Game Modes for playing Pirates CSG

Game Modes for playing Pirates CSG

Important to note: None of this is official.

Through the years many complaints have been lodged by the Pirates CSG community regarding game pieces that are “too good”, “unfair”, “fun killers”, and the like.  A problem seen in various other collectible games, it’s no surprise that Pirates has its fair share of broken or overpowered game pieces.  One of the biggest issues I see in regards to playing the game is when players do not approach fleet building with similar mindsets.  If no discussion occurs prior to the game on the relative strengths of each fleet or general player intentions, you may end up with a highly competitive fleet wiping the map of a gimmick fleet.  The result can be less fun had on both sides.  In addition, some game pieces have even been deemed “unsportsmanlike” despite no official ban list from Wizkids, their usage often resulting in angry or butthurt players who feel they need similarly nasty things to even compete to a reasonable level of play.  Much more could be said about all of it, but I’ll skip straight to what I think are some “game modes” or formats that I hope players can use to avoid feeling disgruntled.  If players agree to a game mode before building fleets, hopefully all parties involved will enjoy the game even more than they usually do.  😀  I have included Return to Savage Shores (designed but not released) for the sake of completeness.  For reference, all game pieces can be found in the Master Spreadsheet.


Ban List: None.

Rule Changes: None.

Description: Pirates CSG as we all know it – standard, normal, no holds barred, the “proper” game mode for competitive playing, and how Wizkids intended the game to be played.



Ban List:
Ships: Banshee’s Cry, Le Bonaparte (DJC), HMS Grand Temple, Zeus, San Cristobal (004 version), Sirène
Crew: Captain Jack Sparrow (058 version), Lord Mycron, Capitaine Baudouin Deleflote, George Washington LeBeaux (RtSS)
Forts: Paradis de la Mer
UT’s: Blood Money, Cursed Natives, Altar of the Loa
Events: Mermaids, Hidden Cove, Becalmed
Islands: Mysterious Island #1, #4,#5, #6, #11, #12, #14, Savage Shores islands 103, 105, 108

Rule Changes:
-Treasure is not revealed when unloaded to a home island.
-The “more than half of the game’s starting gold value” endgame condition is not used.

Description: This mode is designed to eliminate the most powerful or broken game pieces in existence.  It would likely make the UPS (Universal Pirate Shipping) strategy much less effective by banning CJS and Hidden Cove.  Some of the biggest fun ruiners in the game are also listed – mermaids, Bonaparte, and Altar of the Loa.  The islands are largely those that bring game pieces in from outside the game or can decide a game on a single d6 roll.  The rule change is to prevent gold bonus abilities from triggering the more than half gold rule (as they add gold to the original 30) – although the gold bonus abilities are extremely good, there are bigger fish to fry at this level of OP/broken.



Ban List: Same as Semi-Limited, plus:
Ships: Darkhawk II, HMS Titan, Bloody Jewel, La Santa Isabel, Enterprise, Nubian Prince, Tiger’s Eye, Virtuous Wind (both versions), Santa Ana (SCS), Behemoth, Slipstream, USS Kettering, Le Coeur du Lion, HMS Endeavour, Hai Peng, Kray-kin, The Kraken, San Cristobal (both versions), Rising Sun, Sol, Morning Star (205 version), USS Morning Star, Frontier, American and Spanish Native Canoes, Libellule, Baochuan+Admiral Zheng He, Guichuan+The Headhunter, Celtic Fury, Shui Xian, Fortaleza, Zhànfu, Fetu, Orphan.
Crew: All 0LR +5 point crew, all crew with the Sac ability (eliminate a crew for an extra action), all crew with +2 gold bonus ability, Davy Jones (both versions), Grim the Savage (FN), Calico Cat (OE), Crimson Angel (OE), Emperor Blackheart, Calypso, Cursed Captain Jack, Griffin (207 version), Master Bianco (SS), Bianco’s Haulers (SS), Captain Charles Richard, Cargo Master (both versions)
Forts: Fortaleza Dorada
UT’s: Natives, Wolves, Pandora’s Box, Nemo’s Plans, Runes of Magic, Runes of Odin, Lost, Dead Man’s Chest (PotC), Kraken Gong, Voodoo Doll, French Royal Decree, English Royal Decree
Events: All
Islands: All mysterious islands

Rule Changes: Same as Semi-Limited, plus:
-The Captain keyword is built-in to the Sea Monster keyword.
-Shipwrights do not take up cargo space.

Description: By far the mode with the most comprehensive changes, Limited is designed to cover most bases in regards to what players see as overpowered.  The rest of the ships with the “UPS ability” are here, along with many of the game’s best overall pieces.  Some inclusions (such as the Runes) are designed to limit the “swinginess” of a game, lessening the direct impact a single game piece or combo can have on the outcome.  The omission of cancellers is largely because they are one of the only defenses against submarines becoming nearly invincible. Whereas Semi-Limited only aims to tamp down on overpowered or broken game pieces, Limited has an additional goal of making the game more fun/fair as well as balanced for a casual audience.


Please let me know what you think of these game modes for Pirates CSG in the comments below.  I would especially consider editing the Limited format, with feedback from the player base.

Posted in Uncategorized and tagged , .


  1. I think these formats looked to be very well thought out and I like the bans in each. I like that the Semi-Limited format only deals with the most egregious pieces, but still leaves most things untouched and would be far more enthusiastic about potentially playing in more serious events with those rules settings. Personally I feel that “how Wizkids intended” is more that they just had a hands off approach to the game, which has always put me off trying to play the game more competitively.

    I’m actually surprised at how many things you’ve hit in the Limited format, but it definitely includes a lot of the biggest players so it would actually be quite interesting to see what people might come up with in this format as well.

    A few ships that didn’t make your list that I had on a list I’d already made myself were Longshanks, HMS Oxford and La Bonne Chance. The first two are just too cheap for how good they are in my opinion and I think the speed of La Bonne Chance makes it too overbearing against smaller ships. Arguably all these ships are still a step down from a lot of the ships you’ve banned for Limited though so I’m not sure they necessarily need dealing with.

    • Thanks for the feedback!
      Longshanks is a reasonable candidate for Limited, but I didn’t want to go too far down the rabbit hole of banning treasure runners that are “too good”. Generally stopped at Bloody Jewel. If you ban Longshanks, Bonnie Liz probably gets banned too, and then it opens up Monarca and various others. I know it’s subjective, but wanted to not ban a ton of ships simply for being good.

      I don’t think Oxford or Bonne Chance should be considered for Limited. Neither are all that overpowered, and Oxford brings up a similar rabbit hole to Longshanks – if Oxford is banned, then Dover and London probably need it too. Bonne Chance to me is just a simple and good gunship. Other ships are capable of similar damage outputs for the same total cost (Raven, Executioner, etc).

      • Statistically the La Bonne Chance does much more damage than both of those examples when you consider the built-in reroll and she also has an extra mast. I’d argue she’s more like a faster version of the HMS Nautilus. Like I said before though I do still think she’s a step down from the Limited bans you currently have so I wouldn’t really push much for her inclusion.

  2. I would amend the section on Shipwrights in Limited to read “Shipwrights gain the text ‘This crew does does not take up cargo space.'” Gets the same point across, but reads more like it gains the ability rather than a simple rule change.

    • Good point, but that originated from the Seattle house rules where the intention was for it to be a rule rather than an ability. Partly so it wouldn’t violate the No-Stacking Rule with Oarsman that also doesn’t take up cargo space. I understand the distinction could be a little confusing. I think I’d prefer to play more games with the house rule before changing anything.

  3. Have you considered a draft game mode? I know the logistics would be rather expensive with the packs not being cheap anymore. But I was considering something like players get 3 packs. They open each pack and select 1 ship or crew from each pack. Then the rest go into an open pot. Players roll off for selection once everyone has selected roll off again till the pot is gone? Heck maybe even play a little game of liars dice for it if you want and have time. Lol open to suggestions.

    • Brian,
      Sounds like fun! That seems to be a hybrid of a couple different things I’ve seen done in the past – a sealed pack game (where people build a fleet from the packs they open), and a Draft format. On page 6 of the old tournament rules, there is a section about sealed events. At Miniature Trading we had both a Draft Fleet Challenge and a Sealed Pack Fleet Challenge, but unfortunately most of the threads involving them seem to be lost to the depths.

      I don’t think I’ve heard of the idea of combining both though. I can add that to the Game Ideas page.

      • Cool ya it just so happens that I bought a whole bunch of boxes of packs. Cuse I make smart financial decisions without impulsive actions. And I just wanted to see what you thought.

        • Sealed pack games would be a fun way to break some of them out! Especially if you plan to open all of them soon anyway – might as well get the experience of a sealed format before doing so again requires a further purchase.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *