Pirates Battle Reports for 2009

This is the archive of Pirates battle reports for 2009. There aren't as many reports as for previous years because some of our game nights were spent on Rocketmen, Star Wars, and Race Day, instead of all Pirates like we used to be.

Jan 20 — Sargasso Attack
Feb 10 — Overconfidence
Mar 31 — Traffic Jam for Treasure
May 05 — Change Course
Jun 23 — Access to Allies
Jul 21 — Violence Is Golden
Aug 25 — There's Gold In Them Thar Sails
Sep 22 — Talkin' Like a Pirate? Yes, We Arrr!

Sargasso Attack
Pirates Battle Report

We kicked off the 2009 pirating season with a 42-point game. The paths to the six outer and three inner wild islands were blocked by strings of Sargasso Seas, 2-3 seas long. Cadet-Captain Mike was unhappy with the president who had just been inaugurated that day, and made it clear to all that he was in a very belligerent mood. The prevailing response was, "So what else is new?" Most of the players were talking about alliances even before the fleets were fully set out. Then Cadet-Captain Mike offered an "Sch" alliance to anyone else who had the letters "sch" in their last name, like he did. Jake and Aimee quickly accepted; no one else was qualified. Jake then realized that he'd allied himself with every admiral on the water, and he'd have to break a deal with someone if his fighting ships were to do any fighting. Such is life on the Spanish Main.

The first three turns saw lots of motion but no other action, since no one could get close enough to anything in that amount of time. The Fire Blossom was the first to do anything, loading one coin onto the Lady's Scorn, then finding three more for the Shadow a few turns later. Mike's fleet passed close behind her ships, but he kept his word and didn't fire a shot. He'd made his first threatening move toward Bosun Zach's fleet, but changed his mind and headed for a friendly attack on Paul the Pirate Prince. The Constitution passed through a sargasso sea unimpeded.

The first mayhem broke out on the other side of the harbor. Jake was mulling his possibilities and thought he might attack Antonio. But Mike pointed out that Antonio's fleet was many turns away, while Richard's ships were almost in range already. Faster than you can say "why is the rum gone?" Jake had maneuvered into the middle of the Dread Pirate's formation and opened fire. He deliberately spared the Aberdeen Baron, but Richard's other two ships took an unscheduled voyage to the bottom of the sea. This provoked an unseemly emotional display from Richard. But he soon had reason to smile again.

His smile was slightly delayed by the arrival of the Cat's Claw on the other side of his last ship. Paul opened fire (I guess all alliances were off at this point) and scored two for two. Then Antonio's La Resolucion appeared and scored two for two against the Cat's Claw. He deliberately left her afloat for Richard to tow home as a prize, then turned back toward the center of the map.

There in the center, another battle flared up. Paul ran out his guns on the Divan's Punishment, but Antonio's four-master fired first, and the Divan got punished, fatally. The Jarvis rammed the bigger ship and did no harm, then boarded, lost, and lost Chihuahua (Paul's name for Kikowa). The Almirante was riding high, and his new sea monster hadn't even gone into battle yet. But before we see how pride goeth before a fall, we need to look at the overall picture.

Aimee and Zach had done nothing but run gold, even though their ships were stuffed with crew and couldn't carry half as much treasure as they might have wished. Zach had more free cargo spaces, but Aimee found better coins, so it was anyone's guess who was actually ahead. Richard's Aberdeen Baron, his last remaining ship, was slowly dragging Paul's derelict Cat's Claw home. Jake had had enough fun at Richard's expense, and was now poking around the wild islands to see if there was any gold worth stealing. Paul was down to one ship, the Jarvis, which was looking for trouble. Antonio had dispatched several foes in a row and was feeling invincible. And Mike had accomplished exactly nothing so far.

That changed in a hurry. Antonio's ships were closing in on Mike's fleet. The Cadet-Captain had beaten the tar out of Antonio the last time we played, and he had promised to show mercy this time. Antonio had also spoken of non-violence, but his ship and sea monster weren't looking very non-violent to Mike. "Which of us is the least trustworthy?" he asked out loud. Antonio answered by pointing at Zach, who didn't even know he was part of the discussion.

On his next turn, Antonio made a fatal error: he attacked with only half his force. His squid couldn't get into firing position in time, so La Reso went into battle alone. She fired three cannons at the Franklin and got two hits; her fourth cannon couldn't bear on the Franklin, and he chose not to fire it at the Constitution. That was another mistake. Old Ironsides' sides erupted in smoke and flame, all five shots hit, and La Resolucion sank into La Ocean.

The damaged Franklin scooted away from the scene of battle, and loaded some worthwhile treasure on the way home. Intermediario now attacked by ramming and boarding Old Ironsides. The ram did no harm, and the boarding action was a tie. The Montezuma took revenge by shooting straight through the Constitution and blowing off two of the sea beast's tentacles. The Constitution fired three more shots, and Antonio was done.

Or was he? It has become a tradition among us that, if one admiral's fleet is wiped out when the game is still going strong, someone else will often let that admiral take over one of his ships. The Almirante looked for anyone who might let him stay in the game, but the pirates weren't feeling generous tonight. He was quite surprized when, after some hesitation, Mike allowed him to take the helm of the Montezuma, which was seeing its first action tonight, and which had just played a major role in slaying his squid.

Both of Mike's remaining ships now turned for home. Old Ironsides picked up a treasure on the way, but it was a unique (Weapons) that added nothing to his bottom line. She sailed through another sargasso sea, and again it didn't slow her down; she was the only ship to attempt to pass through those treacherous seas. The Bosun and the Fire Blossom both sent their fleets out on a second gold run, Jake got a couple of coins onto the Bonhomme Richard, Richard finished repairing both the Aberdeen Baron and the Cat's Claw, and Paul and Antonio were poking around the wild islands in search of something good.

There were a few more clashes here and there. Paul rammed his Jarvis into Aimee's Shadow, doing no damage and losing his Oarsman in the boarding action that followed. Instead of returning fire, she turned away for home to protect her load of doubloons, Mike made some threatening noises about coming to her rescue, and Paul didn't follow.

Meanwhile, Zach jumped Jake's HMS Royal with both his ships and shot away three of her masts. Jake returned fire with his one remaining cannon, missed, got a second chance from Rhys Griffin Owen (this might be the first time he remembered to get something out of the Commodore), and one of the Golden Medusa's masts split and collapsed. Rather than finish off the Royal, Zach then ran for home; perhaps he was scared off by the sight of the Bonhomme Richard in the far distance. This marked the end of the action.

The Fire Blossom wound up with the most gold, with Bosun Zach in a fairly close second place. Mike was a distant third, with Paul and Jake very close behind him, Antonio in fifth, and Richard went from getting the most gold last time, to nothing this time. But he did have the satisfaction of stealing the Cat's Claw. This little ship is one of Paul's favorites, and I believe tonight was the first time it ever survived a battle, even though it didn't end in the same fleet it started with.

This battle was unusual in that nearly everyone went for some gold. Usually, at least half the admirals go for blood and fun, and ignore the treasure. Casualties were very light; only one fleet (Antonio's) was wiped out, two others (Paul and Richard) lost two-thirds of their ships, and no one else lost a single ship. Every single coin was claimed — that almost never happens in these waters. What wasn't unusual was that most of the alliances made before the battle fell in tatters as soon as the ships weighed anchor. Mike's "Sch" alliance was the only one still in place at the end. Some historians now believe that an alliance is nothing but a way of setting up a sneak attack.

Two ships earned battle honors tonight. Mike's Constitution won the Bronze Sabre for shooting eight for eight and sinking all of Antonio's fleet (with a little help from the Montezuma), and Aimee's Shadow received the Order of the Buccaneer for bringing in the lion's share of her winning gold hoard, fighting off an attempted boarding from Paul in the process.

Scribed this day, the Twenty-First of January,
the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine,
by Cadet-Captain Mike

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Pirates Battle Report

Cadet-Captain Mike boldly announced at the start of the battle that "I'm going to win tonight." He was putting great confidence in his new American native canoes and in He'e, the US Navy's newly commissioned squid (both of which had been given to him as birthday presents by a very nice person on the Internet). To avoid a potential conflict of interest, he drafted Almirante Antonio to set up the wild islands and distribute the gold. That worthy soul went with a triple ring of islands, most of which had four coins on them. He, too, announced his intentions in advance: he meant to grab enough gold to build his new fort (which he'd just acquired from Mike), then build it on the center island and see what it could do. 40-point fleets were the rule of the day. The admirals' eyes bugged out of their heads as they saw Mike set up his canoes at a wild island (especially the Fire Blossom, who recently added some Spanish canoes to her fleet but wasn't sure what they were good for). Naturally, Mike chose the rich center island as the source of his tribal activities, and his canoes were soon paddling homeward with two islands' worth of goodies.

That's when the trouble started. Jake decided to call the canoes "chickens," on the assumption that their occupants were cannibals, which made him think of Cannibal's Chicken Noodle Soup. "I like chasing chickens," he announced to no one in particular, several times, as the speedy Bonhomme Richard overtook the swarm of canoes. He sent one to the bottom before the rest made it safely home. The coin he stole turned out to be the only gold he took all night.

It was around this time that Mike learned about the evening's alliances, namely, that everyone except he and Antonio were ganged up. Antonio was also feeling lonely and isolated, so he offered an alliance. Mike wanted to keep his options open, but didn't want to be at war with everyone at once, so he countered with a three-turn cease-fire, with optional extensions. Those extensions got extended to the very end of the game, so he might as well have accepted the alliance. But both players now heaved a sigh of relief; Antonio's ships went about the business of grabbing gold undisturbed, while Mike's sea monster, sped up by Jerky Johnson in the Rattlesnake just behind, headed for the center of the bay to see what kind of mischief it might cause.

In the meantime, the Fire Blossom's ships had each claimed one coin (they were too full of crew to do any better); Richard's Aberdeen Baron had filled up her holds with gold, after which his entire fleet turned for home; Zach's ships had also made a gold run and were headed back for more; and Paul's fleet had closed to the center of the bay and was looking for trouble.

His Cursed Blade knocked a mast off of Almirante Antonio's El Garante, and the Sea Nymph was closing fast. Mike decided to treat his cease-fire deal as a full alliance, and sent He'e toward the battle zone to support Anthony. The five-armed beast of the sea never got within shooting distance, but its approach scared Paul away and probably saved Antonio's flagship. Paul's attack marked the unofficial end of the grand alliance, because from then on, everybody was pretty much shooting at everybody else.

Balked in his desire to mess with Antonio, Paul now opened fire on Bosun Zach's ace gold ship, the Valeroso. The Sea Nymph could fire only her two fore cannons, but both hit and left the Spanish turbine ship in bad shape. Zach looked depressed until Mike offered the first of two good bits of advice: "Bring your fighting ship up and blow the daylights out of Paul." The USS Eagan did just that, and fired four shots with four hits. The Valeroso finished the job, and that was the end of the Sea Nymph.

This left Paul's other ship, the Cursed Blade, in a very bad position. To her port side was Zach's fleet, still angry about his unprovoked attack. To her starboard was He'e, no longer supported by the Rattlesnake, but still very dangerous to a three-masted ship. Beyond that Hobson's choice was a triple dilemma: he could sail to port and run into Richard's fleet, bear to starboard and collide with Jake, or go straight ahead and risk the fire from Antonio's newly-built Fortaleza Dorada, which he had planted on the central island, just as he'd promised.

Mike advised Paul, "Your chances are actually better against the sea monster than against Zach." Paul agreed, but in his efforts to minimize his risks, he cut it too close, and Zach got into firing position. He combined gunfire from the Eagan with a ram from the Valeroso to leave the Cursed Blade derelict. Zach meant to sink her, but Mike gave him his second piece of good advice: "Tow her home and keep all her gold, not just half of it." The Valeroso took Paul's ship in tow and headed home.

Now, a problem arose for Zach; it was a big, angry-looking crab. Richard insisted that he wasn't looking for trouble, but Zach didn't trust those huge claws, so the Eagan went into action again, and shot off three of them. Richard protested some more, accompanied by an angry swipe of his crab's last claw. This did nothing but make Zach madder, and on the next turn, he tore El Toro totally to tatters.

Meanwhile, Jake had been having a busy day. Mike's canoes had left port in search of more gold, but the Bonhomme Richard turned and sank two more of them. The Metal Dragon had the Rattlesnake in her sights, and thought long and hard about opening fire, but finally decided to let Mike's ship go. Then he learned the wisdom of Nelson's famous quotation, "No sailor but a fool would attack a fortress." His five-master got overconfident and sailed too close to the Fortaleza Dorada, which defended herself with four hits out of five shots. Jake quickly opened the range, thought about doing some repairs with his Shipwright, but joined up with the Metal Dragon and kept moving instead.

Paul, now bereft of his entire fleet, asked if any of the other admirals would have mercy and let him control a ship. After a minute or two of awkward silence, Aimee handed him the keys to the Seref. And in almost no time, this ship was also in trouble. This time, it was Richard's huge shark, Teach, that was trying to teach him a lesson. The big fish surfaced, and didn't offer Paul a choice of heads or tails, but hit him with both, leaving the galley with only one mast. Paul was nearly frantic with fear that he'd lose yet another ship; Richard indignantly replied that he "just wanted some action." Apparently, having his giant crab sliced, diced, and ground up into seafood salad didn't count as "action."

It seemed that Jake wanted some action, too. His intact Metal Dragon and almost-derelict Bonhomme Richard joined the fray and teamed up to slay the big shark. At the same time, the Fire Blossom's Lady's Scorn reached the last wild island with a coin and loaded it, ending the battle.

Mike had the most coins, and was convinced that he'd won, as he'd predicted at the beginning. But Antonio had some fine high-value coins in his collection, plus the value bonuses from the Santa Isabel, and his total count was higher than Mike's by a big margin. He repeatedly announced his winning total, and Aimee was preparing to award him the Captain's Coin, but Mike insisted that she wait until everyone else had counted their ill-gotten gains. It was well that he did so, for his final advice to Zach had changed the game's outcome. Zach's Valeroso had made three gold runs and found some spectacular treasures, and the stolen gold from the Cursed Blade put him over the top into first place. Overconfident Antonio wound up in second place, and overconfident Mike was down to third, trailed by Aimee, Richard, Jake, and Paul.

The Fire Blossom was the only admiral who attacked no one and didn't get attacked. Everyone else was involved in some kind of mayhem, although casualties were somewhat light (both of Paul's ships, Richard's two sea creatures, and three of Mike's canoes). Mike never fired a shot all evening, which has to be a "first" for him. His sea monster never even broke the surface, but it did its part by scaring his enemies away. The game's main feature was the quiet coming and going of many gold ships — Mike's canoes, all of Antonio's, Aimee's and Zach's ships, and Richard's Aberdeen Baron. Jake had very high hopes for his new Metal Dragon, but the English junk did nothing but sail in a big circle until the very end, when she took part in the slaying of Teach. Antonio's fort, on the other hand, lived up to its owner's hopes by putting the Bonhomme Richard out of action with one salvo.

Tactically, Aimee needs to remember that a gold ship can't carry much gold if it's too full of crew. Richard ought to stop sending his entire fleet home every time his gold ship loads up; gold ships need protection only if an enemy is close enough to attack them. And Mike should stop boasting like a winner until he actually wins.

Two ships earned battle honors tonight, and both of them belonged to Bosun Zach. The Valeroso received the Order of the Buccaneer for bringing in most of his winning gold hoard, including towing the Cursed Blade and the contents of her holds. (Antonio's Santa Isabel was on the way to winning this medal, but failed by only three gold.) The USS Eagan was awarded the Silver Sabre for crippling two cruisers and crushing a crustacean, thus saving the Valeroso and the derelict she was towing, and for making two gold runs as well. This is the first time one admiral has won two medals in the same battle, and it's even more remarkable that he was also the winning admiral. I guess it was Zach's night to shine.

Most of the players spent a few moments admiring the Cadet-Captain's collection of American ships while he cleaned up the battle space, and they all have one burning question: what does the ship with the crane do? Those of you who are reading this on the Internet probably already know, but for the rest of you, all this historian can say is, "Wait until our next battle!"

Scribed this day, the Tenth of February,
the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine,
by Cadet-Captain Mike

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Traffic Jam for Treasure
Pirates Battle Report

After several false starts, we finally got a decent Pirates battle together. The fleets were made with 30 points, plus one free ship that could not carry any crew. The islands were an outer ring of seven surrounding an inner ring of three. Each of the seven was shaped like one player's initial, and no one but that pirate could load the two coins from that island. The inner three, with five coins each, were fair game for all.

Someone requested photos of these battle reports, so this historical record will be interspersed with a few shots. I have a lot to learn about photographing sailing-ship battles between pirate factions (it's hard when cameras haven't been invented yet), but it's a start.

The initial island set-up. Cadet-Captain Mike's fleet is in the foreground, and Paul the Pirate Prince's fleet is at right rear. Two home islands in the background are not yet occupied.

It starts! Seven fleets begin converging on one another. From left to right: most of Richard, Jake, Zach, Antonio, Paul, and the hands of the Fire Blossom.

The seven fleets all headed straight for the center of the bay, where the most gold was. Some were planning to keep going and clean out their own private islands, but as it worked out, no one ever did. The reason was simple: with over 20 ships trying to fit into the narrow spaces between islands, the map quickly became one big traffic jam.

The first fender-bender found Mike on the losing end. His Freedom pulled up and opened fire on Paul's President. But even with the Springfield helping his aim, he still punched four holes in the ocean, nothing more. Paul shot back, and with a little help from the Fire Blossom's Muerta de la Corona, the President destroyed Freedom. (I could take a cheap shot at our political situation, but I'll let it pass.) Mike's fighter did shoot off one of Aimee's masts before she met her fate, but that was all he could do.

Mike's Freedom (the dark schooner in the cluster in front) has just fired four times, each with a 67% chance of hitting, and failed to hit once. Her target, the President (just behind her), is about to blow her to bits, aided by the Muerta de la Corona (the dark three-master in the cluster at center rear). Just behind the Muerta, Paul's Shamrock and Rover are working over Starfish Island. To the left, Antonio's Santa Isabel siphons off the best of the gold on Dogbone Island. On the right, Aimee's Shadow (bottom) and Lady's Scorn (blue) look for something useful to do.

With their fighting protector gone, Mike's other two ships split up in search of gold. The Frontier, on her maiden voyage, used her hoist to scope out the gold on Antonio's private island, then sailed through Richard's fleet, in the mistaken belief that Richard would recognize his non-threateningness and let him pass. Not so! The Dread Pirate's two junks quickly blew off all three of Mike's masts and took the derelict hulk in tow. At the same time, the Muerta pursued the USS Springfield and shot away two of that overpriced ship's masts. Things were looking grim for the Cadet Captain.

Meanwhile, Paul and Antonio were looting the central islands of all the gold they could carry, and the others were slowly closing in on each other. It was just a matter of time before the alliances began to collapse under the pressure.

A sea-level view of the oceanic confusion.

As Richard dodges the camera and Jake and Zach ham it up, this is how the battle looked at the midpoint in the action. The cluster on the left is Paul's President in front of Aimee's Shadow and Lady's Scorn, with Richard's Tiger's Breath towing Mike's Frontier behind them. Moving to the right, we see that Aimee's Muerta has shot two masts off Mike's Springfield, and Richard's Black Lotus is ready to try and finish her off. Next, Jake's Metal Dragon is almost invisible behind his HMS Royal, with Richard's Aberdeen Baron and Paul's Bloody Jewel in front of them. To the right of the Jewel are Jake's Bonhomme Richard, Zach's paddle-wheeled Valeroso, Antonio's San Theodora (with two blue flags on her masts signifying that she's derelict), Zach's Boston (which just did the derelicting), and Zach's Cleveland taking on Antonio's El Garante. At bottom right, Paul's Rover and Shamrock run home with their ill-gotten gains.

Zach was the first to turn on his friends, namely Antonio. The Boston pursued the San Theodora and shot her into a derelict; when the "T"'s Shipwright made some quick repairs, the Boston shot her down again. This Boston "T" party ended when Paul's President arrived, shot four for four, and sent the Boston down to join the Freedom.

The traffic jam at its worst. Zach's Boston and Antonio's El Garante are about to be introduced to Davy Jones. Mike's Springfield runs yelping for home with one mast left, and the others mill around in search of the perfect opportunity to turn on a friend. Antonio ponders vengeance against Zach for attacking his ships and eating all the Oreos.

At the same time, the USS Cleveland took on the much larger El Garante. This had to be one of the more improbable battles this historian has ever seen. The two ships exchanged rams, doing no damage, and also exchanged boarding actions. Antonio lost the first, which didn't hurt because his ship was empty. Zach lost the second, but fortunately, he'd listened to Mike early in the game. Mike pointed out that, since the Cleveland had no free cargo spaces, her Explorer couldn't do much good. Zach asked if he should remove it, but Mike suggested, "Leave it on board. If you lose a boarding action, you can throw him over and not lose much." And that's exactly what happened now.

The Cleveland was also banging away with her cannons, shooting away one mast here and another there. Once Antonio's ship was down to three masts, Zach decided to risk shooting a Broadside, and he got lucky. His cannons thundered as one, and El Garante was suddenly sleeping with the fishies. Then the Cleveland caught the Santa Isabel as that magnificent gold ship was passing by, fired another broadside, and turned Antonio's four-master into a no-master. Now he, like Mike, was down to one ship with one mast left. That ship made it to Round Island and raised a fort there, but it was unable to play a role in what was left of the battle.

Almirante Antonio has just lost the Santa Isabel, his second ship of the battle, and he is not happy. His remaining ship is straining every sail to reach Round Island and build a fort.

What were the others doing all this time? The Fire Blossom's two big ships had done some fancy sailing, but one was too slow and the other had no crew, so they hadn't accomplished much. Richard was slowly hauling the Frontier home, his Black Lotus had tried and failed to sink Mike's Springfield, the Rattlesnake was taking potshots at the Muerta de la Corona and eventually sank her, and the Aberdeen Baron was trying to thread her way through the traffic jam to an island with gold on it. When it finally succeeded, Paul's Bloody Jewel stole the gold first.

A moment later, Zach's Valeroso arrived on the scene and sank the Bloody Jewel. No sooner had he counted his half of the loot than Jake's HMS Royal and Bonhomme Richard sailed up and sank the Valeroso together. Mike took advantage of the confusion and scooted his Springfield out of the traffic jam to home and safety, bearing with her the best of the treasure from Round Island (two six-gold coins). Aimee tried to load the last of the freely-available gold, but Paul did a three-ship crew swap to get an Explorer onto the President, and the President grabbed all the money. (I'll skip making another political cheap shot.) This marked the end of a very confusing battle.

As the battle wound down, the traffic jam finally began to break up.

The Fire Blossom considers her final moves of the game.

Paul wound up on top when the gold was counted. Mike was second, thanks to his overpriced ship with only one mast left, and Antonio was third, due to the efforts of the Santa Isabel. Zach was the only other player to collect any gold. Part of the problem was the congested map where we were fighting. Packing the islands together usually results in some interesting maneuvering, but this time, there were too many ships getting in each other's way.

The cannons were horribly unlucky tonight for nearly everyone. Paul had one good firing sequence against the Boston, and Zach's Cleveland got lucky with its Broadsides twice, but everyone else struggled to score any hits. Of the 23 ships in the battle, only five were sunk and two others left derelict. Antonio and Mike have agreed that most players like to pick on the biggest targets, namely, Antonio and Mike.

Paul's President was awarded the Bronze Sabre for sinking two ships, one of which took Mike completely out of the battle, and distracting everyone so his gold ships could do their work in peace. She could have earned the Silver Sabre because she also got some gold, but that gold didn't make the difference between defeat and victory, so the lesser medal is good enough. Zach's USS Cleveland could have won the same medal, but since his attacks on Antonio didn't change the outcome of the battle, no medal was awarded. Paul received the Captain's Coin, of course.

Scribed this day, March Thirty-First,
the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine,
by Cadet-Captain Mike

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Change Course
Pirates Battle Report

Something very strange happened tonight: all the fight went out of our normally belligerent band. Everyone focused on gold, and even when someone did lob a few cannonballs, it seemed out of place, almost tacky. What happened? Maybe their powder was wet. Maybe all those alliances are making people reluctant to shoot at each other. Whatever happened, it was a radical course change for a crew that usually can't wait to introduce each other to Davy Jones.

We built our fleets with ten masts and four crew each. The nine islands were arranged in a serpentine chain, with three treasures on each.

(A lot of sailors came to the battle unprepared. Cadet-Captain Mike had to loan out dice to Paul, Richard, Aimee, and Zach; measurement cards to Richard, Aimee, and Zach; a Helmsman to Aimee, who showed up with only three crew; and a whole ship (the Noble Swan) to Antonio, who showed up with only nine masts in his fleet. The only other captain who was fully prepared was Jake.)

Mike and Antonio had agreed on an alliance several days ago; they figured that since everyone picked on them anyway, they should look out for each other. Unlike most alliances, which consist of "I won't shoot you if you don't shoot me," these two actually collaborated on tactics. The others had formed their usual complex web of deals and alliances, leaving only the Fire Blossom to fend for herself. She tried to coax Mike into a deal, but he declined. In another radical course change, not one alliance got broken all night.

As the seven fleets headed for the oddly shaped chain of wild islands, they formed three clusters: Richard and Aimee's fleets, Jake and Paul's fleets, and the fleets of Zach, Antonio, and Mike. The first two never fired a shot at each other, but passed through each other's fleets like wisps of fog on the waves, intent only on snarfing up as much gold as they could before someone else got it first.

Unfortunately, this kind of action makes for a very boring battle report. But there was one corner of the bay where the action did heat up a bit. Zach and Antonio both had their eye on the same island; the Almirante got there first; the Bosun said he wanted it. They were about to start insulting each other's grandmothers, which would have gotten very messy (since they both have the same grandmother), but they settled it the pirate way when Antonio's Fool's Hope crashed into the side of the Valeroso.

The ram did Zach's ship no harm. His opponent had high hopes for the boarding action that followed, but his high hopes hit a low die roll, and it was Antonio who lost the board. His Shipwright paid the price. He tried to even the score with gunfire, but his aim was awful. (He had three shots and needed fours or better. He rolled a one, a two, and a three. One more shot...) The hostilities spread as the Diamond Strike and Golden Medusa maneuvered for position, but Antonio's ship missed its only shot and Zach's ship ... we'll explain that one in a moment.

The cannon flashes and black-powder smoke attracted some attention from other admirals as well. Paul decided to back up Zach, and Mike was only too ready to honor his alliance with Antonio. But where Paul's ships entered the battle one or two at a time, Mike kept his fleet concentrated and crashed into the battle like a sledge-hammer.

Paul's Jarvis and Tweed were the first to fall. Mike's Proud Tortoise was unable to hit either of them, due to their immunity to her one cannon. The mighty Grand Path had no such problems, and laid them both derelict in one turn of firing. She also kidnapped the Jarvis' captain in a boarding action; the Grand Path's captain, Dragon Eyes, saw to it that he'd draw a decent ransom.

The Golden Medusa turned away from the Diamond Strike, poured fire into the Proud Tortoise, and sank her. "Four hits to sink a one-masted ship — I hope you're proud of yourself!" snarled the Cadet-Captain. The Medusa's reward was to receive another blast from the Grand Path in return. Mike left her derelict instead of sinking her, for reasons unknown. When Paul's President tried to intervene, Mike's Virtuous Wind got the drop on her and landed three quick hits. "Take that, President Obama!" he gloated. (Mike gets a little bit political now and then.)

Antonio was so inspired by this display of wanton aggression that he took another whack at the Valeroso. The second ram did no more harm than the first one did, but he won his boarding action, cutting away a mast and stealing the Valeroso's one treasure (a one-gold piece — yippee!). His gunnery was better this time, and the Valeroso joined the Proud Tortoise on the bottom of the sea.

Paul's President, down to one mast, made a quick course change and ran for the safety of her home island. Mike let her go, and he also let the Sea Serpent pick up Commodore Temple and then zip the Tweed home for repairs; he had a new threat on the horizon. The Fire Blossom's favorite ship, Lady's Scorn, had bypassed the last wild island and was closing the range. Mike's junks reversed course and closed ranks, ready for action. This caused Aimee to send her own ships all the way home without stopping; she wanted no part of a battle with Mike.

On her way home, Richard's ships left harbor and acted like they wanted a piece of Aimee's fleet. She altered course away from him and got home without incident. That was the only thing Richard did all night that was even close to aggressive.

Speaking of aggression, Antonio was just getting warmed up. Zach was sending his last two ships between the Almirante's fleet and his home island, on a quest for the last gold coin. Did he really think Anthony would leave him alone? The Diamond Strike blew the mast off the Majestic, leaving her to creep home on oar power. The Noble Swan had gotten home with enough gold to build the Fortaleza Dorada on the island Zach had coveted, but Zach was down to one healthy ship (the Hannah), a derelict galley, and the derelict Galden Medusa, so the fort didn't have much to fire at. The Swan got into position to take a shot at the Hannah, but she had no Captain and the Hannah was faster, so if the battle hadn't ended, it's doubtful she could have stopped Zach's last good ship from getting home with the last of the treasure.

That treasure didn't help Zach much, though. Mike sent his two junks on a mission straight into Zach's home waters. They passed the slow-moving Majestic on their way, scaring the daylights out of her, but they declined to waste any cannonballs on a mastless galley. The Virtuous Wind pulled up to the pier on Zach's island and demanded a payoff before she'd leave. They chose a coin at random, and it turned out to be Zach's best treasure.

This marked the end of the gold, and no one was terribly interested in fighting for fighting's sake, so the battle was deemed over. Jake won the gold count, Aimee was very close behind him, Mike was a very distant third, Richard and Antonio were way back in fourth and fifth, and Zach avoided being shut out by a very small margin. Paul, unfortunately, did get shut out. Shake your fist, Paul.

No battle honors were awarded tonight, since no one ship made a huge difference in the outcome. The closest any ship came was Mike's Virtuous Wind, which hit every shot she fired and successfully robbed an enemy home island; if he had won the game, his ship might have won a medal. As it is, she fired more shots than all the ships of Paul, Richard, Aimee, Jake, and Zach put together. Whatever is causing all this pacifism, we hope the local pirates get over it, or our more warlike skippers may find a new game that's more violent, like "Go Fish."

Overheard during the game:

Richard: (snort)
Mike: Why did you just snort?
Antonio: He couldn't use the Hog of Tortuga, so he's making up for it.

Richard: (to Mike) You said galleys go from one mast to four masts. You were wrong! They go from zero masts to four masts!

Scribed this day, May Fifth,
the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine,
by Cadet-Captain Mike

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Access to Allies
Pirates Battle Report

As usual, the preliminary to tonight's battle was a frenzied session of negotiating deals and alliances. Cadet-Captain Mike, who often stays aloof from such sordid pirate politics, led the charge tonight by offering Paul the Pirate Prince a non-aggression treaty, which he quickly accepted. When word of this leaked out, Jake sought and got a deal with Richard. Aimee and Zach were feeling left out, so she allied with Paul (but not Mike), and he got a deal with Mike. This historian isn't if Paul was included in this one, or how Antonio fit into the whole mess, but the result was that nearly everyone's immediate neighbors were off limits. Thus, for anything piratical to happen, a ship would have to sail almost halfway across the map to find something it was allowed to shoot at. The result was a rather slow-starting game.

We built our fleets with a different rule tonight. Each player could use any ships he/she wanted, as long as their total cargo added up to 10 or less (no submarines and no ships with a cargo of zero). We also had 12 points each to spend on crew. The twelve islands were in an outer ring of eight (two coins each) and an inner circle of four (four coins each).

As was mentioned before, the game started off with a lot of sailing and not much else. Antonio, Zachary, and Aimee were in pursuit of gold; Jake, Paul, and Mike were in pursuit of something to shoot at; and Richard's plan was not apparent to anyone. He kept saying how people weren't going to like his Le Republique's ability, but that slow ship took two moves and then sat there in the middle of the ocean for three turns. Perhaps her captain was a turtle named was Slowski, and even an S move was too fast for him.

It wasn't until the fifth or sixth turn that the first fuses were lit and the first cannonballs went flying. The unlucky recipient was Almirante Antonio, who had stopped to pick up some gold and allowed Paul to catch up with him. The President landed two hits on Le Courageux, shattering her mizzenmast. The Almirante's entire fleet shot back and sent the President to the bottom. But Paul's Bonhomme Richard then went on a rampage that destroyed both the Aquilon and the L'Atalante. She also rammed the Aquilon, doing no damage, and stealing a coin. The Aquilon had loaded another coin, then rammed and boarded Paul's ship and won her first coin back, only to realize she had no room for it. We voted on a house rule that, in this case, the coin sinks to the bottom of the sea.

Paul was ready to finish off the damaged Le Courageux and put Antonio out of the battle. But a stern warning from his ally Mike caused Paul's ships to run their cannons in and let Antonio's last ship get away. Mike didn't want anyone put out of the game so quickly, and Paul suffers from an unholy terror of the USS Constitution, so when Mike talks, Paul listens.

But Mike didn't say anything about finding other prey. Richard's fleet had closed in and taken a shot at the Richard, and massive retaliation was not long in coming. Le Bonne Chance and the Voleur, whose name caused a lot of horrifically bad attempts at French pronunciation, found themselves shot full of holes and settling beneath the sea. This time, the only price Paul paid was one mast on the Bonhomme Richard. Again, Paul was all set to finish off his enemy, and again, Mike warned him off. L'Espadon was allowed to pick up some gold, and Le Republique was allowed to do whatever it was she was doing.

Richard had another close shave, though (which is bad, seeing how he hasn't started shaving yet). The Cadet-Captain's fleet had stayed concentrated and followed in Paul's wake, just as anxious for trouble as Paul was, but not in as good a position to do anything about it. At one point, his fleet took a quick detour for the Constitution and Sioux to load one coin each, before returning to the serious business of looking for trouble. When the Pirate Prince sheered off from attacking Richard, Mike's Constitution pounced on Richard's L'Espadon. The Dread Pirate had gold on board, and Mike wanted it! But his ship's gunners didn't seem to want it very badly; they fired three shots and scored only one hit. L'Espadon ran for it.

By this time, Bosun Zach and the Fire Blossom had gotten their first loads of treasure home and were out looking for more. Antonio's one ship, with one mast left, was running home with some gold he'd found. At first, Jake had set a course for Aimee's fleet, but Mike was headed in that general direction, so he reversed course. Paul had one big fighter looking for trouble, and one tiny ship with no free cargo spaces, which was looking at the gold on wild islands to see if there was anything worth taking. Mike hadn't done much, and was trying to change that.

Richard thought he was facing annihilation at Mike's hands, and hollered for help from anyone who might be nearby. The Death Blossom had no alliance with him, but she was allied to his brother, so I guess that was good enough. She sent the Thomas Jefferson, her newest and biggest ship, into battle against the Constitution. She didn't watch her helm, though, and wound up bows-on to Mike's ship. The one cannon she could fire hit, but did no damage. Mike put his broadside to her and opened fire... and again, he scored only one hit out of four shots. In an unseemly fit of temperament, he flung his accursed die across the room (sending Jake scrambling to find where it went) and replaced it with one of the black dice that come in Pirates value boxes. He is convinced that those dice always roll high.

Aimee decided she was outmatched and turned for home, but Old Ironsides pursued her and unleashed another salvo that sent three masts crashing overboard. Was it the die that made the difference? Sailors are a superstitious bunch. You can bet that Mike will never use that first die again. In any case, all of the Fire Blossom's ships retreated rather than face Mike, so she never got that second load of treasure she wanted.

Meanwhile, Jake was headed for Zach's fleet, using the Algiers' extra actions to cut the Bosun off from his home island until Jake's bigger, slower ships could seal the trap shut. Zach begged for help from his ally Mike, who came about (allowing Aimee to get away) and turned the tables on Jake, cutting him off from his own home island. Jake had little choice but to engage in a fleet-on-fleet battle. But hey, that's what he lives for!

HMS Algiers got the first shots, and with her Musketeer, she scored three hits out of three shots fired. Against most ships, that would be crippling damage, but the Constitution saw only one mast fall. All three of his ships weighed in for vengeance. Their shooting was not great, but it was better than it had been at the outset, and the sheer number of cannons took their toll. When the smoke cleared, HMS Algiers and HMS Royal were left derelict. Again, Mike didn't finish off his opponent's last ship.

Paul thought that was his job. The two Bonhomme Richards met with a crash; it took two turns of gunfire, but Paul ultimately won the battle with superior dice luck. This left Jake with no ships. Mike had spent the entire game warning his ally not to do that to people, and this was the last straw for him. He did something he's never done before: he broke his alliance and turned on Paul, finishing off the damaged Bonhomme Richard with the unstoppable Constitution.

Zach had used Mike's distraction to fill his holds with another load of treasure. Antonio had taken a turn to repair his Le Courageux, then set sail for the last of the rich central islands that hadn't been pillaged yet. If he hadn't taken the turn for repairs, he would have just made it, but his ship touched the shore just as the game's time ran out.

When treasure-counting time came, Bosun Zach earned the Captain's Coin by a huge margin. The Fire Blossom was in second place with less than half his gold. Antonio was third, Mike was a close fourth, followed by Richard, Paul, and Jake.

If Antonio had been a bit quicker to that last wild island, he would have come in second, even though he was down to one 2-masted ship. Zach won in part because Mike protected him from Jake, and in part because he kept his eyes on the gold and didn't get distracted by anything else. Our piratical group seems to have polarized into three sub-groups: the gold seekers (Antonio, Aimee, and Zach), the fighters (Mike, Jake, and Paul), and the indecisive (Richard). Mike has some interesting ideas for taking advantage of this in a future battle.

Antonio's Le Courageux was awarded the Order of the Buccaneer, 2nd Class, for single-handedly giving Antonio a third-place finish, and coming within a hair of taking him from third to second. Paul's Bonhomme Richard earned the Bronze Sabre, 1st Class, for sinking or derelicting five ships in three hostile navies. Mike's USS Constitution received a Bronze Sabre, 2nd Class for derelicting two ships, damaging and driving off two more, and using intimidation to keep Paul in line for most of the battle.

Scribed this day, June Twenty-Sixth,
the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine,
by Cadet-Captain Mike

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Violence Is Golden
Pirates Battle Report

Cadet-Captain Mike, that Machiavellian mananger of pirate battles, had noticed a strong trend over the last few games. Petty-Officer Jake, Paul the Pirate Prince, and he himself normally came loaded for bear, and made little or no attempt to gather gold. Bosun Zach, Almirante Antonio, and the Fire Blossom, on the other hand, tended to run for the gold and not do much fighting, while Richard usually dabbled in both. So tonight, instead of picking alliances based on personalities and bribery, each gold admiral had to pair off with a fighting admiral. Once the three main alliances were set, Richard could make whatever deals he wished.

Our fleets were made with 42 points plus one free crew. Submarines were allowed, but hostage crew that add 5 points to the build were not. We used eight islands, two in the center with 6 coins and a ring of six around them with 2 coins each. This amount of gold turned out to be nowhere near enough.

The Fire Blossom was quite determined to get the Cadet-Captain as her ally, and he yielded without much fuss. Jake sided with Antonio, and Paul with Zach. Richard wanted to join Mike and Aimee's "team," but that drew protests from the others because all the submarines would be on the same side. So he joined up with Paul and Zach, who were all the way on the other side of the bay.

The beginning of the action looked like a disturbed anthill. The three gold admirals all headed for the center of the bay. Paul and Jake headed for their respective allies, while Mike split his fleet; the Constitution set course to shield the Fire Blossom against the Dread Pirate Richard, while his submarine dove beneath the seas and headed straight for Bosun Zach. That admiral quickly angled away from danger, but not before the Mercury drew first blood of the evening (on turn 2, which is quite early for us) by ramming the Carrion Crow and knocking a mast over the side.

Paul's fleet now interposed itself between Mike's submarine and Zach's fleet. Mike happily obliged him by ramming his schooner ("I don't like the President," he explained), but doing no harm. He then blew his klaxon three times and surfaced to open fire on the President with his cannons. Both of Paul's ships were nearby, so he was heavily outgunned. But at the outset, it looked like a good move. In the first exchange of cannon fire, Mike fired three cannons and shot off two of the President's four masts. Paul returned fire with seven cannons and managed only two hits, one of which bounced off the sub's thick HY-80 plating. In the second exchange, Mike got two more hits from two shots and left the President derelict, while Paul got only one hit from five shots and was showing signs of distress.

By this time, both Antonio and Aimee had each loaded up from one outer and one inner island, and were each aiming for a third island. Richard and Zach had cleaned out an outer island apiece; Richard was using the Nautilus as a gold ship, while Zach had to split two coins between two ships, Carrion Crow and Valeroso, because the Crow's cargo was too small. The fighting admirals, of course, had loaded nothing. The Nautilus had its own problems — its move had poised it on the crack between the two tables that form our gaming surface, and every time someone made either table wiggle, the sub fell into the crack. This happened three times in the space of a minute; it looked like the Nautilus was submerging all by herself.

Mike was concerned that Richard might try to bother the Fire Blossom, so he warned him, "My big ship has a date with you!" Then he added to Paul, who was looking threatening, "And I have a date with you, too. I have dates with two people at the same time!" Just as the others began laughing at this, the Cadet Captain's Wife walked in on the game and requested an explanation.

Richard sped his Neptune's Hoard halfway across the bay, bypassing Aimee and aiming to meet with his allies. That was when Paul warned him that Mike's Constitution, which was getting very close, had a gunnery bonus against Pirates. This sent the Dread Pirate into a total panic — his orders to the Neptune's Hoard for four straight turns were "Keep going straight, stay away from Mr. Fischer's ship!" The four-masted schooner kept running until it passed beyond Paul's home island and was in danger of falling off the edge of the world. It met Jake's HMS Royal there, and in a sharp exchange, the Royal lost one mast to a ram and the Hoard lost her entire existence. She might have done better challenging the edge of the world.

Mike's Constitution had done her job of keeping Richard away from the Fire Blossom's gold fleet. Now she reversed course to try and aid her submersible fleetmate. She got back to the action just in time to see Paul's big ship land the last hit (after several more misses) and leave the sub derelict. Picking on a three-gun sub was one thing; Paul had no interest in tangling with another five-master. He also noticed that Aimee's Belladonna was creeping toward Zach's home island, probably with larceny on the brain. So he pulled away and left the derelict sub behind. That ship promptly committed hara-kiri with a successful scuttling order, only to re-surface at Mike's home island, courtesy of the unsinkable Ralph David. "I hate him," Paul announced.

Old Ironsides had come a long way for some action, and she meant to get it, one way or another. If Paul wouldn't cooperate, then any target would do, and the closest targets were the derelict President and the damaged Carrion Crow, which was headed home with some of the gold from the only island Zach had managed to explore. The Constitution finally defeated the President (again, I'll pass on the political cheap shot) as she maneuvered into position against her second victim. Mike could bring only his two front cannons to bear against Zach's little ship, but with a +1 against Pirate ships, two cannons was all he needed. The Crow settled into the deep, and Mike greedily siezed her one coin. Upon seeing that it was a 6, he went into a spaz-dance while shrieking "I'm rich! I'm wealthy! I'm independently secure! Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo!" The other admirals found this very amusing.

Jake figured his main job was done, since none of the fighting admirals was posing any threat to Antonio. So he turned the HMS Victor to the last of the gold islands, only to have Antonio snatch the gold away with his Explorers. Now there was nothing left for him but war. He sailed toward Paul's general area, but turned away when Richard's Nautilus headed his way. They didn't meet until after the battle was actually over, but they wanted to fight it out anyway, and had a lot of fun blowing each other to bits. Paul took this opportunity to leave Zach behind and sail toward Aimee's fleet, which quickly sent her scurrying back to port. He tried to use "Diamond" Nelson Turner on her, but quickly found out that you can't swap treasures with someone if you don't have any treasure to swap.

At this point, Antonio's ships were all home and anchored, as were most of Aimee's. She still had the Belladonna hoping to rob Zach's home island; Mike tried to warn her off, noting how close the Bonhomme Richard still was, but she insisted, "I want some fun!" Richard had one ship docked at home and his sub looking for trouble; Jake was trying to oblige him, but was held back by low speed; and Mike, Zach, Paul, and Aimee were about to get very, very tangled up off the coast of Zachary Island.

Mike started it by slamming the USS Kentucky, leaving her with only one mast. La Academia replied by ramming Aimee's Belladonna, snapping off her mainmast; the boarding action that followed was a tie. Then the Belladonna opened fire and finished off the Kentucky. Then the Valeroso took a poke at the Constitution and shot away her aftmost mast. Then Aimee stepped on Mike's foot by accident, causing him to hop around the room, howling in mock pain that the other admirals thought was very funny. Then Zach moved to threaten both Aimee and Mike, but Mike warned him off, threatening the most dreadful of consequences. Then he brought a few of those consequences to life by damaging La Academia. Finally, Old Ironsides got the chance to pay back the Bonhomme Richard for the damage Paul had done him, and landed three good hits (one courtesy of Wayne Nolan's reroll) just as the battle ended.

Almirante Antonio ran away with the gold count, with the Fire Blossom in second place due to low coin values. Mike and Richard were tied for third, thanks to the Nautilus' one gold run and the one coin Mike had stolen from the sinking Carrion Crow. Zach did get one 1-gold coin home to win fourth place, and the other two fighting admirals had to borrow money for supper that night.

The pairing of gold admirals with fighting admirals was a new idea that seemed to work well. The two gold champions were left in peace for most of the battle; no one ever posed the slightest threat to Antonio, while Mike did a perfect job of protecting Aimee by scaring Richard and keeping Paul occupied. Zach's real problem wasn't that Mike got to him so quickly, but that his ships were too slow to get gold and get home before they ran into trouble. Paul used his fleet well and accomplished his mission until he turned away to chase Aimee, allowing Mike to wade into Zach's ships like a fox in the henhouse. The submarines were far from being world-slayers; Richard's Nautilus didn't fire a shot until the battle was officially over, and Mike's Mercury did far more harm with her cannons than with her ram bow. Many of the powerful free crew, like Aimee's Captain Mission, Mike's Shinji Smith, and Zach's Commodore Crenshaw, contributed nothing to the battle.

Antonio's Santa Isabel and El Alquimista each earned the Order of the Buccaneer, 2nd Class, for their role in his victory. Mike's Constitution earned the Bronze Sabre, 1st Class, for sinking two ships, damaging two others, and single-handedly intimidating Richard into leaving the Fire Blossom alone. If the Nautilus had not made that one gold voyage, Richard would have won the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything Award.

Overheard after the game:
Mike: "By the way, Richard, I had a crew on the Constitution that would have let me shoot your sub."
Richard: "I knew that."
Mike: "How could you possibly have known that?"
Richard: "Because you're Mr. Fischer!"

Scribed this day, July Twenty-Second,
the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine,
by Cadet-Captain Mike

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There's Gold In Them Thar Sails
Pirates Battle Report

In our endless quest to keep our Pirates battles ever more interesting, we tried something new and different. Our fleets were built with 42 points, but no generic Captains were allowed. The idea was to force us to rely on the gold game. This was also emphasized by the island set-up — an outer ring of eight islands with two coins each, an inner ring of four with five coins each, and a central island with enough coins to pay for the stimulus package.

Several of the admirals were somehow unaware that the total cost of crew on a ship cannot exceed the cost of the ship, or that named crew can't use their abilities on ships of other nations. Mike made a quick ruling that the fleets were all prepared and would be used as-is tonight, but the rules would not be overlooked again. Paul's original fleet was way under the limit; Mike practically ordered him back to his ship boxes to find something worth 11 points, and the Sea Nymph made it into the lineup at the last possible moment. This turned out to be very fortunate for Paul.

As the ships weighed anchor and set their initial courses, the admirals were wheeling and dealing for alliances. Jake and Paul wound up on the same side, and Richard and Zach may have been a team. Antonio urgently requested a deal from the Cadet-Captain, who stalled for time to see how the game might shape up. This caused the Almirante to cast some piratical trash-talk in Mike's general direction. "I say you're very scared."

As expected, most of the action centered on the gathering of gold that other pirates had carelessly left lying around on various islands. Antonio quickly scooped up a double shipload of goodies; the others were close behind. Antonio's Cervantes and Mike's Monarca were racing for the ultra-rich center island, and that was Mike's opportunity. "If you want an alliance with me, you won't touch the gold on that island," he warned the Almirante. La Resolucion was close behind Mike's gold ship to lend weight to the threat.

"I won't clean it out, but you can have it first," the Almirante quavered, all bluster gone from his voice. "That's better," grinned Mike, who landed a party from La Monarca and found a fortune — a 7, a 6, a 5, and a 4. He left a bunch of 2's behind only because he didn't have room for them. El Cervantes quickly siphoned those into her deep holds.

It was about now that the first fireworks began. Jake had been closing in on Richard's fleet, but turned aside to load up a couple of coins. He was now no threat to Richard, but for some reason, the Neptune's Hoard closed the fantail of HMS Royal and fired her bow chaser. It missed.

Jake's vengeance was swift and brutal. His two ships forgot about the coins, came about, and bracketed the Hoard, one on each side, and ran out their guns with crushing effect. He could have sunk her easily, but he left the mastless hulk afloat. Mike had explained the ransom rule, and Jake thought that Richard's Hog of Tortuga was worth more alive than dead. The Forge took the Hoard in tow.

Richard's #2 ship, the San Pedro, had made a round trip with some treasure. Now she used a Hidden Cove to dock at the island Jake's fleet had just turned away from. Jake was willing that none should prosper, but that all should come to be penniless; HMS Royal chased down the San Pedro and blew all her masts off. Richard fixed one with his Shipwright and offered Jake some kind of a deal. Too bad he didn't have any leverage that was worth more than the gold his ship was carrying. Jake fired again and the San Pedro blew up. The explosion sent her treasure flying, one coin to Jake's home island and one to Richard's. This left Richard with one ship, the Greed's Hammer.

That ship was just about to dock at an untouched island with five coins. Nearby was the dismasted Neptune's Hoard. Richard put his golden dreams on hold for a moment and allowed the Hammer to bare her teeth, which were very sharp and pointy for a gold ship. He sank the ship that used to be his, and earned a one-gold ransom for sinking the Hog of Tortuga that also used to be his. Satisfied with her cannon work, the Greed's Hammer went back to her proper job of snatching gold, and wound up with a cask of Rum as well.

By this time, Zach and Paul had both gotten some treasure home. Zach was rolling well for extra moves by the Hades' Realm, which was lucky, because that four-master was as slow as a slug without extra moves. Paul used his gold to erect the Paradis de la Mer fortress on an island near the center. He then saw something that made him order all his ships home at full speed: an evil grin was spreading across Cadet-Captain Mike's face. "He's going to destroy you!" cackled Antonio.

"No, not him," answered the perfidious Cadet-Captain. "Antonio, did I ever actually say we had an alliance?"

"I'm very scared," was all the shaken Almirante could manage after a long silence. La Resolucion began an annoying habit of rolling a 1 every time she opened fire. It took her two turns to sink El Cervantes and steal the majority of her treasure (all those 2-gold coins that La Monarca had to leave behind). "Why are you doing this?" Antonio demanded. "Pirata," answered Mike in his best schoolbook Spanish, still grinning from ear to ear. Combined with what the Santa Isabel and La Monarca were about to bring home, this stolen treasure put him solidly in the lead. He never did remember to use La Monarca's extra move, but it didn't matter.

Now Mike was warmed up, and there was no stopping him. Antonio's other ships were far out of reach. But Zach's fleet was nearby, and they were also carrying gold that Mike could steal. La Resolucion got into firing position on the Hades' Realm, fired the three cannons that would bear... and again rolled a one and got only two hits. Zach went into a scaredy-spaz; he knew Mike's bloodlust was up and he saw no escape.

Incredibly, it was Mike who offered him a way out. Zach's Le Pique and Mike's Santa Isabel were both closing in on the same wild island. Mike offered him a deal: "If you don't load any of that gold, I won't sink Le Pique." Zach wasn't in much of a position to negotiate, but he made a counter-offer anyway: "If I leave that island alone, you let that ship live" — meaning the Hades' Realm. Mike figured he'd get the gold he wanted either way, so he agreed and the Hades' Realm ran for home with two masts, some treasure, and great gratitude that she was afloat at all.

If you think that satisfied the Cadet-Captain, you don't know him very well. La Reso turned back to the center, carefully staying out of range of Paul's fort, and raked Jake's HMS Forge at close range. This time, all his shots were on target, but the first one bounced off the Forge's tough hull, leaving her with one mast. Jake didn't see that attack coming and was quite astonished. But again, Mike offered him a way out.

"How about I let your ship live, we attack Paul's fort together, and split the gold?" he suggested. Jake was talking to himself — "Hmmm, Mr. Fischer has never broken a truce before, so..." Apparently, he talked himself into it. They struck hands on the deal, Mike's ship pulled away, Jake did the first of three repair actions on the Forge, and the Royal joined the party.

Zach joined the party as well. There wasn't any gold left, so Le Pique sailed boldly up to Paradis de la Mer and opened fire. Paul gleefully showed why Paradis is the best fort in the game; he rolled a 5, which meant that the fort would ignore the first five hits she took that turn. Luckily for Zach, Paul's fort gunners were playing solitaire and not paying attention to nearby targets they should be shooting at; Le Pique scooted out of range unscathed.

Elsewhere, Paul was a lot more on the ball. The wild islands were devoid of gold, but Antonio's home island was heaped high with it, and Paul's fleet had two ships that could do something about that. The Shamrock with El Fantasma aboard, escorted by the Sea Nymph, closed the Almirante's island and stole a treasure. Antonio's Santa Isabel fired on the Sea Nymph from her position at anchor, and shattered two of her masts. The Shamrock pulled away from the island, transferred the stolen gold to the Lucky Seven... and then went right back for another treasure. He did this three times, enriching himself considerably at Antonio's expense.

Meanwhile, in the center, the final battle began. Jake's fleet led the assault on Paradis de le Mer, which would need six hits to damage on this turn. The Forge got four of those hits, but the Royal misjudged her navigation and couldn't get any of her cannons into range. Mike's Santa Isabel got hits number five and six, thanks to Almirante Carlos Pavon's reroll. Now the fort lay bare before the threatenting La Resolucion. And, yet again, she rolled a one and got only three hits. The fort survived with one flag left flying.

Until, out of the clouds of gunpowder smoke, an intruder appeared. Remember how Zach was trying to join the party? Le Pique came back for one more try. Her lone cannon boomed, and the fort's walls collapsed. The treasure within lay open to whoever could take it. But the sun had gone down on the battle long ago, and we were forced to call it a day. Paul lost his fort's price, but no one else got it, either.

The final scores of gold told the tale:

  1. 61 - Cadet-Captain Mike
  2. 21 - the Dread Pirate Richard
  3. 19 - Almirante Antonio
  4. 14 - Paul the Pirate Prince
    14 - Bosun Zach
  5. 02 - Midshipman Jake
Mike won on high coin values; Antonio brought in almost as many treasures, but none were very valuable. We had been saying that Richard wasn't having his best night, but second place is nothing to be ashamed of. Paul's end-of-game thievery pulled him from fifth place into a tie with Zach for fourth (he would have had fourth place to himself if his fort had survived), and pulled Antonio down from second place to third. Jake was playing for fun instead of treasure, as usual, but he normally gets no gold at all, so it was a good game for him as well.

Both of Jake's fighting ships saw plenty of action. Between them, they sank a gold ship, derelicted another, and helped wreck a fort. Mike's La Resolucion sank one ship full of gold and inflicted heavy damage on two others, as well as the fort, for which she earned the Bronze Sabre, 2nd Class. Paul's Shamrock received the Corsair's Cross for stealing three treasures from an enemy home island.

For a battle with no Captains, there was a lot of fighting going on from beginning to end. Nearly everyone was willing to spend the extra points on named crew, rather than be unable to move and shoot at will. Only Antonio and Paul chose the gold-only route. Mike admitted afterwards that he chose such a powerful fleet because the piratical Admiral Abigail was supposed to join the battle, and he wanted a fleet that could stand up to the Zeus. But she went AWOL, so he steam-rollered the others instead. The big meanie.

Scribed this day, August Twenty-Fifth,
the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine,
by Cadet-Captain Mike

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Talkin' Like a Pirate? Yes, We Arrr!
Pirates Battle Report

International Talk Like a Pirate Day was three days ago, so to celebrate, we made up some unusually big fleets (13 masts and 5 crew), the better to blast each other with. There were no less than seventeen wild islands in a star formation with eight arms, each arm made of an outer island with two coins, a reef, and an inner island with three coins. The central island wound up with seven coins. We also would have two separate winners, one for gold and one for masts knocked down (sinking a ship counted as a mast). Thus, this battle would count double in our Pirate League standings. We hoped that Daniel Repaire-do-Lion or Admiral Abigail might join us, but they had better things to do than find gold or blast their enemies. Keel-haul the both of 'em, says me. As is her pattern, the Fire Blossom was waving her hand at the Cadet-Captain, in the hope that he'd shake her hand and make an alliance with her. She had good reason this time; Paul, Richard, Jake, and Zach began the battle with a four-way alliance, and Antonio had a separate peace with Paul. Mike stalled, unwilling to give up any of his options before the battle had even begun. But on the first move, his fleet headed toward Richard rather than his other neighbor, Aimee.

That worthy pirate quickly crossed swords with Antonio. The Seref and Lady's Scorn both had gold on their minds, and the Almirante would have none of it. All three of his ships converged on her, forcing the Thomas Jefferson, her newest and biggest ship, to step up and fight them alone. She did well, too. When the cannon smoke had cleared, the Diamond Strike was derelict and had lost her Helmsman in an S-range boarding action, while the Rusty Harpoon was down to one mast and had lost her Captain in a close-range boarding action. The big TJ had lost only one mast, but the Fire Blossom was still panicky at the sight of the Fool's Hope, which was looking large and dangerous. Again she pleaded for the Cadet-Captain's help, and this time he pulled his fleet around and headed her way.

It's not known at this time who his intended target was. He never specifically offered Aimee an alliance. Antonio was too beaten up to make a worthy opponent. But Paul and Jake's combined fleets were headed toward Aimee as well. Or were they headed toward Mike? In any case, when Antonio's Fool's Hope attacked and destroyed the Seref, Mike suggested that he not fire any more shots in Aimee's direction, and his strong-arm tactics worked, as usual. Both the Almirante's and the Fire Blossom's five-masted ships turned aside for gold, Antonio at the super-rich central island. Mike's fleet sailed behind them on a collision course with Paul and Jake.

Antonio, and Paul to a lesser extent, were having serious problems focusing on the battle. They were distracted by the antics of the Mad Maid Michaela, who had no interest in piracy but who had great fun tormenting the boys with her snap bracelets.

Paul's President and Freedom had shattered the first of the alliances by gunning down the damaged Rusty Harpoon and the derelict Diamond Strike, leaving Antonio with one ship. Mike gave Paul some swift payback; the Ghost Walker and Enterprise teamed up to leave the President derelict, and the Philadelphia snatched her away to Mike's home island on the next turn. The Freedom got in the way and got her masts chopped down just as quickly, but didn't get stolen away. No, she suffered a much grimmer fate.

Jake saw the big, undamaged Enterprise closing in on him, escorted by the Ghost Walker and Julius Caesar, and he read the writing on the bulkhead. "If you won't attack me, I'll... I'll do anything you want," he begged Mike. The Cadet-Captain demanded, "Okay, attack Paul." "Deal," said the perfidious Petty Officer, and his fleet went into action. Paul never saw it coming; his ships were sitting ducks in easy firing position. The Freedom sank quickly, and Paul's Bonhomme Richard, which had tried to run away from Mike, took three hits from Jake instead. Then the Petty Officer had a change of heart, and allowed Paul to take the helm of his own Bonhomme Richard to keep him in the battle. This gave Paul two of the same ship, which would have been against the rules if he'd started the game that way. Now Paul had two Richards under his thumb, instead of just one as usual.

Mike saw that Paul was as badly battered as Antonio, and not worth picking on any more. But Aimee still had two ships afloat. That situation lasted for as long as it took the Julius Caesar to line up a Broadside attack on the Thomas Jefferson. It struck home, and turned the damaged five-master into a no-master. "Please don't sink it!" the Fire Blossom begged. So, gentleman that he is, he didn't sink it. He stole it with the Philadelphia instead, and now two big ships were under repair at Mike's home island. He took the gold she was carrying, too. Some gentleman.

Around this time, some of the admirals were distracted by Zach's fabric bug-holder, which had a zippered lid and which contained a praying mantis. At one point, Richard exclaimed that the insect was on the verge of escaping. All Mike heard, though, was, "Zach, your zipper's open." This caused some hilarity.

While all this was going on, the alliances on the other side of the table were unraveling as well. Zach and Richard both seemed to want the same set of islands. But Richard had no interest in islands, or the gold on them; he just wanted to get around them so he could open fire on the Bosun. His Sea Dragon led the charge, picking away at the larger Kentucky until she was left derelict. When the Jarvis tried to intervene, Richard's Neptune's Hoard weighed in for a double attack that finished off the Kentucky and left the Jarvis badly damaged. The giant shark Teach gave the killing blow, and his big sea-monster brother Jormungandr made a devastating ram/board on the HMS Granville that slew her crew and left her helpless. It fell to the Carolina to avenge her fleetmates by sinking the Sea Dragon on her way to a wild island.

Mike now had three enemy fleets nearby that were all down to one ship each. His peculiar sense of honor would not allow him to finish any of them off. So the Enterprise and Caesar turned to the less exciting sport of gold gathering, and his pockets were soon bulging with loot. Jake was also reluctant to kick other admirals when they were down, but picking up gold coins was way too tame for him. So he sailed through the middle of the islands to find an admiral who wasn't down — the Dread Pirate Richard. The Neptune's Hoard fought back hard, and got some hits on HMS Forge. But the Royal/Forge combo was not to be stopped. They blasted the Hoard into matchwood, and then caught Jormungandr on the surface and inflicted three hits on it.

"All you have left is a head," Mike instructed Richard. "No, I'll take off the head and leave the tail," the Dread Pirate decided. "You should have quit while you were a head," retorted Mike. The HMS Forge killed it on the next turn after it tried to tail-slap the four-master. HMS Royal, having nothing else to shoot at, turned on Paul again and damaged the Bonhomme Richard that used to be his. Teach wisely slipped beneath the waves and avoided the fate that had befallen the rest of Richard's fleet.

By this time, it was well past sunset, and the battle fizzled to a close. The action had centered around two areas, the left (where Aimee and Antonio clashed until Mike swatted them both down, and gave Paul a spanking when he tried to intervene) and the right (where Richard clubbed Zach's fleet until Jake hit him with an even bigger club). Everyone counted their gold while Mike added up the tally marks he'd been making as each mast fell. The results are as follows:

Final Scores

Interestingly, two of the fighting admirals brought in no gold, but even the most peaceful gold-seekers knocked a few masts down. Mike's win on gold was pure luck of the coins, beating Zach by a single point. If Paul or Jake had tried to fight him, he never would have gone for gold and Zach would have won. At first, it was announced that Jake had won the mast-damage victory, but a recount put Richard in front. But if the game had gone on longer, the Cadet Captain would almost certainly have run away with the mast count as well, since his fleet was undamaged, the stolen Freedom was fully repaired, and the purloined Thomas Jefferson was being fixed. Not one ship tried to sail over the reefs at any time.

No less than seven ships earned battle honors tonight:

All in all, it was "a beautiful brawl." Alliances were made and broken, and then made again and broken again; ships were rammed, boarded, shot, and stolen; treasure was loaded, fought over, taken away, and sunk. Schooners, galleys, and sea monsters all played their part. Both the winners won by only one point. It was a worthy way to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Scribed this day, September Twenty-Second,
the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine,
by Cadet-Captain Mike

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