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Pirates! By WizKids
An Introduction by William “WildWill” Noetling

Arrgh matey, and welcome aboard the brand spankin’ new Pojo Pirates by WizKids page. The Seven Seas are a dangerous place, full of Buccaneers, Privateers and Ghosts. Ye had better be tying off your yard arms and battening down your hatches if you’re going to survive on the high seas of the Spanish Main or the Crimson Coast.

Announced during the convention season in 2003 and shipping in mid-2004, WizKids latest gaming innovation is a game unlike any other currently on the market. Each booster pack comes with six sturdy polystyrene cards, one cardboard island, a teeny tiny die and a set of rules. In each pack you get two ships, and a crew/treasure card. The game pieces come pre-punched in several pieces, and in order to play you have to put together the ships. This task isn’t very hard, though it can be tricky. Broken pieces are rare, but they do happen. And it is actually possible to play a FUN game that last about 20 minutes with as few as two packs of cards. With each pack retailing for around four dollars, Pirates is aimed at the “beer and pretzels” crowd.

Tournament Fun
But wait, there’s more: WizKids, has designed an approved play tournament format, and they support these local and regional tournaments with Limited Edition ships and crew as prizes, so if you want to be ultra-competitive, you can. If you just want to play a fun game with unlimited potential, you can. It’s entirely up to you.

The Fleets
There are currently five different fleet factions in the game, the initial set (Pirates of the Spanish Main) brought us Pirates, Spanish and English. The first expansion (Pirates of the Crimson Coast) added the French, and sneak previewed the Americans. The next expansion (Pirates of the Revolution) will add the Americans in full force, and we’re hoping another fleet faction. As a player, your fleet can be made up containing any of the factions, so you can have a Pirate Ship and a Spanish Ship in your fleet, through your crew will only work with their own faction. I'll have more on that in a little bit.

The Basics
The game itself is pretty basic; the object is to end the game with the most gold, or to sink all your opponent’s ships. It can be played with any number of players, as long as there’s two or more (solitaire games could be played, but would be pretty boring). As I mentioned, each pack of cards comes with a pretty good basic instruction manual, and complete game instructions are available on the WizKids official website.

Today, I’ll give a basic overview of the game today. Next time I’ll look at the standard crew abilities, and later on we’ll take a look at some of the “named” crew and their special abilities. We’ll be starting a Crew/Ship of the Day column very shortly.

Your first step in playing the game is to purchase a few packs. I actually recommend two packs per player for your initial game. It gives you a little more variety to choose from, and less of a chance that either you or your opponent will have an overly powerful fleet right out of the box. Open your packs and separate your ships from your crew. For your first game, you shouldn’t use any of the crew tokens, as you need to get the basics down before you start including the advanced rules.

With four packs you should have at least 8 ships, add up all your point totals for all your ships and divide by two, that should be your starting fleet total. Alternately you can just choose a 30-point starter game in which each player has a maximum of 30 points to build their fleet. Try to stay as close to that total as possible, but your first game should be a friendly one, just to get the rules down. Once you have the rules down, feel free to start the trash talking and cannon blasting!

After carefully building your ships, pick out your treasure coins and islands, each gold coin has a point value (from 1 to 6), and obviously, the player who collects the most points wins the game! For each 10 build points each player provides 1 island and 2 coins equaling 4 gold. So for a 30-point game you would have 6 total islands and 12 coins equaling 24 total gold. In addition to gold coins, there’s a bunch of “unique” treasures each with different game features. If you happen to get any “unique” treasure in your initial packs, just put it aside for later. Don’t worry if you don’t have enough islands, you can use an empty card from one of your ships, or another trading card for an island.

Next place your islands. The rule book states that each island can be no closer than 2 L measure from any other island, and no more than 4 L from any other one island. Players choose a Home Island and place the treasure on the remaining “Wild” islands. You start the game with all your fleet docked at your home island, and it ends when the last treasure has been collected, or your opponent has no more ships. Each ship in your fleet gets one action per turn. There are four different actions that can be done: Movement, Shooting, Repair, or Exploring at a wild island.

Ah, but how do you collect treasure or blow up your opponent’s ships you’re asking? Simple: to collect treasure, you sail and dock at a wild island (end your turn with the bow of your ship touching the outline of a wild island). The next turn you can collect as much treasure as your ship can carry, and then the next turn you can sail back to your home island. When you reach it, you dock and unload your treasure, which is now safe and secure.

Combat
Ship-to-Ship combat is quite simple as well. Each ship has a number of cannons equal to her number of masts. So for example a two-masted ship has two cannons, and a five-masted ship has five cannons. When you give your ship a shooting action, you can fire any or all of your ship’s cannons at any target in range. Each cannon has a range of either a long measure or a short measure, and a ranking from 1 to 4. In order to fire your cannon, you draw an imaginary line from the center of the mast, which has the cannon you’re firing to the other ship. If any part of that line touches any part of the other ship, you’re in range. If one of your ships, or a mast of your ship blocks any part of that line, you cannot fire that cannon. If you’re in range, you roll one D6. If the number you roll is HIGHER than your cannon’s ranking, you hit the opponent. Each successful cannon roll takes out one mast (and one opponent’s cannon). Your opponent chooses which mast to remove. When a ship has no more masts, it is considered derelict and cannot move on it’s own. One more successful cannon shot will sink the ship, and any treasure on board is split between the players.

I’ve simplified these rules quite a bit for this opening piece, and I’ve omitted several more complicated rules that are an integral part of the game. I just wanted to give some flavor of the game before we move to the more complicated, but fun aspects. WizKids has created a FANTASTIC animated tutorial, which you can view here: How to Play Pirates! I highly recommend it, if for nothing else, the pirate narration is classic.

This game is a tremendous amount of fun, and it’s simple, but with enough complex nuances to make even the most hardcore gamers giggle with glee. When I first saw the concept for this game at WizardWorld Los Angeles 2003 I was bowled over, and I couldn’t WAIT to get a hold of it. Now at the time I was still fairly into Heroclix, but I rapidly lost interest in that particular game (due to a number of reasons, not the least of which was constant rule changing, and idiotic exclusive figure distribution). Honestly I don’t see myself playing in any WizKids tournament any time soon, simply because I don’t like the structure and competitiveness to get the LE prizes. However, I’ve purchased or traded for several of those LE prizes already, and they really aren’t all that desirable anyway. Instead of being GODLY pieces that you MUST run in a tournament, they’re simply Ghost versions of existing ships, that don’t cost any more or any less (well one or two have a different cost) than the existing versions. Complete sets aren’t impossible to put together, though patience (and several boxes worth of packs) will be required. Additionally, WizKids is making a concerted effort to listen to the players and give them what they want, instead of ignoring them completely. Trading of Ships is also pretty easy, as these guys are pretty sturdy already. They don’t require a large box to ship out in (like Heroclix did); you can slap a ship or two in a top loader and stick it in an envelope.

Check It Out!
Currently the game is in it’s infancy, and packs can sometimes be hard to get a hold of, since most game stores didn’t know what to do with it. Spanish Main can still be found at many mass retail stores, including Target and Wal-Mart. Crimson Coast was released around the first of this year and added such nifty features as schooners (faster, more agile ships) and forts. The next expansion Pirates of the Revolution, is due in June, and it promises to add instant effects to the game, which will make the overall experience much more interesting.

In the mean time, keep checking this site for Ships of the Day, Fleet Builds, and all the other great stuff you’ve come to expect from Pojo.com. Shiver me timbers and blow me down, I’ll see YOU on the Spanish Main!

Thanks for reading:

Captain WildWill
 


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