Beginner’s Guide to Pirates CSG

Beginner’s Guide to Pirates CSG

Beginner's guide to Pirates CSG

An epic game of Pirates in progress!

Welcome to the world of Pirates CSG!  Glad to have you aboard the ship!  😀

This might be a bit overwhelming at first, but it’s meant as a comprehensive Beginner’s guide to Pirates CSG for people who have just gotten started.


First off, introduce yourself!

Next, you’ll want the rules for the game. You likely received them in a pack or other purchase, but if not, here they are:
Start Here rules
Complete Game rules
Master Keyword List (very useful to have on hand since your copy of the Complete Game rules won’t have all the keywords in it)

-You’ll need a BoardGameGeek (BGG) account in order to download those Complete Game rules and the Master Keyword List, but we’d highly recommend signing up. BGG is a great website, and in terms of Pirates CSG it has a very unique files and pictures section not found anywhere else on the web.

-Alternatively, you can download my Basic Rules, which combine the Start Here and Complete Game rules into one document. However, keep in mind that I’ve made some edits to the rules to make the game more realistic and adding a few house rule tweaks. (House rules are custom rulings that players come up with based on playing preferences and other factors) If you use them, just make sure to tell anyone else that uses them that some stuff has been changed. That said, the changes are generally for the better, so have at it!  🙂

Sometimes the rules won’t cover how to deal with a situation when playing the game. In those cases, you’ll want to have these documents:
The Pirate Code (FAQ/Errata)
Reference Diagrams

-AFTER consulting the various rules documents, if you still don’t have an answer to your question, ask it in the Rules thread (where you can also clarify what violates the No-Duplicates rule and what doesn’t). Luckily for the community, Woelf, the former official Rules Arbitrator for Wizkids when the game was still in production, has remained active! If nobody else can answer your question, he will definitely be able to. (but he’s a very busy man, so give him time to answer!)

What to buy

Link to “Pirates CSG” general search on eBay + Wizkids Pirates packs

The cheapest set is Ocean’s Edge. This is a nice starter set between the cost, the diversity of game pieces it offers, and the fact that it has all of the “Big 6” factions.

The first five sets (Spanish Main, Crimson Coast, Revolution, Barbary Coast, and South China Seas) are the most historical, and many people agree that they are the highest quality sets as well, ranking high in various surveys and polls over the years. The sixth set, Davy Jones’ Curse, is where Wizkids began to experiment more with the supernatural with the introduction of the Cursed and sea creatures. The few sets that followed DJC (Mysterious Islands, Frozen North, and Ocean’s Edge) were a mix of historical stuff and plenty of fantasy/less historical stuff such as Vikings and submarines. There were a few design changes in the Pirates of the Caribbean set, where Wizkids partnered with Disney for a movie tie-in set (keep in mind this set only has the English and Pirate factions). The final 3 sets (Rise of the Fiends, Fire and Steel, and Savage Shores) were the most “out there”, with odd ship designs joining the sea creatures and ship speeds and point costs reaching a new low in the reverse power creep (in other words, as sets were released they became less and less competitive with the stuff from the older sets).

In general:
-The older the set, the more historical it is.
-The older the set, the “better” it is (in terms of gameplay).
(There are exceptions to these rules but this is a good guideline)

Hill’s Wholesale Gaming is a great place to buy packs, but eBay is better for specific game pieces, used lots, great deals, and finding rare stuff like 10 masters.  You can check out my eBay history guide to see what things have sold for at auction on eBay in the past.


So you’re ready to play the game! But where to start? You’ll need a fleet, and some kind of opponent to go up against (which can include yourself playing another fleet).

If you don’t know how to play, you can check out my simple tutorials on youtube:
How to play Pirates Constructible Strategy Game Part 1: Start Here rules tutorial

How to play Pirates Constructible Strategy Game Part 2: Complete Game rules tutorial

Since Pirates is such a wide-open and customizable game, there’s really not a definitive “fleet-making guide”. There are so many options that it would have to be an encyclopedia! 🙂  However, I made a page on my fansite that gives the general information that you’ll want to keep in mind.

You’ll probably want to start at a small build total, such as the standard 40 points, in order to get used to the gameplay mechanics and fleet construction strategy aspect. Over time, you may develop an affinity for a specific faction or handful of factions. My Sets and Factions pages can help you determine which sets to buy and which factions to try out, based on your preferences.

If you’re very unsure of how to make a fleet or want more guidance, there are 300+ 40 point fleets at Miniature Trading (MT) that you can try out!  The fleets section in general is a great resource.

When discussing gameplay on the various Pirates sites, there is a lot to know and learn. This page has an acronym list can help you navigate the waters. I’ve also compiled some tips for gameplay, and Cadet-Captain Mike’s page has a TON of great info.

Feel free to post what happens in your games in the Battle Reports thread. (a report does not have to be long or include pictures to be good)

What if I don’t have anyone to play with? What if I don’t have any Pirates stuff right now?

Guess what? You can play remotely with anyone in the world over an online server! Even if you don’t have any physical stuff!

VASSAL is an free, open source engine for running boardgames over an online server. Luckily for all of us, former MT member bj_o created a module for Pirates CSG! I made a few edits to the module in 2016, which you can find here: VASSAL module

That page has links to download the program and module, as well as a guide to getting started. In addition, I made a tutorial for how to use it.

The module has seen at least 23 players on it since it’s “rebirth” in early 2016. I’m on the module every week, and I’d love to have more opponents, especially for campaign games!


If you’re more of a collector, eBay is generally the best site for purchases. Check out this price history to see about what things are worth or have been going for recently.

You can also take advantage of Miniature Trading’s main purpose – trading miniatures! This page gives a nice overview of the site’s various features, including adding items to your haves and wants lists. Use the search for a miniature function to figure out what you have, don’t have, and want. The trading how-to guide is also quite useful. It’s often better to PM (private message) a user to ask them about a trade offer before sending it, but don’t hesitate to reach out to people either way!


Go forth and plunder, new pirate!  😀

After playing your first game, there is no limit to what you can accomplish. Try out a trade. Collect the rarest of the rare. Seek out admirals in other countries and challenge them to games on the VASSAL module.

For those who want to go deeper into these waters, boy do we have stuff for you!  😀

If you really want to “go down the rabbit hole”, there is an endless amount of content to dive into. Checking out Game Ideas would be a good start, not to mention the entire Thread of Threads. Beyond that, you can give up your soul.

Finally, Pirates with Ben might be the best site for Pirates CSG, but it’s not nearly the only one. Check out this page for a plethora of other options, many of which have unique features and community members. I am a member on all of them, so if you ever have a question, just ask.

Thank you for reading. Now go play!  😀

Ranking the Sets

Ranking the Sets

Here are my rankings based on godmason’s criteria, originally posted on Miniature Trading. However, I have some different opinions on how to apply the different categories, which you can tell from my comments. Also, I’m almost treating the Collectibility as /3 and Miscellaneous as /2 for the total of 5 for that score. This is partly to add extra points for overall set greatness, or “likeability”. (Also, I had a little too much fun bashing stuff in the “new content” section, so some of my comments there can be taken with a grain of salt haha)

Spanish Main
– 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!

Crimson Coast
– 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.

– Art: 5/5. Absolutely agree with godmason above – 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.

Barbary Coast 
– 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.

South China Seas
– 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.

Davy Jones’ Curse
– 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.

Mysterious Islands
– 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.

Frozen North
– 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.

Ocean’s Edge
– 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 last year.

– 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.

Rise of the Fiends
– 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.

Fire & Steel
– Art: 4/5. Plenty of variety and good designs, with some ugly ones as well. The named crew portraits seem below average.
– Set Quality: 2/5. The gold standard for mediocrity in Pirates. So much quantity, and so much of it boring and/or below average.
– New Content: 2/5. Another colossal failure that partly led to the game’s downfall. Giant flamethrowers and freaky blades that pop out from the sides of a hull. Not as bad as Scorpions, but two Pokeship designs instead of one is just sad. On the other hand, equipment would have been perfect to introduce early in the game, such as CC or RV. However, at least it was great when it arrived – lots of variety, mostly historical, and good point costs (once you see the errata). The 0-value gold coins are evil but funny.
– Collectability/Misc: 2/5. Somewhat fun to collect due to the sheer number of game pieces, including cool SE’s and LE’s. However, it’s a little TOO hard to collect – beyond the LE’s being pricey, you’ve got a Big 3 of very tough acquisitions – the Chum Maker, Raptor Maw, and the big one, the Obago Deuce (and I’m not even including the SiaB’s!). I would say this is the most boring set, so the intangibles are bad. It gets a 1/2 for Miscellaneous due to the Historical Pack and having just enough cool stuff to be worth investigating.
= Overall: 10/20. The most boring set in my opinion. I still enjoy all the sets, but I usually enjoy this one the least.

Savage Shores/Return to Savage Shores (latter not released but found here)
– 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. RtSS is sort of included since it’s so similar.

Best to Worst:
19/20: Crimson Coast
18/20: Spanish Main
18/20: South China Seas
17/20: Revolution
16/20: Barbary Coast
16/20: Savage Shores/Return to Savage Shores
14/20: Davy Jones’ Curse
12/20: Caribbean
12/20: Ocean’s Edge
11/20: Frozen North
11/20: Rise of the Fiends
10/20: Mysterious Islands
10/20: Fire and Steel

Compared to my original or “favorites” list, CC jumps to the top spot! As I expected the top 4 are all very close, with the “perfection” of CC and the flaws of RV narrowly keeping them from a 4-way tie. SS climbed ahead of DJC, while FN and MI dropped a bunch. Very interesting. It will be interesting to see how my favorites change over the years, and if I edit any of the ratings to reflect more comprehensive experience with the sets.



It has become a tradition to formulate all sorts of Rankings ideas over at Miniature Trading.  I started the original series, which reviewed my opinion on the top 5 or 10 gunships and gold runners for each of the factions.  Godmason has continued the series and we have many threads still to go!  Here you can find my ideas on the various factions and their best ships.  This is a good way to learn about the game, learn about the factions, and discover which ships you might be interested in acquiring to build your fleets and expand your collection.

Top 10 English Gunships 

1. HMS Titan

This ship is the first gunship to ever be gifted with amazing guns and the built-in EA roll. Back in the old days before the 2 action limit rule was instituted, players everywhere loaded the Titan up with crew like Myngs and gave their ship enough extra actions to clear the board in one turn. Even today you’ll occasionally see newbies posting fleets claiming to be able to eliminate upwards of 20 masts in one turn using old-school combos. Very Happy Although the Titan has serious competition now that all the sets are out, she still remains one of the most formidable foes you can face in this game. A large cargo space, average base move, and fair point cost make her the quintessential gunship.

2. HMS Grand Temple

One of the most undercosted ships in the game, the English version of the original GT just missed out on the #1 spot. I felt that the Titan’s 2 extra cargo spaces gave her more flexibility in terms of crew and potential treasure running/stealing, and the EA is worth more than allowing Pirate crew aboard. Although, since Pirate crew can be used on the HMS GT, undercosted crew such as Calico Cat can come aboard and give the GT an EA at a discount.

That being said, the Grand Temple combines above average size with above average speed (for her size, anyway), not to mention her near-perfect guns. I myself have used her extensively, and I can say that she is one of the best gunships in the game, regardless of nationality.

3. HMS Endeavour

Combining theoretically perfect guns with the most potent offensive ability in the game, this beast is probably the most powerful five master ever. Put a world-hater on board and you’ve got a chance to take out up to 10 masts in one turn if you can find enough targets. The only things that hold this ship back from taking the #1 spot are her high point cost (tough to use in the standard 40 point format) and her average speed and cargo space. In addition, many players may be expecting her to be used a lot, so make sure to have a counter for ships with this ability.

4. HMS London

Not only does the London combine great cannons with good speed, she only costs 11 points, less than most other large English gunships. She’s not as flashy as some of her counterparts, but 16 points (with a captain and helmsman) gets you a very nice package. Her ability doesn’t help her too much, but perhaps it’s all for the better since it keeps her point cost low.

5. HMS Gallows

This ship is expensive and a bit slow at 16 points, but having 4 1L cannons before adding any crew is the best a gunship can ever do. Her firepower is simply too good to be ignored. In addition, her large cargo hold allows you to pack on deadly crew and equipment, or potentially use her as a treasure raider and/or hybrid ship.

6. HMS Oxford

Similar to the London but with a higher point cost and slightly less effective guns, the Oxford can fly under the radar by playing second fiddle to ships like the Titan and Endeavour. Her speed sets her apart; no other English gunship as large can boast such a high base move, outside of HMS Swallow. With just a captain aboard she’s ready to go at 15 points. Again, like the Gallows, her extra cargo spaces can be utilized to run gold or try to steal it via boarding. Her ability is just gravy after how good the rest of the ship is.

7. HMS Bolingbroke

This one is a little bit sentimental, but I’ve always thought the Bolingbroke to be one of the most underrated ships in the game. The cheapest ship on this list, the Bolingbroke is very much like a smaller version of the London, combining S+S speed with good cannons. Released in the first set, her speed made her “fast” in those days. Cool Her ability is often cited as a good one to use behind a larger ship, but it’s very flexible in that it can be used at any point in the game.

8. HMS Royal

This might be a surprise to some, however the impact of a world-hater on guns that are already good is understated. Raw firepower wins battles more than flashy ships and expensive crew. The Royal combines great firepower with enough cargo space to add another crew or equipment after the standard captain and helmsman (or Hermione Gold).

9. Gibraltar

Not exactly a ship, I first had doubts about putting this on the list. However, this is by far the cheapest bunch of guns you can buy in England. It would be considered even they didn’t have great ranks (2) and ranges (S+S). Hook this up to a ship like the Oxford and you’ll be almost unstoppable. Always remember that not only can your opponent only cancel your ship’s captain, but the Extended Range keyword can let you snipe away from outside S range, not to mention the fact the the flotilla’s shoot action can’t be cancelled, making her perfect against ships with cancellers. I prefer the Gibraltar over the Tower because of the gun ranks and lower point cost, but Tower isn’t far behind at all.

10. HMS Apollo

This was the hardest choice to make – HMS Victoria would probably be #11. You can see my honorable mentions below, but the last spot will always be a tough one. I went with the Apollo over the Victoria for a number of reasons. The Apollo has a faster base move, and her guns are a mix of S and L, which can be crucial if facing the wrong opponent. However, the Apollo’s reroll gave her the advantage over the Victoria and the other version of HMS Apollo. Faction-haters are too situational, while the reroll can be used over and over for a multitude of things.

Honorable mentions (not in order): HMS VictoriaTowerHMS HyenaHMS VictorCygnetHMS DurhamHMS BretwaldaHMS NautilusHMS SwallowHMS LeicesterHMS Lord WalpoleHMS WycliffeHMS Apollo


Top 10 English Treasure Runners

1. Aberdeen Baron

One of the only 5 masters in the game that’s viable as a treasure runner, the Aberdeen Baron has been a staple in my English fleets. The built-in explorer ability makes her fantastic. Some will disagree with her placement here because she’s not dirt-cheap and only has S+S speed. However, for 14 points (with a helmsman) you have an extremely durable runner sailing at S+S+S with room for 4 coins. Having extra masts that can be taken down is invaluable because it allows her to get home without sinking. Only 1 or 2 hits are required to dismast and therefore stop a lot of the best treasure runners in this game. The Baron is a very unique ship that deserves recognition for her greatness.

2. HMS Lady Provost

This one is expensive but worth it. The Provost combines speed (S+L) with a huge cargo hold (6 spaces!). She would be #2 on this list even without the HI-raiding ability, which is perfect for a gold runner like this one. That ability makes her contend for the #1 spot, but I had to choose 5 masts for 12 points rather than 2 masts for 13 points.

This ship only needs an explorer to get started, which ties the Baron at 14 points overall. Add a helmsman for S+L+S speed. Just be careful with the Provost because you don’t want your rather pricy investment to get hit.

3. HMS Hound

Here’s a more typical runner of which England has very few. Simple but effective, the Hound combines adequate speed with adequate cargo space. Plop an explorer on her and she comes in at 8 points. I gave her a slight edge over the next ship because she’s a point cheaper and has a more useful ability. Her ability may not help her directly, but it can help out the rest of your fleet in numerous ways.

4. HMS Alexander

Very similar to the Hound but a point more expensive. Between her guns and ability she’s more capable of putting up a fight, but any fleet (especially an English one) had better not be using her for combat.

5. HMS Cumberland

One of the cheapest ships in the English navy. This ship really needs a helmsman to move quickly enough, but for 7 points L+S movement with 3 spaces available is a great deal. Adding an explorer brings it to 8 points but then you’ll only have room for two treasures. In addition, this little pest has fantastic cannons, which makes her the perfect ship on which to put a captain and a helmsman and become an effective support gunship. In that scenario she would still have two spaces available, perfect for stealing gold from enemy runners. Overall a very versatile ship.

6. HMS Dover

The Dover isn’t always a treasure runner due to her large size and serviceable guns. However, in England’s fleet she fits better as a gold ship because they have so many better fighting options. She can also be used to do both. For 13 points (with a helmsman and explorer), the Dover moves S+S+S with 3 spaces available for gold. She is similar to the Aberdeen Baron when crewed with at least an explorer. Again, durability is an underrated aspect of running gold.

7. HMS Trepassey

It should say “+S” to her base move, but even with L+S+S speed on the way out this ship is one of the fastest the English have. Unfortunately this means she can’t carry an explorer, but 7 points is still a nice price for being able to move L+S+S to an island, take the best three treasures, and sail back at L+S.

8. HMS Gibraltar

This ship completes the trio of English two masters from CC. The Gibraltar isn’t the worst of the three – you could make a case that she’s the best! However, for strictly treasure running she loses a few points for being expensive and having less cargo space than the other two. This is one of the more versatile ships England has. Send her out with an explorer and she’ll be able to grab a few coins at S+S+S speed, or she can raid an enemy HI when they least expect it. It’s also feasible to send her out with a captain and use her effective guns to support your main gunship and/or raid enemy gold runners and use her two spaces to steal gold from them.

9. Honu Iki

This ship has everything going in it’s favour. Good speed, a lot of cargo space, a decent ability, a nice gun, and Super Rare status. This ship isn’t one of the very best, but she gets the job done. I would recommend either a helmsman or explorer, or possibly both depending on your preferences.

10. Sea Tiger/HMS Antelope

I put these two together since they’re so similar. I have both and they’re effective for their point cost. Both have no ability, so it’s up to you if you want to pay the extra point to get the extra speed and slightly more maneuverability.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order): Edinburgh TraderHMS HyenaBilgeHMS GalwayHMS HermesHMS Sea PhoenixHMS SnipeSt. GeorgeHMS BathHMS Half MoonHMS StarbuckHMS DiscoveryHMS GreyhoundHMS YardbirdHMS OxfordHMS SwallowHMS CheshireHMS Prince of ChichesterHMS RyeHMS PatagoniaHMS King EdwardMetal DragonHMS SwiftsureHMS DurhamMaui’s Fishhook

This was actually harder than ranking the gunships; some of these rankings could easily be changed a bit. In addition, some of the honorable mentions just barely missed the cut.


Top 10 French Gunships 

1. Le Soleil Royal

The Soleil Royal is a near-perfect ship. She gets the #1 spot because she gives you great bang for your buck. There are a few flashier ships, but the Soleil Royal combines a great point cost with good guns and a great ability. Her speed is the only thing that leaves something to be desired; however with 5 cargo spaces there is plenty of room to add a helmsman and potentially a sac captain and some oarsman. On top of everything else she’s one of the most beautiful ships in the game, like many of the other French ships.

2. Le Bonaparte

I’d like to put some more five masters above this ship, but there’s no denying her from taking the #2 spot. I know that some would rank her #1. However, I feel that her guns and high point cost (and to a degree her 3 cargo spaces) hold her back a bit. Although her ability makes her incredibly difficult to take out, her firepower is a bit lacking. The Soleil Royal costs 16 points even AFTER you add a captain.

That being said, this might be the “best of the pests”. Ships with this ability are just so annoying. Back before “reverse pinning” was banned this ship was nigh unbeatable. Even today she remains one of the best ships in the game.

3. La Delacroix

Often overlooked because of being from FN, this ship is a beast. Great guns, good speed, and a very nice ability that makes her versatile and maneuverable. Her point cost is high and her cargo hold is small, but this ship just beats out a few of the other five masters on this list.

4. Le Superbe

The other French five master from RV, Le Superbe has everything you want in a gunship. The only thing that holds her back a little bit are the fact that all of her guns are L-range. In addition, I felt that the reverse captain ability of the Delacroix was more valuable than the Superbe’s ability. However, they can both be very useful and it depends on the situation.

5. Le Gaule

Another beautiful five master, Le Gaule is one of the best close-quarters brawlers in the game. She’s expensive but quite powerful. The only thing that holds this ship back are that both her guns and ability only work within S, putting her at a disadvantage when facing ships like the Bonaparte or ships with cancellers.

6. Le Dauphin Royal

Another powerful five master with fantastic guns and a nice point cost. This one’s not as flashy as her sister ships but gets the job done. This ship is the only one of the original three French five masters (from CC) to make the top 10; the other two were considered heavily and are listed as honorable mentions.

Also, I felt it was easier to group all of the five masters together at the top since they have more firepower than the following three masters.

7. La Lyon

There are some who will disagree that this ship is above the next two. However, nothing is better to have in a gunship than all rank-1 guns! I’ve recently acquired this ship and I’m pretty sure the mainmast should be listed as a 2L gun, not 3L. The Lyon is simple but extremely effective.

8. La Belle Etoile

This is a really fantastic ship. This is one of those ships that’s just PACKED. By that I mean that she is just great in every way. Fast, capacious, and well-armed, with a high enough point cost to add essential crew like Barbinais in order to eliminate as much enemy cargo as possible. She can also be used to run treasure or steal it. The only thing that holds her back are her guns, serviceable but not optimal for a ship with such an ability.

9. La Bonne Chance

This thing is the most simple gunship ever created! Put a captain on and you’re good. Her speed and ability are fantastic complements, and having just one cargo space may actually be better since it makes your job as fleet-builder incredibly easy. Great value for 13 total points.

10. Mont Blanc

I’d love to award the last spot to a ship, but I really value flotillas as a great and cheap way to boost your firepower. This isn’t the best flotilla in the game but it is the only French one. Hook it up to the Bonne Chance and you’ll have 7 effective guns (with 4 of them at S+S range) flying around at S+S+S speed for only 22 points! If you don’t use/don’t like flotillas, a lot of the larger ships in the honorable mentions list could easily be swapped for this one.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order): La Ville de ParisLa MagnifiqueLa CharlemangeLa CorseL’EspadonLe DeschargesL’HerosMonaqueMorning StarNeptuneLa PossessionL’Ange de la MerLa GauleL’AubeLe PlutonL’HerculeSaberConquerantLa MartiniqueLa RepubliqueLa ProvenceLe MercureLe Duc d’EnghienLa VersaillesLe RepublicainLe Lache du CalvadosLa FeliciteLe CourageuxLe Coeur de LionLa Vengeance


Top 10 French Treasure Runners

1. Le Bon Marin

This is the most perfect “as-is” treasure runner in the game. Cheap, fast, lots of cargo, built-in explorer. Need I say more?

2. Libellule

This ship has the durability of a two master, but because of that negative ability her point cost is about what a two master might be. Her somewhat obscene cargo hold is only augmented by her fast base move. Easily one of the best ships in Savage Shores.

3. L’Intrepide

One of the original French ships, this is one of the very best deals in the game. She is just fantastic. Most players either use her as some kind of treasure ship or a place to put their 0LR +5 crew/etc., but it’s even feasible to use her as a gunship. I think of her as the French answer to HMS Cumberland, which is from the same set.

4. Le Pique

This ship has been a staple of French fleets since she came out. Some use her as a sniper gunship (potentially with shot equipment), but since she’s so fragile I think she’s better as a gold runner. If you add an explorer she’ll only have two spaces for gold, but you’re still only spending 6 points and she’s got S+S+S speed. Another great value for your points.

5. L’Artesien

I personally like this ship better than Le Pique, but I felt that one extra cargo space isn’t worth paying 3 extra points. The Artesien does have a more treasure-oriented ability, but it’s not particularly good. She’d be better off with no ability or an ability that lets her randomly take one treasure from any ship she touches. Either way, still a great ship!

6. Le Triton

This is the most durable ship on the list so far, which makes a sizable difference in my book. The Triton is very simple – just crew her with some combination of helmsman/explorer and she’ll be set to go. Her guns are serviceable, making her a good hybrid ship.

7. La Vengeance

The Vengeance could be considered a larger and more expensive version of the Triton. Her extra firepower (and bonus against English ships) makes her even more viable for use as a hybrid, but with only an explorer she makes for a good gold runner as well. Even without a captain this ship should be able to easily settle most disputes over gold by ramming and boarding smaller enemy runners and taking their gold and potentially dismasting them.

8. La Dijon

This is your quintessential bread-and-butter treasure runner. (That sentence sounds strange lol) The Dijon has it all – nice cargo, good speed and even an ability that’s perfect for a gold runner.

9. Le Favori

This one is similar to the HMS Lady Provost, trading the HI-raider ability for a defensive one and losing a cargo space. Her ability is what sets her apart (and makes her expensive), giving her an advantage over other small ships, although she’s still vulnerable to ramming. The Favori has performed admirably in my games and is a little bit underrated because the top 5 ships on this list steal thunder from other ships.

10. Le Courageux

I’ve had two copies of this ship for a long time and never could understand all the hype. However, she is quite good. She is a uniquely gifted hybrid ship, with enough cargo to run gold and fight and an ability that suits both, especially given her small size. This ship just beat out the Amazone and Belle Poule.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order): L’AmazoneLa Belle PouleSt. JoanLa FureurLe Coeur de LionJeuxLezardEast WindSea PhoenixL’AfriqueLe MercureL’EroicaLe RochefortMarianneLe DeschargesLe Petit DauphinLa Belle EtoileLe LyonL’ArgusL’HerosLa Geographe


Top 10 Spanish Gunships

Original thread

My revised list:

I’m still massively in favor of getting the best cannon ranks possible, but I realize that my original list here might be a bit wrong. That said, I have not been playing as much this year. Honestly, some typical performances by similar or the same ships (typical luck for me meaning going 0/5 with rank-3 cannons and 4/4 with rank-1 cannons, for example) in the near future could upend this list again and make me change it back. XD It is still open to revision, but for now I have some changes:

1. San Cristobal / San Cristobal 
2. El Acorazado 
3. Santa Ana 
4. La Resolucion 
5. Asesino de la Nave 
6. La Tartessos 
7. El Algeciras 
8. El Monte Cristo 
9. El Cristal del Obispo 
10. Armada / Diablo 

Very close to being in the top 10: Santo ColumbaEl LeonLa SirvienteEl Alma

Other honorable mentions (in no particular order): Virtuous WindLa CordobaLa ReconquistadorEl PasoEl ToroGranadaEl MontenezEl NeptunoEl San FranciscoEl San SalvadorLa Catedral del MarSantos RomanosEl RosalLa EbroEl ExtremaduraEl VillalobosLa CazadoraEl AlgecirasEl Príncipe de AsturiasLa HabanaSanta LuciaEl Corazon del MarEl DuqueEl GaranteEl TiradorL’AguilaLa ResolucionValeroso


Top 10 Spanish Treasure Runners

1. La Monarca

This is one of the most classic gold runners in the game, combining great speed and cargo space with a gold runner friendly ability. Her point cost is relatively fair, making her fantastic but not outright broken.

2. La Santa Isabel

The Santa Isabel is one of Spain’s best all-around ships. Her speed, cargo space and extremely valuable +2 ability make her better suited to treasure running. Her guns are serviceable, however, so put a captain and explorer on her and she’ll be a perfect hybrid ship.

3. La Joya del Sol

With the biggest non-10 master cargo hold in the game, the Joya del Sol has appeared in countless fleets since the very beginning of the game. Her speed and guns leave a bit to be desired, but 8 cargo spaces is ridiculous. With as many as 6 spaces available for gold even after adding a helmsman and explorer, the Joya can easily hit at least two wild islands per trip. In addition, her size and boarding ability make her ideal for fending off attacks, not to mention attacking enemy treasure runners and stealing their gold.

4. El Alquimista/San Pedro

These ships are almost exactly the same. The junior version of the Santa Isabel, both of these ships are ideal for grabbing gold. With an explorer they’ll have 3 spaces left over, and even with a captain (since they’re medium size and have decent guns) they’ll have 2. Great ships in every way.

5. El San Jose

Rounding out the three super-ships from RV, this Spaniard is your typical gold runner. Her trading treasure ability helps her avoid negative UT’s and makes her even more perfect for the role of gathering gold.

6. Native Canoes

These could be ranked higher although I feel that their fragility and relatively low speed hold them back a little bit. They are a great addition to any Spanish fleet and the +1 ability (up to +5) makes them one of Spain’s best options for treasure.

7. Morning Star

I wasn’t going to include this ship at first, but her durability and very low point cost (cheapest 5 master in the game) give her the advantage. With a helmsman and explorer she’ll cost 12 points and be moving S+S+S with room for 4 coins, comparable to the Aberdeen Baron.

8. Buscador

This is one of those rare Hoist ships. All of them are quite interesting, to say the least. This is the cheapest one, but she still has 7 cargo spaces! Even with 6 after adding a helmsman, this ship is a wonderful option for the Spanish to have. Her second ability isn’t likely to be used much, but it could help her in a pinch.

9. La Santa Ana

This ship would be famous if not for the Joya del Sol. Alas, nobody really ever uses her. This is one of the best large treasure runners out there.

10. El San Francisco

This was a tough fight for the last spot (see my other picks below). In the end I went with the middle option. The San Francisco is a great overall ship whether you put a captain, helmsman, explorer, or any combination of the three on board. One of my favorite Spanish ships.

Very close to being in the top 10: Virtuous WindLa Rosario

Other honorable mentions (in no particular order): FrancescaSanta LuciaLa Espada de DiosEl CervantesEl Martillo de DiosEl RatonEl HambreLa ManilaLa SaragozaSan TheodoraEl AfortunadoEl AlgecirasSan LeandroCazador del PirataL’AguilaPescados de PlataConcepcionMagdalenaSan CristobalSan CristobalIntermediaroValeroso


Top 10 Pirate Gunships

1. Zeus

Sometimes I forget about the Zeus since I don’t own her yet, with my biggest Pirate ships being the five masters. She is something to behold, and although I don’t generally think ten masters are worth paying for, the Zeus is the cheapest of the bunch. Her guns leave something to be desired – I would highly suggest using Bruce Grey since the more cannons a ship has, the more value you get out of improving each and every one of them. With Bruce Grey and the standard captain and helmsman, this ship will be dominant. She is viable in 40 point games, and her ability and huge size makes her perfect for stealing lots of gold from your opponent’s poor treasure runners.

After the Zeus, things get a lot harder in a hurry. The next 6 or so spots could easily be changed around.

2. Black Pearl

For some reason I always underrate this ship, so I was surprised to rank it this high. This is the best version of the Black Pearl. Her ability is key, allowing her to move L+S+S with a captain and helmsman with 2L, 1L, 1L, 2L guns. This is a great package.

3. Revenant

This is the original Pirate flagship! The Revenant is and will always be a classic. I find her ability to be a bit more practical than the Harbinger’s. This is one of the only Pirate ships with 4 or more masts to have unmodified rank-2 guns.

4. Harbinger/Harbinger

These two are the same ship thematically and similar in gameplay, so I’m combining them to make room for another ship in the top 10. The derelict ability is powerful, but the problem is twofold in a game, especially a smaller game. The Harbinger will be transported away from where the action was, so depending on the situation, you may not want to use the ability. In addition, the odds of repairing the captured ship and actually using it effectively against your opponent in the same game are relatively small, especially in smaller/faster games. The Harbinger will have to dismast an enemy ship and capture her very early on in the game. That being said, you can’t go wrong with either of these gunships.

5. La Victoire

This ship loses out to the above ships because her cannons are a bit less accurate. However, the Victoire is one of my favorite new ships and one of the most unique ships in the game. You can use French crew on the Victoire, and she’s got 6 cargo spaces! This makes her ideal for leaving some spaces open to run gold and/or steal it. Her point cost is great and probably even a little too low, making this ship a great option. She looks black in the picture but is actually a very dark purple, making her even more unique!

6. Black Pearl (damaged)

Here’s another version of the Black Pearl, trading speed and point cost for a nice ability and S-range guns. Her ability makes her ideal for packing crew aboard, and this is a gunship to be reckoned with.

7. Darkhawk II

This ship is legendary. She has more cargo spaces than most ten masters and almost as many cargo spaces as points! On top of everything else, she makes for a great gunship. If you want to go overboard you can use tailor-made Jonah to turn this ship into a monster. Easily one of the best ships in the game. I remember CC Mike saying that he thought this was the best ship in Pirates. In addition, possibly the best overall hybrid ship.

8. Deliverance

I have a soft spot for the original Deliverance (listed below as an honorable mention), but this is the better ship. The Deliverance is the fastest Pirate five master, making her intriguing right off the bat. She would be ranked higher on this list if she wasn’t lackluster in other areas. If you’re looking for a very large gunship that’s also very fast, this is the best the Pirates have got.

9. Windjammer

This is one of the best 3 masted gunships in the game, with great speed, solid cannons, and a nice ability, all for just 9 points! If you haven’t used the Windjammer I would highly recommend doing so. For more details check out my review of her.

10. Recreant

This was a tossup. Any of the ships in the “almost” list can be subbed in for the Recreant, but I felt that she deserves more recognition than she’s gotten so far. The Pirates have a plethora of awesome 3 masted gunships (see below for more), and the Recreant is one of the best. For 14 points she’ll move L+S with the move-and-shoot and built-in crew-killing.

Very close to being in the top 10 (in no particular order): Empress/EmpressMorning StarEagleSelkieDiamond StrikeBlack SwanGolden MedusaAccusedDoomboxOphidious

Other honorable mentions (in no particular order): Black PearlFlying Dutchman/Flying DutchmanKray-kinThe KrakenRevengeFreedom’s HandMinervaSplinterWidowmakerAngelicaDeliveranceRaninoideaLa Morte de YarboroughRavenRoyal JamesTreasureWhite RoseDevil’s PayEl TejonXiamen’s ClawsCutlassExecutionerPandaPrideRed CurseGreed’s HammerSister’s RageCarrion CrowEl BallistaEl LadronLongshanksRaven’s NeckSea NymphFool’s Hope/Fool’s HopeLady’s ScornAkua LapuBruja


Top 10 Pirate Gold Runners

1. Banshee’s Cry

Widely considered to be the best ship in the game. Also the most undercosted ship in the game. Only 4 points (with an explorer) gives you L+L movement with room for three coins. Have you heard enough about this ship yet?

2. Darkhawk II

Depending on your preferences for large vs. small treasure runners, this ship could be moved down to #6 since the following four ships are all quite similar. However, the Darkhawk deserves recognition as one of the best ships in the game and quite possibly the best ship overall, because unlike the Cry she can put up a good fight. Even after you add a captain, helsmman, and explorer you’ll have 5 cargo spaces available.

The following four ships are all quite similar and therefore can be interchanged. I ranked them as follows based on their total point cost. All four are incredibly popular and make the Pirates the best faction in the game.

3. Bloody Jewel

9 points (with helmsman + explorer): S+L+S speed with 3 spaces.

4. Bonnie Liz

11 points (with helmsman + explorer): S+L+S speed with 3 spaces.

5. Star of Siam

9 points (with explorer): S+S+S speed with 3 spaces.

6. Raven

11 points (with explorer): S+S+S speed with 3 spaces.

7. Neptune’s Hoard

This is the flagship of the old Norvegia setup with crew like Don Pedro Gilbert. Even after the ruling on gold was changed the Hoard remains one of the best ships ever. She’s even got serviceable guns to use if you wanted to make her a hybrid ship.

8. Hai Peng

This is the fastest ship in the game when you add a captain and helmsman (S+L+L+S). If you add a crew like Captain Jack Sparrow you can save a cargo space (you can also use Hammersmith to combine abilities). Using Captain Jack also opens up possibilities for crazy fleets like this one. This is one of the most interesting ships in the game.

9. Coral

This is one of my oldest ships and one of the best one masters. It would be nice if she had one more cargo space, but even with an explorer she has two spaces available for gold, which isn’t bad when you consider that the other coin or two on the island is probably a 1 or 2 since you’ll take the highest value coins. She is vulnerable to ramming, but her ability makes her tougher than most one masters, not to mention the fact that her 2L cannon could come in handy. A very good ship overall.

10. Amity

For the last spot I chose one of the only three masters in the game with S+S+S speed. She’s a bit pricier than most of the other ships on the list, but her speed and ability make her very evasive and difficult to stop.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order): BarnacleDragonGrand BarnacleJolly MonParadoxSongSwiftForesightMysticSea CraneAdventureCassandraEagleLa VictoireMermaidRoverWhite RoseShamrockCursed BladeHades’ FlameLightningBandidoBlack HeartGale Force NineLongshanksPandoraRaven’s NeckShadowAkua LapuCannibal King


Top 10 American Gunships

1. Enterprise

After putting the HMS Titan #1 on my list of English gunships, it should come as no surprise to see the Enterprise atop this list. The Enterprise was actually the second five master I ever got, so naturally she’s seen a ton of usage. In fact, her masts have been taken out and replaced so many times that they’re looser than most other ships.

2. Blackwatch

I’ve said this already, but there’s nothing like having a world-hater on a ship with great cannons. The Blackwatch has firepower that is almost unrivalled by any other ship.

3. USS Kettering

This ship is one of the coolest ships in the entire game. She already has good speed, so you don’t need a helmsman like you do with most other gunships. The Longship keyword doubles her firepower to six shots per turn. The built-in canceller is what puts this ship over the top – just about the best and most flexible ability in the game.

4. Ghost Walker

See the Kettering above. The Ghost Walker doesn’t have quite the firepower, but the Ghost Walker is still a ship to be very concerned about.

5. Franklin

This is another legendary ship that has sent countless vessels to the bottom of the sea. Equip her with a captain and helmsman and you’ll have 4 1S guns sailing at S+S+S speed.

6. Constitution

Since the two versions of this ship are so different I’ve ranked them separately. This one isn’t as playable as the OE version, but as with El Acorazado there is not really another gunship in this game that can beat a ship like the Constitution in one-on-one action.

7. USS Thomas Jefferson

This five master is an absolute beast with all 2S guns and five cargo spaces to fill up. The S-boarding ability makes her even more deadly. I also find her to be one of the coolest looking five masters.

8. USS Mercury

This is the best 3 masted submarine in the game. The Mercury combines the best guns money can buy with a nice defensive ability. If this wasn’t a submarine it wouldn’t be on the list, but subs are notoriously difficult to stop and this one is exceptionally good where others are not.

9. USS Constitution/Bonhomme Richard

Since these are so similar and I did separate rankings for the Constitution, these two are ranked together. The Richard gives you slightly better speed but slightly worse firepower. If you know what faction you’ll be facing it will make your decision easier.

10. USS Stephens

The Stephens is the only ship in the game with both the captain and reverse captain abilities. This makes her the only ship that’s viable to use as a gunship with no crew whatsoever. She is slow and expensive, however, so to maximize your investment I would suggest a helmsman and a world-hater. Her rather average guns keep her from moving higher on this list.

Very close to being in the top 10 (in no particular order): IntrepidMohicanUSS AlbanyUSS EaganIndependence

Other honorable mentions (in no particular order): USS ConcordiaUSS Morning StarSea SerpentUSS DenverUSS SeattleConcordHorizonPresidentProvidenceHessianPaul RevereUSS AtlantaUSS MarylandUSS SiouxUSS QuigleyChesapeakeJarvisJulius CaesarLouisianaPeacockSaratogaUSS EmeraldUSS HudsonUSS MontezumaUSS OvertonMinuteman


Top 10 American Gold Runners

1. Frontier

I have used the Frontier on many occasions, and she is just fantastic. Decent speed, HUGE cargo, Hoist ability. She is expensive, but in this case the high point cost is justified.

2. Native Canoes

Native Canoes are generally some of the best treasure runners available to any faction, but for the Americans they are a life saver.

These canoes are unique because they’re faster than the Spanish and Cursed canoes. They also have that treasure ability, which lets you create fun fleets like this one.

3. Providence

This ship could be ranked a bit lower, but her size and gun ranks give her a nice bite. With an explorer she’ll have room for 4 coins at 13 points.

4. USS James Madison

This is a fantastic ship that I’ve finally acquired. Very underrated ship, with an explorer you’ll have 3 cargo spaces left over for gold that you can spot with her nice ability. Again, 3 masts is a nice bonus for a very fairly-priced gold runner.

Each of the next three are pretty equal in my opinion, I just ranked them this way based on their durability.

5. Carolina

This one is a nice option to have at just 7 points. With a helmsman or explorer she’ll make for a decent treasure runner.

6. Rattlesnake

The Rattlesnake is slow but very cheap. With a helmsman and explorer she’ll be going L+S with room for 3 coins for 8 points total, a great deal for a faction like the Americans.

7. USS Annapolis

This one just needs a helmsman and she’ll be ready to go. Her built-in explorer saves a valuable cargo space, but one mast is always a gamble in terms of fragility.

8. Nene-nui

This one is similar to the James Madison but she’s pretty expensive to use only as a treasure runner. If not for Savage Shores the Americans would really be lacking for gold runners.

9. Lynx

This is another ship that runs out at S+S+S, grabs 3 coins, and comes back at S+S.

10. Roanoke

This is one of those ships that you don’t know which crew to put on her. A simple setup with a captain, helmsman, and explorer would work great. Either way you’re going to end up spending a lot of points on the Roanoke. Her access to Pirate crew makes things even more interesting because they have so many great named crew and the Americans have a relative lack of great named crew. Her cargo hold is big enough that you could even use the old Norvegia setup with Gilbert! Depending on how you crew her, the Roanoke could potentially move up a few spots on this list.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order): PawtucketUSS Morning StarHessianLouisianaHarlequinSpeedy ReturnArgo


Top 10 Cursed Gunships

1. Grinder

This ship is so much better than almost every other Cursed ship it’s not even funny. Fast, great guns, nice point cost, not to mention some relatively useful abilities. This ship gets the job done and can even be used as a hybrid ship since the Cursed have so few good options for getting gold.

2. Executioner

This is another rare Cursed ship with S+L speed. As long as your captain isn’t cancelled her guns improve to rank 2’s. It would’ve been nice if Fear was left out to lower the cost a few points, but this is still one of the best Cursed ships either way.

3. Grim Reaper

This ship is very underrated and effective. Essentially a poor man’s version of the Grinder, the Grim Reaper can still do serious damage for a low point cost. In addition her boarding bonus makes her more relevant against larger ships she’ll go up against.

After those three ships, things get more difficult because the ships have either worse cannon ranks and/or much slower speeds. Therefore it became harder to rank the ships for the rest of the top 10.

4. Divine Dragon

The Divine Dragon is a classic, the only Cursed 6 masted junk and the only non-Jade 6 master outside of the HMS Grand Temple. She has been very involved in a lot of big and fun games, most notably the first 500 point game I played. Her guns really need the extra boost to become effective, and although they still aren’t spectacular, it helps that there are so many of them, not to mention the Junk keyword. Her speed sets her apart from some of the following ships.

5. Loki’s Revenge

This ship is crazy! I must admit some bias here because as of now the Loki’s Revenge is one of my favourite ships. A captain and helmsman brings the total point cost to 20, and an additional 3 oarsmen for the sac ability brings it to 23. However, you’re guaranteed to move S+S+S+S and rip off a full dozen shots at 2L! ShockedNow you can see why I wanted this ship so badly. I also must say that she is one of the coolest-looking ships in the game. Finally, if I had to pick a favourite flavour text for a game piece, I think it would be this ship.

The Loki’s Revenge spews fire like some kind of deranged god, an ability that science has yet to explain.

Laughing Cool

6. Flying Dutchman

This is essentially a 22 point ship once you add the necessary captain and helmsman. That’s a high price to pay for a ship that’s still moving pretty slow with a relatively bad ability. The Dutchman is habitually overrated by newer players and I must say somewhat underrated by more veteran players (I have to admit that I almost left her off the list entirely!). At the end of the day you’re still getting a large dangerous ship with very effective guns. If you think about the total point cost, gun ranks and speed she’s actually quite similar to the Loki’s Revenge. However, the sac ability is so much better than BA that it overrides the Loki’s weakness of only having three masts.

7. Baba Yaga

Another less flashy Cursed longship, the Baba Yaga is effectively able to shoot 2S guns six times per turn. Once again you’ll be paying a lot for it because this will run you at least 20 points. The Baba Yaga is just one of those gunships that’s simple but effective.

I found it hard to determine where to rank the next three “ships” because they’re unique in all sorts of ways and it’s easier to rank the ships one after another.

8. Behemoth

The only “ship” in the game with the copy ability. Behemoth is just that, a true behemoth on the high seas. Copying a captain is the obvious choice, but all kinds of fun combos could be available, especially in a large or multiplayer game. Definitely one of the best sea monsters.

9. Calim

Calim is one of the fastest monsters in the game. When combined with her ability and the fact that the enemy ship will be pinned after the ram, Calim can become quite a nuisance to your opponents. Her gun ranks are worse than Behemoth’s and it’s much harder to give her the ability to move and shoot, but Calim is a large threat (literally) in any game.

10. Death’s Anchor

This should probably be ranked higher, however I wanted the spotlight on the actual ships as much as possible. This flotilla has better gun ranks than the other one (listed below) and is a very effective firepower boost to any Cursed fleet. Fast ships like the Grinder and Executioner are especially useful for towing the Death’s Anchor, but I’ve also employed the Fallen Angel (listed below).

Very close to being in the top 10: BrachyuraGuichuanHellfireLast HopeMonkey’s Paw

Other honorable mentions (in no particular order): Mourning StarRaptor MawSilver CoffinSkin FlayerGuineeJuggernautLechim NamodMaxehebelSea DuckCalypsosFallen AngelWhydahMist WalkerUrdCrushed SkullSea MonkeyNightmareDelusion


Top 5 Cursed Gold Runners

1. Grinder

I really need this ship lol. Put an explorer on her and you’re moving S+L with room for 3 coins. With a price of only 13 points that’s about as good as you’re going to get with the Cursed. In addition her abilities and fantastic cannon ranks can really help her fight back and/or escape an attack.

2. Sea Monkey

The Sea Monkey is another Cursed ship with S+L speed and four cargo spaces. The same rules apply here; now you’ve got one less point to spend on other stuff but you get the reverse captain ability.

3. Sea Duck

With or without an explorer this is one of the most effective Cursed gold runners that’s cheap and not abysmally slow. Ideally you’ll be able to shoot at danger before it gets to you with her ability, but we all know that the best laid plans get ruined, especially in Pirates. Laughing

4. Sea Rat

The Sea Rat is always underrated. It’s probably because she is a two masted junk, one of the hardest ships to build. She’s from the most common set (OE), so some players no doubt have many Sea Rats. In addition, Sea Rat is not an especially flattering name for a ship. However, this ship is a nice treasure runner once you add a helmsman and explorer. L+S, room for 3 coins, 13 points. The added bonus of being able to steal treasure from an enemy HI makes her an ideal gold runner (for the Cursed).

5. Guichuan/Delusion

Ugh. I didn’t really want to rank these but the other options are so bad that I had to throw them in at the end of this list. The Guichuan would get the nod for the Treasure Ship keyword and being slightly cheaper, but since you are required to use the Headhunter she comes in at 36 points. The Delusion gives you better speed and more abilities that may or may not (probably not) be useful, while sacrificing cargo space once you add crew. The Guichuan is better at being a gunship and a pure treasure runner while the Delusion is better at finding gold, stealing it, and generally just taking up a lot of useless space. Rolling Eyes

Honorable mentions (in no particular order): CycloneMaman BrigitteFallen AngelHangman’s JokeLoa’s JusticeGrim ReaperCelestineNative CanoesDark Pact

If Return to Savage Shores had actually been produced and released, the Cursed would have gotten a ship named “Sskwa’aluk” Laughing . That ship would have been #1 on this list.


Top 5 Barbary Corsair Gunships

1. Janissaries’ Blood

This ship combines good speed with a nice ability. Most importantly, however, all four of her cannons are serviceable, while the other 4 masted galleys have poorer ranks and get worse as you go from bow to stern.

2. Gallows

This ship is cheap compared to some of the other and more flashy BC 2 masters. Her speed and cannons don’t necessarily need augmentation. Perhaps best of all, access to Pirate crew lets you pick from an impressive selection of great named crew, something the Corsairs really could use more of. On an 8 point ship with 2 cargo, you won’t be able to do much, but it still helps.

3. Tiger’s Eye

I wanted to rank this ship lower but I couldn’t. Her speed and ability make her the perfect treasure runner, but also a good candidate to be a fighter. Her cannons don’t recede with the ship. This is the most popular BC ship.

4. Meshud

Another nice ship with great overall stats. This is a nice midsize option to have, especially if you’re going to play against the French. She’s one of the best BC options for a gunship, but with a captain and explorer she’ll still have two spaces available for gold.

5. Nubian Prince

#001 in the Barbary Coast set, this is the first Barbary Corsair ship and therefore sort of their unofficial flagship. Her stats leave something to be desired, but her ability and size make up for it somewhat. She could really use some kind of boost to make her a true gunship. Bonus points for having a cool name and being aesthetically pleasing (not unlike a lot of BC ships of course!).

Honorable mentions (in no particular order): Ivory StarJackal’s TeethWicked KareenDivan’s PunishmentSilent DeathBey’s RevengeDesert WindQueen of ShebaSahara


Top 5 Barbary Corsair Gold Runners

1. Tiger’s Eye

This was #3 on the gunship list and here it is once again. Once you get over the effectiveness of this ship I’d encourage you to move on and use different ships.Laughing

2. Algiers

This was one of only two Corsair ships I had (along with the Griffin) for a long time and is therefore a natural favourite of mine. Nice speed, good cargo, solid durability, and a cool (I’m running out of adjectives lol) ability that can help her out. In terms of a Corsair ship she’s sort of on the large side of the scale and her cannons may even hit something if you need them, something that can’t be said for a lot of other Corsair ships!

3. Griffin

A very cheap option that doesn’t lose you any speed or cargo spaces. Her ability is the key to her low cost. There are a bunch of other BC ships with the same point cost or speed but none that can match the Griffin’s overall combination of cost, speed, and cargo.

4. Morocco

With 5 cargo spaces and terrible cannons, the Morocco jumps out as a gold runner. Even after adding a helmsman she’ll have 4 spaces left. Her ability makes her a near-perfect gold runner.

5. Crescent Moon

This last spot was a wild card for me and I wanted to include a 4 master. The Crescent Moon has the best combination of speed and cargo so she gets the nod for the final spot.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order): Winds of VengeanceSplendorMarrakeshGolden PeacockDesert WindAgha’s WhipQueen of ShebaSaharaDervishWhisperCarthageTunis

(I love the Queen of Sheba and I wanted to include her in one of the lists. I felt that her ability inhibits her use as a gunship because she only has 2 masts in the first place and she can’t afford to lose any without the enemy firing a shot. The Morocco is a similar ship but more of a typical treasure runner. However, the Queen of Sheba’s ability becomes irrelevant when using her as a treasure runner, so it comes down to how the player values the Morocco’s ability for the extra 2 points.)


Top 5 Jade Rebellion Gunships

1. Grand Temple

This ship is expensive but worth every point. Her ability only makes her that much better and more flexible.

2. Grand Path

This ship is a monster. One of the best boarding ships in the game, her cannons are almost perfect. With a helmsman she’s essentially a 19 point ship, comparable to the Grand Temple. The Temple combines better speed and maneuverability with the reverse captain ability while the Grand Path is a better boarder and slightly more accurate, though only at short range. Take your pick – you can’t go wrong!

3. Virtuous Wind

This is the only Jade ship bigger than 2 masts with all 2L guns, technically the best cannons money can buy. She’s simply one of the best ships in the game and without too much argument the best overall ship in the Jade Rebellion. This is sort of the Jade version of the Tiger’s Eye, with a captain and explorer the perfect crew complement.

4. Baochuan

Some may have expected to see this ship higher on the list (or not at all, who knows?). Her huge cost, rather average cannons and Treasure Ship keyword hold her back. This ship isn’t a great ship to use exclusively as a gunship, but rather as a hybrid. She definitely needs a captain and helmsman, which essentially brings her cost to 41 points with the necessary Admiral Zheng He.

5. Grand Mountain

There are a number of smaller JR ships with accurate cannons, but the Grand Mountain has six guns for just 14 points. Her speed is lacking to say the least, but with a helmsman and hopefully some kind of extra action crew she should be able to get some shots in. In addition, your opponent may forget about her lone 2L cannon and/or her bonus against English ships.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order): Grand DynastySea SerpentSea PhoenixSea DuckBlack LotusEast Wind


Top 5 Jade Rebellion Gold Runners

1. Virtuous Wind

This ship is a bit expensive for what you’d like to pay for a gold runner, but this ship is LOADED. Every stat is about as good as you can hope for. Unlike many of your opponent’s gold runners, the Virtuous Wind is durable and very capable of putting up a fight. The HI-raiding ability is just gravy. For 17-19 points you can have a 3 masted ship moving S+L+S with room for three coins.

2. Tiger’s Breath

A Super Rare from the Barbary Coast, this ship screams gold runner. After adding a helmsman you’ll move S+S+S with room for 3 coins for 11 points. With a tad less speed but the same amount of cargo left over for less points, this ship just barely lost out to the Virtuous Wind and her extra durability, fantastic cannons, and HI-raider ability (great to have on a ship that’s already fast).

3. Sea Crane

This ship could use an extra cargo space or two but even with an explorer or helmsman she’ll have room for 2 coins, which is usually enough of an island to make a nice profit. Add the +1 and you’ve got a nice gold runner. As with many of the other JR gold ships (Virtuous Wind, Baochuan, East Wind, etc.), the Sea Crane is able to defend herself if need be.

4. Baochuan

Although the Treasure Ship keyword and 10 cargo spaces is epic, the Baochuan moves just L and takes up almost your entire build total in a standard game. Theoretically you NEED Li Quin just to fit Zheng He, a captain, a helmsman, and an explorer on board, leaving just 3 points left over. As with the other 10 masters the Baochuan is better used in large games where she can exploit her size and Zheng He’s ability more often. That being said this is one of the most epic ships in the game and the original 10 master.

5. Sea Tiger

This is the cheapest 2 masted JR ship. I’ve used the English version of her many times with considerable success. Leave her uncrewed and she won’t take up much of your build total, but you might be surprised what she can do for you. Speed is huge in Pirates and it can make up for her lack of explorer. The Sea Tiger is just a good option to have and one of the only viable “swarm” ship the Jades ever sailed.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order): Grand WindEast WindSea Wind


Top 5 Viking Gunships

The Vikings only have 23 ships, most of which are slow and expensive. They are much better at fighting than getting gold, in part because of the Longship keyword. However, they don’t have anything bigger than 3 masts, and it just so happens that their 3 masted ships are also the ones with the best combat abilities and cannon ranks. Therefore, as long as you pick a 3 masted Viking longship as your Viking gunship, you’ll do alright. In addition, all of their common 3 masted longships are relatively similar and therefore this list doesn’t really mean a whole lot – reverse the order and it could be another player’s opinion.

1. Muninn

With somewhat above-average speed for a Viking ship and with a very helpful ability, the Muninn is one of the best ships in their fleet. L-range guns are a help since the longships don’t have the best firing arcs and you have to shoot over the relatively bulky oars and width of the ship in the first place.

2. Huginn

This one is nice because she’s cheaper than the others that cost the same even after adding a captain to the Huginn. Her guns are all different and her ability is very nice to have.

3. Naegling

I wanted to rank this ship #1 because of her perfect cannons, but the overall package is just slightly less than what you get with the above two ships. That being said the Naegling can be the most destructive longship in the game, especially if you manage to use her ability (possibly by teaming her up with one or more of these 5 ships).

4. Hrunting

The Hrunting is in between the other 3 masters in numerous ways, which actually conspires to hurt her position on this list. She’s expensive but not as much as the Naegling, but her ability isn’t worth anything for a gunship, especially since you’ll only have one cargo space available after adding a captain and helmsman. Her guns are accurate but only at short range, meaning you’ll have to get extremely close alongside an opposing ship to have all three in range at once.

5. Kalmar

The Kalmar is an LE with just S speed, but she compensates with fantastic cannons and 5 cargo spaces, enough to add the necessary crew and still have room to use her ability.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order): AsgardHrothgarGrendelWodinYggdrasil


Top 5 Viking Gold Runners

1. Sleipnir

2. Donar

3. Grendel

4. Kalaallit

5. Hrothgar

Honorable mentions (in no particular order): KalmarElsinoreHlidskjalfWodinFreyaFenrir


Top 5 Mercenary Gunships

1. Shui Xian

This huge ship is one of the cheaper ten masters along with the next ship. The Shui Xian gets the nod because of her rank-2 cannons, of which the Celtic Fury has none.

2. Celtic Fury

I consider this to be the most boring ten master; just my opinion.

3. Nautilus

Where would the Mercs and Captain Nemo be without their “flagship”? Smile

4. Forward

This ship is a bit pricy but with solid speed and essentially 4 2S guns, you can’t do much better with the Mercs for pure firepower.

5. Santa Molina

This ship is cheaper than most Merc ships (even those with less masts) and comes with a serviceable set of guns and a very good ability. The “almost” ships are just about as good, however.

Almost in the top 5: Tasmanian DevilHephaestusMeropisShaihulud

Honorable mentions (in no particular order): TerrorBosun’s BaneBashaw FollyCadaraDivine Dragon


Top 5 Mercenary Gold Runners

1. Celtic Fury

With the Dories keyword the two ten masters have to take the top spots on this list as they did last week because you need at least one canceller just to make a Merc treasure runner viable.

2. Shui Xian

I switched the order on these two – I have some vague notion that the French have more gold-running type crew than the English.

3. Devil Ray

This ship could use another cargo space or two, but her speed is quite good for a Merc ship when underwater, which is where you’ll want her most of the time.

4. Matuku

This is the only “normal” gold runner the Mercs have. Add an explorer and you’ll have 3 open spaces moving S+L for 13 points, comparable to other factions.

5. Corcoran

This is another rare Merc ship with S+L speed, although she’s not as well-known as the Matuku because of her rarity.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order): Bosun’s BaneDuncanSlipstream




Information and Stats

Information and Stats

-Check out the Informational category and the Useful tag for a lot of helpful information and stats about Pirates CSG!  To find past information from Miniature Trading that is no longer available, check out this post.

Full credit goes to those who created and uploaded the documents at BoardGameGeek.  (The pdf’s will open in a new tab, no need to download)
Start Here Rules
Complete Game Rules
Master Keyword List
The Pirate Code (FAQ)
Reference Diagrams
Pirates CSG Master Spreadsheet (shared Google Sheet)
Pirates CSG Master Spreadsheet (.xlsx file download)

If you consult those documents and still have Rules questions, try the Rules thread. (where you can also find the No Duplicates List in the second post)

How to Build the ShipsPDF document with official diagrams, created by Cameron Neill of the Facebook group.

Pirates on eBay history – A spreadsheet with auction prices dating back to around 2011 for many of the rarest Pirates CSG game pieces, along with pack price averages and data on complete sets and numerous other categories.

Number of sets released: 13

Number of unreleased sets: 1 (Return to Savage Shores)

Release schedule

  1. Pirates of the Spanish Main: June 2004
  2. Pirates of the Crimson Coast: March 2005
  3. Pirates of the Revolution: June 2005
  4. Pirates of the Barbary Coast: October 2005
  5. Pirates of the South China Seas: February 2006
  6. Pirates of Davy Jones’ Curse: May 2006
  7. Pirates of the Mysterious Islands: November 2006
  8. Pirates of the Frozen North: February 2007
  9. Pirates at Ocean’s Edge: April 2007
  10. Pirates of the Caribbean: November 2007
  11. Rise of the Fiends: January 2008
  12. Fire and Steel: April 2008
  13. Savage Shores: November 2008

There is also a wealth of information at the Wikipedia page.

Common Abbreviations and Acronyms

CSG: Constructible Strategy Game (term coined by Jason Mical)
MT: Miniature Trading (The most active and useful site for Pirates CSG from the game’s end in late 2008 until MT’s closure on July 1st 2019)
BGG: BoardGameGeek

Sets (these sometimes have “Pot” in front of them for “Pirates of the…”; also CS: Cursed Seas)
SM: Spanish Main
CC: Crimson Coast
RV: Revolution
BC: Barbary Coast
SCS: South China Seas
DJC: Davy Jones’ Curse
MI: Mysterious Islands
FN: Frozen North
OE: Ocean’s Edge
PotC: Pirates of the Caribbean
RotF: Rise of the Fiends
F&S: Fire and Steel
SS: Savage Shores
RtSS: Return to Savage Shores

FC: Fleet Challenge
MR: Miniature Review
MRC: Miniature Review Contest

CCM: Cadet-Captain Mike

PC: The Pirate Code (also known as simply the Code)
MKL: Master Keyword List
CGR: Complete Game Rules
SHR: Start Here Rules

HI: Home Island
WI: Wild Island
MI: Mysterious Island
UT: Unique Treasure
CG: Campaign Game/Cumulative Game
BR: Battle Report

EA: Extra Action (Once per turn, roll a d6. On a 5-6, this ship may be given an extra action.)
SAT: Same Action Twice (same as Born Leader) (Once per turn before you give this ship an action, roll a d6. On a 5 or 6, this ship may be given the same action twice.)
SAC/Sac: Sacrifice Action (Once per turn, you can eliminate one of this ship’s crew to give her an extra action.)
AA: Admiral’s Action (Once at the beginning of each of your turns, roll a d6. On a result of 6, any ship in your fleet may be given two actions that turn.)
Reroll: Once per turn, you can reroll any die roll you make for this ship; you must use the second die roll result.
WH: World Hater (This ship gets +1 to her cannon rolls against any [non-faction] ship.)
Canceller: Once per turn, one crew or ship within S of this ship cannot use its ability this turn.
HI raider: home island raider (This ship may dock at an enemy home island and load one treasure. If able, she must leave on your next turn.)
BA: Broadsides Attack

More Ability Abbreviations
-Some of these are more commonly used than others.

Reverse Captain: After this ship resolves a shoot action, she may move as a free action.
S-Board: As part of a move action, this ship can initiate a boarding party against a ship up to S away from her, without having to ram. The boarded ship can’t use any boarding bonuses.
Crew Killing: Once per turn when this ship hits an enemy ship, also eliminate one crew from that ship.
Cargo Wrecking: When this ship hits an enemy ship, you may also eliminate one cargo from that ship.
Massacre: If this ship succeeds at a boarding party, she can eliminate all of the other ship’s crew.
Sniping: You may double the range of this ship’s cannons each turn, but you must roll a 6 to hit.
Crew Protect: This ship’s crew cannot be eliminated unless she sinks.
Doctor: When another face up crew on this ship would be eliminated, turn it face down instead.
Island treasure trading: After looking at treasure on a wild island, you may trade any one treasure from that island for a random treasure on any other wild island. This ship must load the traded treasure.
Ship treasure trading: Once per turn, if this ship carries treasure and is within S of an enemy ship, you may randomly trade one treasure with that ship.
Possession: If an enemy ship is within S of this ship, you can use this ship’s action for the turn to try to possess a target crew on that ship. Roll a d6; on a result of 6, the target is immediately assigned to this ship. Its nationality changes to match the nationality of this ship.
S-Explorer: Once per turn, if this ship is within S of an island, you can mark the island as explored without docking at it. The island becomes unexplored in regards to all other players.
Gold Capture: If this ship wins a boarding party, she may capture the crew with the highest point cost instead of eliminating it. A captured crew becomes cargo worth its point cost in gold when unloaded at your home island.
Fog Hopper: If this ship ends her turn in a fog bank, on her next turn she may use her move action to move out of any other fog bank in play.
UT Hoard: Once per turn, if this ship is touching another ship, reveal all face-down treasure aboard the other ship. This ship can take as much unique treasure from the other ship as she can carry.
HI Hoard: This ship may dock at an enemy home island and take as much treasure as she can carry. If able, she must leave on your next turn.

Pokéship: A non-historical ship type that resembles a Pokémon. (Examples)

EE: Economy Edition
CotE: Century of the Empires
WMG: World Map Game

CG#: VASSAL Campaign Game 1, 2, 3, etc.


More Stats

Total number of ships released: 1,022 (according to CCM’s fansite)

Total number of crew released: 767

Information and Stats

Game pieces per set, with some discrepancies.

Stats from playing

Summaries and links to the battle reports of all of these huge games can be found on this page.

Results of all the huge games Xerecs and I have played over the years.

Results of the huge games Xerecs and I have played over the years.

Most of the following fleets can be found in my Fleets section or in this Google Drive folder.

The best fleets of all time as of 12/31/2017.

The best fleets of all time as of 12/31/2017.


Ben’s Personal Stats

Here are my stats from Miniature Trading, which closed down on July 1st 2019.

My Single Year Plays Record

My numbers updated through the end of 2018


Information and Stats

Posts at Miniature Trading by month as of May 2018.


Information and Stats

Merit points at Miniature Trading by month as of May 2018.


Plays by month over my Pirates career.

Plays by month over my Pirates career. Click to see some Battle Reports!


Feel free to comment below your thoughts on how I could improve the Information and Stats page!

Destroy a Fort – How to WRECK forts!

I would love to get some input on strategies for assaulting island with Fort. We have failed many times.

This was a suggestion on a youtube video that I turned into a response video.  Specifically, tough forts such as Paradis de la Mer and Fortaleza Dorada.  Forts are not seen all that often in a lot of games, especially due to their appearance being limited to Crimson Coast and Revolution.  However, they can be a great tool in a winning player’s arsenal.  They can also be a thorn in your side if you have to take them out in order to win, as often happens in close-fought competitive games.

To destroy a fort, you’ll often want a combination of:

  1. Multiple ships
  2. Anti-fort abilities
  3. L-range cannons
  4. Gunships equipped with captains and helmsmen

In this guide I will outline the best ways to wreck forts!

Ability: Forts cannot hit this ship.

There are only 6 ships with this ability, none of which have more than 3 masts.  However, this is the most direct route you can take to destroying forts – simply don’t allow them to shoot!  Although the quantity and size of the ships with this ability are limited, conveniently enough they have good accuracy.  None of the 6 ships have any cannons of rank-4 or worse, so they’ll do their job well when assaulting forts.  The Windjammer, Treasure, Boston and San Salvador are the best of these, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them.  The Windjammer is probably the best pure value for points as a gunship, while the San Salvador has some hybrid potential.  If you really wanted to, you could also use Davy Jones to copy this ability to a large ship with great firepower to obliterate a fort in a single turn!

Ability: L-range cannons cannot hit this ship.

This is fantastic because of the 10 forts in the game, only two even have S-range cannons, and one of those (Fortaleza Dorada) is immune to L-range cannons itself!  This means that 8/10 forts will not be able to hit ships with this “L immunity”, making it nearly as good as the outright “forts cannot hit” ability.  This ability is also fantastic to have on any ship, regardless of whether or not you plan to go off on a fort-trashing adventure.  🙂

Of the ships with this ability, there are some decent ones to choose from.  The Cygnet, Duke, Jarvis, Tiger’s Eye and Silverback are probably the best of the bunch.

Ability: This ship gets +1 to her cannon rolls against forts within S of her.

This can be good because there are a few crew with this ability – put them on a ship with 5 or more masts, and you’ll be getting a nice bonus against forts.  However, those crew also have other abilities tacked on that make them overpriced for the value they provide.  I’d only recommend using them if you KNOW you’re going to attack a fort, such as in a campaign game where you can assign ships to very specific roles.  For example, Carl Smith on the Jarvis or Boston would make fort-wrecking easy.  Of the three ships with this ability, the Oxford and Cutlass are both excellent gunships and even potential hybrids, while L’Atalante is boring but a reasonable value for the points.  This ability pales in comparison to the defensive abilities above, so it’s not as highly recommended.

Long range bombardment

Since forts are stationary and only Ramsgate has a cannon whose range can be increased beyond L, anything that gives S+S cannon range or better is a great way to blast away at forts while staying out of their range.  All 10 flotillas in the game have the Extended Range keyword, and some of them have very good accuracy as well.  Combine this with a ship that has at least S+L speed, a captain aboard, and L range guns, and you’ll be in good shape for a fort assault.  You can maneuver to stay out of the fort’s range, then park or “anchor” your ship there and simply blast away each turn until the fort is gone.  Flotillas are also just great in general – getting 4 extra cannons that fire at doubled range for 10 points or less is just a great deal on firepower.

The sniping ability is more fun than reliable, but it’s still an option if you don’t have access to other abilities when going after a fort.  It’s a nice option to have for gunships in general and doesn’t inflate the cost of the ship.  Looking at the ships with sniping, almost all of them are solid candidates to be gunships, with solid speeds and good cannon ranks throughout.


I would say that flotillas are a better option for fort-wrecking than the +1 to cannon rolls against forts within S, but it depends on the situation.  If you’ve got a large and accurate gunship with extra actions, the bonus could be enough to give you a decisive edge and destroy the fort on the first turn of the engagement.  It’s also good for a brute force strategy when using multiple ships to attack a fort all at the same time.  However, staying out of the fort’s range is a better tactic if you need to play defensively and don’t have a lot of firepower at your disposal.  This is where good maneuvering, many-segmented speeds (such as S+S+S or S+L+S), and L-range cannons become important.  Combine good positioning with a flotilla, and you should be able to crush the fort without even getting hit.

Alternative/Niche tactics

Neptune’s Trident ignores the ability of Paradis de la Mer.  Depending on who rolls for the ability, a reroller or Potions and Brews could be useful against Paradis.  A few other UT’s could help too – Wine and Letter of Marque are fun in general and worthy additions to any game.

In terms of prevention, you could go after opposing gold runners very early in the game, build your own fort first, or use Mysterious Islands that have beneficial positive effects that could make an opponent prefer the 5-6 effect to building a fort.

General gameplay tips

  • All gunships need captains, and preferably helmsmen too.
  • Pay attention to maneuvering.  There’s no rule against pre-measuring the fort’s cannon ranges to see what kind of space you’re working with.
  • If you use multiple ships, use all of them at once, even if that means waiting for one to catch up to the squadron.  Forts can win battles against small fleets if the ships attack one by one.  Surround it with cannons and give the fort many targets to shoot at.


Overall, forts can be a problem if you’re not well-equipped to take them on.  However, the numerous counters available make it quite possible to beat them easily.  If you’ve got a combination of helpful abilities and more than one gunship, most forts will not be able to hold up in the long term.  Go out there and wreck some forts!  If you have any additional suggestions, please contact me.  (  Thank you for reading.


Here are a few pictures that show fort-wrecking at its finest.

During Economy Edition, 2015.

During Economy Edition, 2015.

The Roanoke barely prevails during an extremely memorable and competitive game between the American Pirates and Hai Peng Fort Frenzy.

Play virtually with VASSAL


VASSAL is a computer program that allows users to play on and build modules for board games.  Using an online server, you can play with anyone in the entire world with the Pirates CSG VASSAL module!

Get the VASSAL program and the latest Pirates CSG module HERE!

The official VASSAL website will have the latest version of the VASSAL program (the zip folder currently has the latest version, 3.2.17).

How to extract files from a .zip folder.

Check out my extremely informative and useful VASSAL tutorial:


3 campaign games have already been completed on the VASSAL module, with 2 more currently ongoing (the Caribbean game and CG4).  Check out the videos below for the epic fun to be had on VASSAL!  (scroll through the playlist to see them all)


Check out these VASSAL files you can use for playing specific scenarios:

Find some information and resources for editing the Pirates CSG module HERE.

And finally, my original post on Miniature Trading from late 2015, since edited.


the Pirates module 

(try this one if that module doesn’t work)

VASSAL tutorial – How to use the VASSAL module for Pirates CSG

If for some reason you want the “middle” module that has the World game territories, you can find that here.


Well, I PM’d lord_denton about unlocking the old VASSAL module thread, but to speed things up:

The VASSAL module has been reborn!

This is a megapost. I’m hoping that people check this thread a lot, because I’ll definitely continue to post here even if it directly follows my previous post.

I thought I’d start with this. After corresponding with B.J. over the past day or so, I got his permission to share part of his email:

bj_o wrote:
As for modifying the module, I have no problem with that if anyone can figure it out. Vassal isn’t the most user friendly program. The module isn’t compiled or anything like that, so anyone should be able to edit it as-is. Vassal has gone through a couple of versions since this was created, but I don’t think that will cause any issues.

I doubt I’ll return, since there’s really not much I can contribute, but thanks!


Very Happy This is great news that apparently anyone can make edits to the module! Now it will be up to us to do so and improve it. Idea

Alright, here is the best sort of “Easy Startup Guide” I can do:

1. Download VASSAL and the Pirates module.

el_cazador wrote:
From Vassal, you must use File>Open Module> (wherever you have bj_0’s .zip file)>the .zip folder. Vassal should recognize and load it.

3. VASSAL is now open. The Welcome screen doesn’t appear to have its own window that you can minimize. You can create a username and password.

VASSAL User Guide wrote:
Select Play Mode: Under Select play mode, select one of the following:
a. Start a new game offline: choose this option for beginning an email game, playing
solitaire or hotseat, or to edit a module.
b. Look for a game online: to play on the Server or peer-to-peer.
c. Load a saved game: to play a previously saved game, or to review an email game log.


We’re generally going to go with the middle option. Solitaire games would be the first option, while I would assume that the third option could work for campaign games that are saved.

5. Now you should be in the Main Room.


VASSAL User Guide wrote:
To join a game on the Server,
1. In Module Manager, in the
Module Library window,
double-click the module you
want to play. The Welcome
Wizard opens.
2. In the Welcome Wizard,
under Select play mode,
choose Look for a game
online, and then follow the
other Wizard steps as the module requires.
3. On the Toolbar, click Connect.
4. On the right side of the screen, the Active Games window opens. The Active Games window
displays the Main Room for the module, which is the default location for all players who are not currently in a game, and any active game rooms under that. Only rooms running the current module
are displayed. The number of players is displayed in parentheses.
5. Double-click the name of the game room you wish to join.
6. If prompted, enter the password for the room. (This password is generally different from your Vassal


I hope that helps! You can also private message other users on the same module, which was helpful to el_cazador and I when trying to get the game set up. However, once the game starts, it’s easier to just use the chat at the top of the window, which is where the game transcript thread came from.

In terms of Pirates, the setup gets easier. Go to File at the top left, and then choose an Ocean Layout. It’s helpful to adjust the top panel and drag it up so you can see more of the water. At the top of the window, there are numerous command buttons, and the telescopes are very useful. They can be used for a basic zoom in and out, but the middle one allows you to fit the game to different percentages. Also very useful, the button to the right of the telescopes (looks like a map) allows you to see an “overworld” view of the entire game in a smaller box, regardless of how much zoom there is on the overall game.

To the left of the zoom buttons, there is a camera button where you can save snapshots of the game. You could also use a Snipping Tool to grab screenshots of the zoomed in details.

The question mark to the left of the camera button brings you to B.J.’s help guide, which is very useful when you’re starting out.

The treasure chest button allows you to have a “locker” where you can flip coins over without other players seeing them. Other than that, there is some transparency in the game – you can keep your crew “hidden”, but other players can still flip them over. Also, when crew are hidden, their names still appear below the crew chip, as long as you’ve defined their properties.


bj_o wrote:
-Placing Islands
The islands are available within the game piece palette (“ship” button) on the “Terrain” tab. Just drag and place them where you want them, rotating if necessary. After placement, islands cannot be selected unless you SHIFT+CLICK on them.
-Placing Treasure
Each player can drag the coins they want from the game piece palette. Unique treasure must have its properties (CTRL-P) defined before placing them on the islands. Once all players have selected their coins, make sure they are all showing the backs and not the values (flip if necessary with CTRL-F). Then one player can select all the coins and stack them (CTRL-S), which send them all to a stack in the upper left corner. A player can then pull coins off one at a time and place them on different islands.


Also, you can edit a ship’s properties in the pieces window before it’s introduced to the game. In this way, you can eliminate masts and start fires before it even shows up in the ocean, making my fireship idea even more intriguing. Twisted Evil Also, forts can be on fire too! Very Happy

I think I’m going to slowly start investigating how to edit the module (Designer’s Guide), and any help would be greatly appreciated! I’d love to add some more ship types.

Pirates CSG VASSAL module

Example of a small game being played on the VASSAL module


Factions in Pirates CSG

In Pirates CSG there are 10 different factions, which are also referred to as nations or sometimes countries. The “major factions” are the Big 6 – English, French, Spanish, Pirates, Americans, and Cursed. The other four factions are generally known as the “minor factions” because they were (mostly) only around for one set and therefore don’t have nearly as many ships and crew as the Big 6.

Within the Big 6 there is a Big 4 (English, French, Spanish, Pirates) and a Big 5 (Big 4 plus the Americans). This isn’t too important, but the Cursed are not nearly on par with the Big 5 and the Americans aren’t as strong as the Big 4.

Major Factions


The English are the best fighting faction in the game, reminiscent of the real-life Royal Navy.  They were introduced in the first set and therefore have more ships than most other factions, giving them a ton of options.  The English do have some good gold runners, but it’s much easier to find English gunships.  They also have a lot of named crew options, making them a powerful force to be reckoned with.

English fleet Pirates CSG

My English fleet at the 2014 Fleet Review.


The French are one of the most balanced factions in Pirates, excelling at both grabbing gold and sinking enemy ships.  They are similar to the Spanish in this regard, although the French prefer boarding more than most other nations.

French fleet Pirates CSG

The colorful and beautiful French fleet.


The Spanish, like the English, have been around since the first set and are one of the best factions to play as.  I find them to be better at getting gold than fighting, although they do both very well.  The Spanish also have a lot of cool crew and a large number of ships that give +1 or +2 gold bonuses, which is very valuable in both small and large games.

Spanish fleet Pirates CSG

My Spanish fleet: lots of red, orange, and crosses.


Pirates is the name of the game, so it should come as no surprise that the designers made the Pirates the best faction.  They have more ships and great named crew than any other faction.  The Pirates often have ships that are similar to those of other nations, yet they have them at a lower cost.  They are the best faction for running gold and one of the best fighting factions.

Pirate fleet Pirates CSG

The Pirates are both the best faction and the most numerous.


The Americans got off to a strong start in RV and received more great ships in BC and SCS.  Although America is one of the best fighting factions, they lack fast ships with large cargo holds that can grab gold.  SS partly made up for this deficit, but America could still use some better gold runners.  American ships are often more expensive than similar ships of other nations, making them the hardest faction to play as out of the Big 5 (the 5 factions discussed so far).

American fleet Pirates CSG

The Americans are here!


The Cursed are one of the hardest factions to play.  Their ships are typically slow and expensive with large cargo holds.  Speed is huge in Pirates CSG, and the Cursed have a need for speed.  There are some exceptions, but most of their ships struggle to keep up with the gold ships from other factions.  The Cursed are one of the most interesting factions when you consider all of their sea monsters, some of which are quite playable and a lot of which are not.  They also possess a high number of expensive and devastating named crew, although most of them are better used in higher point games (80+) than the standard 40 point format.


The Cursed have the most sea creatures of any faction.

Minor Factions

Barbary Corsairs

The Barbary Corsairs were only featured in one set (BC), but it was a grand opening as they received no less than 38 ships in that set alone, partly because BC was the only set that didn’t feature the Pirate faction.  The Corsairs are the best of the “minor factions”, with a lot of great gold ships and a fair number of solid support ships that can fight adequately.

Barbary Corsair fleet Pirates CSG

The Corsairs’ only ship type is the galley.

Jade Rebellion

The Jade Rebellion was the feature faction in the South China Seas set, much like the Corsairs in Barbary Coast.  They’re better at fighting than running gold, but they’re solid at both.  They don’t have a high quantity of ships, but fortunately they make up for it with high quality ships and without doubt the best set of named crew of any minor faction.

Jade Rebellion fleet Pirates CSG

The Jades are colorful and beautiful!


The Vikings were only present in the Frozen North set, and they’re almost exclusively a brawler, with many slow ships and the powerful Longship keyword, which gives you two shots per mast instead of one.  The Vikings suffer from slow speeds, small ships (nothing bigger than 3 masts), and a lack of good named crew.  They are still a dangerous foe, but not the biggest threat to win the game.

Viking fleet Pirates CSG

The Vikings with their longships.


The Mercenaries (or Mercs, mostly present in the Mysterious Islands set) are the least playable faction in Pirates.  The Mercenary keyword prevents a ship from docking at its own home island (HI), which severely cripples their gold game.  At least one canceller is needed to make a pure-Mercenary fleet viable, unless you use one of the two ten masters that came out in Savage Shores.  These huge ships have the Dories keyword, letting them unload cargo if they’re within S of their home island.  Beyond their flaws, the Mercenaries are an average faction with a fair share of solid gunships and interesting named crew.

Mercenary fleet Pirates CSG

The Mercenaries are arguably the most unique faction.


Wizkids released a whopping 13 sets in just 5 years of production.  Here you can find some general information and my opinions on them, as well as links to purchase if they suit your fancy.

You can see my detailed set rankings here, which is where my ratings below come from.

Pirates of the Spanish Main pack

Click to buy Spanish Main!




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.

My rating: 18/20




Pirates of the Crimson Coast pack

Click to buy Crimson Coast!


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.

My rating: 19/20




Pirates of the Revolution pack

Click to buy Pirates of the Revolution!



Pirates of the Revolution (RV) came out in 2005 as well, 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.

My rating: 17/20





Pirates of the Barbary Coast pack

Click to buy Pirates of the Barbary Coast!



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.

My rating: 16/20







Pirates of the South China Seas pack

Click to buy South China Seas!



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.

My rating: 18/20







Pirates of Davy Jones Curse pack

Click to buy Davy Jones’ Curse!



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.

My rating: 14/20



Pirates of the Mysterious Islands pack

Find the Mysterious Islands on eBay!



Pirates of the Mysterious Islands (MI, 2006) featured the new Mercenary faction and introduced Submarines.  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’s20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

My rating: 10/20





Pirates of the Frozen North pack

Click to buy Frozen North!



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.

My rating: 11/20






Pirates at Ocean's Edge pack

Click to buy Ocean’s Edge!


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. 

My rating: 12/20



Pirates of the Caribbean pack

Click to buy PotC on eBay!


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) plagues the set.  Great idea, imperfect execution.

My rating: 12/20



Rise of the Fiends pack

Click to buy Rise of the Fiends!


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.

My rating: 11/20



Pirates CSG Fire and Steel pack Sets artwork

Click to buy Fire and Steel!



Fire & Steel (F&S, 2008) continued the trend of the game delving more into the fantasy aspects, with new ships equipped with movable steel blades and huge flamethrowers.  It was a large set, but a slow and boring one.  There’s just not a lot in the set to get excited about.

My rating: 10/20







Pirates of the Cursed Seas Savage Shores Scavenger Pack Box

Follow this link to find the Savage Shores!


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.

My rating: 16/20



Why was Savage Shores so small? Wizkids intended to release Return to Savage Shores soon afterwards, but they were shut down by Topps only a few days after Savage Shores was released in the heat of the financial crisis.


Playing the game

Tips for playing:

Gameplay page crew pic

Generic crew on a deckplate card.

  • Generic crew are the backbone of any fleet.  You’ll find out early on that captains, helmsmen, and explorers rulethis game.  It can be better to field a simple fleet using at least one of these crew on all of your ships than using complicated or expensive named crew.  Here is a downloadable spreadsheet that has generic crew chips you can print and cut out to use if you don’t have enough of the actual crew for gameplay.
  • Don’t always go for the nearest islands.  Your opponent isn’t likely to grab gold from the islands near your home island (HI), since it’s in your territory.  Take advantage of your fastest ships and take treasure from islands that are further away, but be careful that they’re not sunk because you were too aggressive.
  • It may be tempting to capture an enemy ship and use it against them, but carefully consider the possibilities.  Smaller games don’t take very long, making capturing a difficult strategy to pull off.  If you can grab a derelict treasure runner that’s near your HI, go ahead and do so, but towing an opponent’s monster gunship from far away can impede on more important tasks.
  • The first shot of any engagement is very important, since it can often leave the other ship at a considerable disadvantage if the action lasts more than one turn.  This is why you’ll want not just captains but also helmsmen on pretty much all of your gunships, to make them faster and more maneuverable.  In addition, the faster your gunships are the faster they’ll be able to take down enemy gold runners.
  • Don’t overrate the effects of terrain.  Terrain, with the occasional exception of icebergs (which can move around), is very easily avoided in most games.  If you want to make terrain more relevant, consider stringing it together in chains and rings around islands instead of following the standard rules, which say that there must be S distance between all terrain.
  • The farther the islands are apart, the more important speed is.  However, the game is often more exciting and hard-fought when the islands are placed closer together, so experiment and try placing islands closer than 3L apart.
  • There are a few exceptional abilities that you should be aware of.  A canceller is a crew that lets you cancel an enemy ability on a ship within S of the cancelling ship, which is probably the best ability in the game excluding generic crew.  Crew that give extra actions on die rolls or through sacrificing crew (usually referred to as “sac captains”) are hugely important, since they give gunships the ability to move and shoot twice, doubling their range and overall firepower.  Combining the EA and SAT abilities (which rely on die rolls) with rerollers is particularly effective.  Abilities that give +1, or better yet +2, value to one of your gold coins can win you the game, especially if you manage to get the bonus on multiple coins.  As for combat, the “world-hater” ability gives you +1 to your cannon rolls, essentially lowering them by one rank.  This can make gunships even more deadly, since using a world-hater on a ship that already has rank 2 cannons means that your cannons hit on everything except for a 1, which automatically misses anyway.
  • The fantasy elements of Pirates CSG are generally overpriced.  Sea monsters, scorpions, switchblades, and bombardiers are all fun to use, but they are also very expensive for what you get.
  • If you go into a game with a specific strategy in mind, be very prepared for it to fail.  Remember that in Pirates, “everything that can go wrong will go wrong.”  When using complex strategies or combos, it’s best to try them out in large games so you still have points left over for gold runners and aren’t relying on just one combo to win.  You’ll have games where you win despite not succeeding at your original plan.  Then there will be games where you play the way you want, and still lose.  Such is life on the high seas!
  • Remember that gold wins this game, so be wary of going too heavy on the gunships unless you’re prepared to lose the gold race.  It’s very possible to sink the entire enemy fleet but still lose the game.
  • Have fun!  Once you’ve tasted victory through more “standard” gameplay tactics, you’ll develop a desire to win in more unorthodox and unpredictable ways.

For reference, the rules:

Start Here Rules

Complete Game Rules

Master Keyword List

The Pirate Code (FAQ)

Reference Diagrams

Gameplay of Pirates CSG

A game of Pirates CSG in action!

Building a Fleet

Building a Fleet

In Pirates CSG, there are a multitude of different strategies that you can use to win games.  There are a few basic strategies that are integral to winning often, but once a player is used to them it becomes more interesting to win in unorthodox ways.

Gold runner: a fast ship (preferably S+L base move or faster) with enough cargo space (preferably at least 4) for an explorer and a good amount of treasure.  Gold runners are often small and inexpensive, although there are plenty of notable exceptions as well.  There are many abilities that help out gold runners, but more abilities that help out gunships.  Also referred to as treasure runners.  Example: Le Bon Marin

Gunship: a large ship (at least 3 masts) that has very accurate cannons (rank 2 is best).  The range of the cannons isn’t as important as the rank, but L is better than S.  However, some ships can’t be hit by S or L range guns, so it’s nice to have a mix of both.  Like gold runners, gunships also love speed, since it allows them to get the first shot against enemy ships, which is extremely important.  It’s also good for gunships to have large cargo holds, since this allows you to pack on a lot of deadly crew.  When you factor in their point costs and necessary crew, gunships get expensive in a hurry.  Example: HMS Titan

Hybrid: a ship that can either run gold or fight, possibly doing both in the same game.  There aren’t a ton of great hybrid ships out there, but hybrid ships often have amazing stats – they need enough good cannons to function as a gunship, but still have enough speed and cargo space to grab gold.  True hybrid ships often have at least 5 cargo spaces, which would leave 2 spaces available for gold if you add a captain, helmsman, and explorer.  Example: Darkhawk II

I’ve ranked the top 5 or 10 gunships and gold runners for every faction in the Rankings threads.

Basic fleet design

Balanced fleet: This is the bread and butter of Pirates CSG: at least one ship for getting gold and at least one ship for fighting.  The number of ships isn’t important here because it depends so much on the build total used; for example, a 40 point game isn’t likely to feature more than 2 gunships and 2 gold runners, and very well might include just one of each.  Since gold is the path to victory, I generally would suggest you use 2 gold runners and 1 gunship in a 40 point game if you have 3 ships, although there are also ships that have large cargo holds that are big enough to run gold and fight.  If you have 2 gunships and just 1 gold runner, your gold game will be crippled or nonexistent if an opponent takes out your only runner.  Example: Balanced French fleet

Gold fleet: This is a fleet that concentrates exclusively on getting as much gold as possible, disregarding combat.  Since gold is so important, these fleets generally fare better than guns-only fleets, but there are some exceptions.  Ships in these types of fleets need to be very fast in order to escape the firepower of enemy gunships.  In addition to the standard helmsmen and explorer crew that these fleets rely on, there are a lot of “positive UT’s” (unique treasures) that help out your gold runners in their quest for treasure.  Either way, a balanced fleet is the way to go in most games, especially as the build total rises.  Example: Hai Peng Fort Frenzy (this one is complicated)

War fleet: Comprised of only gunships, these fleets are extremely dangerous but essentially need to sink or cripple every single ship in the enemy fleet before any of their ships get back with gold, because if even one ship gets through, this fleet probably won’t be able to make up the difference.  War fleets are often fun to play but hard to win with, although there are some ships that, when paired with certain crew, can make a guns-only fleet competitive.  There are a good amount of nasty, what I call “negative UT’s” (unique treasures) that greatly aid in the winning ways of combat-oriented fleets.  These UT’s wreak havoc on enemy gold runners when discovered at wild islands, killing crew, stopping ships from moving, and causing major problems.  Example: HMS Grand Temple 

Other strategies

Swarm: These fleets use a ton of smaller ships to overwhelm the enemy fleets with numbers.  Usually light on crew and gold-oriented, these fleets are easy pickings for a huge superfast gunship, but when split up in different directions can be quite effective.  Example: Dakmor’s swarm fleet

Boarding: These fleets focus on ramming and boarding to win.  There are a lot of different boarding abilities, and some of them are quite useful.  However, this strategy gets expensive in a hurry as most of your boarders will need captains and helmsmen to be reliably effective, essentially upping the cost of every ship by 5 points.  Boarding can be useful for killing enemy crew, but even more devastating if you manage to take an enemy gold runner’s entire cargo hold of treasure and bring it back to your home island.  Example: Small Fry Boarders

Mixed nationality fleet: This is a very common tactic where a player uses ships and crew from more than one faction.  This is especially helpful and almost necessary when playing as the Vikings or Mercenaries, who have a lot of trouble gathering gold.  There are also a number of “alliance” ideas that make sense, such as the Cursed Pirates or the Franco-Spanish.  Either way, remember that you can use ships or crew from any and all nationalities in your fleets, so don’t let a small collection limit your options!  Coagulation of Nations

Blockade/Home Island Raiding: This is a strategy that is very difficult to pull off.  When running a blockade, you’ll have multiple gunships surrounding an enemy HI (home island) in hopes of sinking or capturing their ships when they arrive home with gold.  The problem is, if your entire fleet is on blockade duty, your opponent can sail around unfettered as your ships wait all game for them to get back.  In addition, it’s tough to cover all entrances to an enemy home island, unless you set up your ships perfectly.  Even if you manage to surround it completely, your opponent may have access to mysterious islands, unique treasures, or crew that let them move YOUR ships!  If not, your enemy can concentrate their firepower and offensive assault on one side of their island, and as soon as the blockade is broken, gold runners will start docking.  This strategy is sometimes combined with home island raiders (HI raiders), which are ships or crew that have an ability that lets them dock at enemy HI’s and steal gold.  These abilities are difficult to use because your opponent will often have ships coming and going from their HI, making it hard to get in and out without being attacked.  In addition, if you steal an opponent’s gold, they will usually make stealing it back or sinking your raider a high priority.  Example: The Best Raiders of Spain (normally you don’t base your whole fleet around this)

Fort and flotilla zone control: This is a strategy that centers around speed at the beginning of the game and defence thereafter.  If your ships are fast enough, you can build forts on wild islands, protecting the gold until your gold runners can safely sail it back to your home island.  The forts are a great deterrent to enemy ships, and flotillas stationed in strategic positions can further increase the reach of your cannons’ firing arcs, giving your wide swaths of “zone control” until your opponent potentially knocks them out.  Note: flotillas don’t affect the base move of a ship as regular towing does, but when towing a flotilla you aren’t allowed to gain the +S bonus from the helmsman ability and other such movement bonuses.  Therefore it’s advisable to use flotillas with ships that have high base moves, preferably as high as S+S+S or L+L, with S+L as a minimum.  Example: Ultimate Zone Control

Mind Control: This is my favourite “gimmick” strategy.  It’s not very viable as a competitive fleet design since it’s so dependent on the luck of the dice, but when executed correctly it’s one of the most fun ways to win.  This is more complex than most other strategies, but the basic idea is to use ship, crew, UT, and mysterious island (MI) abilities to move enemy ships to your advantage, giving you “mind control” and move your opponent’s fleet as well as your own.  Example: Mind Control

Crew capturing and possession: This is another gimmick fleet that relies on very specific abilities.  Captain Davy Jones (from the POTC set) and Wraith (SS version) allow you to “recycle” crew after they’ve been eliminated, giving you access to their abilities.  Captain Nemo (MI) allows you to capture crew when you win a boarding party, whereupon they can use their abilities on Nemo’s ship.  In addition, there are a handful of crew and ships with the “possession” ability, which allows you to capture an enemy crew on a ship within S if you roll a 6.  Finally, there are some crew and ships with the “gold capture” ability, which allows you to capture enemy crew when you board, and then turn them into gold worth their point cost when you unload them at your home island.  Any combination of these strategies is difficult to pull off, but as with the Mind Control strategy it’s very fun to attempt.  Examples: Blackheart + Nemo + Zeus=doom, Crew Recycling 2.0

Underwater fleet: Sea monsters and submarines can submerge, making them virtually invincible to anything other than cancellers and “sub hunters” – an ability that lets the ship shoot at submerged ships within S of the ship.  This strategy is tough not because it’s a bad idea, but because sea monsters and submarines are both rather slow and overpriced.  There are some sea monsters that are playable, but they can’t carry crew.  Most submarines don’t make good gold runners, and no subs have more than three masts, so their offensive output is limited as well.  Example: From the Depths

Extra Action speed fleets: These fleets use the sac ability (eliminate a crew to gain an extra action), EA (extra action on a 5-6), and SAT (same action twice on a 5-6) abilities to move very fast.  This is one of the best strategies out there, as these abilities don’t cost much and give you a lot of bang for your buck.  Speed is huge in Pirates, and with multiple ships capable of moving twice in one turn, your chances of winning go up in a hurry.  The sac ability is seen as particularly cheap because it doesn’t depend on a die roll and only costs 2 points, but there is no denying its effectiveness.  Example: EA Gold Runners

UT-dependent fleets: More for fun games, these fleets are dependent on finding specific unique treasures to win the game through their effects.  There are plenty of powerful UT’s, such as Nemo’s Plans, which lets you keep UT’s on your ship that are usually removed from the game after just one use.  There is even a UT that lets you bring a Kraken into the game if you roll a 6!  Example: Dead Man’s Chest UT Fleet

Fog hopping: Another very gimmicky idea, this strategy uses the handful of ships with the fog-hopping ability.  This lets ships go into a fog bank on one turn, and then “hop” and come out of a different fog bank on their next turn!  This fleet is particularly interesting when combined with the smokebank/reverse captain strategy, which is often intertwined with HI raiders.  This is one of the more complex fleets out there, and it’s tough to use such an expensive and fragile strategy unless the build total is higher than the standard 40 points.  Examples: TOoDJ 2nd entry: Cat and MouseFog hopping and smoke dropping

There are other types of fleets too, but this should give you plenty of ideas!  Once you’ve got your fleet ready, you’re ready to start playing!  In case you want to be better prepared to set sail, here are some tips.