Gameplay

Playing the game

Tips for playing:

  • Generic crew are the backbone of any fleet.  You’ll find out early on that captains, helmsmen, and explorers rule this 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.  At the bottom of this page there is an Excel spreadsheet that has generic crew chips you can print and cut out to use if you don’t have enough of the actual crew.
  • 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.
  • 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” tactics, you’ll develop a desire to win in more unorthodox and unpredictable ways.

Pirates CSG generic crew

For reference, the rules:

Start Here Rules

Complete Game Rules

Master Keyword List

The Pirate Code (FAQ)

Reference Diagrams

 

Pirates Constructible Strategy Game

A game of Pirates CSG in action!

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