Barbary Corsairs – Faction Review

Barbary Corsairs

Faction Review

The Barbary Corsairs are one of 4 “minor factions” from Wizkids Pirates CSG.  The others are the Jade Rebellion, Vikings, and Mercenaries.  These factions are sometimes referred to as minor factions because they had a very limited release of game pieces – primarily in their “feature set”, which for the Barbary Corsairs was the Barbary Coast set. As a result, they have less ships and crew than the major factions that saw game pieces across many of the sets.


The Corsairs are primarily a gold running faction.  They do not usually excel in combat.  This is partly because they have many poor cannon ranks across the 38 ships in their fleet, and because they lack any ships larger than 4 masts.  However, the goal of the game is to get the most gold, so they’re actually relatively competitive compared to the other minor factions, especially the Vikings and Mercenaries.  I’ve found that the Corsairs are often underrated because players sometimes write them off due to their lack of combat capability.  However, this is a mistake, because the Corsairs have many fast ships, often with large cargo capacities and for cheap point costs.


Barbary Corsairs 2014 Fleet Review

The Barbary Corsairs have some of the prettiest ships in the game!

All of their ships can be found here, and I’ve ranked their best gunships and gold runners. The Corsairs have a number of notable ships, with the Tiger’s Eye being the most prominent.  She is widely agreed to be the best Barbary Corsair ship in the game – one of the ships that is simply stacked in just about every category.  Their best warship is probably the Janissaries’ Blood, one of their seven 4 masted galleys.  A few of my favorites that I received in my first pack of Barbary Coast are the Algiers and Griffin, two of their better gold runners.  Other stalwarts worth mentioning are the Queen of Sheba (only 6 points) and Morocco (gold runner with island spying capability).  Some of their 1 masters are overpriced, but most of them are playable.

Named Crew

Unfortunately, Barbary Corsair crew are not a strength of the faction.  They do have a few good ones though – their leader Aruj Barbarossa gives Captain+Gold Capture for 10 points, and is usually placed on one of their flagship 4 mast galleys. Kheir-ed-din’s AA (Admiral’s Action) ability is well suited to the Crescent Moon’s built-in Reroll ability, especially in larger Corsair fleets. However, Jack Hawkins is arguably their best named crew, giving you SAT (Same Action Twice, same as the Born Leader keyword) and the ability to use Pirate crew on his ship for 5 points. Murat Rais is a classic “World Hater” best used on one of their larger ships in order to get his cannon bonus applied to more shots throughout a game.

I do wish Wizkids had done justice to Dragut – just one read of his opening paragraph on Wikipedia suggest he should have been one of the most powerful named crew in the game.  I think John Ward could have been better too, or at least cheaper – much more usable at 1 point than 3.

I made a video about how to make the most out of the Barbary Corsairs as a faction!  You can check it out here:

I’d probably rate the Barbary Corsairs as a faction at a 6/10. They are very capable of winning small games. However, their lack of combat options, named crew, and overall small release in just 1 set out of the 13 produced really holds them back. I’d probably give them a 2/10 for combat, 8/10 for gold running and 7/10 for intangibles or “other”.  However, they are fun to play and really gorgeous to look at!

I’m curious – what is your opinion on the Barbary Corsair faction? Do you like them? Have you enjoyed playing as them, or are they too weak in the fighting category for your taste? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Pirates of the Caribbean movie – My favorite is…

Pirates of the Caribbean movie – My favorite is…

Curse of the Black Pearl Pirates of the Caribbean movie

Buy the movie for an incredible experience!

I’ve seen each Pirates of the Caribbean movie multiple times.  In a separate post, I ranked them all.  If you’ve already seen that post, this one won’t come as a surprise.

Of course my favorite is the first one, The Curse of the Black Pearl.  Not only is it the best movie in the franchise, it’s the best movie I’ve ever seen!!

A true swashbuckling film from start to finish, this movie resurrected the pirate genre and spurred a blockbuster series that has lasted 15+ years.


  • Cast and the characters they portray
  • Historical setting mixed with the right amount of fantasy
  • Understandable plot with twists and turns that make things exciting
  • Multiple climaxes in a way – many peak experiences throughout the movie
  • Unforgettable music, on par with the best in movie history

Cons: None!  The Curse of the Black Pearl is the most perfect movie I’ve ever seen!

Ben’s Rating: 10/10

In addition to being an incredible film, it seems to have inspired some of the Wizkids sets that came out afterwards, such as Davy Jones’ Curse and Ocean’s Edge.  Taking it a step further, Wizkids even partnered up with Disney to make the notable Pirates of the Caribbean set! (you can see all the sets in the Master Spreadsheet)

Not only a great movie, but a nice set for the Pirates CSG game

In the PotC set, the Wizkids Pirates game saw a ton of useful and awesome pieces from the first movie come to life.  Captain Jack Sparrow is arguably the greatest crew in the entire game (fittingly enough perhaps!).  The Black Pearl is one of the most fearsome gunships in the game.  HMS Interceptor has the potential for blazing speed.  Many other great crew and Unique Treasures make up the set, in addition to the game pieces added for the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  Check out the podcast below for a full overview of the set!


What is YOUR favorite Pirates of the Caribbean movie??

Pirates of the Caribbean movies – Ranking them all!

Ranking the Pirates of the Caribbean movies

Pirates of the Caribbean movies are my all time favorite.  I have found no better movie or series that combines action, adventure, excitement, and some historical details so beautifully and perfectly.  I like them so much more than other movies that they almost “break the scale” for me in terms of ranking other movies.  In addition, I usually enjoy even my least favorite Pirates of the Caribbean movie more than any other movies.

In Pirates CSG Podcast #30, I briefly ranked all 5 of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  You can find that podcast at the bottom of this page, but in this post I wanted to rank all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies in text form, more comprehensively.  I know this is a little off-topic compared to my usual Pirates CSG focus, but between the 2007 expansion and intense relation to Pirates CSG (exact same theme), I think it’s quite fitting.  Keep in mind that my ratings are comparing these movies against each other – compared to all movies in general, I would rate them all about 9/10 or better haha! (I love them that much)  So without further ado, here is my official opinion on ranking what I believe to be the best movie series of all time!

1. The Curse of the Black Pearl

The first movie is the most classic.  A true swashbuckling film from start to finish, this movie resurrected the pirate genre and spurred a blockbuster series that has lasted 15+ years.  


  • Cast and the characters they portray
  • Historical setting mixed with the right amount of fantasy
  • Understandable plot with twists and turns that make things exciting
  • Multiple climaxes in a way – many peak experiences throughout the movie
  • Unforgettable music, on par with the best in movie history

Cons: None?  I feel that CotBP is the most perfect movie I’ve ever seen!

Ben’s Rating: 10/10

Captain Jack Sparrow

Captain Jack Sparrow

Best game piece from Pirates CSG: Captain Jack Sparrow

This ship can move and shoot using the same move action. When this ship is given an explore action, you can swap a treasure on the wild island with a crew on any friendly ship.
Link: All Pirate Ships

  • Collector’s Number: 058
  • Faction Affiliation: Pirate
  • Rarity: C
  • Type: Crew
  • Point Value: 6

CJS is arguably the best crew in the entire game, as proved by VASSAL Tournaments #1 and #2. You could make a case that he is the single best game piece ever released by Wizkids. When most of the best fleets in the history of the game have this guy as their centerpiece, you know he’s amazing, and you also know that something went wrong. I do find it rather ironic that our beloved character is such a dominant force in the game, since he’s such a major character in the movies as well.


2. Dead Man’s Chest

The second movie was shot simultaneously with the third movie, and DMC does serve as a link to At World’s End while the first movie is really on it’s own in terms of the plot.  While Dead Man’s Chest is another fantastic pirate movie, it’s definitely not as perfect as the first one. (though it would be nigh impossible to match the original of course)


  • We get to see Captain Jack in a completely different state
  • Great amount of fitting humor
  • Davy Jones and his crew are menacing but fun


  • No ship battle
  • Kraken a bit overpowered/excessive

Ben’s Rating: 8/10

Best game piece from Pirates CSG: HMS Endeavour

HMS Endeavour PotC

HMS Endeavour

  • Collector’s Number: 003
  • Faction Affiliation: England
  • Rarity: R
  • Type: Ship
  • Point Value: 21
  • Cargo Space: 4
  • Base Move: L
  • Cannons: 2L,2L,2L,2L,2L
  • Number of Masts: 5

This ship eliminates two masts with one hit.

Flavor text: Lord Beckett’s flagship and the symbol of the Crown’s power, HMS Endeavour is the most impressive warship on the sea.

Sure she didn’t play much of a role until the 3rd movie, but this cannot be avoided.  Just about on par with El Acorazado and the Constitution as the best gunship in the game. Combine the best guns money can buy with just about the best offensive ship ability in the game, and give those to the most offensively-minded faction, and you’ve got a warship for the ages.


3. At World’s End

The 3rd movie is in my opinion the most EPIC, which gets it major points in my book.  The movie is the culmination and grand climax of the first 3 movies, building everything up to some of the most epic moments ever seen in movies.  The humor is still there, the cast is top-notch, and there are few movies that can match its brilliance.  A complicated and difficult-to-follow plot is the only thing that holds it back from being as good as the first movie.


  • EPIC!!  On par with Lord of the Rings for me.
  • Everything you could want in an epic/action/adventure/Disney/pirate movie
  • Climax and payoff of just about all major storylines built up from the start of the first movie
  • Incredible actions scenes including an epic ship battle
  • LUDICROUSLY amazing soundtrack


  • Overly complicated – plot can be very difficult to follow at times

Ben’s Rating: 9.5/10

Best game piece from Pirates CSG: Hai Peng

Hai Peng PotC

An afterthought in the movie, overpowered with the right crew in the game

  • Collector’s Number: 013
  • Faction Affiliation: Pirate
  • Rarity: R
  • Type: Ship
  • Point Value: 13
  • Cargo Space: 4
  • Base Move: S+L
  • Cannons: 3S,4S
  • Number of Masts: 2

Junk. If this ship has a captain crew, she gets +L to her base move.

But where would Captain Jack Sparrow be without a ship? It might not be a ship he even sailed on in the movies, but the Hai Peng is the fastest ship in the entire game, and the fleets involved in T1 and T2 prove how insanely effective it is to pair them up. The only reason the Hai Peng isn’t higher is because without CJS, the HP wouldn’t be as ridiculously good.


4. On Stranger Tides

The 4th movie was supposed to have a smaller budget and reduced cast from the trilogy of 1-3, so I went in with lowered expectations.  That was key to my enjoying the movie, as it turned out to be an (arguably inevitable) serious letdown to most of the fanbase.  With Captain Jack trying to hold up a lesser cast by himself, the movie just doesn’t have the magic, scale, and excitement of the originals.  A “new era” of Pirates of the Caribbean is born after the true high of AWE’s ending scenes.


  • New characters to spice things up (though they aren’t quite as good as those from the original 3 movies)
  • Adventuring theme that may have been slightly lacking in movies 2 and 3


  • A bit “meh” in nearly every way – just not the same for cast, music, plot, action, or emotions
  • No ship battle – in fact, not a single cannon shot I believe!  🙁

Ben’s Rating: 4/10 (still 8.5+/10 compared to all other movies)

With this movie and the 5th one being released after Pirates CSG went out of print in 2008, there were no game pieces from this movie.  However, we can make customs!


5. Dead Men Tell No Tales

If the “lower budget” and different cast made me appreciate the 4th one more, I was overhyped for the 5th movie.  Although fantastic overall, myself and others had many gripes with the movie, from the casting to the plot to redundant repetition.  It’s a fun movie, just not quite as great as the trailers or cast would make you expect.  You can find my full review of the movie here.


  • Humor – St. Martin town scene, wedding scene, etc.
  • Blurring of lines between good vs. bad – you can easily root for the antagonist


  • Wasted star power (Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann, and Paul McCartney are hardly in the movie!)
  • Continuity issues/plot holes
  • Too unrealistic – many bizarre things that were really obvious mistakes
  • Meh characters/acting – even Captain Jack is not the same anymore

Ben’s Rating: 6/10 (still 9/10 compared to all other movies)

Although there aren’t game pieces from DMTNT, I’ve made some customs that you can find at the bottom of the Epic Seas sheet (4th tab).

You can also find all the movies in boxed sets, not to mention the excellent soundtracks.

Here you can hear my opinion during the 30th episode of the Podcast.  I’ve also ranked the Top 10 Caribbean game pieces and the best game pieces from the set with multiple versions.

Check out the other episodes of the Podcast here.


Pirates of the Caribbean celebration game 1

Pirates of the Caribbean celebration game played in 2017 to celebrate the 5th movie and 10th anniversary of the 3rd movie! Click for the battle report!

Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Originally posted to Miniature Trading on May 30th, 2017

Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Here are my thoughts after seeing the movie a second time (first viewing was the first one I could go to, last Thursday 5/25/2017 at 7pm).

I thought the movie was great overall but a bit disappointing based on the previews and past movies.

Random things I liked:
-Jack pulling a pistol on Henry after Henry held a sword to him (like father like son, CotBP)
-Jack roping the shark, and tricking Carina
-Pretty much the entire St. Martin part, especially with Jack drinking rum on the way through and the actions/lines of the other pirates.
-Wedding scene was extremely random but funny
-Blurring of lines between protagonist/antagonist. If you hadn’t seen the previous movies, it would be very easy to root for Salazar (who never did any wrong, arguably other than killing defenseless pirates). None of the protagonists are as lovable as in the previous movies (other than maybe Barbossa), and they really don’t deserve everything they get in this movie. If this were anything like real life the bad guys won big-time. (also the Royal Navy wasn’t as “evil” as it was under Beckett, and they lost too)
-Post credits scene (mostly since it hints at a 6th movie)
-Barbossa talking about the Pearl only having one captain (AWE)
-I generally enjoyed the lines and comedy
-Not enough original music, though they did a good job reusing themes in new ways (Geoff Zanelli was supposedly a protege of Hans Zimmer but the lack of brilliance showed)

Things I didn’t like:
-They completely wasted their star power. Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley and Paul McCartney got like 5 minutes of screen time combined. Everyone was hoping for more Will and Elizabeth after On Stranger Tides, but the movie almost completely ignored them.
-By extension, they wasted the Flying Dutchman. There were multiple scenes where it would have been perfect for Will and the FD to pop up. One was when Jack and his crew threw Henry overboard. Will could get angry at Jack and confront him, which could have led to Will and the Dutchman playing a role for the rest of the film (along with making a great entrance). Also, when Salazar grabs Henry, we don’t see him again until Salazar possesses his body (lol). This is another great opportunity – the Silent Mary is alone on the water, Salazar looks like he’s about to kill Henry, and then all of a sudden the Dutchman shows up and starts shooting at the Silent Mary!! Would have been a fun ship battle, maybe with the same ending if Salazar and his ghost crew just ran away towards the trident and Will can’t do much but watch. Also could have had the Dutchman on the other side of the divide with her own anchor. (can she shoot while submerged? Imagine seeing the FD zooming along underwater, shooting cannons out one side of the water and into the other at the ghost crew!!) An absolute utter waste of one of the coolest characters and coolest ships in the series.
-Continuity problems. Everyone is talking about how the whole flashback did away with the established story regarding Jack’s compass, but also his accessories and hat.
-Why did Salazar and his crew survive? Since they died in the Devil’s Triangle, but this also brings up the fact that they’ve done the same thing for every movie (undead/unkillable antagonist with cursed crew on a ship with some kind of supernatural power)
-Will should die since he has no heart (lol)
-Elizabeth doesn’t talk
-Henry and Carina are a bit bland, and I’m a bit sick of the forced love story between two characters we don’t have a lot of reason to care about (this aspect was far worse in OST but continues here)
-Plot revolves around an all-powerful device that gets destroyed almost immediately without anyone being able to use it hardly at all
-Carina is like the “science woman” who explains everything in plain detail to the audience, while everyone else in the film is a buffoon regarding it (except for Barbossa to some degree)
-Forced family theme (similar to the Star Wars problem) – in a big world/universe, why do random family connections unexpectedly happen all the time? Carina wasn’t that likable and the way and speed in which the concept was introduced didn’t make me care more about Barbossa (he’s already a great character)
-Why was a Royal Navy ship of the line (by the looks of it, nearly a 3 decker if I saw things correctly) able to catch the Black Pearl that night? Barbossa was running from the dead, so there’s no reason to not go full speed.
-Too magical: For me this movie had too many cartoonish, supernatural elements. Obviously that’s been a theme since the beginning, but the entire Trident sequence towards the end (from when they touch land until Barbossa falls) felt way too much like some Guardians of the Galaxy/cheap superhero kids movie sequence. It felt too “disneyfied” (I like Disney but the previous movies had more realism and historicity). Too much science/gems/magic/fake island stuff for me.
-Jack isn’t as enjoyable – I actually didn’t have as much of a problem with this like most people did, since it makes sense for him to be a washed up drunk after all he’s been through and frustrated with the Pearl still in the bottle.
-Pacing was a bit too fast – movie could have been longer with some more exposition/slightly more drawn out scenes. Some fast cuts during the action sequences (especially the night battle between Jack and Salazar) were hard to follow, tough to tell what was going on with the details.
-Another dead villain after one movie. I understand they aren’t sure about a potential 6th movie, but I thought Salazar was probably good enough to remain as a villain for more than one movie (not as good as Davy Jones).
-Salazar and crew too similar to DJ and crew: can’t step on land, can walk through stuff (brig cell w/ Henry)
-Davy Jones or Barbossa returning in another movie would continue to cheapen the threat of death for the main characters (Elizabeth and Blackbeard seem the most reasonably mortal)
-Why wasn’t Jack more hurt from getting stabbed with the trident? (even before it broke there was no blood or evident pain)
-Especially during my first viewing, it really didn’t look like Salazar was about to kill Carina at the end. It seemed like all 5 people on the chain could just keep climbing, with Barbossa letting Carina go ahead of him if he needed to defend her from Salazar. Jumping off and dying on purpose seemed completely unnecessary and was kind of a cheap death, especially with how little the audience likely cared about Carina and how much people loved Barbossa. (Jack also didn’t seem to care about Barbossa’s death at all, but he’s understandably happy to finally not have a rival for control of the Pearl for once)
-Jack just randomly didn’t have his signature hat on when sailing off with the Pearl at the end

I seem to have had the opposite problem most people had. My expectations were too high for this one (based on the cast and amazing previews, again, wasted star power), but low enough for the 4th one (which was originally going to have a lower budget, and obviously a different cast than 1-3). The 4th one was as good or better than I expected it to be, but this one was somewhat of a disappointment. It seems like others expected way more from the 4th but after that one (which most people liked far less than I did), their expectations were lower for this one.

I did enjoy the film a little bit more the second time, since I knew what to expect.

My updated rankings
1. 1 and 3 (1 is a more “perfect” movie due to 3’s plot and deals being hard to follow)
3. 2 (DMC)
4. 5 (DMTNT)
5. 4 (OST)

Also, I agree with most of this.  I’ve made some customs that you can find at the bottom of the Epic Seas sheet (4th tab).

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!!  Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Savage Shores – Mini Set Review

Savage Shores

Pirates of the Cursed Seas Savage Shores Scavenger Pack Box

Follow this link to find the Savage Shores!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates of the Cursed Seas: Savage Shores

Average eBay Scavenger Pack box price: $128.98 (from 2023)

Where to buy: eBay

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

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

Ben’s Rating: 16/20

Pirates CSG Savage Shores Native Canoes

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

Savage Shores (SS, 2008) became the last set of Pirates CSG.  The set was only the size of half of a normal set (just over 50 game pieces), released in Scavenger Pack boxes instead of the normal game packs.  Each SS box contained 3 packs worth of Savage Shores (in one plastic wrapper, not 3 individual packs), one pack each of Rise of the Fiends and Fire and Steel, a built Special Edition (SE) ship, and a card for one of the set’s two featured 10 masted junk ships.  It featured a bunch of new game pieces and ship types despite the small size, and was notable for being the best set for gameplay since at least the Caribbean set.  A small blaze of glory before the game went out of print just days after release. You can find all of the game pieces in the Master Spreadsheet, and I’ve ranked the Top 10 here.


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

Discover the Savage Shores here!

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

Feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts on a Savage Shores review!

Fire and Steel – Mini Set Review

Fire and Steel

Pirates CSG Fire and Steel pack

Click to buy Fire and Steel!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates of the Cursed Seas: Fire and Steel

Average eBay pack price: $10.01 (from 2023)

Cheapest place to buy: eBay

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

Features/New Stuff: Bombardiers, Switchblades, equipment, historical LE’s

Ben’s Rating: 10/20

Pirates of the Cursed Seas: Fire and Steel

The wacky new ship types

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. You can find all of the game pieces in the Master Spreadsheet, and I’ve ranked the Top 10 here.


– 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 can be 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.

Find Fire and Steel here!

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

Rise of the Fiends – Mini Set Review

Rise of the Fiends

Rise of the Fiends pack

Click to buy Rise of the Fiends!

Mini Set Review

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

Average eBay pack price: $9.60 (from 2023)

Where to buy: eBay

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

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

Ben’s Rating: 11/20

Pirates of the Cursed Seas: Rise of the Fiends

A Scorpion ship in action

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


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

Get Rise of the Fiends here!

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

Pirates of the Caribbean – Mini Set Review

Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean pack

Click to buy PotC on eBay!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates of the Caribbean

Average eBay pack price: $7.23 (from 2023)

Where to buy: eBay, Hill’s Wholesale Gaming

Factions: Pirates, English

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

Ben’s Rating: 12/20

Wizkids Pirates of the Caribbean game

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

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


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

Find Pirates of the Caribbean on eBay!

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

Pirates at Ocean’s Edge – Mini Set Review

Pirates at Ocean’s Edge

Pirates at Ocean's Edge pack

Click to buy Ocean’s Edge!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates at Ocean’s Edge

Average eBay pack price: $6.43 (from 2023)

Where to buy: eBay and Hill’s Wholesale Gaming

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

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

Ben’s Rating: 12/20

Pirates at Ocean's Edge

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

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


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

Use eBay to sail towards the Ocean’s Edge!

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

Pirates of the Frozen North – Mini Set Review

Pirates of the Frozen North

Pirates of the Frozen North pack

Click to buy Frozen North!

Mini Set Review

Product: Pirates of the Frozen North

Average eBay pack price: $28.37 (from 2023)

Where to buy: eBay

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

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

Ben’s Rating: 11/20

Pirates of the Frozen North game

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

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


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

Discover the Frozen North on eBay!

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