The Best Values in Ships
Part 7: Using Islands and Terrain

How to pick a good ship or crew? The right tactics can make any ship better. Here are my thoughts on the main features of the Pirates battlefield, islands and terrain.

Home Islands

You home island is your destination for gold, your shipyard for repairs, and your sanctuary when you've got an enemy ship on your fantail.

Wild Islands

This is where the gold is. And that's all that most players use them for. But a wild island can be so much more, if you use it wisely: How close should wild islands be to each other? The rules say they should be 3-4L apart. If they're close together, ships with multiple move components have an advantage in maneuvering; that is, a S+S+S ship can thread its way through the islands much more easily than a ship whose move is L+L. The farther apart the islands are, the more important high speed becomes.

My gaming group has found that, if the islands are closer together than the rules prescribe, it makes for a more interesting game. Ships zigzag among the islands, trying to get the drop on each other or to quickly load some gold. Our preferred layout (we usually have four players) is an atoll of eight islands in a circle, with one big island in the middle with a double portion of treasure. That big island gets fought over in wonderful ways.

Suggestion: don't grab the gold from the nearest wild island as soon as the battle begins. Go for something more remote first, before the enemy can get it. Nobody's going to grab "your" gold; you can come back and get it at leisure.


The terrain types in this game don't get a lot of use in my gaming group. But they definitely have their uses.

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