By Rob Morgan
Another odd purchase, at a pound a pack in a local shop — from the seriously discounted bin, known as ‘The Lost Hope.’ Something I honestly don’t remember featuring in any of the model or games (or toy) shops 10 or 12 years ago. Which is exactly when a company called Wizkids produced a substantial series of small packets of game components, described as ‘a game in every pack’ under the title ‘Pirates of …’ The end of the title could be ‘… of the Spanish Main,’ ‘… of the Frozen North,’ ‘… of the South China Seas,’ ‘… of the Ocean’s Edge’, etc, etc. There must have been a score of alternative scenarios.
I may of course be talking to lots of members and readers who know the games who invested a few pounds or dollars in collecting them. Each pack contains, or contained, two ship models, made from press out hard polystyrene, like a credit card, and easily assembled without any form of adhesive. They just pressed together. Along with them was a piece of scenery — an island, a volcano, a fog-bank, an iceberg, that sort of thing. Then there were some press-out gold coin tokens, a character from the crew, and a scenario or two. Interesting enough, had I encountered them back then!
Some of the more unusually named scenarios included press-out monsters, a giant crab for instance, or a really good looking squid. Sea serpents, dragons, etc. Great value for the science fiction or fantasy gamer, though the assembled monsters do look like old-fashioned ‘flats’.
The scenery is useful, and could be used in a standard wargame as it is, or ‘built-up’ a bit. It would be interesting to know, just for academic purposes, if there were any scenery items for towns, harbours, or forts? The coins and tokens, if you weren’t going to use them to play the intended game in the pack, could serve as bases for figures.
It’s the ships which are most interesting though. Well, they would be wouldn’t they? The ships tend toward the theme of the pack. So, for example in the ‘Pirates of the South China Seas’ pack, you’d find Junks as the ship model. In the frozen north, there are some Viking longships. Off the Barbary Coast, galleys. I should say that ships in the packs came as small, medium and large vessels. Though I found a hint that there were some giant craft around, and of course since the packs were sealed, you had no way of knowing which ships you would get! Hence there were those which were common, Like the French two-masted Le Dijon. Others were less common — the small single-masted oared junk, ‘Floating Stone’ for instance. Some models were described as ‘rare.’ others as ‘Super Rare.’ One or two appear to have been ‘Special Edition’ models. It seemed to become one of those ‘flash-in-the-pan’ collectors games, a sort of naval Pokemon. I have no idea how many ships were actually manufactured. A dip into YouTube suggests that some of the games players owned a hundred or so; others described a collection of 50 or 70 models as small (hm?).
Before I ramble onwards, the models are flat, pressed out from the credit card shape hard plastic, and slot together, both sides of a hull, decks, masts. Some models have four or five masts, bowsprits in some cases, or banks of oars. The card is beautifully coloured in every case. Each mast has pennants, where appropriate, and a stern-mounted jack with a flag. These are interchangeable by the way, to alter fleet composition presumably. I’ve seen pirate flags, naturally, as well as Royal Naval white ensigns, US flags, French and Spanish. There may well be others. As a scale, I’d go for about 1/600th or thereabouts, vague but roughly vague. They look good in a small flotilla or fleet on a table top.
Like so many of the games targeted at youngsters, this was a five-minute wonder. Certainly, if the reviewers on the internet are to be believed, in a year or two the game had died away, and others had replaced it.
A pity, this is another outstanding example of just what the serious wargamer can use on the table top!
Hopefully, reading this, and I apologize for the dreadful quality of my photography, there will be someone with a far better knowledge of these games, their ship models and accessories. Another loss to the world of wargaming.
Anyone know more?