For as long as there has been sea-going commerce, there has been piracy. Anyone who has ever sailed on the ocean knows how very empty the horizon can appear, and how vast an expanse of water lies between a ship and the safety of port. That solitude, in conjunction with the relative slowness of commercial shipping and the lawlessness of the open ocean, produced perfect conditions for the rise of piracy.
The so-called “Golden Age” of piracy spanned the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and coincided with the development of speedier, more manoeuvrable ships and the emergence of European colonialism. Colonies in the New World, Africa, and the Far East were producing valuable goods that were then shipped by sea to the European nations; these relatively slow, heavily-laden and often minimally-defended merchantmen were far too tempting a target for pirates to ignore.
The new Playmobil Pirates were due to arrive in August 2008, but true to their piratical ways, have arrived early and without warning! First in the line-up is the completely rebuilt Pirate Ship, #4290. She is ready to fool any unsuspecting merchant ship into allowing her to come within striking distance, for her long guns cleverly swivel out of sight, her figurehead of a grinning skull can be instantly changed for an unassuming carved scroll, and her Jolly Roger flag lies hidden within a tube atop the mainmast. She carries a crew of four scurvy buccaneers, two monkeys, a parrot, and all the equipment and loot that a successful pirate needs. CDN$99.99
Every sailer faces the risk of shipwreck, and those raft-building skills definitely came in handy for the two pirates in #4291, Pirates and Octopus. Not only do they face the danger of the open water, however, but also the giant (and angry) octopus who attacks their flimsy craft. Both raft and octopus float, and the pirates have a full complement of weaponry (pistols, muskets, cutlasses, and sword) plus a grog-bottle and an empty sea-chest to lash to the raft. CDN$20.99
After a hard day’s work looting, nothing spells relaxation like counting those pieces of eight. Set #4292, Pirates with Barrels, provides four more pirates for the crew (including a tanned lady pirate in a fetching lace-up bustier and breeches) and all their swag — gold bricks, coins, and precious gems. CDN$17.99
What is an escapade without a mastermind? #4293 provides the Pirate Captain, a full-fledged ruffian in a dashing scarlet coat with gold epaulettes and braided trim. He is hard at work planning the next attack, with his map, sextant, and compass. CDN$5.49
The obligatory good guys are provided by #4294, Soldier Fortress with Lighthouse — three vaguely conquistador-like soldiers in a stone lighthouse tower (beacon requires two AAA batteries, not included.) They don’t look as though they’d be any match for the pirates, quite frankly … especially since they don’t have a ship of their own. (Maybe the pirate ship in its “good” incarnation would work for them?) CDN$51.99
Last of all is #4295, Treasure Transporter with Rowboat. These two soldiers appear to be out rowing around with a large chest full of coins and two small kegs of … something (drinking water, perhaps?) Talk about inviting trouble! CDN$12.99
One final note: September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Mark it on your calendar now, matey — you know what to do. Arrrrgggghhhh!