What do you use for a play mat? I’ve used a sheet once but it bunches and moves. Neoprene playmat?
I don’t quite have a favorite ocean play mat, but I’ve used many great options in the past. In this post I’ll answer this question in detail, providing pictures and analysis for the ocean play mats that I use.
This is the mat that comes in European packs of Spanish Main (Unlimited Edition).
There are various “official” mats you can use. For starters, European Spanish Main Unlimited packs contain a basic small plastic mat. (thanks to Holofernes and others for the detailed Wikipedia page)
Probably the most “famous” is from the Plunder Pack. However, it’s both the least appealing and not very practical. Although I DON’T recommend the map, the Plunder Pack itself is quite cool.
The Plunder Pack map – dull, gray, boring, and prone to excessive creases from folding in storage.
Although the above ocean play mats are better than playing on less nautical surfaces (such as a wooden table or a random rug or carpet), it’s both cheapandeffective to get something that really beautifies your games.
The answer? Basic chunks of fabric.
In 2015 I went to Joann Fabrics and bought 5 different yards of blue fabric for a grand total of about $17. At about $3/yard, I can honestly say it was one of my “best buys” of Pirates CSG ever (despite not buying any actual Pirates stuff) and transformative for both my games and associated Battle Reports. Since that awesome purchase, I’ve used almost nothing else in my games. I’ve attempted to rank them here.
#1 – Light, tropical, textured, “Caribbean” blue
This is a light blue fabric that makes you feel like you’re playing a game of Pirates CSG in the Caribbean! I call it a “textured” fabric because it’s not a solid blue color, with some variation throughout to make it look a bit more like real water.
The English and Spanish feel right at home in the “Caribbean”!
#2 – Silky shiny blue
This one is by FAR the most unique ocean I have. It’s a completely different material than the other 4 fabrics I use, making it quite distinct. It’s silky, smooth, shiny, and cool! It doesn’t fold like the other fabrics, being much more susceptible to sliding around in your hands. However, you can still wrap or fold it up easily for storage.
Gorgeous and luxurious!
#3 – Dark textured blue
This is just like the “Caribbean blue”, but with darker shades of blue. Creates more of a “deep sea exploration” feel as compared to the more tropical light blue.
Darker version of the other textured blue fabric.
#4 – Basic light blue
This solid colored fabric is a little more “boring”, but still provides infinitely more thematic element than the brown table below it.
Starting setup for an “Other Worlds” game.
#5 – Basic dark blue
More of a “navy blue”, this may be the most boring of the bunch, but it still turns Pirates CSG into more of a seafaring experience.
Custom islands and terrain can enhance your games even further!
If you’re like me and occasionally need a larger ocean (or oceans), there are still various options. You can use a blue bedsheet that you may have lying around, or bought for cheap. You could also buy more than a yard of fabric – 2 yards would give you quite a lot of space.
To avoid any extra purchases, you could also simply connect multiple (different) yards of fabric together to create one ocean. This has the added benefit of creating a “separation” of ocean colors/textures on your map, which can be great for designating a more tropical look or a more menacing deep blue Pacific look.
Here are a few more oceans I’ve played Pirates on:
Those with a blue table are in luck!
Playing on a blue bed sheet works just fine.
Not my favorite, but this light blue-gray bed sheet is alright.
Combination of bed sheet and fabric yard used in the Sea of Allost (Command the Oceans).
I’m planning to get even more ocean fabrics in the future, especially shiny ones that look like glossy water. For example, you could use a big blue photography background for a Pirates ocean! A simple search reveals tons of great options for affordable prices. Just one yard can vastly improve your Pirates games forever. 😀
A Question (or two) for You
Which ocean play mat is your favorite? Do you generally prefer lighter or darker colored oceans? Comment below and I’ll respond! Feel free to even rank all of them if you’d like.
Thanks for reading and let’s get in touch about Pirates CSG! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Another part of the Q&A series here at Pirates with Ben. This was asked in the Facebook group – a question about
which crew to use.
Best Crew to Use
Captains and helmsmen are the most important. I’m not the biggest fan of explorers but they can be quite good as well. In terms of named crew, anything that gives extra actions is extremely good (SAC/EA/SAT/etc). It does depend on my strategy and the ship though. Empty gold runners can work pretty well, but you’re not going to have an “empty gunship”, so a lot of times the percentage of crew in a fleet is massively biased towards gunships (meaning 75-90% of crew points spent could be assigned to gunships, for example).
C+H necessary to stay competitive
Specifically, if a ship has a base move of S+S or slower, she nearly always needs a helmsman for your fleet to stay competitive (exception is empty gold runner that gets +S with no cargo). Even the recent Savage Shores anniversary game is a good example of this. Gunships always need captains, and almost always need helmsmen too. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you don’t use captains and helmsmen on your gunships, you will not win against competent opponents.
However, a gimmick fleet might go with very little crew or many “abnormal” crew that don’t get pure results, but are VERY fun to use. These fleets often still use captains and helmsmen as a “backbone” of sorts, in addition to the wacky stuff that make them fun and unique. That said, if you’re strictly looking to WIN, you’re better off hammering the basics to ensure optimized fleet building. Personally I get a little bored of winning with the same fleet or strategy all the time, so I like to change it up!
Is there absolutely no way to eliminate a ship with eternal built in? And if no does this cause any gameplay issues for smaller games or against opponents with a small variety of ships?
Eternal is underpriced by a point or two, but it’s not as powerful as it sounds. With the right tools and strategy, it’s not a big deal to counter. Best way to sink an Eternal ship permanently is with a canceller. Cancel the Eternal ability right before you take the shot to sink the ship.
Turn the tables
You can also capture Eternal ships and use them against your opponents. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to eliminate any oarsmen on the ship first, since they prevent dereliction and therefore capture. This is one of my favorite ways of dealing with Eternal because you can capture an enemy ship instead of “sinking” it and then immediately scuttle it and try to warp it back to YOUR home island instead of theirs! I was able to do this in CG3.
There are a few niche things you can use to make Eternal less effective too – simply leave the ship with no masts and refuse to sink it. Or use the Periscope UT to cancel the ability like you would with a canceller.
If you don’t have many tools available to help you with the above methods, simply sink the ship as quickly as possible and try to win the game before it comes back. Repairing an Eternal ship to any level of respectable health (likely 3+ masts for any gunship) can take a while. Not to mention how long it will take for the ship to get back in action. By simply blasting the ship away each time it approaches, you can minimize the threat by keeping it repairing at home rather than causing chaos on the battlefield.
Where it DOES get nasty
The tricky part is when you combine Eternal with other defensive stuff – such as a submarine with a canceller aboard as well. Think USS Mercury with both Ralph David (Eternal) and DNT (Canceller), with an oarsman. That’s when it gets a bit OP, but that kind of combo is really only valuable in deathmatches or big games, not so much competitive games with gold.
Eternal mostly only causes gameplay issues in deathmatches. My favorite house rule there is to only allow it to work once. So if Eternal is used in a deathmatch, the second sinking is permanent.
Thanks for the comment and let me know if you have any other questions.
Captured Eternal ship carrying Davy Jones at the lower right after my Americans nabbed him in VASSAL Campaign Game 3 – click for details!