A couple of years ago, browsing in the local branch of a certain discount store, I happened across a few boxes of a “collectable card game” called Pirates of the Cursed Seas. At £2 or so per box, buying them was inevitable.
The game itself turned out to be a disappointment, to be frank. Essentially, the concept is to build up a fleet of ships and then go sailing to islands, grab some treasure, and sail back home with it, while avoiding the ships of more predatory players. There are some fantastical elements tossed in – sea monsters, undead crews, captains with special abilities, and so on – but fundamentally it’s a variation on good old Buccaneer with a few extra bells and whistles (presumably influenced by the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise). I played the rules twice, and that was enough to bore me with the whole thing. The game ended up being put away in a storage box, with most of the ships I had remaining unbuilt.
And there it stayed until recently.
Finding myself at a loose end one evening, and feeling too tired to do much, I picked up the box of unmade ships and set to work assembling them. This is the gimmick at the heart of the whole Pirates game (it apparently had a few other “Pirates of…” iterations besides the Cursed Seas title). Each ship comes in pieces that punch out of plastic cards, a little bigger than a credit card, and then has to be slotted together.
The resulting models are not what you could call detailed representations of sailing warships, and are fantasy vessels rather than historical ones, but in spite of their relatively crude appearance and the lack of a consistent scale they do have something appealing about them – if only the fact that they were dirt cheap!
A couple of hours punching and slotting, and I have 33 of these little plastic ships, from four nationalities (Britain, France, Spain and the USA) plus a squadron of pirate ships. But what to do with them?
This is where my memory kicked in, at last. I recalled an article in one of the wargaming magazines, some time ago, I think by a couple of Belgian wargamers, describing how they’d played a game on a patio using these same sort of CCG models. Any further thoughts about using the actual Pirates of the Cursed Seas rules went out of the window at that point, and an old set of Napoleonic naval rules was duly hauled down from the crowded, dusty bookshelf where it had languished for too long.
The ships have now been glued to bases. Not wanting to spend much of my precious modelmaking time on them, I decided to stick with crudity when basing. Some mounting board, Copydex and a blue marker pen did the job well enough for my purposes.
I’ll play through a small test game soon, if only to remind myself of the rules. Then? Memory stirring again. I recently acquired a copy of the book Honor Among Thieves: Captain Kidd, Henry Every and the Pirate Republic of Libertalia, by Jan Rogozinski. This is a great account of historical pirate activities in the Indian Ocean, and of the independent pirate republic that was established on Madagascar.
So, I have the model ships, and I have a suitable context. The campaign must surely follow…