of more mediocre ships where MI left off. I’ve noticed that the named crew, UT’s, and LE’s seem either fantastic or terrible. Plenty of playable ships, just not a lot that people prefer to use. In addition, I believe Cadet-Captain Mike proved that this was the slowest set for ship speeds.
– New Content: 1/5. Wow… where do you even start with this one? Icebergs are by far the most obnoxious terrain type – of course they should damage your ships, but moving them at the beginning of each player’s turn has consistently been the most-forgotten aspect of gameplay in my experience. They’re annoying to no end, and they look silly compared to the reefs and sargassos because they would never be flat. Then we have the Vikings, where the historicity of the set comes into question. Many people have lamented the Viking faction even more than the Mercenaries, simply because the timing of their exploits in real life is so far from the Age of Sail. However, I think the Longship keyword takes the cake for worst new content in this set. Viking longships didn’t even carry cannons as far as I know, but here they get the most potent offensive ability in the game just because they have small ships. The Vikings would be far better off with a different version of the keyword while functioning as a swarm nation.
– Collectability/Misc: 4/5. Not much to say here, other than the fact that FN remains one of the pricier sets.
= Overall: 11/20. A decent set strictly from a gameplay perspective. A rather strange direction to take the game in, and the reverse power creep continues.

Discover the Frozen North on eBay!

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

Pirates of the Mysterious Islands – Mini Set Review

Pirates of the Mysterious Islands

Pirates of the Mysterious Islands pack

Find the Mysterious Islands on eBay!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates of the Mysterious Islands

Average auction pack price: $2.06 (as of November 2018)

Cheapest place to buy: eBay (usually)

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

Features/New Stuff: Mercenaries, Mysterious Islands, Submarines

Ben’s Rating: 10/20

Pirates of the Mysterious Islands anniversary game

Pirates of the Mysterious Islands anniversary game, showing a submarine docked at an MI


Pirates of the Mysterious Islands (MI, 2006) featured the new Mercenary faction and introduced Submarines.  Honestly it was not a great set, as the artwork seemed dull and the ships were worse than the ones from DJC.  In addition, the Mercenaries are the worst of the minor factions since they cannot dock at their own home island!  However, you’ll enjoy the set if you like subs and the tie-ins to Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  You can find all of the game pieces in the Master Spreadsheet, and I’ve ranked the Top 10 here.

Ratings

– Art: 3/5. Some boring ships with a small handful of incredible standouts (including those little-known SE’s), along with decent artwork overall. Submarines were the highlight of the set, but they’re very lackluster and even hard to tell apart. I also didn’t enjoy the boring gray cards, though it fits with the Mercenary faction. (perhaps a tropical look would be too much)
– Set Quality: 3/5. The Mercenaries introduce an interesting dynamic to the game, and some of their game pieces have affected fleet-building ever since. Each faction got some solid if unspectacular ships, but plenty of mediocre/boring ships were introduced as well.
– New Content: 2/5. I enjoyed the Mysterious Islands, but some of them can be OP. The Mercenaries have always been the worst faction in the game, and submarines are often either useless or borderline OP (think deathmatches, marines, cancellers, etc). Novelty and excitement barely keep the score from being a 1. (for the second set in a row – when a lot of people can agree that the new stuff stinks, you know things are in decline)
– Collectability/Misc: 2/5. Not entirely collectible, between the low playability and lackluster PR’s (with the exception of the MiaB pack). The miscellaneous score has to suffer as well – this set can be rather boring and hasn’t stood the test of time that well for me. It doesn’t help that this set came out at a bad time – soon after the general brilliance of the “golden age” and when DJC (a superior set) and its sales likely set expectations too high. In addition, I noticed that the ships are generally more brittle than usual, which is especially bad for newer players.
= Overall: 10/20. As godmason said, bad execution. Perhaps more playtesting could have improved the new mechanics.

Find the Mysterious Islands on eBay!

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

Pirates of Davy Jones’ Curse – Mini Set Review

Pirates of Davy Jones’ Curse

Pirates of Davy Jones Curse pack

Click to buy Davy Jones’ Curse!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates of Davy Jones’ Curse

Average auction pack price: $1.93 (as of November 2018)

Cheapest place to buy: eBay and Hill’s Wholesale Gaming

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

Features/New Stuff: Cursed, Sea Creatures, translucent Super Rares

Ben’s Rating: 14/20

Pirates of Davy Jones' Curse

Sea creatures in action against the Pequod, also from DJC!


Pirates of Davy Jones’ Curse (DJC, 2006) is easy to acquire and features the Cursed and their sea monsters.  This is when the game marked a dramatic turn from mostly historical content to some fantasy content.  In some ways one could argue it was the “beginning of the end” since it drove away some of the player base, but it did attract a younger audience for the sets to come as well.  In addition, this set is when the reverse power creep began – meaning that the general effectiveness of game pieces began to decline.  The Cursed faction and sea creatures were part of it in this set, but ships also began getting slower in this 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. The wacky advent of the Cursed highlights an underwhelming set for artwork. However, the crew art, American ships, and SR pack certainly keep the score from being a 3.
– Set Quality: 4/5. This set began the long slow decline of Pirates CSG. A reverse power creep started, and wouldn’t be reversed back until the final set. Sea monsters stink in-game, and the set features more boring ships than previous sets. However, a nice selection of named crew and a few standout ships per faction make it somewhat memorable.
– New Content: 2/5. The Cursed have always been the worst faction of the Big 6, even with their introductory set. Sea monsters have always been overpriced. A large portion of the existing customer base was alienated by the overemphasis on the supernatural and magical elements, which is arguably what started the end. Very close to a score of 1, if not for the inherent “coolness” factor.
– Collectability/Misc: 4/5. A point deducted for the low quality first print runs, but otherwise a fun one to buy. All 6 major factions for the first time, which leads to much collecting. I’m actually glad the Guichuan and LE’s are rare (they should be), and the SE boxes and cool SR pack are great reasons to buy DJC.
= Overall: 14/20. The beginning of the end. The glory days of Pirates were over, with the dark cloud of Cursed madness threatening to take over the beloved game. OK, I’m being too dramatic! Heh, definitely a good set but the reputation is somewhat horrible between how many people left the game soon afterwards and the scratching issues.

Get Davy Jones’ Curse on eBay!

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

Pirates of the South China Seas – Mini Set Review

Pirates of the South China Seas

Pirates of the South China Seas pack

Click to buy South China Seas!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates of the South China Seas

Average auction pack price: $6.63 (as of November 2018)

Cheapest place to buy: eBay

Factions: Jade Rebellion, Pirates, English, Spanish, French, Americans

Features/New Stuff: Jade Rebels, Junks, first 10 master (Baochuan)

Ben’s Rating: 18/20

Pirates of the South China Seas

Jade Rebellion ships at the 10th anniversary of SCS game in 2016


Pirates of the South China Seas (SCS) is by far the hardest set to acquire, and the first set released in 2006. The Jade Rebellion and their new ship type, Junks, highlighted the set.  This is another fantastic set on par with the first three sets, doing extremely well on gameplay, theme, and artwork.  Tough to beat, but tough to find. You can find all of the game pieces in the Master Spreadsheet, and I’ve ranked the Top 10 here.

Ratings

– Art: 5/5. Godmason already nailed it: “Huge variety of artwork. Creative, yet keeps the factions distinct.” Very colorful, pretty, diverse. Throw in the crew and UT’s, and possibly the best set for artwork.
– Set Quality: 5/5. Absolutely amazing – as I’ve said before, I’ve fallen in love with this set over the past year and a half or so. The brief return of events can’t even keep it from a perfect 5, especially with the surprisingly good PR’s and the cool SR pack.
– New Content: 5/5. I agree that the Junk and Turtle Ship keywords were somewhat underwhelming, but the Jade Rebellion faction makes up for it. Throw in the first 10 master, and there’s not much to dislike.
– Collectability/Misc: 3/5. The hardest set to collect by far – commons from SCS can be harder to acquire than rares from other sets. It’s simply tough to get, and not quite as much fun to acquire since it will usually cost you a lot. However, this can also make you appreciate the ships more, as you’ll treasure them. The common PR’s make for a truly bizarre rarity distribution, as they can be cheaper than commons!
= Overall: 18/20. Probably my favorite set of the last 2 years, but imperfect due to collectibility problems and the return of events.

Discover the South China Seas on eBay!

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

Pirates of the Barbary Coast – Mini Set Review

Pirates of the Barbary Coast

Pirates of the Barbary Coast pack

Click to buy Pirates of the Barbary Coast!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates of the Barbary Coast

Average auction pack price: $1.86 (as of November 2018)

Cheapest place to buy: eBay or Hill’s Wholesale Gaming

Factions: Barbary Corsairs, English, Spanish, French, Americans

Features/New Stuff: Barbary Corsairs, Galleys, cardboard LE (Limited Edition) crew

Ben’s Rating: 16/20

Barbary Corsairs at Fleet Review

Beautiful Barbary Corsair galleys at the 2014 Fleet Review


Pirates of the Barbary Coast (BC) was the last set from 2005.  The Barbary Corsairs and their Galleys gave players the best “minor faction” to use.  This is another set with some historical tie-ins, and the only set without the Pirate faction.  Overall the set is very balanced and playable, but not quite as exciting as the sets released just before and after it. You can find all of the game pieces in the Master Spreadsheet, and I’ve ranked the Top 10 here.

Ratings

– Art: 5/5. Tons of great artwork – the Barbary Corsairs are arguably the prettiest faction, while the crew art feels very thematic.
– Set Quality: 4/5. The Corsairs are the strongest minor faction in the game and arguably better overall than the Cursed, one of the eventual Big 6 factions. Many other quality ships from the other factions, and the set feels very balanced overall – a return to normalcy after some problems in RV. However, the lack of the Pirate faction and (for me at least) the lack of any larger (4 or 5 masted) square rigged ships hold this set back from being a standout.
– New Content: 4/5. Corsairs and galleys are welcome additions, but sometimes the set feels rather lackluster, especially in comparison to the first 3 sets. However, the combination of good named crew, fun UT’s, an awesome SR pack, and new editions of SM crew make up for the set being a little boring.
– Collectability/Misc: 3/5. The Corsairs hogged almost all of the rare ships, while the cardboard crew PR’s were somewhat obnoxious and bizarre after the already-established crew chips. IMO, this set feels like the least likable of the first 5, so it loses a point for miscellaneous/intagibles as well, partly due to the above deficiencies.
= Overall: 16/20. Interesting and cool, but doesn’t stand the test of time as well as SM/CC/RV.

Search eBay to find the Barbary Coast!

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

Pirates of the Revolution – Mini Set Review

Pirates of the Revolution

Pirates of the Revolution pack

Click to buy Pirates of the Revolution!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates of the Revolution

Average auction pack price: $1.93 (as of November 2018)

Cheapest place to buy: eBay or Hill’s Wholesale Gaming

Factions: Pirates, English, Spanish, French, Americans

Features/New Stuff: America, Events, overpowered (OP) stuff, Special Edition boxes

Ben’s Rating: 17/20

Constitution Pirates of the Revolution

The mighty Constitution, signaling the arrival of the Americans!


Pirates of the Revolution (RV) came out in 2005, featuring the introduction of the American faction.  Revolution is sometimes considered the “best” set, with fast ships and some of the most usable ships in the game.  RV also marked the first time Events were used, as well as new tins with varying artwork.  One of the most historical sets, it’s also a favorite of American fans. You can find all of the game pieces in the Master Spreadsheet, and I’ve ranked the Top 10 here.

Ratings

– Art: 5/5. Absolutely agree with godmason – simply fantastic!
– Set Quality: 4/5. The “best” set for gameplay, but unfortunately it was plagued by a small handful of OP (and arguably game-breaking) pieces. Also, I haven’t seen it discussed much, but the small Spanish representation and lack of inspiring named crew don’t help.
– New Content: 4/5. The Americans are the highlight, with events as the lowlight. Another batch of interesting UT’s and the SR pack help make things interesting.
– Collectability/Misc: 4/5. Collectibility gets a 3/3 here, but a point is lost due to the overall “likeability” being lower than SM and CC in my opinion. Indeed, the named crew options are rather atrocious for 3 out of the 5 nations, while the massive mistake that was events has not been fully corrected (banhammer please).
= Overall: 17/20. The favorite of many old-school players, and for good reason. The reasons listed above keep it from being the best set ever.

Ready to experience the awesomeness of Pirates of the Revolution?  eBay has it.

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

Pirates of the Crimson Coast – Mini Set Review

Pirates of the Crimson Coast

Pirates of the Crimson Coast pack

Click to buy Crimson Coast!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates of the Crimson Coast

Average auction pack price: $2.67 (as of November 2018)

Cheapest place to buy: eBay

Factions: Pirates, English, Spanish, French

Features/New Stuff: France, Terrain, Schooners, Forts, Specialists

Ben’s Rating: 19/20

Deliverance Crimson Coast

The mighty and spooky Deliverance, the first ship in the set (#001)


The second set came out in 2005 – Pirates of the Crimson Coast (CC).  This set introduced the French, the Schooner ship type and forts.  This is another classic set with a TON of great ships and crew.  It can also lay claim to the title of “most perfect set”, as it got the highest rating from me when ranking all the sets.  It also has the lowest number of votes for “least favorite set” in the Pirates CSG Survey. You can find all of the game pieces in the Master Spreadsheet, and I’ve ranked the Top 10 here.

Ratings

– Art: 4/5. More nice historical designs, with slightly more flair than SM. Nice red background on the cards.
– Set Quality: 5/5. Large quantity of good or great ships for all main factions. For me, the forts make it from a 4.5 to a 5. Also, some rather memorable UT’s.
– New Content: 5/5. The final entry to the “Big 4”, France was immediately established as a powerhouse faction. Terrain was a HUGE addition, while forts were a great mechanic – very aesthetic and fun, while providing a nice diversion from the usual naval affairs.
– Collectability/Misc: 5/5. Picked up where SM left off with the faction-based checklist. A perfect little introduction to the super rare concept, and plenty of fantastic commons and uncommons for people with less money to spend. Almost loses a half point due to the cards seeming to fingerprint easily, but perhaps that’s just my experience.
= Overall: 19/20. I actually prefer SM, but CC could be considered a more “perfect” set.

Want to check out Pirates of the Crimson Coast?  eBay is your best bet.

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

Pirates of the Spanish Main Review – Mini Set Review

Pirates of the Spanish Main

Pirates of the Spanish Main pack

Click to buy Spanish Main!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates of the Spanish Main

Average auction pack price: $2.02 (as of November 2018)

Cheapest place to buy: eBay or Hill’s Wholesale Gaming

Factions: Pirates, English, Spanish

Features: The original set that started it all!

Ben’s Rating: 18/20

Spanish Main opened pack

Contents of a Spanish Main pack I opened


In 2004, Wizkids launched the Pirates of the Spanish Main product line.  The first set introduced three factions – Pirates, English, and Spanish.  Spanish Main (SM) was the first set I bought and it is still my favorite set.  If you like the basics of the game, a limited number of factions, and a more historical set than most of the others, this is the set for you.  You can find all of the game pieces in the Master Spreadsheet, and I’ve ranked the Top 10 here.

Ratings

– Art: 4/5. Great historically-based artwork that set the foundation for how the hulls and decks would look for the rest of the sets. It may look bland nowadays but I’ve always liked the historical theme of Pirates a lot. The cards are the perfect parchment color for the 17th/18th century.
– Set Quality: 5/5. Tons of great ships, most of which are at least playable today. Large numbers of ships per faction meant that each was quite competitive. The standout ships are some of the most beloved and useful in history.
– New Content: 5/5. Tough not to give a 5 here – without this set, there’s no game. Things were fun right from the start, with enough abilities and combos to keep things interesting.
– Collectability/Misc: 4/5. Relatively easy to find, both back then and today. Not extremely difficult to get a full set, and rares were plentiful enough to keep you happy and not get bored with the typical rarity of CCG’s. Loses a point due to the somewhat inferior numbering system used in the first print runs, which becomes more confusing with the Unlimited edition’s release.
= Overall: 18/20. The gold standard and foundation for everything that came afterwards. Still a fan favorite!

Ready to buy Pirates of the Spanish Main?  eBay is your best bet.

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

Did you enjoy my Pirates of the Spanish Main Review?  Leave a comment below with your thoughts on the set!

Pirates CSG Review – My favorite game ever

Pirates CSG Review

DISCLAIMER: This Pirates CSG Review is extremely biased, and was written by a non-gamer who is likely the biggest current fan of this game in the world.  As a result, I thought I’d never write a Pirates CSG Review, but I originally posted this in June 2017.

Pirates of the Spanish Main pack

Pack art for the first set, Spanish Main

Theme

Pirates Constructible Strategy Game, also known as Pirates of the Spanish Main and Pirates of the Cursed Seas Pocketmodel Game, is a miniatures game about piracy, exploration, and naval warfare. Various aspects of the Age of Sail are introduced throughout the expansions that were released from 2004-2008. The theme is heavy on gold, plunder, combat at sea, and just general piratey goodness that you’d expect from the game’s title.

Rating: 9/10. While the theme is consistent throughout the sets, Wizkids deviated from the historical theme by adding various sea creatures, non-historical ship types, and ship types that weren’t really contained to the Age of Sail. This also compromised the pirate theme to some extent, as the golden ages of piracy didn’t involve sea monsters, Vikings, or submarines.  I have a Ranking of all the sets.

Price

The “game in every pack” was priced at an MSRP of $3.99. This gave you two ships, a crew, treasure, an island, and the full rules. Barely enough to play, I’d recommend at least 3 packs to play a two player game. However, this still leaves you with a very low base cost compared to other games. This is one of the biggest strengths of Pirates – it doesn’t take a fortune to amass a solid collection and an impressive armada of beautiful constructible ships. Nowadays, the game is often found for cheaper prices than when it was in print, as my eBay price history spreadsheet shows. The longevity of the game is also proven there, as prices have risen since around 2015.

Rating: 10/10

Quality

Wizkids Pirates CSG

Since the game has constructible parts, this is an important aspect. The ships are more durable than you would expect, and the first ships I have that I built in 2005 have held up extremely well over the years. Some breakage problems may occur when building ships, but this is almost always due to rushing and inexperience. If a slot is too tight, widening it with a spare game piece (such as a pennant flag) or even a pen or item with similar width can often remedy the problem.

In addition, the other items (islands, coins, crew chips) are very well-made, colorful, and very good quality when you consider that most of them are contained in small booster packs that are not very well protected.

Rating: 10/10

Artwork

Most naval games have stock game pieces to represent specific unit types, or miniatures that can be painted or customized. Pirates is a beauty right out of the pack. Nearly every ship in the game has its own unique artwork, as do the named crew and even some of the common generic crew from the later sets. There’s something for everyone, whether it’s the historical ships of the first 3+ sets, crazy Cursed contraptions from the later sets, or really well-done crew portraits that look like paintings from the Age of Sail period. In addition, the pack artwork for the sets can draw you into the game by itself, especially if you’re nautically inclined like myself.

Rating: 10/10

Pirates CSG Review artwork image

A large campaign game of Pirates CSG in progress. (Economy Edition, June 2015)

Learning

The rules are presented in a somewhat haphazard fashion, because the Start Here rules assume you only have a single pack to play with. In addition, the Complete Game rules do not cover the basics that the Start Here rules cover, so you need both in order to play the full game. Lastly, there are numerous loopholes in the rules that were fixed by a large FAQ (The Pirate Code) that can be cumbersome to search through while playing something that apparently started off as a “beer and pretzels” game.

Rating: 7/10

Weight

This category is perhaps the most difficult to explain. I come from a non-gaming background and the full rules and scope of the game took some time to learn. In addition, almost all of the players I’ve taught (15 as of this writing) have said that Pirates is the most complex game they’ve ever played (including one person who saw a demo turn and was completely scared off immediately!). However, most “gamers” consider the game to be pretty light, and I think the complexity rating has something to do with when the ratings were assigned.

As more expansions and game mechanics were released, the game has become more complex. The vast number of abilities available and the large amount of potential rules (including the Pirate Code and various confusion over rules loopholes) can make it a rather complex affair. Finally, one of the biggest strengths of the game, its wide-open and customizable nature (you can do whatever you want, there is no board, and there are endless combinations for fleet construction and build totals), actually makes the game far more complex, but in a good way. Taking everything into consideration, Pirates can be as simple or complex as you make it. The Start Here rules are decidedly simple, but when you incorporate the full rules and play larger or multiplayer games, it can become quite complex.

Rating: 6/10, so medium/moderately complex (completely depends on how you play)

Luck

There is considerable dice rolling involved, and quirks of the treasure distribution can lead to blowout victories.

Rating: 7/10, moderate luck but not so much that strategy is compromised

Interaction

You’ll want to look at the fleets you’re facing, as well as thinking about what type of opponents you have. There is plenty of interaction within the combat system for the game. The possibility of bluffing for face down crew or treasure coins adds further interaction. Throw in the theme and personal nature of the gameplay, and you have a very fun and engaging game.

Rating: 8/10

Waiting

The length of a player’s turn depends entirely on the build total chosen. For a standard 40 point game, turns usually take 1-5 minutes. As players become more experienced, play can go faster and be quite competitive and equal in nature. In huge games with hundreds or thousands of points, a single turn could take 30+ minutes to resolve.

Rating: 3/10 (minimal waiting in most games)

Length

Pirates CSG Review

VASSAL Campaign Game 1, played from February-May of 2016.

Once again, this depends on the size of the game. A standard 40 point game usually takes an hour or less, though it could vary from 10 minutes up to about 2 hours.  It depends heavily on how many players are involved, their experience level, and the number of complicated mechanics (Unique Treasures, combat) that take time to sort out. Larger games could take most of an afternoon or evening. Huge campaign games, where gold is spent along the way to acquire new ships and crew, are potentially infinite in length. The longest campaign games I’ve played took 3-6 months to conclude, but they’re usually the most fun. (VASSAL Campaign Game 1, VASSAL Campaign Game 3Command the Oceans)

Rating: 4/10 (based on an average 40 point game)

Replayability

As said previously, this game has so many options for ships and crew that you’ll never run out of fleets to make. In addition, you can set up the map any way you like, so even the “board” is completely customizable. Last but not least, there are a TON of scenarios, house rules, and custom rulesets created for this game, many of which can be found in the Files section. I’m at nearly 400 plays and I cannot envision ever getting tired of it.

Rating: 10/10

Extras

This game is amazing. It works well at any player level, since even the rules are incredibly customizable. It works well at any number of players – I’ve had a ton of fun playing by myself, and in larger groups. The historical connections are very fun (including a handful of historical ships and crew), and the flavor text was a great idea to give the game a story.

Finally, the collectible nature can be a good or bad thing. I’m in the middle on that aspect, but just the excitement of eBay auctions on rare pieces, one-of-a-kind prototypes, and “crazy collectors” on various forums can make the collecting experience fun. Also, this isn’t a game you need to spend much on to have a competitive fleet – oftentimes the commons are better in gameplay than the Limited and Special Edition items. Throw in a great VASSAL module (+ tutorial) and you even have the option of playing remotely against anyone in the world.

Rating: 10/10

Comparison

With a strong emphasis on the theme, an incredibly rich and diverse array of game pieces, the constructible aspect, and the stunningly massive customizability that can please any pirate, this game stands out from any competition. The artwork is top-notch, the miniatures are beautiful and creative, and the open world is truly inspiring. I cannot emphasize enough how much the customizable aspect helps this game. Non-gamers can play a game using the simple rules. Wargamers can incorporate the ships and even some of the rules into their massive global conquests. The game can be played on a small coffee table, multiple tables using round earth rules or whirlpools, or on a huge ocean in the VASSAL module. The 1,400+ fleets at Miniature Trading are just a taste of what’s possible when making the game a personal challenge to build the best or most creative fleets around.

Rating: 10/10

Pros: Theme, artwork, fun, complexity options, infinite possibilities, board game without a board

Cons: Luck-based, setup and cleanup time, games can take longer than expected

Overall

I’m as biased as it gets, but this is BY FAR the best game I’ve ever played and it’s a unique experience that has no equal.

Rating: 10/10

Pirates Life

arrrh

Want to buy Pirates CSG?

Click here to buy on eBay, which has the best selection for the game.  Hill’s Wholesale Gaming often has the best prices on packs, but not every set.  If you go the pack route, you can check out my Sets page for more information and ratings to help guide your decision.

Thanks for reading!  I hope you enjoyed my Pirates CSG Review and get Pirates CSG fever like I’ve had for many years now! (I got back into the game in 2011)  Feel free to leave comments below about your experience with this great game!