Friday, September 30, 2016

Book Review: Pirates of the Spanish Main RPG


Several years ago, I inadvertently started collecting playing pieces from the Pirates Constructible Strategy Game (CCG) produced by WizKids.

Normally, I don't care for games with the word "collectable" in the title.  This means each package contains random playing pieces, some being extremely rare, and therefore expensive.  As a wargamer, I want to know exactly what's in the package.  So when the first set of this game, Pirates of the Spanish Main (PotSM), was released, I ignored the hoopla.

A few years later though, while visiting my mom in my hometown, I ventured into the local game store, Fat Cat Comics.  While at the checkout counter I flipped through a binder containing individual pieces of PotSM organized in baseball card holders.  I liked the flat pieces representing terrain, such as islands, reefs, sargasso, and fog banks.  So I bought every bit of terrain Fat Cat had to offer.

I figured these pieces could be used for the Age-of-Sail boardgames I already owned.  Then I started scouring the local game shops in my area, and eBay, for:  Pieces of Eight coins as play money for the pirate role-playing games (RPGs) already owned, along with character cards for quick non-player character (NPC) sketches. 

My addiction tapered off when Wizkids started releasing Pirates of the Mysterious Islands (steampunk) and Pirates of the Frozen North (Vikings).

But since I still held on to my unassembled  collection, I decided to go just one step further and buy Pirates of the Spanish Main RPG (shortened to "Pirates RPG" to avoid confusion with the CCG).

This RPG, was produced by Pinnacle Entertainment Group and based on their Savage Worlds rules.

The book weighs-in at 255 pages, and is divided into a dozen chapters:

1.  Getting Started
2.  Characters
3.  Gear
4.  Age of Piracy (setting overview)
5.  Game Rules
6.  Flashing Blades (a listing of fencing schools)
7.  Life at Sea
8.  Gamemaster Section--Gazeteer
9.  Running the Game
10. The Lady's Favor (an introductory adventure)
11. Encounters (NPCs and Bestiary)
12. Index


Among the illustrations similar in style to the original CCG, you'll find:

Character Sheet and Ship Chart
Blast and Turning Templates
Map of the Spanish Main (on the inside front and back covers)
Two grid maps of the Caribbean (one showing the prevailing winds)

(Image:  Map found on page 2 of the rulebook)
The book does a good job of incorporating the CCG material into the Savage Worlds rules.  In keeping with the CCG, this is not an historical game, but a constructed world "...loosely set in the late 17th Century or early 18th Century" (page 62).  There's even some magic and supernatural hazards players may encounter.

While I can enjoy a romp through alternate history, I wish the folks at Pinnacle, and Wizkids for that matter, put a bit more effort into being more accurate about ships and naval artillery.

For example:  "Frigates carry goods around the Main and back to Europe"  (page 118).

This isn't even close to the true definition of this well-known ship type.

Then there's the ship weapons, listed on page 123 as :  Bowchaser, 4-pounder (pdr) cannon, 8-pdr, and 16-pdr.

Not only are these gun ratings off-base, but this also means the ships in both games are seriously under-powered.

Despite these nautical inaccuracies, I liked what I read in the Pirates RPG, which received a 4.4-star rating on Amazon.com, and a 4-star rating on RPG.Net.  I'd rate the game about the same, but one 3-star rater's comment on Amazon is worth mentioning:  That no other support material, supplements or active user community, except for a handful of downloadable material.

So if you want to make use of all those CCG ships for swashbuckling adventures of derring do, then grab a hold of an available copy of the book, or download it from Drive Thru RPG.

(Image:  Pirates RPG publication announcement)

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