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This theme was also notable for its introduction of a wide range of specialized parts such as ship bow, stern and mid-section hull pieces, masts, functioning cannons and several different animals to include monkeys, parrots and sharks. The theme also introduced a special character, the Pirate Captain Red Beard, who had a unique peg-leg, Hook Hand and eyepatch.
Like all LEGO themes, Pirates evolved over time with the introduction of newer sets. In 1992, the 18th century French-modeled Imperial Soldiers were replaced with the 18th century British-themed Imperial Guards. (no, not those imperial guards). At the same time, nearly all the pirate sets were replaced as well. This year saw the introduction of the Skull's Eye Schooner (#6286), the largest Pirates ship until 2010, as well as the popular Imperial Flagship (#6271) sets. The Imperial Flagship name was given to a new and much larger set (#10210) introduced in 2010. It currently is the largest single Pirates ship sold by LEGO.
The theme was expanded in 1994 to include the Islanders, based loosely on pre-colonized native tribes, but not specific. Led by King Kahuka, the Islanders inhabited a number of hazardous but treasure-laden islands and atolls. Sets included interesting bits such as canoes and catamarans, fancy head-dress pieces and crocodiles.
In 1996, the theme was refreshed again and the Imperial Guards were replaced with a 16th century Spanish-themed "Imperial Armada". Many fans argue that this change marked the decline of the Pirates theme overall, as the sets began to lose quality. They focused more on gimmicky features such as collapsable masts and less on actual substance and creativity for the player.
Since 2011, the Pirates theme has been removed from the LEGO line, and though they have a theme based on Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean movies, it shares no relation to the Pirates theme.
Among fans, the Pirates theme is one of the most fondly remembered and popular for collectors and AFO Ls. The Pirates theme has even spawned large scale table-top style games played on living room floors, including one by none other than Steve Jackson, who is an avid and vocal fan of the LEGO Pirates theme. His game rules and instructions can be found here.
As for the sets themselves, a complete guide can be found here.
Some notable LEGO Pirates LEGO ship sets :
- #6285 / #10040 Black Seas Barracuda (1989-1992 / 2002-2004)
- #6286 Skull's Eye Schooner (1993-1995) (the largest Pirates ship set until 2010, see below)
- #6271 Imperial Flagship (1992-1995)
- #6268 Renegade Runner (1993-1995)
- #10210 Imperial Flagship (2010) (the largest Pirates ship set)
Tropes seen in this LEGO theme :
- Added Alliterative Appeal : At least a third of the sets had alliterative names, e. g. "Renegade's Raft", "Pirate's Plunder", "Raft Raiders", "Smuggler's Shanty", "Bounty Boat", "Lagoon Lock-up", "Broadside's Brig", "Cannon Cove", "Rocky Reef" and, best of all, "Pirate's Perillous Pitfall".
- Awesome McCoolname / A Good Name for a Rock Band : Pretty much all the ship sets, with names like "Black Seas Barracuda", "Red Beard Runner", "Cross Bone Clipper" and "Skull's Eye Schooner".
- Badass Spaniard : The Spanish soldiers and marines.
- Captain Color Beard : Captain Red Beard
- Deserted Island : Pretty much any island set that didn't include inhabited buildings or hideouts.
- Did Not Do the Research : Though the setting is based on the 17th and 18th century, several sailships are referred to as clippers. Clippers were a non-existant type of ship back then, since they only appeared in the 19th century.
- Family-Friendly Firearms : Averted big time, as with all the other historical LEGO themes. Granted, it's a toyline based on the golden age of piracy, so this is to be expected. The minifigs wield muskets, blunderbusses and trusty flintlock pistols.
- Eyepatch of Power
- Hook Hand
- Chased by Angry Natives: But they were only angry when the pirates tried to double-cross them or otherwise threaten them. One promotional comic had two pirates arguing about their shares from a burried treasure to the point that they didn't notice they got surrounded by the natives, who then mocked their greediness.
- Improbable Weapon User : The boxart of the set "Burried Treasure" featured a monkey wielding a cutlass.
- Instant Plunder, Just Add Pirates
- Island Base : Many of the sets, both small and large and both for pirates and colonial soldiers.
- Noble Savage : The islanders weren't perfect by any means, but were portrayed as a peaceful people who only wanted to be kept alone and remain neutral in the ongoing pirates vs. soldiers conflict.
- Ocean Punk: The setting was a mix between Welcome to the Caribbean Mon and more Polynesian-flavoured enviroments (in the case of the natives).
- Pirates : Well, of course. But there are also various factions of colonial soldiers and even natives.
- Pirate Booty : Many sets, especially the smaller ones.
- Pirate Parrot : Lots of these in many of the sets. Minifigs representing wild untamed parrots were just as common.
- Punny Name : The set "Skeleton Crew" includes a burried treasure site "guarded" by the skeleton of a long-dead Spanish conquistador.
- Robinsonade : A surprising number of (mostly smaller) sets involves pirates being shipwrecked on a Deserted Island or marooned at sea.
- Theme Naming : A ridiculous amount of sets had geographic names based on various sailing and piratey lingo and equipment.
- Welcome to the Caribbean Mon : The setting was mostly styled after the stereotypical version of the 17th and 18th century Caribbean. It did show some historical accuracy though, by having the pirate-opposing navies and armies belonging to various European colonial powers (namely France, Spain and Britain). This trope got subverted with the addition of the native sets, since they were a mix of Carib tribal culture and a more Polynesian-flavoured one.
- Wooden Ships and Iron Men
- X Meets Y: It's basically "Pirates of the Caribbean minus the fantasy elements".