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The Sinking of 7th Sea

Adam Gauntlett | 19 Jul 2012 09:00
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I'm a sucker for all things pirate. The hats, the shanties, the scurvy; the only piratical meme I'm leery of is parrots, on account of the sharp beaks and uncertain tempers. Stick a pirate on it and my interest is drawn, which is how I got involved in the 7th Sea collectable card game (CCG).

I wanted to get cards that recounted the part of the tale I was interested in.

It was one of the many collectables that came out in the late 1990s hoping to capitalize on the market Magic had created almost single-handedly. I was managing a game store then, and we held mini-tournaments, sold a lot of booster boxes and generally had a good time sailing the seven seas and buckling swashes. I joined the community just after Scarlet Seas, when the undead Black Sails set, led by the villainous Captain Necros, was the newest and shiniest thing out there. I put together a Necros boarding deck and waded into the fray.

The second most interesting thing about the game (after, y'know, pirates!) was its evolving continuity, which followed a convoluted storyline. Each faction, whether villainous (like Reis and his Crimson cutthroats) or heroic (dashing Berek of the Sea Dogs) had their own plot, which changed over time as in-game events progressed. So when Reis met Berek on the high seas and whipped his butt, the new set included cards that told that story. Cards like No Banter, No Barter, No Quarter, a trio that in combination showed Berek's duel with Reis and, to work properly, had to be played one after the other in order. Crew cards were often unique to each faction, but crew could change factions over time as their stories progressed, like Mike Fitzpatrick who starts as a captive working for the Corsairs and later escapes, joining the Montaigne as a free man. When Black Sails came out it was revealed that one of Berek's crew, William Toss, had come back from his watery grave and joined the undead pirate team. Nor were the Sea Dogs the only ones affected; every faction who'd lost a crewman discovered that someone they thought was gone for good had returned, including Captain Gosse's nephew, Thomas.

This was just catnip to someone like me, who loves a good story told well. Not only did I want to get cards that helped my deck, I also wanted to get cards that recounted the part of the tale I was interested in. I'm sure someone out there was deeply invested in the Explorers' little side quest but that someone wasn't me. I wanted tragedy and Gothic horror, so anything to do with Captain Necros and his Black Freighter was aces in my book, even if I never used the cards in a deck.

Then Necros killed off Gosse and his Gentlemen, and everything went to hell in a handbasket.

Here's how it happened. The publishers of 7th Sea, Alderac Entertainment Group, held regular tournaments; huge, continuity-changing events that decided what would be the next big thing in the storyline. At these tourneys a faction was "marked for death" and dropped from the next expansion, depending on the result of the tournament. That was how Berek ended up on the wrong end of Reis' hook. It wasn't as permanent as it sounds; the Sea Dogs had to wait a while before they got new cards, but they did get some eventually. This time out, Gosse had faced off against Necros in the revenge fight of the century and died, as did many of his crew.

That lit a fire under the fan base the like of which I've rarely seen. Gosse fans were just like me; they wanted more swashbuckling shenanigans from their hero, but without any love in the next expansion, they weren't going to see new faction cards. They walked out en masse, feeling betrayed. The game they'd sunk a lot of time and money into had turned on them, and it didn't matter that eventually things would get better. Things right then were shit. It was small consolation that AEG had written the narrative such that Captain Necros had also "died," to be replaced by Comte Robert Méchant. Philip Gosse was gone. They weren't invested any more.

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