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.

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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 – affiliate link), 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 (affiliate link), 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 (affiliate link), 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 (affiliate link)) 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.



  1. Hi Ben, I can see from your website that this game is something that you are really passionate about, and you know what, that is truly refreshing to love something like a this rather than a virtual computer game. I love the fact that it is a tangible authentic game, and it looks like great fun to set up and play.
    You have a massive amount of boats there (I’m presuming they’re all yours). How long have you been collecting them?

    • @Stefanie Taylor: Thanks! It has been one of my biggest passions in life since 2011. All of the ones you see on this page are mine; I got my first pack in 2005 but didn’t start collecting more seriously until 2011. By the way, ships not “boats”!

      It is a lot of fun to play! Check out my Beginner’s Guide if you’d like to know more.

      Have fun!

  2. Hey Ben,
    I have been a minor user on MT for years and saw this site you have made and wanted to say that its awesome how you still have a drive for this game! Still my all time favorite non digital game as well!

    Your collection is pretty legendary! I have maybe half of what your collection is! Truly a sight to behold! I really envy that Beowulf you have!

    • @Matt: Awesome, great to hear from you! Thanks for the compliment; Pirates CSG is my favorite game and I pretty much always have more things to do with it. (playing/collecting/content/etc)

      I’m definitely satisfied with my collection. It has been a mostly gradual and long buildup, to the point where now I am quite happy with my playing options.

      Thanks for commenting! Feel free to comment in the Forum if you want!


  3. Hey Ben,
    This is just a suggestion, but you should make a ship list, like a gallery of all the ships you have. It could have an enlarged picture of the ship, ship details, etc. Just for people who want a specific ship, fort, creature, without having to search the entire Internet for something like it. Again, this is just a suggestion. but I would love to get my hands on a ship called the Santos Romanos. I’m also a big fan of the game as well, even though I only have around 50 ships, I still love it as much as you do, too.
    Sincerely yours,
    Ryan Finley.

    • @Ryan: Thanks for the suggestion! That sounds just like the Miniature Trading database, which is gone now because the site shut down in July 2019. I made the Master Spreadsheet in 2018 in response to the MT crisis, which has all the game pieces. You can find the pictures here, and there is a link to that on the home page of my site as well through the Best Posts widget on the sidebar.

      Ideally I’ll someday manage to make a database similar to the one we had at MT, but that is years away due to other priorities.


  4. Hi Ben! I was wondering do you have Ochobrazo from rise of the fiends?
    and also please put the shells on the Titan crabs the other way they’r supposed to go the other direction. do You have RTSS Ships?

    • @Levi,
      Ochobrazao doesn’t exist. He was supposed to be in rise of the Fiends, but was moved to Savage Shores. Savage Shores was split in two, the first half of it was released in scavenger boxes. When the set was split in two Ochobrazo fell into the cracks and wound up as an “unreleased” game piece. You can see the stats for it in the Pirates Master Spreadsheet, under the Unreleased tab on the far right. Pirates CSG Master Spreadsheet
      Anything from RTSS only exists on paper, as the set was never sent off to the printers but was otherwise complete. You can make models yourself with spare ships or try a 3D printer, but no one really has those ships. The RTSS pieces can also be found in the Master Spreadsheet.

      • Thank you Xerecs!

        @Levi: Ahoy matey! 🙂 Wish I somehow had Ochobrazo and RtSS, but I’ll have to make my own someday like everyone else!

  5. Hi Ben, so glad I found this place- this game used to be one of my favorites back when I was a kid, and I’ve started getting back in to it now that I’ve had some expendable income come my way (still need to recover my old collection). A breakdown like this was something I always wanted, and I’m glad to see there still some people out there who enjoy the game.

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