Friday, February 11, 2011

Pirates CSG- A review of a defunct game


(Oversized models at GenCon 2007), picture from Wikipedia

A few days ago, my wife, kids, and I were in Target when we came upon a few boxes of booster packs for a game called Pirates by Wizkids (now bought out by NECA or some such, so they stopped producing several lines of games like this one). My son (turning 3 next month) picked up one and went "Cool!" Upon looking at the box, it said "Pirates Constructable Strategy Game".

They were only 5 bucks for a box containing 6 boosters each (and each booster contains enough items for a small game), so I bought one, thinking it might be a pleasant diversion from FoW and a game my wife might have an interest in. (Of course, I should have asked myself if her interest was in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, or in actor Johnny Depp?)

While out eating in our car, I used the modern wonder of my iPhone to research my new purchase. Here's what wikipedia says:

"The Pirates Constructible Strategy Game is a tabletop game manufactured by WizKids, Inc., with aspects of both miniatures and collectible card genres. Pirates of the Spanish Main (the initial release of the Pirates line) is the world's first "constructible strategy game," referring to the mechanics of creating game pieces from components that punch out of styrene cards. The game was created by Jordan Weisman and designed by Mike Mulvihill, Ethan Pasternack, James Ernest, and Mike Selinker. It was released in early July 2004. Pirates of the Spanish Main refers specifically to the first release in the series, and generically to the game as a whole (or the game's "universe") including all of the expansions. There is also an online computer game based on Pirates of the Spanish Main called Pirates CSG Online

The game won the Origins Vanguard Award 2005.

On November 10, 2008, Topps announced the closure of Wizkids.

On September 14, 2009, collectible maker NECA (http://www.necaonline.com/) announced the purchase of the Wizkids name and properties from Topps, specifically including the Pirates line. No further info is known at this time as to when or if Pirates will begin to be produced again."


Upon arriving home, I opened the booster packs. Each pack contained: two random ships printed on the cards that you must construct (no glue required), an island (flip side is a terrain feature), a card of gold pieces, either a unique treasure or a crew token, and a copy of both the full rules and quickstart rules accompanied by a miniscule six-sided die (useless for actually playing with but a nice gesture). Pretty neat!

The cards are of fairly good quality, akin to a credit card, however not quite plastic. They are tougher than cardboard as if they are laminated with plastic.



The ships take a minute to figure out, but the diagrams included in the quickstart rules help immensely. The main thing to remember is

A) The ships are made of card. PIECES WILL BREAK. Be patient and figure out where everything goes first. Then CAREFULLY put it together. Hold near the tab when inserting it into a slot. If pieces break (and they inevitably will.

B) The ships are made of card. They are not really that pretty, but they are good enough for what they are.

C) The ships are made of card. Store them appropriately. Don't let them get wet, or expose them to excessive sunlight, heat, moisture, etc etc.

D) Did I mention the ships are made of card?

As a side note: be sure to save all the cards even after you punch them out. The ship notes especially, as well as any card that has rules or writing on it. They are your only reference materials aside from the core rules.


The game plays pretty easily at first. With only a few ships, you don't have to keep too much memorized to play. All measurement is done using the edges of the cards, either the long edge or the short edge. This is awfully convenient. No rulers or tape measures here! Just what you already are using: the cards you use to reference your ships' stats. The only additionally needed materials are a gaming surface and a handful of 6-sided dice. For anybody who has played at least Monopoly, you should already have these!

The object of the game is to collect more gold than your opponent. Each player has a "Home Island", and there are several "Wild" islands on the map at the start. These Wild Islands contain a number of gold pieces, which on their underside is printed a number. These gold pieces are shuffled and placed so that these numbers are not known at the start of the game to either player.

The ships ferry back and forth to these Wild Islands, taking as many coins as their Cargo Value. They then return to their home islands with their loot.

If desired, these ships can engage each other. Ramming, boarding, and blasting with cannons, players can attempt to win the game by pure force.

It is unfortunate that this game is out of production. The game is simple, the ships are fun to build, and collecting them gets to be quite a bug. I've already placed an order for an entire box of boosters (18 for 15 bucks? Deal!) and sent my wife back to buy the remaining boxes in Target before they have disappeared, never to be seen again. There are multiple expansions, with the most recent one offering boosters being "Pirates: Fire and Steel". If you want a rule-page with the most recent keywords (Abilities' special rules) then you will need at least one booster from this expansion.


(picture "borrowed" without permission from gamesonthetable.blogspot.com)

There are something like 1000 individual ships from all the different expansions, not counting duplicates and promotional ships. That is plenty to keep a collector busy for a while, especially with the OOP status of the game line.

Keep an eye out on ebay. Also, head on over to http://www.miniaturetrading.com/, where there is still an active community for the game. You can also keep track of your collection, build lists, etc. It is the best website for collectible miniatures games that I have found yet!

For this game, I'll give it a 4 out of 5 for the price. I am already hooked, after only 5 bucks!

Until next time,
--FP135

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