My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

My 500th Game!


After about 11.5 years of consistently playing Pirates CSG, I found myself realizing that my 500th game was upon me! (3 BR’s will be posted in the future) I knew I wanted to make #500 special, and decided to do a solo effort since I knew my idea was likely to take 8+ hours, not something I wanted to burden my group with.  It would be a 6 fleet game with each of the Big 6 factions, where gold on home islands could be used to purchase new game pieces from outside the game and add them to the fleet, the main rule seen in campaign/cumulative games.  However, unlike those games where usually the last fleet afloat or points in play decides the winner, the endgame rules for this game would be completely standard!  “Gold wins the game!” (as the PDXYAR group would say)

For the most part I used the Seattle Pirates house rules, with the following exceptions:
-All-Powerful functions as normal
-Lord Mycron is not banned
-Each fleet can only place up to 1 oversized terrain.
-10 coins per island (random treasure coins and random UT’s)
-Pure faction fleets. Gold can be used to purchase any game pieces from any minor faction (Jade Rebellion/Barbary Corsair/Viking/Mercenary), but each of the Big 6 must stay within their own faction for launches (ex: Pirates can only purchase Pirate and minor faction stuff, not English/etc).

The build total was 40 points.  Here are the fleets in the order of play!

HMS Nautilus + RotF Thomas Gunn, Bratley (0LR+5)
Edinburgh Trader + RotF Hermione Gold, explorer
HMS Hermes + helmsman
The English focused on good speeds and an armed gold runner/hybrid in the Trader.

El Cristal del Obispo + Inquisitor Sebastian Blanco, Alejandro Malaspina, captain, helmsman, tribal chieftain, oarsman
Santa Teresa + Contessa Anita Amore
Spanish Native Canoes
The Spanish wanted to use Malaspina on the first turn so the canoes could redock and grab coins without having to wait a turn when exploring normally. The Cristal was overloaded, so a rare appearance from Blanco helped make the setup legal.

Le Gaule + Jules de Cissey, F&S Lenoir, captain, helmsman
St. Joan + explorer, oarsman, towing Mont Blanc
The French were guns-heavy, looking like one of the most intimidating fleets.

Panda + Captain Blackheart, The Hag of Tortuga, helmsman, oarsman x2
Barnacle + helmsman, explorer
I went with a “classic pirates” fleet where their ships were small and fast, more similar to true Age of Sail historical pirates. They had multiple treasure running options backed by a nasty Panda killing machine.

USS Stephens + helmsman, explorer, oarsman
USS Lamon + Commodore Matthew Perry, Captain Montana Mays, helmsman
The Americans looked as aggressive as the French, but only had 2 cargo spaces open for gold.

Lechim Namod
Loa’s Justice + Sargasso Nightmare, helmsman, explorer, oarsman
Nightmare + helmsman, explorer, oarsman
+oarsman on HI
The Cursed came in at a disadvantage with no 0LR+5 available, and indeed the only fleet to not utilize one. However, Lechim Namod looked to benefit from having Captain as part of the Sea Monster keyword, and was supported by an L booster on one of the two gold runners.

The map with only islands placed:

Setup notes: English and French place islands farther due to higher speeds in their fleets. Cursed want as close as possible resulting in crowded middle. English and Pirates reef the crap out of the tight archipelago in the middle, due to faster speeds (+Hermes ignoring terrain) and small ships respectively. French add some reefs while Spanish and Cursed go mostly for fog. Americans place all three whirlpools. The Cursed wanted MI’s to take effect but none of the other factions did, and they were eventually outrolled (so no MI effects would happen).  I ended up using 30 random UT’s out of the 120 total coins.

The full setup!  😀

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The big reef chain in the middle would likely split capital ship combat into the north and south, potentially making the terrain area a haven for small gold runners looking to stay safe.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The Pirates wanted their small ships near the reefs that could barely hurt any of them.  The Cursed picked first and ended up lucky that nobody chose super close to them.  The Spanish chose their HI based on where they thought their canoes could be as close to home as possible, and where they anticipated the English going.  The English picked last but liked their round earth options.  The French and Americans wanted to keep their 5 masters away from the reefs, but close to some nearby wild islands.  Overall each faction ended up pretty happy with their HI result as the game began.

Here’s a video of the first half of the first round of turns!

The Pirates went next, with the Barnacle finding Missionary, which took out both her crew.  They immediately thought about getting the Explosives to the Zephyr, as she had the fastest base move yet lowest cargo of the Pirate sloops, making her an ideal suicide bomber.  The Fancy would join her in snagging coins, while the Zephyr headed east instead of west having seen the St. Joan (with dangerous flotilla in tow) make landfall at the island she originally wanted.

Barnacle sloop explores

The Stephens explores, using Jailhouse Dog to eliminate the Plague UT and save her crew!  The 5-4 off the island show they are the coins loaded by the Stephens, while the rest are left on the island (face up so you can see what else is on it).  Overall a solid island for the Americans, and I think the only wild island in this game with no 1 coins on it.

The Lamon’s activities were captured on camera!

The Nightmare explored to find some nice goodies, but Message in a Bottle would yank her away from the gold!

It docked her at the “Pirate wild island” that the Barnacle and Fancy had plundered, but she avoided reef damage.  The Loa’s Justice (LJ) was off to a better start, loading 14 gold and the Eye of Insanity! O_O  (perfect for the Cursed since they could potentially hire Davy Jones/etc and use the Eye to essentially create a duplicate)  Lechim Namod (LN) laid in wait, aiming to protect the LJ from harm.

A happy beginning for our fleets today!  XD

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

HMS Hermes explores!  O_O  It appears to be a lucrative island, with the Cursed Conch potentially allowing the English to control LN….

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The Cristal heads home while escorting the gold-laden canoes, S-exploring the sargasso-like island on the way there.  The Santa Teresa is stuck with Anita Amore aboard and has no room for treasure, so heads home to stay safe in case the Panda tries to go crazy on the Pirate turn.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The French were next!

The Pirates followed and the carnage spread to the north!!

The Pirates launched the Raven’s Neck with a captain and helmsman for 17 total gold!

The first launch of the game!  Time will tell if launching vs. saving is more pragmatic in this tight balance of gold budgeting.

On the American turn the Lamon got another SAT and continued north, this time harassing the English.  However, the ram failed and the Edinburgh Trader defended herself well to win the boarding party!  For this game I generally used the white GF9 tokens for the English, black for the Pirates, and then faction pennants for the other wild island markers.

The 9 gold brought back by the Stephens is the perfect amount for the Americans to expand their fleet and dramatically increase their gold running capability!  The Corsair galley Queen of Sheba is hired, with a helmsman and explorer aboard to make her one of the better runners in play.

The Cursed consider saving for a larger purchase later on, but decide to quickly spend the LJ’s entire haul of 14 gold on the Sea Rat with generic crew.  LN has slunk away into the fog bank, hoping to avoid Lenoir’s Gaule for the rest of the game unless the Cursed can get some canceller support via RtSS Papa Doc.  The Nightmare has explored the middle island.

The Trader’s 12 gold is used to hire Lawrence and launch HMS Trepassey!  The English see Lawrence as a necessary counter to both Lenoir and the Lamon.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The Santa Teresa returns to the S-explored island to actually explore it and finds a game changer: Kharmic Idol!  She would have loaded the 3 UT’s in the row underneath it, but the Idol wipes out all face up UT’s in play.  The elimination of the Cursed Conch and Eye of Insanity put a damper on nefarious English and Cursed plans.  In reality I think the Idol would have also eliminated the turtles, if so a big mistake there.  The canoes return home, with their bonuses turning 3’s into 4’s.

The Cristal could get maybe 1 cannon in range of the Panda, so Malaspina decides to return home instead.  The Spanish build Fortaleza Dorada with their HI gold!  Their strategy is to use the fort to protect gold that the canoes will ferry one by one, getting as many +1’s as possible in an attempt to make up for losing their other 3 canoes.  The fort will also provide protection for the canoes, as even the Cristal may not be enough with an additional Pirate gunship (Raven’s Neck) now in close proximity to the Spanish.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The Marksman’s Map eliminated by Kharmic Idol had been on the St. Joan, which the French had used to spy Wolves on the island the Gaule would later dock at.  This was part of the French plan – since Wolves would prevent other negative UT’s from affecting the Gaule and her valuable crew, the French felt comfortable exploring the island just to see what else was on it.  It was a true hoard, with 22 total gold along with Relics and Rum!

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The French decide to make the gold even more inaccessible, building Paradis de la Mer with the St. Joan’s pair of coins! (a 3 and 2)  This is a big move on the part of the French and a decent gamble – the French are putting their eggs in one basket, with 27 total gold in the fort.  Part of the French reasoning is that even if Paradis gets destroyed, the French will try to quickly rebuild it – their strategy is to just hold the fort until the end of the game, not bothering to try and kill the Wolves to get any gold off of it.  With the Gaule ready to protect the fort and LN injured, it looks like a viable strategy against a relatively weak Cursed neighbor.  If the French can put some nearby gold into the fort as well, it could become a game-winning kingpin, although risking the all or nothing approach which may see them go from first to last if the fort gets destroyed right before the gold count.

This wide shot shows various other happenings.  Clockwise from top left: Lamon rams a mast off Trepassey then uses SAT to go southeast, the Pirates gather in fog banks with severely anti-Spanish plans, the Nightmare returns home with a little gold while other Cursed ships hide in fog, Americans head for more gold, HMS Nautilus picks up the Cross of Coronado UT, and St. Joan prepares to repair now that she is home safe.

The Pirate plan is to blow up the Cristal del Obispo using the Zephyr’s Explosives!  Following that, they hope that a pincer attack with the Panda and Raven’s Neck could cripple their fort and/or remaining ships.

At the bottom, notice the Trader and HMS Nautilus linking up via round earth to explore the northeast corner… a journey that eventually would have major implications for some factions….

Warily eyeing the Pirates, the Spanish play it safe and take the Santa Teresa home, keep the canoes docked, and put the Cristal in a fog bank.

With the Cursed turn immediately after America’s, a peace agreement was made.  The Americans and Cursed would not fight each other over that island, agreeing to share the gold.  It was a bit uneasy given the firepower each escort had, but this was understandable.  The Sea Rat and LN came out of the fog, with the Sea Rat grabbing 3 coins.

Further north, the Cursed gold runners resume normal gathering operations after premeasuring the Gaule’s movement potential.

Fleet deckplate area showing each ship’s cargo arrangements:

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

Similar to other factions on recent turns, the English play it safe.  The Trader could reach the island off the Gaule’s bow, but instead goes west to explore the island the Spanish canoes started at.  This does allow HMS Nautilus to fully catch up with the Trader, and she has the better cannons of the two.  The Trader loads a 2 and the Mines UT.  At the top right, you can see the Hermes and Trepassey docked at wild islands in the distance.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The Pirates have been using the Raven’s Neck to spy on various coins throughout the map, and have spotted quite the coin on the island the Trader nearly went for… the Altar of the Loa.  O_O  They quickly begin scheming on how they can use their knowledge as power, wondering if they should tell the English.  The Spanish are next in the turn order after the English, and thus would be controlled by the English if the latter made a sacrifice at the Altar.  This could benefit the Pirates, as they are ready to strike Spain hard and have designs on the treasure in Fortaleza Dorada.  Upon this discovery I spent a good 5-10 minutes considering the possibilities and ramifications, even just for the Pirates as they are the only one privy to the information as of now.  A huge potential weapon that could destabilize the entire game as soon as it’s revealed!

Pirates spy the Altar of the Loa

Interestingly enough the French also spied on that island’s coins with the Marksman’s Map, but only saw 5 of the 10 which didn’t include the Altar.

The French tried to pull a fast one on the Cursed!

The rest of the round was uneventful, with all four Cursed ships getting or going home and the Zephyr changing fog banks to be closer to her target (the Cristal).

What an island!  The Edinburgh Trader heads south to explore, knowing that Lawrence will cancel Lenoir on the Gaule to allow HMS Nautilus to broadside the French 5 master.  The Trader finds a whopping 5 UT’s, with the Altar being the most consequential.

It was definitely a good time for another video!  Until writing the report right now I didn’t realize I accidentally cheated with the English briefly, as the Trader can’t normally carry 12 points of crew.  However, I think there was a legal way to do it without affecting any part of the rest of the game (ex: drop the Castaway oarsman for the explorer per the free transfer rules).

The English build Ramsgate!!  This was a “coup” of sorts, as it would deny all other fleets from using the Altar, as you cannot dock at an island that has an enemy fort on it.  In addition, it brought much more firepower to bear on the Gaule, who was now facing up to 11 English cannons in the area instead of 6.  Things were getting interesting!

English build Ramsgate fort

The Spanish kowtowed to English demands to “stop being wussies”, moving most of their fleet towards Fortaleza’s gold.  The canoes couldn’t quite make it (1-2mm away), but the Cristal dumped Malaspina to make room for a 4 that she intended to ferry back to the Spanish HI.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The French return fire!!

A brilliant final move segment by the St. Joan to get all of the Mont Blanc’s cannons in range of the Nautilus, coupled with 6/8 shooting overall, smash up the strong English position at the Ramsgate-Altar island.

HMS Nautilus dismasted

Here is the long-awaited Pirate combat turn!

Not as epic as the Pirates were hoping for, but still crippling to the Spanish fleet!

Pirates blast Spanish

A rare view from the northeast: USS Stephens has loaded Barbary Banner from the Queen of Sheba, the Lamon has rammed the Santa Teresa derelict, and the Sea Rat has returned home with gold as the Loa’s Justice repairs.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The French thorn in the English side was growing.  If only the Spanish could be eliminated faster, the next player in the turn order after the English would be the French, which would have been perfect for the English.  However, for now it would simply be ugly.  The English figured they needed to save the Nautilus, and thus the Trader took her under tow while combining with the fort to cripple the Gaule.  In addition, Hermione Gold knew she had Mines hidden on the Trader, which could be used to eliminate the Gaule’s final mast.  However, it would be another turn sitting in range of Mont Blanc, and another turn not using the Altar of the Loa.

English vs. French situation

Having accumulated various coins from different wild islands with the Hermes and Trepassey, the English decide to go all-in on spending and launch HMS Hyena with a complement of 5 generic crew for their entire coffer of 17 gold!  O_O   It will be interesting to see if this cripples the English long-term gold game and costs them a potential win, or if the firepower and sacrificial crew destined to die at the Altar will provide them the means needed to dictate enough of the endgame to ruin other fleets and control the outcome.  The English also bought the ship to provide a third ship with which to fight the French and any other Altar hopefuls, with the trio of Gaule-Lenoir-Mont Blanc providing heavy opposition for the English thus far.

HMS Hyena launched

As soon as the Gaule started moving on the French turn, the Mines UT was revealed, causing the ship to lose her final mast at the end of the action.  However, Mont Blanc shot 2/4 to beat up the Trader.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

With the Gaule now derelict and likely in range of Ramsgate’s L+L range cannon, the St. Joan comes over to assist, towing the flagship and warping her behind the fog bank.  At the upper right, the Cristal has repaired a mast at Fortaleza Dorada, with one canoe fleeing into fog and another loading a coin from the fort to try and deny the Pirates from ever having it.  (Santa Teresa repairs)

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

Unsurprisingly, the Pirates take control of the situation.  The Raven’s Neck sinks the canoe with gold on it and re-dismasts the Cristal, allowing the Zephyr to capture her (one of the Panda’s hits had taken out the oarsman).  The Panda has no good sac fodder left and a dangerous path home to pick up new hires, so Captain Blackheart takes her southeast to shoot at the Nightmare over a reef, dismasting the vessel!  The cargo wrecking also forced the Cursed to make some hard choices with their cargo, choosing to eliminate the Nightmare’s helmsman and a 2 while keeping her oarsman and the other 2. (this way the Nightmare could row into the fog bank on the Cursed turn, then eventually get home and use the 2 to get another helmsman)

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

With the Stephens in range of the Fancy, the Pirates duck the latter into the huge fog bank in search of safer treasures.  The Sea Rat has lost her oarsman to a whirlpool as she goes north in search of loot.  The Americans are bringing home more gold.  They have an inkling that they will have to destroy Paradis to win the game, and thus send the Lamon east to potentially meet up with the Stephens where the Gaule is now.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

Hermione Gold and Thomas Gunn are extremely relieved to see the arrival of English reinforcements.  The Hyena and Hermes are on the scene.  Hyena brings needed firepower and Altar fuel, while the Hermes will start ferrying some gold from Ramsgate back to the English HI.  The English already anticipate needing to build another fort on the Altar island with gold from their HI if Ramsgate is destroyed.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The Spanish get some measure of revenge, sinking the Zephyr and captured Cristal!  The fort also hits the Raven’s Neck, which is actually the only real threat the Pirates have against the fort.  The Panda only has L-range guns, and the RN only has a pair of 3S’s that can hit Fortaleza, so the Pirates may need to launch another gunship if they hope to take the fort’s gold.

O_O   Mont Blanc shoots 4/4 to sink the Trader and take Ramsgate down to 1 flag standing!  HGold and Lawrence go do with the ship, a devastating blow for the English.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The Fight for Fortaleza ends with the Panda and RN moving on to safer objectives.  Seeing the RN and Barnacle approaching and not wanting to lose their HI raiding gold runner, the Cursed turn the Sea Rat around, go back into the whirlpool, and return home, desperate to conserve their assets.  They’ve played a guarded game, unwilling to lose any units while slowly gathering gold from nearby islands.  The Spanish send their final canoe through a whirlpool to the southwest in search of some leftover “English gold”, but the Fancy emerges from the megafog in hot pursuit.  The Pirates plan for the Panda to return home and restock sac fodder for just 2 gold, while the RN and Barnacle will get the coins the Sea Rat was headed for.  In the meantime, the Queen of Sheba is helping the Americans mount a comeback in the gold race.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

HMS Nautilus repairs at Ramsgate, whose last cannon cannot do anything against the Mont Blanc as it takes two hits from the same shoot action to eliminate the flag (and a third hit overall to sink the flotilla).  HMS Hyena docks at the fort with crew to spare at the Altar, but the English are in an agonizingly terrible position.  They can only control the Spanish through the Altar right now, who are the weakest faction in play by far.  So weak in fact, that the English sacrificing two 1 point generic crew wouldn’t even be worth it, as they could only move around a canoe and the Santa Teresa. Much more appealing is taking control of the French, who the English would control if the Spanish were to be eliminated.  Thus, the English engage in talks with the Pirates to potentially team up and eliminate the Spanish.  The Pirates generally respond that they would like the Spanish out anyway, if the Fancy can hit the last canoe and the Santa Teresa can be captured for a 5 gold Ransom payout.  In the end the English are simply frustrated, as controlling the Spanish feels like a waste since they must spend valuable gold and continually ferry sacrifices to the island in order to use the Altar to eventually, someday get at the French.

In the meantime, the Hermes grabs coins to the north.  However, the Lamon is coming….

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

Mont Blanc destroys Ramsgate!  The French had unknowingly positioned the flotilla in the perfect spot where all of her cannons were in range of the fort, while only the L+L cannon was in range of the flotilla!  Some of the flotilla’s cannons were also sometimes in range of English ships docked there (hence the Trader sinking), meaning the French had accidentally stumbled into a perfect zone control situation where they were slowly crippling English plans!  In addition, the flotilla and Paradis served as a kind of “block zone” against the nearby Cursed HI to the west, making Cursed access to the Altar harder.  Plus, Lechim Namod was still missing two tentacles, making the Cursed scared to take on Paradis.

The St. Joan arrives home with the Gaule, who is repairing. At the lower left, a mini-conflict is brewing as three ships have designs on the low-value coins the Hermes originally saw.  At the top right, the Lamon has rammed a mast off the Hyena.  The English still look like a threat to win if they can control the endgame through the Altar and firepower, so the Americans are enjoying harassing them while waiting for the opportune moment to strike Paradis. (although it could be now with the Gaule repairing, the Stephens is simply too far away)  The Nightmare repairs and “restocks” her helmsman as the entire Cursed fleet happens to be at home.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

A round of relative peace finally ensues, with plenty of low-value gold scraps to go around.  The English surge south, having made a weak agreement to attack Paradis with the Cursed on the following round.  St. Joan has returned to the area via round earth, but it remains to be seen if she will ferry gold from the Altar island to Paradis, use the Altar, take Mont Blanc under tow again, or none of the above….  The Lamon shadows the English movements, further complicating the situation as the submarine is extremely dangerous to both the English and French forces.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The Pirates then made an announcement: at the conclusion of this round, the Cursed have a total of 27 gold on their home island.  The Raven’s Neck had used her ability to spy every coin on the Cursed HI, and the Pirates were telling the truth.  This worried the Americans most, who I know had 22-25 at the time and suspected the French to be ahead of them.  Factions made some grumbling about capturing the Sea Rat to use her HI raider ability, but no coalition was formed.

The English started off the next round with a ram, as the gold-laden Trepassey dismasts the Fancy.  The English saw this as necessary, as they had premeasured that the Fancy would be able to ram the Trepassey on her way home before the latter could arrive with gold.  Basically, a game of don’t become derelict first. (neither ship has any crew; Trepassey won the board)

In a very frustrating round of shooting, HMS Nautilus and HMS Hyena both hit 1/2 to not damage Mont Blanc at all!  Ruining an opportunity to cripple the English for good, the flotilla misses all four shots on the English gunships to not do any damage as well!  O_O

The Panda finally gets home and loads up two new oarsmen as fresh sac fodder for Blackheart. At the right, Lamon has rammed another mast off the Hyena, making it even harder for the English to defeat Mont Blanc.  The Cursed think about sending the Sea Rat to raid the American HI while the Stephens is away, but the nearby Gaule on the west side of that whirlpool makes it too scary.

More disaster for the English as Mont Blanc dismasts the Nautilus and the Hyena is dismasted by the Lamon!  The Stephens is transferring a coin to the Queen of Sheba so she can continue east soon to potentially interfere with French or Cursed operations.  The Spanish are camping out the Santa Teresa in a fog bank next to their HI in order to stay alive in the game.  They are rooting for whoever can beat up the Pirates and potentially control them through the Altar (which would be the French as they go before the Pirates in the turn order).  Basically, since the English will control the French if the Spanish are eliminated (bad for the French and therefore the Spanish), the Spanish are both anti-Pirate and anti-English.  More of these interfactional dynamics were present than I can remember, especially due to the presence of the Altar, which shifted how some factions played based on who went before them in the turn order (and could control them), and who went after (and could be controlled).

By this point the Pirates were spying on the coins in Paradis, and decided to remind everyone that Wolves had been found on the island, making it impossible to get the gold without a Marine or musketeer even after plowing through Paradis.  The Americans had kinda forgot about the Wolves, and this would alter their endgame strategy a bit, not wanting to buy anything given how tight the final gold count was looking.

The English experienced a golden homecoming, with the Hyena zooming home on oar power through Jack’s Compass to dock home a 2, the Hermes arriving on the same turn, and the Trepassey not far behind with 4 more gold along with the prize Fancy in tow.  However, considerable English expenditures earlier in the game meant they were facing an uphill battle here towards the end, a battle they were certainly not winning as their purchases got hammered by the French and USS Lamon.

The Pirates were getting desperate as well, with Fortaleza Dorada somewhat likely to win a fight against the Raven’s Neck but the Pirates too poor to launch an effective support gunship with S-range cannons to assist the RN (plus, launching a ship at this point might singlehandedly take a fleet out of the running).  The Pirates decided to up their chances by hiring SM Calico Cat to lead the RN.

At the top center, the Pirates look to be round earthing the Panda towards the Spanish canoe (trying to get her 1 home, +1 it and use the 2 to launch El Raton lol), but potentially also towards the American ships in the south.  Montana Mays redirects the Lamon northwestwards to intercept, leaving the Altar island abandoned for the first time in many hours of gameplay.  The Cursed are nearly done gathering nearby gold, which will bring their total to at least 30.  Le Gaule has finished repairing, an ominous sight.

It was time for an important French turn!

A massive French move that likely dooms any chances the Pirates had of making up ground in the standings!

With that, the Stephens had an easy target.  Finally the big ship was able to loose a broadside, dismasting the Panda.  At the top of the frame, the Cursed have sent the Sea Rat through the same whirlpool as earlier, but this time with their sights set on the now-abandoned Pirate HI….

USS Stephens dismasts the Panda

The Cursed absolutely refuse to take the bait of capturing the Barnacle, as LN’s tentacle will be in range of Paradis’ L-range guns if the squid surfaces to ram the Barnacle derelict.  At the top right, the Hermes returns to the northeast to scrounge for scraps.  USS Lamon turns around again and heads southeast, with a pair of goals: stop the St. Joan from putting more gold in Paradis, and sacrifice crew at the Altar to take control of the Cursed if truly necessary.

The Gaule dismasts the Raven’s Neck!

St. Joan scurries towards Paradis with a couple coins as the fort dismasts the Barnacle:

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The Panda is able to row into the huge fog bank, hoping to return to the Pirate HI soon.  The Stephens turns her wrath to the final Spanish canoe, easily sinking it and taking another 1 gold out of the game.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

With one of their final two units out of play, the Spanish decide to finally suicide.  In an attempt to help the French win (knowing there’s not enough in Fortaleza to win and Santa Teresa can’t unload Anita Amore to get more), Anita Amore pilots the Santa Teresa into a whirlpool, emerging right next to the French home island with the teleportation knocking off the sloop’s lone mast.  The Spanish have been eliminated!  Anita hopes to be captured by Lenoir, who can bring the vessel home for a 5 gold Ransom payout.  However, the French also want the Raven’s Neck so they can use her and Calico Cat to hopefully capture the Sea Rat and steal gold to secure a win.  The Spanish have cared little about the outcome for many rounds, having been effectively eliminated a while ago.  They didn’t tell the French about this plan, doing it on a whim.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

Immediately after the French turn where the Gaule captures the Raven’s Neck, the Panda swoops in from the fog and captures the Santa Teresa!  This is an embarrassment for the Spanish and the Contessa, who are now in the hands of the despised Pirates!  O_O

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The Sea Rat raided the Pirate HI for a coin!  However, this made the Pirates feel extremely stupid, as they could have spent all their gold last turn on new game pieces to deny the Sea Rat any coins as soon as they saw her approach through the whirlpool.  The Pirates are aggravated and annoyed, and know they have just about no shot at winning now.  So they go “full troll” and spend their 8 gold on cheese ships – Rover, Mermaid, and Banshee’s Cry + oarsman.  Making the situation even sillier is the Pirate desperation to block the Sea Rat from accessing the whirlpool on the Cursed turn – the Panda sacs her helmsman to move out of French waters and back home, with the Hag of Tortuga making sure both ships touched the whirlpool in an alignment that maximized blocking it off from the Sea Rat.  XD   Compounding the ridiculous situation, I believe Captain Blackheart died in the whirlpool travel while Contessa Anita Amore survived.  The French have ruined the Pirates’ endgame schemes, and now they will play spoiler in any way possible.

Pirates launch 3 ships

However, the Sea Rat is able to escape with her Pirate 1 coin into the nearby fog bank.  At the top left, the Hyena has finished repairing to full strength.  The Americans are getting desperate now too, as the St. Joan has deposited her pair of coins from the Altar island into Paradis.  The Stephens round earths to the north, considering an attack on Fortaleza Dorada or simply heading towards the Altar island where the endgame may be decided.

Some interesting developments: HMS Hyena heads for the Altar, the Hermes and Trepassey bring back a couple more 1’s for the English, Gaule gets the RN home to start repairs, the St. Joan retows the Mont Blanc only to be dismasted by a Lamon ram, the Nightmare appears to have designs on the Altar (first Cursed movement towards it), and the Sea Rat returns to Cursed home waters with her stolen coin.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The beginning of the next round saw HMS Hyena dock at the Altar island and sacrifice two crew!  With the Spanish eliminated, the English could at long last control the French fleet!!  O_O  (in hindsight this is not legal, but certainly a worthy topic for a rules debate especially if the player potentially being skipped has no fort (or other unit not capable of movement) in play)

This is the point in the game where the reefings began, and perhaps where the “true endgame” commenced.  It was already devolving into silly and strange shenanigans, and now it would ignite in newly bizarre ways.  Le Gaule was tossed into a whirlpool and thrown onto a reef in the north, but she only lost 1 mast.  The RN wasn’t in range of a reef but was sailed north towards one, with the Hyena’s captain acting as puppetmaster at the Altar of the Loa.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The English use the Mont Blanc to sink the Nightmare!  Bow to the power of the Loa!

Feeling the desperation mounting, the Lamon surfaces, docks at the Altar island, and the Americans sacrifice Montana Mays and a helmsman to the Loa!!  O_O   What has come over these factions??  Are the loa possessing their spirits?

Americans use the Altar of the Loa

The Sea Rat and Lechim Namod are sent through the whirlpool!  The Sea Rat suffers no damage, but LN is nearly killed as her sagging underbelly is ground into powder on the sharp coral reefs.  The Panda returns the Santa Teresa home to the Pirate HI, where the latter repairs immediately as Anita Amore becomes a permanent capture in a dark grimy dungeon where Blackheart kept his sac fodder.  The last of that fodder is the Panda’s oarsman, which gets transferred to the Banshee’s Cry (BC), a ship that already had one.  That means she has two oarsmen aboard… enough for a sacrifice at the Altar….

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

By now ships were almost literally piling up at the only reefable whirlpool, with likely no space left to place any more ships there in sabotage attempts.  The endgame was spiraling out of control, with both the Cursed and French being okay with it ending as soon as possible.

The Loa’s Justice sails out to greet Paradis on her own, hoping the guns will send her to the depths.  The 5 on the Barnacle means the Pirates have successfully scuttled her.

Seizing an opportunity for yet another scrap of pitiful coinage, the English ram the Lamon with the Hyena, triggering the ship’s ability to kill off Commodore Matthew Perry and net themselves another 1 gold.  The Hermes has taken up Altar duties and I think it was time for another English turn of control over the French!

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

Le Gaule dismasts the Sea Rat.  The Cursed did not mind this at all, but the English wanted themselves or the Pirates to steal the Sea Rat and use it themselves to steal coins from at least one of the front runners.  The Pirates have mixed success on their turn trying to kill the ship’s oarsman.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The Americans see the game flash before their eyes: the Lamon can load two coins now that her cargo hold is completely empty, and the Stephens can increase the value of Barbary Banner by blasting away at the various English ships in the area!  Perhaps the American comeback story is not yet complete?  The Stephens also had designs on using the Altar, but the Cursed are already quite weak now and the Stephens can be more useful simply knocking off masts to make Barbary Banner more valuable.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The Hyena rams to steal a coin from the Lamon.  The loa party continues as the Fancy arrives on the scene with fresh sacrifices!  She sacs her oarsmen to let the English take control of the French yet again!!  XD  And the English rebuild Ramsgate to deny the Americans (and Cursed) from using the Altar, simultaneously “claiming” the island’s remaining gold for the approaching gold count!  O_O

By now things were getting so desperate and short on actions that there wasn’t even much to do with some of the Altar plays.  However, the Gaule was moved onto a reef where she lost her remaining masts, while the Raven’s Neck suffered no damage.

The Panda avoids a shipwreck herself and captures the Gaule!  O_O   LN has shot off the Rover’s mast but the Sea Rat is still under attack.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

The Stephens gets to work, taking out three masts between the Hermes and Fancy!  Each mast eliminated gets them 1 gold via Barbary Banner, getting them closer to a potential winning score.  Can they do it?

However, the Lamon is sunk before she can submerge! (I believe by the Mont Blanc)

USS Stephens goes crazy

The Sea Rat is able to row into the whirlpool for home.

The English sink the St. Joan with Ramsgate, and HMS Trepassey arrives on the scene with fresh crew!  O_O   In what may have been a fourth consecutive turn of control, the English take over what remains of the French fleet, using Mont Blanc to sink the Loa’s Justice!

The Stephens uses one of the last actions of the game to shoot at the English again!  However, it is a major disappointment, as she goes 1/4 to hit the Hyena.

The Cursed are ready to count and dump the Sea Rat’s oarsman on their HI in an attempt to end the game since the ship is derelict (though still capable of future move actions via the oarsman or repairing, so not a proper sabotage).  However, it was over, as I was way past my planned “hard stop end time” of 10pm.  It was 1am and I was having trouble making proper decisions for the fleets.

My 500th game of Pirates CSG!! (November 18th, 2022)

It was time to count!  Here are the counts in play order!

English: 24 gold

Spanish: 14 gold

French: 32 gold

Pirates: 10 gold

Pirate fleet ransom captures for 10 total gold

Americans: 32 gold

The Cursed: 33 gold

O_O  The Cursed win one of the closest games of all time!!  O_O

  1. Cursed: 33 gold
  2. French: 32 (3 units in play – Paradis de la Mer, Mont Blanc, Raven’s Neck)
  3. Americans: 32 (1 unit in play – USS Stephens)
  4. English: 24
  5. Spanish: 14
  6. Pirates: 10

What a ludicrous game and finish!  Unfortunately it comes with an asterisk as the game was not played to true completion, but I still went way past the “time deadline” (at which point I believe the Cursed still would have won).  This mirrors the insanely close results of the recent PNW Weekend Marathon of multiplayer games, making me realize even more than ever before that winning this game is a bit of a crapshoot (for better or worse).  It’s quite likely that any single die roll falling differently in various circumstances throughout the game could have changed the outcome.  Not to mention the “French implosion” – if the Gaule had captured the Santa Teresa that turn instead of the Raven’s Neck, the French could have brought Anita back for 5 gold, plenty enough to win with 37 (perhaps the Panda could have rammed the ST to kill Anita and deny such a result, but Lenoir’s cancelling would have helped by cancelling helmsman or Sac).  The Americans were ONE hit away from victory – if one more shot had hit the Hyena on that final shoot action, Barbary Banner would have been worth 7 gold instead of 6, tying them with the Cursed at 33 and likely winning additional tiebreakers (I think LN was killed by a shot from a Pirate sloop during the last round, leaving both the Americans and Cursed with one unit each – at which point the Americans would win the points in play AND masts standing tiebreakers with the healthy Stephens vs. derelict Sea Rat).

The Cursed won by playing a very guarded and cagey game, being about as safe as I’ve ever seen them play as a faction.  Their sole launch helped them acquire more gold, and they needed every bit of it to win.  The Sea Rat’s HI raid against the Pirates even netted them the 1 coin that made the difference, as without that they would have lost both tiebreakers in a 32-32-32 count.  The Cursed benefited heavily from the setup, which was something they helped to engineer.  The close islands near their HI helped with quick gold runs back and forth, while the terrain nearby made their HI and gold running operations less accessible to some of the nasty gunships wreaking havoc towards the outskirts of the map.  They got a bit lucky choosing a home island first and not having anyone really encroach upon that area with other HI placements.

The Spanish get the last laugh against the Pirates, beating them despite being eliminated before the long and crazy endgame really got going.  The Pirates felt the need to “spend to protect” their gold after the Sea Rat threatened all of it, but still avoided a shutout when the Panda went crazy with kidnappings in the final rounds of the game (going from 0 gold to 10 gold after snagging two Ransom crew).

The English finished with a better score than I anticipated, having spent 29 gold across two separate turns on Lawrence, the Trepassey, and Hyena with crew.  They must have spent at least 4 additional gold towards the end on “Altar Fuel” in the form of cheap sacrifices.  They were way too excited to buy things, and probably could have been in very good position to win if they hadn’t blown a lot of their money.  However, their purchases did help to keep them alive and net them some gold, but not enough at the end.  It’s fitting (and relieving) they didn’t contend directly for the victory, as their turtles (and 10 of the gold used on the Hyena launch) should have been axed by Kharmic Idol.

This was a wild experience for me, and generally “worthy” of being my 500th game despite various frustrations (and tiredness towards the end).  I’m so used to saving being a terrible strategy in campaign games where gold can be used to purchase game pieces, so it was hard to shake that mindset even though I knew that most gold would take it going into the game.  Although the win comes with various “what if” asterisks, the Cursed played a masterful game of correctly managing their money, not making enemies, protecting their gold, and snagging low values over the long endgame to come away with enough to win.

For posterity and my own future reference if I play more games with this house rule, a few lessons:
-The factions that spent more did worse (English and Pirates).
-The factions that bought gunships did worse (English and Pirates).
-The factions that bought gold runners did better (Cursed and Americans)
-It’s hard to know when a game like this will end, so it’s better to conserve gold and make sure you’re consistently in the running than spend early on and have to make up a large differential in a desperate and chaotic endgame where most of the “readily available” coins are 1’s and 2’s.
-If I play with this house rule again I want to have a longer timeline. I played for about 11 hours straight and it wasn’t enough. I probably needed at least another hour to reach a proper endgame condition, which was likely going to be half or more fleets unable to give future move actions (the Cursed had almost taken themselves out, and any more reefings of the Raven’s Neck likely would have eliminated the French). This was at a mere 40 point build total, so to finish a game like this properly I’d probably go down to 4-5 fleets if using the same build total. If using a higher build total (even 50 or 60), I’d cap it at an absolute max of 4 fleets.  Although you could manipulate it by putting less gold out there, less total gold in play disincentivizes purchases even more, and we already saw the big spenders come in 4th and 6th in this game.
-I enjoyed it a lot and recommend trying this style of play at least once! (purchases legal but regular endgame conditions)

Thanks for reading and please comment below your thoughts on the game! 😀

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