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The Rules Directory:
Pirates of the Spanish Main (2001)

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TITLE: Pirates of the Spanish Main (aka Pirates of he Cursed Seas, Crimson Coast, Revolution, Barbary Coast, South China Seas, Davy Jones’ Curse, Mysterious Islands, Frozen North, Ocean’s Edge, Pirates of the Caribbean, Rise of the Fiends, Fire and Steel)

AUTHOR: James Ernest, Mike Selinker

PUBLISHER: WizKids

PUBLICATION DATE: 2004

WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:

PRICE (with date): $3.99 per booster pack (in 2008)

REVIEWED BY: Mike “Cke1st” Fischer

PERIOD COVERED: Golden Age of Piracy, with fantasy elements

THE BOOK:

The rules fit on one double-sided, small-printed page, plus another 2-sided page that illustrates ship assembly and basic rule concepts. Every booster pack contains both sheets, along with two ships, 1-2 crew, treasures, one island, and a tiny d6.

SCOPE:

Pirates is a tactical sea-battle game. Each player commands two or more ships, depending on the agreed battle size.

ARMY SIZE:

A typical army consists of 2-4 individual ships, sea monsters, and/or forts

BASE UNIT: The base unit is the single ship. Crew can be added to most ships to give special abilities or extra actions.

GAME SCALES:

  • Ground Scale: n/a
  • Time Scale: n/a
  • Figure/Base Ratio: 1 figure = 1 ship
  • Recommended Figure: ships that come with the game, ranging in length from 1” to 4”
  • Table Size: 3’ x 3’ will give a good battle area
  • Game Length: 1-2 hours

BASING SIZES: Ships are unbased

TURN SEQUENCE:

  • Turn sequence is IGOUGO. Each player moves one ship, loads treasure or resolves combat with that ship, then repeats until all that player’s ships have moved. Then the next player takes his/her turn.

GAME MECHANICS:

Fire Combat: each ship has a given number of cannons, with accuracy and range ratings along with some ship-specific modifiers. Each cannon shot is resolved by comparing a d6 roll against the accuracy rating. A hit removes one mast from the target ship, reducing that ship’s strength and removing one of its cannons.

Close Combat: ramming and boarding are covered by comparing d6 rolls against each ship’s current strength (number of masts remaining). Ships without masts can be looted, towed, or scuttled.

ARMY LISTS/SCENARIOS: Fleets are built using a point system. The official site includes several basic scenarios.

REVIEWER’S COMMENTS:

This is a quick, fun, non-realistic game, and a good introduction to miniature gaming for non-gamers. The absence of wind rules, and the presence of sea monsters and steampunk submarines, will turn off serious players. The many ship abilities interact in unusual ways, which cause the official FAQ to far exceed the size of the actual rules.

PLAYER’S COMMENTS:

The point system is easy to use, but many ships seem to be overpriced, and a few are notably underpriced. The rationale for ships’ point values is the subject of much speculation.

The key to success is using the best ships and crew (some of which are harder to collect than others), and having good dice luck. Some tactical skill can influence the outcome.

The rules are simple enough that children can learn the game quickly, but with enough variety that adults can enjoy the game repeatedly.

The rules don’t attempt to be too realistic; the emphasis is definitely on simplicity, fast play, and fun.

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