Universal Pirate Shipping – The Best Fleet Strategy EVER

Universal Pirate Shipping – The Best Fleet Strategy EVER

Universal Pirate Shipping 2.0

Universal Pirate Shipping 2.0 on the verge of winning the ultra-competitive VASSAL Tournament #2

From a discussion on Miniature Trading in September 2016

You may have heard me mention the “UPS” (Universal Pirate Shipping) fleets before, created by darrin. I am still somewhat puzzled by the lack of discussion, commenting, and voting not just on these fleets, but on the strategy of it all.

Perhaps it’s due to confusion surrounding Captain Jack Sparrow? I didn’t understand the entire “UPS” strategy at first, and I still think that CJS is the most confusing crew in the game. Is it just too cheesy?

Part of what makes me puzzled is just how amazing the strategy is for gameplay. I would argue that it is on par with about anything in terms of pure effectiveness, especially when done correctly. Combined the UPS fleets have a general record of 11-3 in my games, and have completely destroyed other competitive fleets.

Here are the fleets for reference, along with their current records from my games.  The records may not look as impressive as you’d expect, but they are the result of playing against similarly hyper-competitive fleets.

UPS 4.0

UPS 4.0 in action against my EA Gold Runners fleet

Universal Pirate Shipping (UPS 1.0) (1-2)

UPS 2 (15-5)

UPS 4 (4-2)

And another variant:
Darrin’s Gold Race fleet (7-5)

Here is a variant I came up with recently:
UPS 5 (11-5)
(UPS 3 is illegal) 

My UPS 5 fleet has advanced to the finals of Tournament 1. It will also participate in T2, a tournament that will also see fleets like UPS 2, UPS 4, and Hai Peng Fort Frenzy (HPFF) compete. If I had to bet on a fleet to win T2 and therefore be crowned the best existing fleet of all-time, I would pick a UPS fleet. Of course, many games will have to be played to get to that point. But still, Universal Pirate Shipping is simply one of the most effective strategies for winning games, and seems grossly underrepresented and underrated (and possibly misunderstood) by the Pirates community.

2019 Update

UPS 2 won VASSAL Tournament #2, beating another fleet using Captain Jack Sparrow in the Finals.  Further proving that this is the best fleet strategy in Pirates CSG history, and the most-proven way to win games.

The following is the discussion that took place at Miniature Trading in September 2016.

Woelf Responds

Captain Jack Sparrow

Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean set

I think the lack of discussion around the crew isn’t because he’s confusing, it’s because he has one of the most poorly-though-out abilities in the entire game and is ridiculously easy to abuse.

It’s not even clear what that ability is supposed to represent thematically. Maybe it does reference some specific event in one of the movies, but whatever it was, it definitely doesn’t account for how the ability can be used repeatedly to send treasure after treasure home.

There’s no question that a fleet set up to (ab)use his ability will be effective, it’s more a matter of whether your opponent will be able to keep up with it without resorting to something similarly broken and/or without using a fleet specifically designed to counter this.

Good points. However, he isn’t banned (even if he should be, or if the ability should have never been invented in the first place), so his fleets are still (in my opinion) the favorite to win Tournament 2 and be crowned the best fleet of all-time. I suppose there can be a “best non-UPS fleet”, but he’s not the only thing in the game that is easy to abuse. Things like the Banshee’s Cry, sac captains, cheap extra actions, events, and even cancellers have been around longer than CJS’s ability, and are also extremely easy to abuse and are either undercosted or flat-out broken.

However, fleets using any of those things often get considerably higher attention and recognition than fleets using CJS’s ability. That’s what I don’t like – sure it’s cheap, but so are other things in this game that are consistently more popular or even “accepted”.

Woelf:

Most of the others have been “accepted” because they’re easier to use, are much more common, or have a wider range of uses.

Extra actions of any variety are everywhere in the game, and are useful no matter what you’re doing with your ship. Because they’re so cheap and/or easy to use, no one ever has to go out of their way to use them.

Ships like Banshee’s Cry are undercosted for what they do, but even though that’s the “best” one out there, there are a lot of other cheap ships that are close enough to it that banning it wouldn’t solve the problem it represents, it would just shift it to the next ship in line – whether that’s Le Bon MarinLa Monarca or any number of others is open to debate, but like extra actions, they’re “accepted” because they’re widely available to pretty much everyone. Not every nation has one, but others have several so unless you lock in to a single-nation fleet, they’re easy to find.

Cancelers could probably could cost a point or two more, but for better or for worse, they’re game-breakers by design. They make players put a little more thought into what they do beyond just “sail up and shoot the other ship”. Like the other things that are on the borderline of being broken, they’ve become relatively common too, with most nations having at least one or two. Also, a key difference with cancelers is that they can’t win games on their own, because they don’t collect treasure or sink ships – they just make it easier for your other ships and crew to do it (or they make it more difficult for your opponent).

Jack is the weird one because there is nothing else quite like him anywhere else in the game, and because he does directly contribute toward winning (technically the target ship has to unload the treasure, but he’s the reason it’s there in the first place). He’s also not easy to counter with things that are widely available. Negative UTs can hurt him the most, but when you add them to the pool you’re accepting the fact that you might have to deal with them too. Taking out his transfer ship is another possibility, but depending on the board layout that may not be an option until he’s already been used a few times, or even at all.

He doesn’t need to be banned, but that combination of having an effect that’s somewhat overpowered, being kind of weird and confusing about what’s happening, and being one-of-a-kind really limits the discussion about him. A lot of players simply aren’t familiar enough with him, and most that are don’t use him other than to prove the point that he’s overpowered.

Universal Pirate Shipping original

The original UPS fleet, with a proxy in for L’Intrepide

It seems that this is arguably one of the biggest mistakes the designers made – putting that ability on a crew. No UPS fleet uses the Rising Sun or Sol, because of their speed and CJS’s ridiculously perfect matching with the Hai Peng. The ability makes mediocre ships better, but giving it to a crew for essentially just 3 points was what led to the abuse in the first place. (That said, I suppose you could make the Rising Sun or Sol rather nasty if you had Hidden Cove and either a sac crew or Mycron.) 

As a side note, I forget when (as in which set) you started working with Wizkids? During playtesting for the PotC set, did CJS and/or the combo with the Hai Peng ever come up as a concept or potential problem?

I would say that his effect is very overpowered, although at first glance you wouldn’t necessarily jump to conclusions like the UPS strategy.

That last part is part of why I made this thread – no matter how unique, confusing, or cheesy, I think everyone needs to be quite educated on what is arguably the single “best” game piece there is (with the Banshee’s Cry and generic captain/helmsman also in the discussion I suppose).

This discussion also makes me question my knowledge of PotC – if there is a connection, who will be the one to discover it here? pirate shipping

Woelf:

There was some very limited playtesting as far back as SCS, but with most of them the sets were pretty much fully designed by the time I saw anything and whatever input was provided didn’t amount to much.

I didn’t really get involved directly with the designers until RotF, but even then it was mostly just for rules consulting and going over the spreadsheets to see if there was anything obviously broken.

PotC kinda slipped through just beforehand, and I didn’t see anything significant from the set until it was published. I assume there was some internal playtesting, but considering how quickly some of the sets were being cranked out and especially how rushed the PotC set seemed, it wasn’t nearly as much as what was needed.

What are your thoughts?

I welcome all criticisms, questions, etc. What do you think of the Universal Pirate Shipping fleet strategy? Have you played a UPS fleet, or played against one? Do you plan on it? Feel free to nominate fleets that you think could beat a UPS fleet as well. Finally, try to vote or comment on some of the above fleets – as my battle reports have shown, this is one of the most viable competitive strategies in this game, and it doesn’t seem to get enough attention. Thanks!

What was your original collection?

What was your original collection?

Originally posted to Miniature Trading on June 29th, 2016

I got into this game back in 2005 (soon after CC came out I believe, but I only remember SM packs in the store), and I purchased a small amount of stuff from the first 6 sets, excluding SCS of course.

This is my original collection of 49 ships that I hold dear to my heart, and these ships are the truest veterans in my entire collection of ~800 punched ships. They’ve been involved in the first-ever Historical Fantasy Scenarios I had, as well as numerous regular games. This was all I had until 2010 or 2011.

English:
HMS Gargantuan x2
HMS Lord Walpole
HMS Birkenhead
HMS Nautilus
HMS Bath
HMS Frolic

French:
La Magnifique
La Possession x2
L’Amazone
La Danae
Le Mercure
Le Republicain
Tiger (always thought she was French for some reason lol)
Le Courageux x2

Spanish:
Santo Columba
La Trinidad
Asesino de la Nave (first 2 packs)
La Bahama
El San Jose
El Pulpo
La Repulsa (first 2 packs)

Americans:
Enterprise
Concord
Louisiana
Boston
Jarvis
Swamp Fox
Dark Fox

Pirates:
Broken Key
Black Diamond
Dark Pact
Batavian Bat (first 2 packs)
Greyhound
Selkie
El Dorado
Muerta de la Corona (first 2 packs)
El Ladron x2
Cursed Blade
Raven
Carrion Crow x2
Coral
Lightning
Algiers
Griffin

The first and biggest ship(s) of each faction were the flagships. The battles between the two Gargantuans vs. the Enterprise and Magnifique were legendary, with the Lord Walpole and Birkenhead often giving the English a victory late in the battle. The amount of Pirate ships sometimes led to a coalition between all the other factions to take them out. The Raven and Mercure were overly fast scout ships that no other fleet could match. In the end, my love of the English usually made them prevail, but it was a fun time indeed. original collection

Of course, your original collection may be quite different than mine, especially if you bought hundreds of ships at once to start out. It could even just be the first pack or first 5-10 packs you opened, or like me, the first batch you had for quite some time before acquiring more stuff much later on.

So, what was your original collection?

My other posts from the thread:

Imagine the gaming experience a player would get if they received an RV pack with Banshee’s Cry, Santa Isabel, and Don Pedro Gilbert! Shocked They would forever be disappointed with everything else… Laughing

If I had to pick “my” flagship, it would have to be HMS Lord WalpoleHMS Lord Algernon is technically my favorite ship, but more because I wanted it so bad back in the day. That being said, HMS Birkenhead was always right up there with the Lord Walpole, while La Magnifique or the Broken Key would be my top non-English flagship back then.
@Xerecs: Your post reminded me of something I meant to put in my first post of this thread.

How could I forget the “lost 3”?
La Belle Etoile
L’Eroica
Straw Man

The Belle Etoile was simply lost as far as I know. I believe L’Eroica was lost as well, though she may have been badly damaged during construction, after which point I may have thrown her out. Embarassed The Straw Man was not so fortunate… I had a really bad day and decided to take out my wrath on what I considered my worst ship (from a gameplay, HFS, and artwork perspective). I crushed it in anger, sitting and possibly stomping on it, which I later regretted. I have since acquired another one, but I don’t think I’ve used it and I don’t think I will. Laughing With those 3 it would have been 52 ships.

Also, we have some similarities – we both got a Santo Columba, Swamp Fox, and others very early on. I’ve talked extensively about how my collection has grown in a Pojo thread. Ironically that thread was posted 5 years ago yesterday. It also confirms that I did indeed come back from my long hiatus in 2010 rather than 2011. I may have lurked here longer than I thought (perhaps more than the month that I recall), but I don’t remember much of it haha. I bought 55 ships from Strikezoneonline for $10 (+ $10 shipping) in order to get as much quantity as possible. This was literally just to have as many ships as possible for my Historical Fantasy Scenarios. original collection That purchase is also where my 8 Mayfair’s came from. original collection

To think I played HFS’s for almost an entire year (on and off of course) before I joined Pojo… you should have seen it. My room was completely different back then, between then and Century of the Empires (2013 – the first game I took pictures for). There was a lot of what do you call them… “natural obstructions” which made for deep harbors and interesting interactions between fleets. The only thing I specifically remember is a very low circular table that made for a sort of cave/overhang with at least one or two harbors attached to the supports beneath it. Ships would sail from these harbors in lines of battle to engage each other in epic battles on the high seas… it was only around 6 years ago, but when almost everything in your Pirates CSG career has happened since then, it becomes quite nostalgic. original collection For a week or two now I’ve been thinking about recreating that atmosphere for another “flashback” opportunity… I don’t know how epic I can make it, but it will certainly shed light on the sheer scale of it all… What was your original collection? What was your original collection?

What was your original collection?

First page of the original thread on Miniature Trading

My Years at Miniature Trading: By the Numbers

My Years at Miniature Trading By the Numbers

Original thread started at Miniature Trading on December 25th, 2016

2016

Just a random thread idea I had. Not expecting many posts here, but it’s fun to look at. At least I think so. Smile

My Years at Miniature Trading

The plays are almost in two groups of three (rising consistently from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016), mostly because of 2014’s down year and a huge year this year. In addition, 2011 was about 7 months for me rather than a full 12. My trades were pretty consistent until I exploded in December 2014/January 2015. I highly doubt I’ll ever match that burst of activity. The fleets and miniature reviews are a bit random, but I’ve been more active lately with those and of course teaching new players.

I keep track of my plays at BGG, which is why I have such detailed numbers. The fleets, miniature reviews, and trades are all easily accessible from your profile here at MT, while the players taught is more similar to plays and is tough to have high numbers in heh.

The averages work out pretty nice – a little over 50 games a year, a fleet submission at least once a month, trades scattered throughout the summer and winter, and a miniature review once in a great while. Smile

According to a google spreadsheet Xerecs and I have been using for various things, 63 games out of 91 (69%) were played on VASSAL. There’s a chance I also missed recording a few in the doc, in which case the percentage would be slightly higher.

Found another reason to post here! I finish the year at 92 plays and 27 trades.

From my plays at BGG, I can figure out how many games I’ve played in each month of the year, and then calculate which seasons of the year have the most plays.

My Years at Miniature Trading

For the seasons, I simply did 3 month blocks. Spring (March-May), Summer (June-August), Fall (September-November), Winter (December-February).

The disparities are interesting: of my 341 total plays, only 18 have come in the March-May window, making the spring by far my least common time to play Pirates. Fall would be similarly low if not for the whopping 48 games I played this past September and October alone, mostly as a result of T1. If not for August the three winter months would be the three highest single-month totals. I’m slightly surprised by how much higher the winter is than the summer, though almost all of my campaign games have occurred in the summertime, which still only count as one play each. Hopefully T2 will allow my big January and February numbers to climb even higher!

2017

A year later, and time to fully update my stats.
My Years at Miniature Trading

It was another big year for playing, as I set a personal second best in games played, barely surpassing the total from 2013. It was a REALLY big year for fleets, as I submitted a whopping 16 fleets between June 21st and June 22nd. Shocked My yearly total of 37 fleets submitted is by far my new personal record, and continues the “fleet explosion” seen since 2015. I do notice a trend though – since 2013, my fleet total increases by about a dozen on the odd years (12-24-37), but then dips on the even years. 2018 will likely continue that trend, with my creative energies temporarily exhausted. XD

The long slow trading decline continued as well, as I continue to flesh out my collection and don’t need as much stuff. There were some nice additions though, including the Guichuan and various stuff that saw action in Command the Oceans.

I also set a new personal record for miniature reviews. The 8 does include my first ever review of a custom game piece. I was disappointed not to teach more players, but the campaign games (Command the Oceans and VASSAL CG3) are just so fun.

As for my 2018 goals with these numbers, I hope to continue averaging around 50 plays a year (although, I’m basically averaging 60 per year after the 168-game flurry of the past 2 years XD). For the fleets and trades, I’d just like to see double digits. MR’s come and go, so I’m not overly concerned about those. I definitely want to teach more than 7 players to set a new personal best, and naturally my inclination for campaign games should lead to at least one new one of those. my years at

Here are my 2017 plays by month, with February, July, and December unsurprisingly the busiest months. I was disappointed that March ended my active months in a row streak of playing at least one game of Pirates (at 28!), but I hope a new streak has started as of November 2017. (October was a little weird due to CTO)
My Years at Miniature Trading

And finally my cumulative monthly totals. The disparity between the summer/winter months and those of spring/fall only got bigger. Every month other than October and November has more plays in it than the entire spring season of March through May! My Years at It was another big February, which now has almost twice as many plays as any other month.
My Years at Miniature Trading

2018

My Years at Miniature Trading by the numbers

As I discussed in my 2018 Year in Review, 2018 was an absolutely DISMAL year for Pirates.  I anticipated that somewhat in terms of numbers because it was the first year since 2015 without tournament play, and I’m so content with my collection that trading almost feels unnecessary (thanks VASSAL!  XD).  Although my plays were WAY down, I started three campaign games and those are my favorite type of game by far.  After massive explosions in my fleet and review numbers, it was only natural for them to fall back a lot, especially once Miniature Trading’s demise became a possibility in late August 2018.

I’m anticipating changes in 2019 that may even drive some of these numbers further down, but I’ve kind of “been there, done that” in terms of producing the above types of content for this game.  I’d like to focus on campaign games and making the game more popular rather than endless fleet ideas and small games.  My per-year averages will naturally fall quite a bit over time, but I can always compute stats for specific periods of time, such as the ridiculous run from 2015-2017.  In addition, I think I’ll start adding new stats: numbers for youtube videos produced (231 in 2018), podcasts recorded (24), and (less likely) Instagram posts.  Those three categories all had strong years in 2018, and they’re much more impactful and helpful to the community than my plays or fleets anyway.

Thanks for checking this out, and feel free to share your own stats for Pirates CSG!

-Admiral A7XfanBen

Eras of Miniature Trading

Posted in the Thread of Threads on Miniature Trading on December 9th 2016.

This is pretty random, but seems like it should go in this thread.

I feel like there have been distinct phases of the forum:

1. The “in-print” years (2004-2008)

The game was still in production, and the forums were filled with set previews, discussions once a set was released, and general thoughts (sometimes positive, sometimes negative) on the job Wizkids was doing. The fleets and reviews sections were lively, while updated rules and new keywords/game mechanics kept things interesting.

2. The “collector” and false hope years (2008-2012)

After the demise of Wizkids in late 2008, there was tons of uncertainty concerning the game’s future, how prices would be affected, and what it meant for the game’s base of players and collectors. Then NECA purchased the rights to Pirates in 2009. These years also saw an interesting time period for collectors, with the game being out-of-print for the first time. 2 of the possible 4 mysterious “Ships in a Bottle” found their way into the hands of an old_man, while drama reigned in the world of the Obago Deuces. In 2012 a cards-only “relaunch” was released to much general dismay. Some may consider this the final nail in the coffin, while it could also be considered a positive.

3. The “player” and discussion/reflection years (2013-2018)

As the anniversaries of the game’s demise passed, many collectors completed their collections or left the game entirely. A new era of battle reports was born, with many epic campaign games being played, mostly by a7xfanben and xerecs. Many fleet challenges have taken place, and some were even played out on the VASSAL module. This is also the era of the “megathread”, with many threads reaching massive numbers of pages and replies. The forum offers a great variety of topics on the game, perhaps the most diverse in its history.

4. The “final” era? (late 2018 and beyond?)

Likely a continuation of the latest era, with emphasis on keeping the game alive through teaching new players, taking full advantage of the VASSAL module, and keeping the forum active and awesome.

-However, the revelation that Miniature Trading could shut down has put everything in doubt.  The Pirates forum has already seen severely decreased activity – after all, if the status of the site is in doubt, why bother using time writing up threads or making fleets that could permanently get deleted any day now?  🙁  At this point I’m just going to do what I can to make sure that my Pirates forum lasts indefinitely.

Eras of Miniature Trading

The Pirates CSG forum at Miniature Trading on January 8th 2019, showing the severe lack of activity compared to years past.