Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My collectible dilemma: Pirates CSG


A few years ago, when Wizkids' Pirates CSG was new, and the Crimson Coast set had just been released, I happened to discover the game while walking out of Target. My love of the pirate theme instantly had me giddy over the game. I looked the game up online, viewed the flash tutorial, and before 2 days had passed, I had stopped by Toys R Us to pick up my first two booster packs. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

Up to this point in my life, I had never invested in a collectible game before. My only experience with collectible games had been from playing Magic: The Gathering with my friends who had collections. One thing I know now that I didn't know then is that there is a certain type of person who should invest in collectible games, and there is a certain type of person who should not. Here are some features of a person who should invest in collectible games:

  1. Being a kid or teenager
  2. Being single
  3. Having expendable income
  4. Having friends who want to play the game with you
  5. Having friends who also collect the game
  6. Having time to play
  7. Having time to keep up on the news and events surrounding the game
The more features that apply to you, the better suited you are for collectible games, in my opinion. Herein lies the first problem: when I became interested in Pirates CSG, the only items that applied to me were 4, 6, and 7. This would have been a warning sign, had I known what I know now.


I lacked everything but time and friends. When I bought my first packs, my friend Jack bought a couple packs as well. We were both fascinated by this new "constructible" idea that Wizkids had introduced. The character art was interesting and somewhat spooky; the little ships looked amazingly cool; there were stats and abilities and 4 factions to choose from - everything about the game was a draw for me.

Back then, my wife was also willing to play with me, while the game was as simple as two packs. At the time, I only had one very small child and much more time for following the Pirates community forums. I was up on every hot topic and found lots of answers to rules questions. I was not yet into much board gaming beyond Settlers of Catan, so Pirates was my main game.

Jack and I continued to buy packs and receive them as gifts, growing our collections. Jack, a maximizer of value, decided to focus on just one faction (Pirates) to keep things simple, while I was intent on collecting everything in the game. We bought batches of singles online and searched ebay regularly for decently priced "money" rares. Jack, already being an avid collector of Magic: The Gathering, soon decided to quit collecting Pirates. He felt he could only comfortably and reasonably manage one collectible game. But he assured me that he'd still play with me. By this time, my wife had also begun to turn down my requests to play Pirates. The Pirates game had become too big for everyone but me.


And yet I continued collecting. Looking down the road, I saw my familial posterity benefiting from my full-bodied collection - surely my children would play with me when they were older. We would have a blast carrying out pirate battles! Wizkids released new set after new set, rapidly throwing new factions and mechanics into the Pirates game. Soon, I found myself overwhelmed. I was playing with no one, and had no money to invest in keeping up with each new season.

Then, when I finally did have some money to blow, I bought a booster box for Pirates of the Barbary Coast, hoping to sell them on ebay, as I had made a habit of doing with my extra Pirates cards. My goal was to flesh out my Corsair faction before selling off the doubles. Unfortunately, I seemed to be one of the only people actively collecting Barbary Coast. I couldn't get much to sell and ended up with a load of unused Barbary Coast cards (which I still have).

At this time, the reality of my wasted time, money, and effort was becoming heavy upon my conscience. How was there any wisdom in amassing a dust-collecting lot of game pieces? When was the last time I had actually played the game? Who was I kidding? Pirates had become nothing more than a collectible item, like bottle caps or shells. I had designed my own custom islands, and put together sizable collections for every faction up through the Barbary Corsairs, and was working on my stash for the Cursed faction. It was like anything else: if you don't have anyone to share it with, it quickly becomes worthless.


So where am I today? I still have my collection, boxed up in official Pirates tins, each item sleeved, organized by faction. I have all my custom homemade islands stashed in a closet, and a length of fabric that my wife cut and sewed for me to use with Pirates as a table cloth that looks like an ocean. Most of my efforts in the last year have been to keep my collection of trade items up to date on MiniatureTrading.com. Every once in a while people have contacted me about trades. Even those are rare now. I'm just a chump with a sweet, barely-used Pirates collection.

Some of you who experienced similar or dissimilar adverse experiences with collectible games such as MTG are probably chuckling at me now, and with good reason. Back when I got started, you are certain, had you been there, you could have tried to steer me clear of the fascination that led me to my current predicament.


What am I going to do? First of all, I will keep waiting for people to contact me about trades and buys. I need to get rid of my excess Pirates stuff. Then I'll eventually need to decide what to do with my personal collection. Do I keep it to play with my kids - even in light of the huge board game collection I have to keep us occupied? Do I sell it for far less than I spent on it? It's a collectible game after all - it doesn't hold its value. And when you don't have friends investing in their own collections, that just takes away from some of the fun of the game. Collectible games are designed so that each player can piece together their own competitive collections. As it is, anyone I play with with just be using my collection.

I really don't know the best answers yet. I still like browsing the collection. I somewhat enjoy building fleets. I like playing, as long as we don't build big fleets - then the game just takes too long. Over the years, my interests have shifted, I have more kids to invest time and energy in, and I have an adequate supply of interesting board games to keep my family engaged. I just don't know what to do about the Pirates stash.

Feel free to comment and advise. I'm interested to hear what readers have to say.

All pictures are pictures I've taken and posted on BGG. They all include items from Jack's and my collections. The dark tablecloth is his, the light-colored one is mine. The 3D islands are the ones I constructed and painted myself.

17 comments:

Raydancer said...

Collectible games would be awesome if only they weren't collectible. I suppose my only advise would be to find a suitable non-collectible replacement for your addiction. I just bought Caribbean, which you might like. It has cool little ships and seems that it will make for a nice chaotic filler game...something light enough that you'd probably find someone to play it with.

TimothyP said...

A while back, I put in the money and effort to acquire the entire existing set of Maelstrom tiles. Now, the issue is getting someone besides me to design forces for me to play against. I'm fine with them using my stash, as long as someone would design a force. Come on! Anyone?! Please?

Sergio said...

Hello from Spain!. I have experienced something like that you say. In a minor way, but similar. I dont play because my friends dont like the game, but i am fascinated with the aesthetics of the miniatures and the mechanics of the game. My advice is...

1.- buy the game "Pirates: the search of Davy Jones gold", this is a "closed" version of Pirates CSG, ideal for play with anybody.

2.- Do a diorama with your favorite ships, or put it in "peanas" (i dont know the english traslation).

3.-Forget to collect the "open" Pirates CSG. Never collect. You dont have to have all, it is psychotic.

4.-Sell or gift the ships that you dont put in the diorama.

5.-You have tons of stuff that you dont like, but keep it for the future, for situations never will come, dont you?. Burn that shit. Free yourself.

Then, you will have a precious diorama, a simple and equilibrated game for play,and...nothing more. Perfect!

Fabio said...

I red with interest your story and I believe that it ends as all the stories about collectibles games end.
I mean that kind of game has two big attractive points: 1. the fact that you share that passion with friends ; 2. the more you play the larger your army/fleet/monsters/deck/... becomes.
Point 1 is the 'dinamic' part of the game: exchanging experiences, facing opponent's new strategies or simply talking with them of the new cards or rules is always fun. Point 2 is the 'static' part of the game: you simply like to possess it, as you like to keep a book you like in your hands or to smell the 'flauvour of new' of a board game or to watch your painted miniatures.
Clearly the first part, sooner or later, will fade, since your friends (or you, someone has to be the first) will lose, one by one, their interest for THAT game, so you'll remain alone .. and you'll end as you ended in your story ..
The same happened to me for MAGIc the Gathering: a few months ago I found the bag with all my cards ad i sold them for less than 100€ .. better this way than simply thrashing them, as my wife intended to do .. ;)
It's the story of the life, everything fades away, but you'l keep forever the memory of the good time spent ...
A big hi from Italy
-- ZAUK --
p.s. I'll look on internet to know what is exactly the game you talked about .. seems to be real fun !!!

TimothyP said...

Thanks for the comments! It's always great to know who visits Games on the Table. I appreciate the feedback.

Fabio said...

I think you'll be proud of having spreaded the pirates CSG virus to someone else ... i.e. me .. :)
After reading your story, I began looking on the internet to find some news about this game, which I lost in the past ... the more i found the more i liked the idea, then, finally, last week I talked with two friends of mine about this game .. monday I proposed to them to buy a lot of packets from DaCard (USA) together ... yesterday arrived to me a package with 76 packets (46 of the Barbarian coast and 30 of te Revolution) to divide between the three of us ...
This evening we'll have the first meeting to play Pirates GSC ;)
.. any suggestion, oh my disease spreader ?? ;)

TimothyP said...

All I can say is: Try to keep your friends interested! Community is the lifeblood of collectible games.

Thanks for commenting!

Jioruji Derako said...

Heh, stumbled upon your blog through a random Google search.

Must say, I'm finding myself in the same boat as you now (pun intended, of course). I started collecting back at about the same point as you did, I believe; while I never collected to nearly the extent that you have (I much prefer to "cherry pick" for only my favorite ships, rather then building a large collection), I'm quickly finding myself to be the only one interested in the game.

I really enjoy playing it, however, and I don't think I could sell off my collection very well anyway; I've mostly relegated myself to simply building a few fleets of my own, and every so often lending fleets out so I can play. It's a shame, really; if only more people near me played the game, it would be a different story.

I also play M:tG quite extensively however (and the collection I've built up in that has actually gotten close to a point where I don't need to spend money to get the cards I want). Not hard at all to find fellow M:tG players, and certainly no worries of the game getting overwhelming. It's not got quite the punch as a little pirate ship on a table, however.

It is funny how that all works out, though; whenever a group of people find a new hobby, it's always awesome at first. But then slowly, people lose interest, it gets boring for some, or others find new hobbies, and before you know it, there's just that one guy left who still likes that hobby... and it's not very fun to be that last guy, not at all.
...although surely, if you could just find those other inevitable "survivors" out there...

vandelbusters@hotmail.com said...

Hey. Stumbled upon this with a random google search. I love the game, and just recently started collecting it again. I have gotten into several other collectibles (card games) so yes I know just how bad it can get. But... time that I enjoyed wasting was not wasted I suppose. Besides, I go to a school made for "geeks" i suppose youd say, So maybe I can find followers. Happy Trails to you and maybe ill contact you about a sale, I really liked the custom islands I saw.

Anonymous said...

I found your article while doing a random search to get back in touch with "Pirates".

I fell in love with the little ships and the open-ended mechanics that allow people to play their own way, with endless options. I think it is a brilliant game.

I was hooked by the "collectible" part of the game, that draws you in to get more and more, even though you will never use them.

I have no advice to add. I think others have covered the bases already.

I have gone through all the stages as you but probably have more of a problem than you. I have some complete sets and parts of all of the sets, all the cards carefully organized in books by sets and then factions and the ships stored in little drawer units.

I think the new owners of the company/game should keep it alive, because there is so much to it for people to enjoy. They should keep producing all the sets. First of all , put the web site back up with the data for all the ships, crew, rules and treasure. But, they need to stop coming out with new sets!! There are enough ships and characters. You could argue , too many. Even multiple versions of the same ship!

There is a rich amount of data and material to work with. What is needed is supporting materials to help people manage and play the game. There needs to be a comprehensive set of rules documented that incorporates all the sets' specific rules as a group and then that also highlights the changes and features of each set.

Then there needs to be more scenarios and background reading material for each set to tie all the ships and characters together for people to enjoy. Each little ship is a story to tell, a jewel. Look at all the work that went into the art, design and background of each ship and character? The more ships you have, the less important each becomes. Conversely,as the number of ships grow the more complex and interesting all the possibilities become?

The game/company was out of control. More, more, more is not all players need. Sure you need to bring in new stuff, but slowly after each set is fully developed and supported and integrated into previous sets.

The game was marketed as a simple pack of six "cards" with little dice and tiny rules. I think no one ever looked at the whole system as one and how it tied together and how it could be maintained and supported and how people were playing it.

It is a rich mix of history, adventure, military, combat, fantasy, nation states, treasure,competition, personalities with endless potential. It just got lost in a run-away orgy of more, more, more....

Reiner

Anonymous said...

I fell in love with the little ships and the open-ended mechanics that allow people to play their own way, with endless options. I think it is a brilliant game.I think the new owners of the company/game should keep it alive, because there is so much to it for people to enjoy. They should keep producing all the sets. First of all , put the web site back up with the data for all the ships, crew, rules and treasure. But, they need to stop coming out with new sets!! There are enough ships and characters. You could argue , too many. Even multiple versions of the same ship!

There is a rich amount of data and material to work with. What is needed is supporting materials to help people manage and play the game. There needs to be a comprehensive set of rules documented that incorporates all the sets' specific rules as a group and then that also highlights the changes and features of each set.

Then there needs to be more scenarios and background reading material for each set to tie all the ships and characters together for people to enjoy. Each little ship is a story to tell, a jewel. Look at all the work that went into the art, design and background of each ship and character? The more ships you have, the less important each becomes. Conversely, as the number of ships grow the more complex and interesting all the possibilities become?

Ed said...

Well, of course you have resolved this one way or another in the intervening years, but I found your post as I begin collecting myself. Target had a sale on their remaining stock, mostly Oceans Edge mega packs, so I bought about 20. And I ma happy you reefernced a trading site for minis as I will check that out.

I did have one question, may sound stupid, but how did you make the cool islands? I hope you do check this blog on occasion, but if not, thanks for sharing, you make excellent points. I also search for opponents, finding none but my son, but I still cannot help myself. I know one person who has all the ships (he was the game developer for Whizkids) but HE never wants to play!

TimothyP said...

Here's how I made the islands:

1. Use a hot wire cutter to cut out the basic outline of the island from a styrofoam board.

2. Use the hot wire cutter to shape the top of the island.

3. Smear the top of the island with wood glue, and cover the entire topside with sand (I used a sand that is intended for miniature models).

4. Set the island on a piece of masonite and draw a cut line on the masonite (just make sure it's larger than the island).

5. Cut out the shape you drew on the masonite, using a jigsaw.

6. Cover the bottom side of the island with wood glue and attach it to the masonite. (It'll have to sit overnight probably. And you might want to put something heavy on the island to weight it down.)

7. Paint the island completely black, and let it dry. (I use acrylic paints.)

8. Paint the island to look the way you want it. I did a lot of dry brushing.

9. Paint the masonite around the island base to look like water.

10. Coat the island with some kind of miniature sealer. I used a special spray glue that is used for sealing miniature models. You could also use a polycrylic varnish, I'm sure.

That's it! If I did it over again, I'd make the island smaller. The large size makes it difficult to lug the islands around, and it also requires a larger play area to accommodate appropriate island spacing.

JIM said...

Oh dear I know that story too well and bieng a collector in general and having just completed a full set of Nabisco magic roundabout figures, rare as you like 352 in all.I spotted the Pirates in a cheap book shop called the works.thirteen sets of collectable lovelyness. little did i know that some of the, near 2000 little so and so,s were going to cost tens of pounds each and be so rare. Any way down to business ,if you do read this are you up for selling some of you spares if so pleasering me on 07542 959145. thanks JIM

TimothyP said...

Thanks, Jim!

I'm not going to call you, but you can send a message to gamesonthetable at gmail, and talk to me that way.

JewWatchDenver said...

I have been collecting these silly little ships since I also saw a pack on the way out of a Target ( Irony ? ) I never played the game , no one was interested then , but I Truly enjoyed building these things . I also spent a large sum of money on the Pirates of the Spanish main , including tins . My girlfriend got carple tunnel building these things with me , not really but it hurt her . I found on E-bay a year ago that they had multiple new series of ships , so I put my house in hock to gather a large collection , a falsehood again , but it was expensive . I still build them for myself , and would encourage any to enjoy that experience as well . I recently turned a few younger coworkers on to these , and am going to start playing . We need to bring this back !! Neco the owner of the franchise now is doing a revival based on MTG cards , NOT EVEN CLOSE TO THE ORIGINAL !! I wish they would come back , I'd still pay the money . but E-bay is the only resort I have now . I WANTED THE RARE MULTI MASTED MAIL IN SHIPS So BAD !! But to no avail . Thanks for reading my rant !

Thee Bluebeard said...

I am a tall ship sailor and pirate entertainer... I STILL love this game and interest waxes and wanes with my friends. I introduced another crew member to it and now we hit the conventions for cheap deals.

The old gang still plays every few years for a month or so... Maybe 2 or 3 times and then.... (tumble weeds)

But being able to dust it off and blow up ships and out maneuver your foe while having food and drinking and munching chips has been truly exciting. You get sucked into what's happening and most of us (mainly entertainers and sailors) use goofy accents and make ship rigging small talk....

We randomly buy what we find because tearing open a brand new booster pack is part of the fun. Hang on to your work and time you put in it. Sometimes you have to be the one to take the wheel and set up a game time /party. They will come... Believe me they will...