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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games #45: Sid Meier's Pirates!

It didn't take long to get back to our old friend Sid Meier! As it's Valentine's Day, I thought I'd pen a little love letter to one of my all-time favorite games! (I briefly considered ending every sentence in this profile with an exclamation point in homage to the one in Pirates! but I got tired of it after two.) While this game has seen some makeovers in the last few decades that have kept it relevant and playable today, my affection stems from the original version back in the late 1980s that we used to play on that tireless old Commodore 64. Published by Microprose in 1987, Sid Meier's Pirates! was an immersive, sprawling game that allowed the player to explore the entirety of the Caribbean and Spanish Main throughout the age of piracy. Choose your national affiliation between English, French, Dutch, and Spanish. Build your crew in the winesinks of the Lesser Antilles, capture better ships, and begin your climb through the ranks of buccaneers and barons.

This game had (has!) it all, man. Ship-to-ship combat. Complex sailing strategy. Swordfights. Palace intrigue with island governors and their variably interested daughters (as this is Valentine's Day, I thought about choosing one of their images to accompany this profile, but went with a more iconic one). Raids and plunder, rumors of marauding villains, maybe even the untold riches of the gold fleet or silver train! I can remember hours sitting shotgun while my older brother mastered the game, helping him track his travels and navigate the byzantine geographic and political labyrinths of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Caribbean. Aiding in this exercise was perhaps the coolest part of the game, a huge fold-out map of the entire area in question, a perfect representation of the world from Florida to the Yucatan to Trinidad with everything in between. It was, and is, gorgeous. My knowledge of the islands and nations of that region owe a permanent debt to Mr. Sid Meier.

Some of the games that are on this list I like, or have some nostalgic affection for. This one, I love. Happy Valentine's Day, Sid Meier's Pirates!

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