Sets

Wizkids released a whopping 13 sets in just 5 years of production.  Here you can find some general information and my opinions on them, as well as links to purchase if they suit your fancy.

You can see my detailed set rankings here, which is where my ratings below come from.

In 2004, Wizkids launched the Pirates of the Spanish Main product line.  The first set introduced three factions – Pirates, English, and Spanish.  Spanish Main (SM) was the first set I bought and it is still my favorite set.  If you like the basics of the game, a limited number of factions, and a more historical set than most of the others, this is the set for you.

My rating: 18/20

Check out the full set review!

Pirates of the Spanish Main pack
Click to buy Spanish Main!

The second set came out in 2005 – Pirates of the Crimson Coast (CC).  This set introduced the French, the Schooner ship type and forts.  This is another classic set with a TON of great ships and crew.  It can also lay claim to the title of “most perfect set”, as it got the highest rating from me when ranking all the sets.  It also has the lowest number of votes for “least favorite set” in the Pirates CSG Survey.

My rating: 19/20

Check out the full set review!

Pirates of the Crimson Coast pack
Click to buy Crimson Coast!

Pirates of the Revolution (RV) came out in 2005 as well, featuring the introduction of the American faction.  Revolution is sometimes considered the “best” set, with fast ships and some of the most usable ships in the game.  RV also marked the first time Events were used, as well as new tins with varying artwork.  One of the most historical sets, it’s also a favorite of American fans.

My rating: 17/20

Check out the full set review!

Pirates of the Revolution pack
Click to buy Revolution!

Pirates of the Barbary Coast (BC) was the last set from 2005.  The Barbary Corsairs and their Galleys gave players the best “minor faction” to use.  This is another set with some historical tie-ins, and the only set without the Pirate faction.  Overall the set is very balanced and playable, but not quite as exciting as the sets released just before and after it.

My rating: 16/20

Check out the full set review!

Pirates of the Barbary Coast pack
Click to buy Barbary Coast!

Pirates of the South China Seas (SCS) is by far the hardest set to acquire, and the first set released in 2006. The Jade Rebellion and their new ship type, Junks, highlighted the set.  This is another fantastic set on par with the first three sets, doing extremely well on gameplay, theme, and artwork.  Tough to beat, but tough to find.

My rating: 18/20

Check out the full set review!

Pirates of the South China Seas pack
Click to buy South China Seas!

Pirates of Davy Jones’ Curse (DJC, 2006) is easy to acquire and features the Cursed and their sea monsters.  This is when the game marked a dramatic turn from mostly historical content to some fantasy content.  In some ways one could argue it was the “beginning of the end” since it drove away some of the player base, but it did attract a younger audience for the sets to come as well.  In addition, this set is when the reverse power creep began – meaning that the general effectiveness of game pieces began to decline.  The Cursed faction and sea creatures were part of it in this set, but ships also began getting slower in this set.

My rating: 14/20

Check out the full set review!

Pirates of Davy Jones Curse pack
Click to buy Davy Jones' Curse!

Pirates of the Mysterious Islands (MI, 2006) featured the new Mercenary faction and introduced Submarines.  Honestly it was not a great set, as the artwork seemed dull and the ships were worse than the ones from DJC.  In addition, the Mercenaries are the worst of the minor factions since they cannot dock at their own home island!  However, you’ll enjoy the set if you like subs and the tie-ins to Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

My rating: 10/20

Check out the full set review!

Pirates of the Mysterious Islands pack
Click to buy Mysterious Islands!

Pirates of the Frozen North (FN, 2007) saw the Vikings sail into battle aboard their Longships.  The Vikings are another very poor minor faction, as they have small fragile ships and have trouble in the gold game.  Icebergs were featured as a new terrain option.  FN is another slow set, but there are a bunch of very solid game pieces among the mediocre stuff.

My rating: 11/20

Check out the full set review!

Pirates of the Frozen North pack
Click to buy Frozen North!

Pirates At Ocean’s Edge (OE, 2007) was a large set that got produced in huge quantities, featuring a ton of different ship types as well as new types of sea monsters.  Due to the massive production, it’s both the cheapest set and the easiest to find.  It features the “Big 6” factions together again, marking the end of minor factions being introduced in their own sets.  OE is a great set for beginners due to the variety, quantity, and price.  Highly recommended if you’re on a budget and just getting into the game, though it can get boring once you’ve used the stuff from the set a lot.  It’s also not balanced at all, as some game pieces are terrible and some are among the best in the game. 

My rating: 12/20

Check out the full set review!

Pirates at Ocean's Edge pack
Click to buy Ocean's Edge!

Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC, 2007) saw Wizkids partner with Disney to produce a movie-themed set, with only the Pirates and English as playable factions.  It’s a very unique set, and it changed the design of the ships along with the rarity/numbering scheme.  For me it’s a fantastic collaboration that makes perfect sense given how similar DJC and OE already were to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but there are some issues.  The lack of a Cursed faction and the collation issues (a whole booster box full of commons, for example) plagues the set.  Great idea, imperfect execution.

My rating: 12/20

Check out the full set review!

Pirates of the Caribbean pack
Click to buy Caribbean!

Rise of the Fiends (ROTF, 2008) signalled the decline of the Pirates game. New “pokeships” alienated much of the player base and the set was smaller than most that came before it, with an abundance of slow ships.  Only a few of the widely despised Scorpion ships were even produced, and the red islands didn’t make things any better.  Interestingly enough a lot of the regular ships and crew were pretty decent, the saving grace for an otherwise poor set.

My rating: 11/20

Check out the full set review!

Rise of the Fiends pack
Click to buy Rise of the Fiends!

Fire & Steel (F&S, 2008) continued the trend of the game delving more into the fantasy aspects, with new ships equipped with movable steel blades and huge flamethrowers.  It was a large set, but a slow and boring one.  There’s just not a lot in the set to get excited about.

My rating: 10/20

Check out the full set review!

Pirates CSG Fire and Steel pack
Click to buy Fire and Steel!

Savage Shores (SS, 2008) became the last set of Pirates CSG.  The set was only the size of half of a normal set (just over 50 game pieces), released in Scavenger Pack boxes instead of the normal game packs.  It featured a bunch of new game pieces and ship types despite the small size, and was notable for being the best set for gameplay since at least the Caribbean set.  A small blaze of glory before the game went out of print just days after release.

My rating: 16/20

Check out the full set review!

Pirates of the Cursed Seas Savage Shores Scavenger Pack Box
Click to buy Savage Shores!

Why was Savage Shores so small? Wizkids intended to release Return to Savage Shores soon afterwards, but they were shut down by Topps only a few days after Savage Shores was released in the heat of the financial crisis.

Leave a Reply

6 Comments

  1. Ben,

    Found myself just hanging out this morning, checking emails, etc… Since I was on my home computer, which is rare at busy times, thought I would check out MT and make sure it was still there, hopefully forever. Glad to see that it was, although not much in the way of communications. Sad to see. I always check the eBay link when it’s highlighted. Immediately after getting done there, I bounced over to your site, being in my Pirates state of mind, to see what’s cooking. TBH, I haven’t checked out the entirety of your site. I did find myself reading your quick synopsis of the various sets on this link. Very well written and I pretty much agree with your rankings and like your comments very much. The first set is and always will be near and dear to my heart. That set started it all. It created a lifelong bond with my sons, who very much like Pirates, especially my oldest. His dream is to buy the patent and reboot the franchise. Lofty goal to be sure, but who knows. My other very favorite set is POTSCS. Huge fan of the Far East, especially Japan. I think I was Japanese in a former life, LOL. I also agree that there were many pros and cons with many of the sets. To me it didn’t matter too much, I was gonna collect it all, because I love Pirates. I believe there are only a dozen or so that may have more than myself as far as complete collections. Hard to know anymore with the current state of MT and so many lost followers of this great game. Anyway, sorry for the long memo.

  2. @Daniel: Don’t be sorry, I love long posts about Pirates CSG! Thanks for the comment! Your eldest son and I share the same goal then. 🙂
    I’ve got a ton of pages and posts by now, so it’s tough to check out everything on my site by this point haha. Just trying to populate it with as much content as possible, and saving and bringing stuff over from all the stuff I’ve made at MT over the years.

    -Admiral A7XfanBen

  3. As someone who stopped after OE, I’m glad the weird scorpion ships and the other nonsense seems to have been unpopular.

    I think that the Cursed should have been limited to DJC, except for one or two super rares per pack after it. I also like them better as a treasure-focused faction, like they’re trying to find some item to end their curse and will steal it from anyone who has it. Samedi’s Curse is an awful ship, but a fantastic collector’s item, and that’s how they should’ve been. Rare, unusual ships.

    The only rating I disagree with is for MI. The mercenaries are a little silly as it’s basically impossible to win a game with a pure fleet, but I think Wizkids meant for people to use Mercenaries as, well, mercenaries. Throw them in as pure attackers into any fleet you wanted. Subs are also actually balanced compared to Sea Dragons and other “submersible” game pieces and I thought mysterious islands were a great addition to the game. Also, my French faction had a great showing that set!

    • @Jack: Yeah, the Pokeships was kinda like Wizkids “jumping the shark”.

      Interesting thought about the Cursed. Have to disagree with you on both points though because once they went down the Cursed route, I think it’s good they at least stuck to it and tried to make it work. If the Cursed were only in one set, it would continue the somewhat annoying tradition of having a bunch of one-off factions that are very weak compared to the major factions because of it. The Cursed may still be inferior, but at least their quantity and wacky stuff makes them semi-viable in campaign games, which wouldn’t be the case if they were just in DJC. I’m also very glad they’re more combat-focused because enough of the other factions are focused on gold and the game needs more wackiness and combat to be really fun. Not to mention, it’s rough to say, but the Cursed are basically the terrorists of this game. They want to kill and maim, and their general flavor reflects that. They still have some in their ranks (Devereaux, Trogs) that have more treasure-focused ideals, so I think it works fine.

      The problem with using Mercenaries with other factions is that almost every faction has better gunship options. Submarines are often better at defense than offense, while the costs of Mercenary and Ex-Patriot make most of their game pieces uncompetitive from a price standpoint. Most of the factions you might use them with have better gunships within their own ranks.

      I definitely stick by my rating of MI. It’s disappointing, hard to play, pretty bland relative to other sets, and with less stellar ship artwork. Mysterious islands are no doubt overpowered and some of them basically break the game, so I don’t think they were a great addition to the game, merely a fun diversion for very casual games. I don’t even think the French made out all that well – a few good ships along with mediocre/boring ones, with subpar named crew.

      Thanks for commenting!
      Ben

Leave a Reply

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