For many, strategy games can be a little like crack cocaine. Many find themselves diving into a nice game of Civilization and not coming up for air until days later. It's a sad thing to watch, but at least those addicted gamers are only spending one thing: time. Pirates CSG Online is a little more dangerous; here gamers won't just be killing time, they'll be spending money, too.
The CSG in the title stands for Constructible Strategy Game, a reference to the card-based game this online-only title recreates. Though this version replaces the cardboard and plastic bits with digital ones, the idea is the same: purchase sets of cards that represent ships, crews and treasures, piece them together to create fleets and then head into battle.
Gameplay is, for the most part, simple. You and up to three opponents take turns guiding your fleets across a small map trying to meet one or more objectives, objectives that vary depending on the type of game you've selected. Some simply task you to sink your opponents' ships; others will have you racing around collecting treasure…while still, of course, trying to sink the opposition.
Combat is very simple: each ship has a number of masts, typically three or four with one cannon per. When firing each cannon you roll a six-sided die and, roll high enough, destroy a mast (and matching cannon) on the receiving ship. Destroy a ship's masts and it's yours to plunder.
Additionally, each ship can be assigned crewmembers who have special actions, like firing a flaming shot that sets ships on fire. Special treasures in the hold can also add special attributes, however they like crew take up cargo space that could otherwise be used for hauling pirated wares (not warez).
The gameplay itself is simple, the combat perhaps a little too simple, but finding the perfect mix of fast ships for treasure hunting, powerful ships for combat and crew for special abilities is anything but, requiring hours of trial and error. Unfortunately, since those goods come bundled into small packs of virtual cards that cost $3.99 apiece, crafting yourself a competitive fleet can require lots of money, too.