Blackbeard. Syphilis strikes back

Edward Low, Edward Teach, Howell Davis, Walter Kennedy, Edward England: Alex Isabelle
Samuel Bellamy, François l'Ollonais, Thomas Tew, Raveneau de Lussan, Bartholomew Roberts: Laura Beltrami

We are in the second half of the 17th century. With the full maturation of the colonies the international market flourishes: the seas are populated by merchant ships, which fly the flags of the most important European countries. These, sympathetic but suspended in a state of perennial military and economic tension, do not turn their attention to the colonies, considering them as sources of income perfectly capable of self-administration. However, this move turns out to be wrong: soon mercenaries short of wages, rebel soldiers, leftovers, rebel slaves, pseudo-anarchists notice the fat merchant ships that sail the seven seas. They are extremely interesting targets, real stray loot waiting to be plundered. From there to the establishment of entire crews dedicated to banditry, the step is short. The pirates know each other: they collaborate by forming operational bases where a primordial form of democracy reigns and they join forces in confederations that give life to profitable alliances and legendary rivalries.

Captain Laura wonders how will she keep
track of the accounts of the entire crew.

We are at the beginning of the golden age of piracy.

Although the pirates, as a, so to speak, "popular phenomenon", have developed in the Caribbean Sea, our game immediately takes a different turn. Edward Low, historically one of the most fearsome pirates to have sailed the sea, attacks a merchant ship off the coast of Bombay, discovering it loaded with particularly precious goods. Further south-west, the "pirate prince", Samuel "Black Sam" Bellamy, tries to emulate Low's success by chasing the merchant ships that frequent the east coast of Africa, without being able to meet any of them. By dint of wandering the sea, time passes and his crew is struck by scurvy. A certain discontent begins to spread and Bellamy, to avoid seeing his popularity collapse, tries to attack the port of Zanzibar, because he has heard that they sell large quantities of citrus fruits in those parts (remedy for the aforementioned disease, caused by a shortage of ascorbic acid). However, his attack is repelled: the ship receives several hits and is in serious danger of sinking. He shelters in Kilwa, a port located on the coast of modern day Tanzania and which the game claims to be of Portuguese domination. Here he takes some time to heal his crew and think about how to proceed.

Meanwhile, Edward Teach, the man that history will remember as Blackbeard, begins his business off the Bahamas. He's just hanging around, waiting for prey around New Providence. The fact is that this very place is the target of a sensational storm that damages Teach's schooner. Preferring to repair the damage suffered before suffering more, he returns to the port of Nassau. Here his crew, who saw hell in that storm, decides to celebrate their survival by giving themselves crazy joy ("debauchery and revelry", in the game's terms). For quite a while, Teach, from New Providence, won't break loose.

The unfriendly governors that the European states
place in defence of the slave trade

Pirate activity along the African coast, meanwhile, is starting to impact the rest of the globe. In Whydah, capital of the kingdom of the same name (today's Benin, a very important center of the slave trade), governor Beesten, in favor of conducting negotiations with pirates, is tried and replaced by another, whose surname is Hamilton. However, immediately, in a manner reminiscent of a coup, the latter too gets slain and replaced by Herrick, another governor firmly opposed to piracy. It seems that a not-so-bright future is looming for the region's buccaneers. Nevertheless, just to clarify that the pirates can do without the accomplices of the governors, François l'Ollonais starts his activity along the Gold Coast, the sea segment adjacent to West Africa. Thrilled, Herrick launches a warship with the ultimate aim of hunting him, but he sinks it, proceeding then to grab a merchant ship off Cormantine. Here he finds a hostage, a Dutch nobleman; he then docks in Cormantine, sells the hostage and exchanges the stolen goods for a large sum of money.

At the same time Edward Low is not doing well: after his first success he cannot rest on his laurels. In fact, a mutiny triggers, led by the Welsh Howell Davis. The latter is a character who knows how to make himself respected by letting the results talk: after leaving Low on the Indian coast he, with his crew, sets sail towards the Arab one, where he attacks a merchant ship from the parts of Mocha, then backs off and returns back to Bombay.

Thomas Tew, a pirate of apparently noble origins, active in the oriental Caribbean, in the meanwhile, comes into possession of a map indicating the position of a treasure buried on the Isle of Pines, south of Cuba. It is not certain that this treasure actually exists and that someone has not already taken it; despite this uncertainty, he decides to tempt fate. He sets sail to the west, reaches "Treasure Island" and together with the crew begins to dig. Surprisingly the treasure really exists and, moreover, it translates into the remarkable sum of 1300 doubloons. It is a sufficient profit to retire with dignity from the games: Tew immediately sets off for Port Royal, where he obtains an English letter of marque, exchanges the unearthed doubloons for current currency and retires to private life together with his crew, entering the bourgeoisie. Not long after, England will learn of how things are done at Port Royal and will consequently have the local governor replaced with a harsher one against the buccaneers.

François l'Ollonais, who is still active along the Gold Coast, also learns of Tew's retirement. Retirement isn't such a terrible idea, he finds out. He then crosses the Atlantic, docks at Port O'Spain, whose administration is notoriously still willing to deal with pirates, bribes the local governor and retires, making a profit on his notoriety as well as on the income from his pirate business.

Davis retires in Mocha.

It seems that only Laura's pirates are up to something. This goes on for a little while longer: Howell Davis, after a few years of intense activity in the Indian Ocean, decides that he too has saved up enough money to think about retiring. He chooses to do it, in contrast, in an Arab country: he docks in the city of Mocha, the most important port in the Red Sea area, as well as the largest coffee market in the world. He befriends the local governor, sells everything, and abandons the pirate life making people talk about him all over the world for the enormous wealth accumulated through piracy. We are talking about a considerable amount, well above the pension of Tew and that of l'Ollonais put together.

This motivates other bad guys to turn to piracy: Raveneau de Lussan takes the sea. He finally decides to inaugurate the Caribbean piracy we all know; among other things, he attacks a Spanish merchant ship in front of Cartagena and immediately sets aside some money. This ignites the jealousies of his crew, from which emerges a certain Walter Kennedy, who challenges him to a duel to try to take him out of control of the ship. De Lussan wins the duel and throws Kennedy to the sharks, to then reach Port O 'Spain, where l'Ollonais had already retired, and bribe the local governor by imitating his predecessor. Finally he decides to retire, with a figure slightly lower than Davis's.

Barbanera sails to Bermuda.

Meanwhile, Edward Teach gets older and more and more pissed off - and this time it's the real historians, not us, who speculate that syphilis is to blame. Teach begins calling himself Blackbeard and lighting fuses of dynamite in his beard to scare his enemies. He sails north along the American coast. Plundered an English boat, a brigantine on which he installs advanced cannons purchased in the Bahamas, he goes to Bermuda, where he meets another captain looking for challenges: Edward England (they are all called Edward, in this game). The two decide to start an alliance with a very specific purpose: to terrorize the coast of New England. They plan to start activities immediately, but they can't, because Blackbeard's cloud, which has chased him since the Caribbean, now hits Bermuda, forcing them to postpone their departure for weeks.

However, the pirate activity along the African coasts does not stop: Bartholomew Roberts begins his activity along the Gold Coast, already plundered by l'Ollonais in the past. He is immediately loved: to welcome him in Cape Coast and Cape Lopez, the first English port and the second Portuguese, new governors who are averse to pirates are installed. After getting some small success he moves to the Indian Ocean.

Right there Samuel Bellamy, after a few years of silence, decides that it is time to give piracy a second chance. He leaves the port of Kilwa with an old crew and a boat who still bears the marks of the cannon fire received in Zanzibar a few years earlier. As soon as he leaves the Portuguese settlement, however, he encounters a small Arab warship, which manages to sink but further damages his ship. He then attacks a merchant near the Arabian coast but is intercepted by a new warship much better armed than the first, which this time manages to give him the coup de grace. Bellamy therefore enters the history books in a horizontal position and only by means of a small notoriety obtained because of his misfortunes.

Barbanera and England at the end of the game.

An ocean away, Blackbeard and England are well-intentioned to offer a challenge of a completely different rank. They finally leave the port of Bermuda after weeks of chaos and chase a merchant ship that is said to sail around New York. They don't find it; on the other hand they still find Blackbeard's cloud, which makes all the merchants in the area escape. The truth is that the two were hoping to find the ship so that they could have a hostage who could give them some advice on how to attack New York. Even without these tips, they decide to put aside the delay and attack first Philadelphia and then Boston, as rich as New York but less defended. They collect a lot of possessions and reach an extreme notoriety. They are stopped by strong resistance on the coasts of Virginia - which is interesting, because that's where the governor of Virginia (Robert Maynard) historically ended Blackbeard's career. Teach and England do not give up and continue south, attacking Havana.

Barbanera e England barricaded in Cuba,
with full holds and rotten livers.

Here their luck ends: the attack succeeds, but on the heads of Blackbeard and England hang two bounties that now weigh like boulders. It is certain that if they were to find themselves at sea alone they would be reached and attacked by the fearsome King's Commissioners, bounty hunters commissioned by the Crown itself to chase and kill the most undesirable pirates. Together they are unstoppable and would know how to defend themselves; yet England decides that the time has come to celebrate the recent successes. Before he even leaves Havana, he and his men get drunk like sponges. Blackbeard gets angry and interrupts the alliance, without however finding the courage to take to the sea alone for the above reasons, in addition to the fact that his ship, albeit fully armed, began to suffer from the signs of recent raids. The two will remain barricaded in Havana while waiting for England's crew to recover, so that they can proceed together to a pirate port, where they can get their ships back on track and exchange loot while waiting for a general amnesty that has been rumored for some time.

Bartholomew Roberts at the end of the game.

In fact, everyone knows that the only way for the British government to destroy piracy would be to pit the pirates against each other through a general pardon, a promise of impunity to any pirate who surrenders himself to justice. The fact is that this forgiveness, despite being on everyone's lips, is slow in coming. So Blackbeard and England remain forcibly parked in Cuba, waiting for better days.

The news of their adventures has greatly diminished the notoriety of Bartholomew Roberts, to the point that, although he is achieving several successes along the Arabian coast (where Bellamy had failed), no King's Commissioner is thrown at him. Among other things, he proceeds in sinking the warship that caused Bellamy's departure, an event that earns him further notoriety. He barricades himself in a pirate base in Madagascar, where he exchanges the loot obtained while waiting, too, for a general pardon that will never come.

This is how the golden age of piracy ends, dying slowly and without much fanfare, exactly as it began. Neither Teach, nor England nor Roberts are able to capitalize on the enormous loot accumulated over the years, limiting themselves to living off the income deriving from their fame, now too old and sought after to be able to take to the sea again.

At the end of this head to head in which the history books have accompanied us, the pirates of Laura have 106 points, those of Alex 97.

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The pardon that never comes.

Blackbeard awaits for amnesty in Cuba. For a long time.


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