A new series of Rankings threads begins! Here we will rate the Top 10 overall game pieces from each set. That’s right, it’s not limited to ships or even ships and crew – if it was part of the set and has a collector’s number (no pack wrappers or specific keywords haha), it’s fair game here. Perhaps at the end of the series we can do Top 10 overall game pieces of all time, regardless of set. If you missed the first round, here it is for reference: Past Rankings threads. As the Rankings concept is reborn, I may even yank a few of those old threads up to edit some of my rankings.
The sets will be covered in chronological order from oldest to newest. If you’re excited and want to claim a set, the current discussion would be the best place. Also, I’d recommend sticking to the thread title format, just to make things clear and make it easy to find the threads, etc. Unless the poll changes, we can do these every 2 weeks.
I’m considering a lot of things for criteria. The most obvious one is how effective the items are in gameplay. However, other things will factor into my selections. I also value longevity – something like the Longshanks has been overshadowed by numerous Pirate gold runners, so that could be considered. In addition, I hope to give bonus points for overall impact, importance, and “greatness” of the game piece – for example, the first crew of a certain type could impact the game far more than a specific ship. What I’ll try to avoid is ranking things that aren’t unique to the set, which is why I haven’t included generic crew here (in which case the three helmsmen would probably take the top slot), though in the case of the first set it would be understandable. However, I don’t want my criteria to be the only ones. Feel free to describe the specific criteria you use for your own lists, especially here in this first thread. (I’m not ranking things out of 10 or doing a #/5 for gunships/gold runners because it makes things harder to compare in my opinion)
Without further ado, here are my Top 10 game pieces from the first set, Spanish Main.
Top 10 Spanish Main game pieces
1. Darkhawk II
The first hybrid and a ship that is still considered OP (overpowered) by many. The Darkhawk II is fantastic at fighting and getting gold, the huge cargo hold allowing her to do both quite well with a decent crew complement. Most ships with similar values for cargo space and points are very small. This is the most extreme exception in the entire game, allowing for very strange builds with specific crew involved. Just to put the ship in perspective, if you apply the same cargo space/point value ratio, the Zeus would have 18 cargo spaces! This ship is also a great early example of negative abilities affecting point costs too much, and a classic one of avoidance. It’s extremely easy to avoid the detrimental effect when it’s so hard to fill up the cargo hold in the first place.
The original sac captain, and the one that started competitive builds. Blackheart’s importance almost cannot be overstated, as he’s affected the game since day 1. At this point it’s clear that the sac ability should have costed at least 4 points instead of 2. This allowed sac captains to dominate the game for many sets afterwards, and they’re still a staple of many fleets that have performed extremely well in games.
Ships are tempting, but this trio is legendary and has affected the game even more than arguably all of the ships from SM. The Pirates have gotten other versions of the basic 3 point SAT crew, but all 3 are still important (partly since Ms. Cat had a lengthy pirate career). Getting more than one action in a turn is simply one of the most effective ways to win the game, and similarly to Captain Blackheart, these crew can serve rather effectively on both gunships and gold runners (and by extension, hybrids even more so). Throw in the very low cost and ease of use (especially when combined with rerollers in later sets), and the SAT crew are near the top of the list for important named crew abilities.
Right behind the SAT crew in terms of effectiveness, the first EA (extra action) crew was a powerhouse that could be used on the impressive English gunships of the set. He set the stage for most other nations to receive the same ability, and remains an important option for English players today.
5. Nemesio Diaz
The first canceller came from Spain, and led to various cancellers in later sets. In my opinion the best ability in the game outside of generic crew (and the OP CJS), Diaz is able to cancel any ability and therefore negate the amazing effects provided by the rest of the game pieces on this list. I have him below the action generators because I believe those crew have had a higher impact on game wins than Diaz (including on a 1 for 1 basis). Cancellers do need to get within S, and a second action can be more of a factor than even a well-timed cancellation.
It was tough to put so many crew ahead of so many great ships, but I had to recognize how versatile the above named crew are. They can be used on any ship of their nationality, and this only made them infinitely more useful as set after set was released. The individual ships stay the same and must rely on the crew to make them fully effective (though the ships can also use more recent crew, SM named crew selections are still among the best).
6. HMS Titan
Without a doubt the most famous English ship in the set, I ranked the Titan as the best English gunship ever. She’s incredibly dangerous and can even play a hybrid role if needed.
7. El Acorazado
The best pure gunship in the history of the game (with the Constitution and Endeavour as relative equals). She is ranked below the Titan because this is a list of overall game pieces, not just gunships.
A Spanish powerhouse of a gold runner. Basically a poor man’s Darkhawk II (along with the Pandora), the Joya is still one of the best treasure ships in the game. I personally enjoy how the Spanish did indeed receive some ships that fit the “Manila galleon” mold.
I originally had this ship higher, and I’m open to changing my list based on others’ lists and feedback. The Longshanks was ridiculous back in the first days of the game, but the longevity argument has hurt this ship more than any game piece on this list. Still a fantastic ship with hybrid potential and another example of why it’s better to be a ship with a negative ability due to the cost implications.
10. Genny Gallows
Yes, I just snubbed both Pirate 5 masters. And yes, I’m willing to change my list if I think it should be changed. However, I’m willing to say that Genny Gallows’ ability could single handedly be the biggest game winner in Pirates CSG history if used more often. I have seen it absolutely dominate competitive play (VASSAL Tournaments 1 and 2), as well as huge campaign games (Century of the Empires and VASSAL CG1), the most opposite play styles you can have. It’s quite undercosted for what you get (should be 5+ points), and can directly win you the game with even one use of it on any ship carrying gold. Perhaps she should even be higher on this list.
(I’m trying to keep my honorable mentions lists a little shorter than with the ship lists, though that may not continue lol.)