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miniature review Morning Star: From the Team Fleet Challenge to M R Challenge #5 - A Ship for All (major) Nations!

Miniature Review
Morning Star: click to enlarge
Morning Star

Miniature text:

Eliminate one of this ship’s masts when she rolls a 1 on any cannon roll.

When the pirate crew of the Morning Star were captured by the Spanish fleet, they were hung from the yardarm, after which the ship was sold to a merchant who ignored the captain’s cries for new guns and provided clean, new sails instead.

  • Collector's Number: 205
  • Faction Affiliation: Spain
  • Rarity: LE
  • Type: Ship
  • Point Value: 9
  • Cargo Space: 6
  • Base Move: S+S
  • Cannons: 3S, 4S, 4S, 4S, 4S
  • Number of Masts: 5
Morning Star
From the Team Fleet Challenge to M R Challenge #5 - A Ship for All (major) Nations!

written by  Premium Member LV5
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General description:
The Pirates CSG (by this time, branded as Pirates of the Cursed Seas) brought its patrons the saga of a ship so intricate that it would take six iterations to tell, one such iteration for the ship's time as a member of each of the games six "major factions". Her saga, as it were, is made almost of the stuffs of classic tragic plays: captured in her maiden voyage (by her sworn enemy, nonetheless), at one point left to die on foreign shores, eventually doomed to eternal servitude to the nefarious Cursed. In the middle of this play, our leading lady, after assuming the life of a Pirate's warship, found herself rescued from the hands of her roguish crew by the Spanish, who'd give her a new lease on life under the ownership of a private merchant. This is where my review shall take place, a reflection on the Spanish career of the Morning Star , the tragic leading lady of the Fire & Steel expansion!

It is at this time that the review's author shall request a slight pause for a moment of personal confession. Some years ago, playing in a group who preferred large-scale 'death match' style games, a ship like this was simply lost on the young-ish man who possessed it. Sure, it was large. And, it was dirt cheap for being as large as it was. It also drew the misfortune of lining up against battle-royal stalwarts like the HMS Titan and the Enterprise , who by comparison, made a ship with only modestly-ranked, short-range guns, and with a serious drawback to firing said guns, seem inadequate at any price. Indeed, it was the folly of that young man to simply run this ship ahead of his main force, hoping to bait his enemy into taking the easy first shot, then swarming the opposing fleet while this proud ship soaked up the initial damage. In that respect, the author can attest, the Morning Star performed respectably. It wasn't until later, in a smaller game that actually used coins, that the youth's 'Eureka!' moment came to be, that he was sitting on the most versatile gold ship in his fledgling fleet!

As a runner, the Spanish Morning Star is simply phenomenal - a ship who is built durably, but has the speed and maneuverability to traverse tricky situations and escape capture. Add in a spacious cargo hold and the wide array of treasure-seeking Spanish crew, and you've got yourself a gold runner that, frankly, isn't too concerned about your opponents' combat capabilities! It is in this light that the ship's true beauty shines forth, giving you options in the gold game not previously thought of, and cheaply enough that she won't hinder a player from spending on a more suitable flagship for their fleet.

Strategies and game play:
Obviously, the Morning Star (Spanish) is not built like a typical 5-mast ship in terms of game mechanics. Only a handful of pieces this size carry such a minuscule point total with them as to be in the conversation of 'cheapest 5-mast ship', a category decisively won by this ship's point cost of 9. The low total is equal parts blessing and curse, for as much room as it allows you to build around this ship, the Morning Star's own brilliance and versatility are stunted by the inability to truly make the most of the unique crew selections offered her.

With such a limitation, it would stand to reason that this ship is simply not meant to be used as a primary gun ship. Her cannons are not so terrible as to be unusable, but the combination of said cannons' ranks and the ship's unique ability (the only Morning Star iteration to suffer a negative ability) make it especially challenging to use this ship for combat, even assuming the obligatory 're-roller' crew. In the back of the player's mind, it would serve to remind them that any 2, 3, or 4 rolled to miss with a shot could be retried, but at the risk of the result changing to a 1, and eliminating a mast from this very ship!

Yes, perhaps this ship is not built for your standard, move-and-shoot style of combat, but she's far from incompetent in the art. As a 5-masted ship, eliminating masts from her on a ram is a trick, and felling her in a single shoot action is a tall order. If kept intact, boarding parties against her face steep odds at success. As these three facts lie in the theoretical realm, and require no die roll to hold true, the Spanish Morning Star has the unique distinction of being a ship built to play defense in combat, and if done well, can throw even seasoned opponents for a loop!

Naturally, this ship's easiest fit is as a gold runner. Though she might lack the ability to run with the outright fastest, she's more than capable in the speed department. Crewing her to run is a far easier task, eased by the gold-seeking leanings of several of Spain's more useful named crew. As a runner, she also makes a very visible target. If pursued by enemy gunners, this ship can cause nightmares for players having bad luck rolling, and in that respect, she could provide more than ample distraction for your other ships to collect relatively threat-free until your lead is practically insurmountable. Additionally, adding a gold runner with this much resiliency is a boon, especially in the 40-50 pt game range, where you aren't likely to find a fleet of 5-masted gunships running her down.

Combos with other miniatures:
...With a little help from my friends - Normally, a ship of such stature would be looked upon to stand alone in a fleet, or at least to help cover for smaller pieces. In a novel way, her diminished point total actually affords to the ability to build her cover into your fleet! With flotillas, such as Armada , a very lethal threat is always close for a ship that wants to harass the Morning Star in her travels. Additionally, a ship like El Garante might make an especially troublesome escort for your opponents' designs, as hit-and-run assaults to this ship's bow could be swiftly addressed!

Additionally, the combo of Admiral Alarico Castro and Duque Marcus Vaccaro can greatly improve the odds the Morning Star moving 6S in a turn, sending her hopping from island to island at break-neck speeds!

Say it again, why y'all... - Speed is a universal solvent, much like success is a great deodorant. If you can move twice as fast as originally projected, the potential lies to upset the timing of a counter response to your plans. The Spanish have a variety of crew that present you with this unique chance, ranging in cost from the pricey (but worthwhile) Victor de Alva to the cost efficient Capitan Alarico Castro .

Somewhere someone Special just for me... - On the subject of generic crew, 'Specialist' crews are often overlooked in favor of those with more straightforward abilities, particularly those aligned with a ship's most basic needs. On a ship like the Morning Star, however, the opportunity for two of these crew to shine is readily apparent. A well-aimed shot from a Chainshot Specialist (in conjunction with an extra action) will afford the time your runner needs to escape pursuit. Also, in terrain-heavy games or games with closely spaced islands, a Smokepot Specialist provides two pronounced positives: being able to cut off a direct line of pursuit, and doing so without chancing a cannon roll!

Hi, my name is... Dominic Freda... unless it's Dominick Freda...
At any rate, just about any version (and either spelling) of this relocated Italian treasure hunter will turn your Morning Star into a floating vault. Whether your preference is for gold, and more gold , that the gold just be worth more than meets the eye , or if you'd just like to get it home that much quicker , Dom's the guy to cure what ails ya!

In a similar manner, take into account the curious case of Master Bianco , and / or Bianco's Haulers . Either version of one will link with either version of the other, saving the only problem being the Savage Shores' Master Bianco weighing in at 7 points... a problem only partially remedied by Inquisitor Sebastian Blanco .

I wake up and go get me some new money... - Fernando Sanchez offers you another unique visual for your Pirates gaming experience - the ability to just roll up with a 5-mast ship to your opponent's Home Island, take a treasure, and steal away like it was just another trip to a wild island somewhere. Especially useful if the players' respective Home Islands are close to each other, or when round-earth rules allow for multiple angles of escape.

Money, get away... - All right, it's low hanging fruit. But I'd be remiss if not to point out that Spanish ships, and this particular Morning Star is that in every way, benefit greatly when Blood Money is in play! Even if the island is full of 1 point coins, if your opponent has no Spanish ships and you do, those coins are just waiting for a good time for you to collect them and go home. Playing with a set total of coins in quantity/value only heighten the potential value of this play, as more unique treasures added to a player's pool only serve to increase the numerical value of the gold-value coins in that pool.

...And leave the rest to me - For a lightning-round of oddball selections that struck my fancy:
Silver Explorer s are another wonderful way to improve your odds of getting an edge in the gold collection phase of a game. Roberto Santana fits nicely aboard this ship with an explorer and helmsman, and ensures that a lucky ship in your fleet is firing that much more accurately when called upon to do so. Rollando can quickly become the worst enemy of any ship carrying beneficial unique treasures, and gives you an excuse to use the Morning Star moreso as an oversized torpedo than a ship. Joaquin Vega will make an unharmed Morning Star that much harder to harm. Lastly, consider Comandante Antonio de Silva 's Broadsides ability, as it nullifies the negative unique of the Morning Star herself.

Ways to counteract it:
As with all runners, the best way to handle the Spanish Morning Star is to simply keep pace with a sure-firing gun ship and start blasting. Fire masts add an extra element of excitement to games involving this ship, as you can bet any chance at re-rolling a die roll would first be expended on keeping the fires in check, allowing you more freedom to continue a multi-turn siege. Flotillas with Extended Range can wreak havoc on the Morning Star and again, in games with more congested play areas, could very well cut off an entire route or two for the Spanish 5-master to travel. One must also be wary of ships that eliminate two masts with a hit. Ships like the HMS Endeavour are a threat to anything that moves, and the Morning Star's best defense against them is never to fall within their shadow.

- Cheapest 5-mast ship in the game
- A negative ability that gives focus to her strengths, rather than outright detracts from her usefulness
- Spacious cargo hold
- Great conversation piece for fans of the game, and a great ship flavor-wise in general

- Moderate guns are held back slightly by the risk of rolling 1s
- Nothing 'over the top' in her statistics, save for the point total, which deny you the ability for high-point crew setups aboard her
- An easily visible target for your opponent
- The iteration of this ship most ill-suited to combat scenarios

Artwork and aesthetics:
Yet another chance to stress her unique place in the Pirates CSG world, the Spanish Morning Star's artwork differs from that of any other Spanish 5-master, in that... the Spanish Morning Star is an English 5-master! Her lines are clean, her blue / white paint job is striking. Truly, the Spanish merchant did a great job of fixing her up from her previous state . Additionally, it's a fun flavor note to point out the blue stars on the main sails, located in the lower-right of each of the three middle masts. When the ship faces south, the stars hang low and to the right, mimicking the eastern position of a sunrise, a clever nod to the ship's name!

Overall rating:
Mechanically, it's tough for me to give a ship that just isn't feasible in a certain aspect of the game higher than a 7, and even that feels a little high, given just how daunting her restrictions can be in certain lights. Still, I am a fan of what this ship CAN do, which is still quite a lot, and I'm a huge fan of pieces that are so rich in flavor that merely placing them on the board enhances the back story of a game, so 7/10 is where I will ultimately land on this!

When the pirate crew of the Morning Star were captured by the Spanish fleet, they were hung from the yardarm, after which the ship was sold to a merchant who ignored the captain’s cries for new guns and provided clean, new sails instead.
What can I say, some times, you've just gotta work within your budget, right?


Modified on February 18, 2018 07:29 pm

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a7xfanben Premium Member
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Member since
June 27, 2011
Subject:    Posted: August 31, 2017 07:12 am Reply with quote Report content icon

I feel like the gold running option should have been the focus of the strategies and gameplay section, since almost nobody is going to use this ship strictly as a gunship. You get into gunship combos without emphasizing how best to use the ship until later. (the Uses section covered it a bit but the gold focus wasn't truly clear until the combos section)

I'm a little surprised you didn't mention the combo with BC Castro and Vaccaro pairing with a helmsman to give 6S speed rather often. You've seen how good that can be, though the rest of the combos section is good.

I think the "easily visible target" part in the cons section is far more of a strength - this is one of the most durable gold runners in the game without being more expensive than much smaller options like the La Monarca and El San Jose (hint competition section ). (and you mention it being a distraction as a good thing earlier in the review)

Do you have any pictures of the ship from your games? Note that the card gallery picture is just the deckplate, and I can't even find a picture of the ship on the eBay listing. Not your fault that almost nobody has built it of course, but I think having a picture of the ship within the review would make it stand out a lot, as she is a pretty ship. You can even have the picture link to a battle report using the MS. Also since most people (including me) don't own the ship, consider replacing the current database picture with your own picture of the constructed ship.

I would give this ship a 9/10. I don't understand knocking a ship for not being viable for fighting or getting gold. Again (similar to another comment on an MR), where does that leave the Banshee's Cry? She's so bad at combat that she can't get more than a 5? She has to be a 10. It's not like HMS Dover is a better ship than the BC just because she's infinitely better at being a hybrid.

All in all though, great review. I'd probably give it about a 4.3 for now, but it can become a 5 with some tweaks. (I'm getting a little tougher on my MR ratings because a 5 is reserved for perfection (or very close to it, such as a 4.5 rounding up) and these ratings are less subjective than the ones for fleets)

PS: That might be the longest subtitle on a Miniature Review!
Back to top Modified on August 31, 2017 07:14 am 
repkosai Premium Member
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Subject:    Posted: August 31, 2017 05:42 pm Reply with quote Report content icon

Firstly, I wish to thank you for the feedback! As always, it is greatly appreciated.

Perhaps I was a little lax in the amount of time I spent on the Morning Star as a gold runner, for this I do apologize. Her purpose as such a ship seems such a natural fit to me, I suppose I simply got too wrapped up in the matter of finding other uses for her, and trying to be as diverse as possible in showing examples of complimentary pairings. I sincerely apologize for not making a direct mention of the combo of Alarico Castro of any rank, and of Vaccaro. It was in my head, and I'd considered the Admiral as counted among the plethora of EA crews noted in the 'Combos..' section, but it was a serious omission of mine not to list them in the review. In the spirit of the contest, I shall wait until judging is over to correct this error, but rest assured, it is noted, and will be rectified.

One of the major issues I had writing this overall was the 'double-edged sword' nature of the Morning Star's defining characteristics. Indeed, the major argument I've heard in favor of htis particular iteration's playability is something I see as more of a downside, her reduced point cost. After all, for only three points more, you upgrade to the Aberdeen Baron, who has no drawbacks for firing the same ranked cannonry, and offers a built-in Explorer keyword.

Perhaps I could elaborate on my rating? In the comparison to the Banshee's Cry, I could easily see the Cry receiving a 9/10, as even uncrewed, she moves roughly 2" farther a turn than the Morning Star, allows for less area for gun ships to attack, and is every bit as able to clear off an island, considering a traditional 4 coin allotment. While the Morning Star is a personal favorite of mine (and I won't dismiss that my rating might be a touch harsh to offset personal preferences), her assets, on their own merit, are simply too middling for me to give a much higher rating, especially given that the limited point total really handicaps the options laid available for improvement via crew/equipment (i.e. the Bianco difficulty).
Back to top Modified on August 31, 2017 05:43 pm 
a7xfanben Premium Member
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Subject:    Posted: September 1, 2017 03:59 am Reply with quote Report content icon

No need to apologize, it's just something I noticed with the review. I do understand trying to find unconventional combos for ships, as I sometimes enjoy doing that as well.

I did see the SM version of Castro mentioned but since you've used the BC version so effectively in our games (on this ship no less) I was surprised to not see that combo with him Vaccaro and a helmsman, especially since it is a good combo!

One of the major issues I had writing this overall was the 'double-edged sword' nature of the Morning Star's defining characteristics. Indeed, the major argument I've heard in favor of htis particular iteration's playability is something I see as more of a downside, her reduced point cost. After all, for only three points more, you upgrade to the Aberdeen Baron, who has no drawbacks for firing the same ranked cannonry, and offers a built-in Explorer keyword.

Yes, this is very interesting and gives us insight as to why the review turned out this way. (one of your favorite ships but it doesn't always sound like that from the review)

It's funny, I usually view negative abilities as a positive because they drive down the point cost. As important as speed is, there's nothing like discounted game pieces that allow you to fit other stuff into your fleet for free. The way I see it, the MS can have a helmsman and explorer for those 3 points the Baron costs, giving her the same end cargo and explorer keyword but with 50% faster speed. Admittedly, you'd much rather have the MS's negative ability on a small ship since theoretically you won't be firing the cannons as much. However, in this case I think it barely matters. The ship's cargo, speed, and point cost are all perfect for using the ship as a large treasure runner, so combat is not nearly as important as it is to most 5 masters. Without that negative ability giving her a niche (gold running 5 master) and driving the cost down, the MS wouldn't be nearly as unique and might cost 12 or 13 points.

Another Mourning Star is an example of a cheap 5 master that doesn't really work. The base stats are so bad (low cargo for the size, and the worst base move in the game) that it's tough to use her effectively. The Spanish MS has TWICE the cargo and TWICE the speed for 1 less point, and the Cursed MS isn't really even overpriced!

especially given that the limited point total really handicaps the options laid available for improvement via crew/equipment (i.e. the Bianco difficulty).

It's funny, because I see this "con" as another strength. It's almost always best for treasure runners to be as cheap as possible, because you don't usually need or even want more than a helmsman and/or explorer aboard. Even with Spain's plethora of great named crew, 9 points is plenty to work with when you consider how quickly the big cargo hold will be filled up. As you've seen, the combo of either version of Castro, along with Vaccaro and a helmsman (and possibly explorer if using SM Castro) is fantastic for this ship. That comes in at just 14 or 16 points and leaves you with 4 open cargo spaces. Either version of Freda plus a helmsman is another fantastic option. I would also never bother using equipment on this ship, or use many combat crew. Spain did get shafted on 5 masters a little, but between the Big 2 and their great 4 masters, they have plenty of ships for the war-hungry crew to serve on. Finally, SS Bianco is great but a bit difficult to fit into smaller games. Either way, I think a ship like the Buscador is the perfect ship for him. More points and cargo to work with, and the Buscador is more likely to need the Secret Hold because she's slower and smaller than the MS, and therefore more susceptible to boarding parties.
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Subject:    Posted: November 19, 2017 07:36 pm Reply with quote Report content icon

Ben has already touched on most of my concerns, so I'll leave those where they are. However even though I'm a fan of longer reviews, this one felt a little too long. I feel that the part where you talk about how to use it as a potential gunship could be dropped, since who would use this as a gunship? Dropping that little but in the beginning of the strategies and use section and making room for a competition section would help i think, since not many five mast ships can claim to be good gold runners, and even fewer nine point ships can be as good.
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