The latest trend that’s threatening to make the leap from geek-culture (my home base) into the mainstream is something called the “Constructible Strategy Game” or “CSG.” This is basically a hybrid of role-playing games (think “Dungeons and Dragons”), collectible card games (think “Pokemon” or “Yu-Gi-Oh”) and good old-fashioned model kit building. The “CSG” that blazed the trail for the phenomenon is called “Pirates Of The Spanish Main”. Made by Wiz Kids, the folks behind the popular MechWarrior and HeroClix games, and introduced just a year-and-a-half ago, this game is a work of pure genius.

In each pack of cards (four bucks at most stores) you get enough pieces to play a short game. As you accumulate more cards, you can expand the game, build fleets and play with more complex rules. The kicker here is that the cards are plastic, and you punch out pieces that you assemble into tiny pirate ships. You actually play on a table top, using the assembled ships as playing pieces. It’s like a ‘build-it-yourself” version of “Risk” or “Stratego.” Building these things can be addictive. I’m hooked, and I have yet to even try to actually play the game. I just love assembling the little ships. They look really cool when put together, and if you’re cramped for space, they can be disassembled and put back into the cards.

I’ve been getting these for a few weeks. They’re a great way to pass a few stray minutes, and if you’re into gaming, they’re a cool new twist. And they’ve been very successful. Wiz Kids is preparing to release the fourth new edition of the Pirates line, “Pirates of the South China Sea,” next month, with a fifth edition scheduled for May. There are now other CSGs like “Rocketmen,” with cool Flash Gordon-type rocketships, and “Race Day,” a NASCAR racing game.

Locally, there must be loads of folks who are into these things. All the stores that carry them seem to sell out very quickly. That’s one reason why I think these are poised to cross over into the mainstream. The fact that they’re so damned cool is another. There are weekly Pirates tournaments every Wednesday at Treasures in the Kanawha Mall. Call (304) 925-9090 for more details. You can find the cards at Target, Wal Mart, K Mart, Toys R Us, Hobby World and most area hobby card shops. This could be a big trend in 2006. Or at least a cool way to pass the time and yell “Arrrrrrr” a lot.