I’ve left the most successful and longest running of the Wizkids Pocketmodel games for last. Pirates ran from 2004 until 2009 when Wizkids went under and probably would have lasted many more years. It had more than 10 expansions, including one that officially tied it to the Pirates of the Carribean movie franchise.
While it was undoubtedly the most successful, I think it suffered from a couple of problems. So let’s take a look at the Wizkids Pocketmodel game, Pirates.
Clearly, this was the most successful of their Pocketmodel games, Wizkids produced. It was the 2006 Origins Awards Winner, CCG or Expansion of the Year (for “Davy Jones’ Curse”) and it sold quite well. The Constructible Card Game was a unique entry into the CCG market, although it’s been done since with varying degrees of success.
I originally bought into the game because I saw it in the local comic shop and thought the displays looked cool. I never really intended to play the game much and… I didn’t. Why? Because I didn’t know anyone else who played and really couldn’t get many people interested. Still, they were fun to build and display, little polystyrene ships and sea serpents. Other people must have thought so as well because Wizkids produced 12 expansions beyond the original Pirates of the Spanish Main set.
The expansions for the game included:
- Pirates of the Crimson Coast (2005)
- Pirates of the Revolution (2005)
- Pirates of the Barbary Coast (2005)
- Pirates of the South China Seas (2006)
- Pirates of Davy Jones’ Curse (2006)
- Pirates of the Mysterious Islands (2006)
- Pirates of the Frozen North (2007)
- Pirates at Ocean’s Edge (2007)
- Pirates of the Caribbean PocketModel Game (2007)
- Pirates of the Cursed Seas: Rise of the Fiends (2008)
- Pirates of the Cursed Seas: Fire and Steel (2008)
- Pirates of the Cursed Seas: Savage Shores (2008)
Of these, I admit I only have the first couple of them, up through Frozen North. I really had nobody to play it with and while I liked the look of the ships in general, my Pocketmodel drawers ended up looking like rows of slightly differently colored ships that were all essentially the same. Sure, the South China Seas junks were different than the Frozen North Viking ships, but so many of the other ships were not terribly unique.
The gameplay was relatively simple, although not as simple as many people might have thought. Beyond sinking your opponent’s ships into the briny deep, you could also land on islands (there were cards with islands that I didn’t take pictures of) and dig up treasures of gold and jewels and this could be used for victory points. Of course, mostly, this was a combat game and it suffered from a lot of the mechanics problems that I think many miniatures games suffer from. I just don’t like games with measured movement, although here, it was simple, you could move the length or width of a game card. Still, great concept, decent game, not amazing and I suspect that’s why their other Pocketmodel games didn’t go on that long.
To be honest, while this is the game that, by far, I purchased the most of, it is also the game that I found least visually interesting. There are a ton of different ships, but they all look pretty much the same across many of the different national factions. For the regular ships, they were functionally identical whether you’re talking about French ships or Spanish ships or American ships. There wasn’t the kind of variety and ease of visual identification by variety that you had in Star Wars or Rocketmen. Often, the only way you could tell who you were fighting was to look at the little flag on the back of the ship.
There are some rumors that the game may be making a comeback. In 2009, NECA bought Wizkids from Topps and has been releasing new material for the game HeroClix. Now, it appears that they might start re-releasing some of the original Pirates packs and maybe some new expansions as well. I hope so. I’d really love to get some more Pirates packs, especially if they can make them look significantly different and if successful, I really, really want Rocketmen back! Please, NECA, bring back Rocketmen!
Here’s a smattering of ships, I took more pictures because I have more ships, but of course, this is hardly my complete set. These come from Pirates of the Spanish Main, Pirates of the Crimson Coast, Pirates of the Revolution, Pirates of the Barbary Coast, Pirates of the South China Seas and Pirates of the Frozen North sets. Click to see them in more detail. Thanks for reading!