As a lead-up to the release of the Cursed Isles, the 2008 Halloween events featured a riddle- and cryptogram-based puzzle. The solution to this puzzle eventually revealed that Vargas the Mad was plotting some spell that would destroy life on the oceans. Foiled by the pirates who solved his riddles, he instead turned to creating the cursed isles.
The Cursed Isles were released to production oceans on November 19th, 2008. Cursed Isles are a type of sea monster hunt, similar to Atlantis, albeit with some significant differences. For example, boarding battles are rumble instead of swordfighting, enemies are other ships rather than sea monsters, and the primary means of earning treasure is significantly different. Also, the board is designed to make it possible for small ships (sloops and cutters for example) to actively and successfully participate while simultaneously discouraging larger ships (baghlah and above).
Maps to the cursed isles are similar to Atlantis maps, which are in the form of special charts (as seen to the left). Cursed Isle maps are obtainable from pillaging battles, defeating skellies and zombies, or found in a black box. They can be traded between players as normal. They mark a route between an island and a unique league point, which are similar to flotilla league point markers, except that they cannot be memorized. To chart a course to a cursed isle, the chart must be placed on the ship's navigation table. Charts are "locked" to the navigation table while a route is charted to a cursed isle league point.
All vessels start in one of the entrance zones at the right-hand end of the board. Recent modifications do not allow ships to hop out and change the side they start on any more.
The sea battle board
The sea battle board for an attack on a cursed isle is essentially similar to other multi-ship sea battle boards, with several notable differences. Firstly, and most obviously, the board is much darker than other boards - it has been cursed, and is now under a permanent pallor of night. Secondly, much of the board is covered by a noxious green fog. Pirates on ships passing through this fog will suffer horrible nightmarish visions, reducing their effectiveness at duty stations, and the ship itself will take damage. Fog, however, does not affect bot ships. Thirdly, treasure hauling is not possible on a cursed isle board. This means that even if a player ship is carrying PoE in the booty chest and sinks, a wreck will not appear.
As the ship enters the fog, the following message is displayed:
- The crew inhales the noxious fog, and starts to lose fine motor control.
Periodically while inside the fog, the following messages are displayed:
- With continued exposure to the fog, the crew begins to see terrifying visions that distract them from their duties.
- The visions become increasingly grotesque with more time in the miasma, and the crew spends as much time shrieking in fear as they do on their duties.
- The hallucinations reduce the crew to doing little more than cowering on deck.
As the ship leaves the fog, pirates will start to recover:
- A ration of rum dispels the worst of the visions and allows the crew to operate at greatly reduced capacity.
- A confidence bolstering round of drinks restores some sanity to the crew.
- The crew feel nearly up to braving the Cursed Isle after a mighty helping of rum.
When pirates are completely recovered:
- Another draft from the rum kegs chases away the last ill effects of the vile fog.
Lastly, the sea battle board also includes cursed whirlpools, which travel in the opposite direction to normal whirlpools - that is, counter-clockwise rather than clockwise.
The fog does not seem to be random; it appears to be created by "generators". These come in a variety of sizes, such as 2x9 or 3x4; some "drift", or random edge coverage is also present. These generators seem to be created inside the "perma-fog" over the island, and move at a speed of one per three turns to one per turn (turn = 35 second, 4 movement impulses). Most move down the map to the shallow end; at the far end, some move sideways.
Under feedback from players stating that the fog seemed easy enough to understand, the developers have increased the randomness of the fog movements from when observations were first made. It comes in smaller patches that move more erratically (converging occasionally to create larger banks), but these patches still tend not to move more than one square away from the island at a time. The only exceptions come from wisps that now trail along the edges of the fog banks occasionally, which are seemingly more erratic.
In one battle, the "fire" maneuver special seemed to "burn away" the fog -- the fog that was generated for two turns was slightly smaller than expected, and the fog bank/generator seemed to move sideways AWAY from the fire in addition to the normal "shallow-er" movement. This needs additional testing.
The Cursed Isle
The focus of the cursed isle board is the isle itself, referred to as "the gauntlet". The island is located towards the back of the sea battle board, and furthest from the entrance zone, and it is always surrounded by the noxious fog. Sailing the ship into the bay at the south-east side of the island automatically starts the process of acquiring treasures. All pirates on the ship disembark, and stand on the island. If there are multiple ships on the board, more than one ship can enter the gauntlet; however, only one ship can enter the gauntlet in a given turn. Pirates of each ship will not be able to see each other once they have landed. When the pirates make land, the following message is displayed on the screen:
- Ye land on the island, but an angry mob of its inhabitants stands between ye and yer rightful plunderin'!
After a short wait, a horde of zombies arrives to attack the group of pirates, with one or more Enlightened Ones to lead them. The zombies rumble, like normal zombies, and always arrive with the same number of zombies as pirates, but are generally easy to defeat. Any zombies who boarded the ship on its way to the island disembark and join the zombies from the island in the first fray. Once the first fray is done, the following message is displayed on the screen:
- With the islanders subdued, ye may forage their riches till they return.
Pirates are automatically sent into the foraging puzzle to forage for treasure. Instead of foraging for crates of fruit, pirates will find chests of treasures. After a short period of foraging, the enemy forces regroup for another attack, only this time, pirates are assaulted by a group of cultists, who swordfight using spears. The number of cultists is a small amount greater than the number of zombies previously faced. When the cultists are defeated, all of the chests found during the previous foraging session are transferred to the vessel's hold. After this, foraging resumes.
This pattern continues. After a period of foraging, the zombies attack again, with slightly greater numbers and slightly more skill than before, then the cultists attack once more, again with greater numbers and more skill. At any time, the captain of the vessel may order the pirates to return to the vessel - this means that the next time the pirates would be attacked, they instead return to the ship, with the treasure they have hauled so far. Alternately, the pirates may lose the fray, in which case, they are returned to their ship, but lose the majority of the treasure they hauled in the previous session. All treasures hauled in sessions followed by a successful fray however are safe from the vengeful natives.
When the zombies arrive, two of the Enlightened Ones chant the first two lines of one set of quotes, and if Vargas is in the group, he adds the third line in the quote, from the following:
When cultists arrive, two of them shout one message each:
During the forage, when another group of enemies is approaching, the screen displays:
- Look lively! The cultists are regrouping for another attack!
When the group arrives, the following message comes up:
- A larger group of islanders approaches, intent on driving ye back to the sea. Ye stop yer foraging to decide between making yer escape and preparing for the onslaught.
After a short grace period (where foragers can make final clears, and the officer in charge is allowed to make a decision whether or not to stay) a duty report for the foraging session is posted and the next fray (or getting back onto the boat) begins shortly after.
From the 3rd rumble fray onwards, Vargas the Mad will take part. He will attack using rumble as normal. If he is present in the fray, he will issue a challenge after the Enlightened Ones deliver their lines.
If his side loses the fray, he cries:
- "Woe me brethren! The Blasted Spheres of Chthonikka lay shattered about us!"
If he wins, he gloats:
- "HeHEheHEhe! Oh the bitter bite, the bitiest of bitters, yer failure has left the darkness all a' twitter!"
In addition, some cultists in a swordfighting fray may occasionally be replaced by homunculi. Homunculi are animate but lifeless beings created via secret means. They are immensely strong, and fight using uprooted trees as weapons. Homunculi send powerful attacks; however, as the trees are essentially large sticks, they have a very basic drop pattern that only sends blocks of one color. It is simple to defeat, given the right breakers. Homunculi give no special challenge message on arrival.
- Main article: Foraging
The foraging puzzle is played in exactly the same way it is when foraging for fruits, except that it is always unrated, and the crates of fruit are replaced by chests containing treasure. There are three sizes of chest - a 1x1 bone box, a 2x2 fetish jar, and a 3x2 cursed chest.
At the end of each foraging session, a duty report is generated which shows performance of all pirates to the whole ship, unlike the regular foraging report. It is similar to a Treasure Haul duty report in that it shows icons of what chests each person hauled, and displays the total haul during that foraging session at the top.
To reflect the fact that the foraging is performed with a time limit, the foraging report also has its own performance rankings based on the number of chests collected. In this scoring system, a bone box is worth 1 point, a fetish jar is worth 2 points and a cursed chest is worth 3 points. The rankings and points required — from highest to lowest, are:
- Frenetic — 15 points and up
- Swift — 12 to 14 points
- Brisk — 9 to 11 points
- Steady — 6 to 8 points
- Lethargic — 3 to 5 points
- Asleep — 0 to 2 points
Roaming all over the sea battle board, cursed versions of the standard player ships may be found. These ships appear to have all of the same abilities and performance as their equivalents found within flotillas, and their names appear in red.
Enlightened Ones and zombies
As well as the standard ships, small rafts swarm around the battle board all of which are entitled "Raft of the Dead". Instead of turning in an arc like other ships do, rafts always turn on the spot, and can even perform an about-face. They may also perform double-forward moves. These rafts take only one small cannonball to sink them, and they have no offensive capability of their own, but the danger comes in the passengers of the ship, rather than the ship itself.
When a raft ends any part of its move phase in a square directly adjacent to that of the players vessel (diagonally not included), the raft sinks, but its occupants board the ship. If the ship has no Enlightened Ones present on the ship, every raft that boards on that turn will contain an Enlightened One, and in some cases, an additional zombie. If an Enlightened One is present then all rafts will contain zombies, scaled to the size of the ship. This causes a boarding phase with a challenge thrown to a player and a hindrance to the station of that player as well. Players may engage the zombies in one-on-one combat, or may volunteer to join a group defense effort.
It is of an advantage to know, that all zombies will only use fists during rumble. Thus, if every Enlightened One is defeated, all zombies will attack with the same pattern, which makes it easier to keep multiple attackers in check.
Although similar to dragoons from Atlantis, there are two major differences. Firstly, like all zombies, they fight using rumble. Secondly, the rumble board starts with an equal hindrance on both sides (approximately 1/2 max damage if it were a pillage) to cut down on the time spent dealing with the boarders. Even then, the rumble boarders are tough opponents. They may not be quite as deadly as the atlantean dragoons for a GM+ rumbler compared to a GM+ sword fighter, but they are very difficult to kill and take substantial time to knock off all the same.
While on the cursed isle sea battle board, pirates at stations may contribute towards maneuver tokens, in the same way as Atlantis, flotillas and blockades. However, as well as the standard four tokens, pirates in the cursed isle board may produce a fifth token. The token causes zombies to fight for you instead of against you.
The silver version of the token will remove attacking zombies from the ship. The golden version, however, will turn any zombies on the ship into Thralls, each beholden to a specific pirate on the ship. However, the token does not convert Enlightened Ones to thralls, nor does it knock off all the boarders on the ship. Typically, the silver token takes out two boarders, while the golden token takes out approximately 5 (there is some variance) and gives between 1-4 thralls (depending on the Enlightened to zombie ratio of the boarding party).
In future swordfights and rumbles, be it on the ship or at the island, the thralls will fight with you, using a stick and bare fists. However, if the owner of the thrall is not fighting in a ship boarding fray (say, not chosen, or does not volunteer) the thrall does not appear to fight in the ship either. If the thrall is ever eliminated during combat, he will vanish from the ship. Note that full-ship boarding battles will commence when there are the same number of attackers as pirates on a ship, just as normal, meaning any thralls on board will count as extra fighters on behalf of the defenders.
Cursed Isle exclusives
Certain clothing items, trinkets, furniture items, and mugs can only be obtained during an attack on the Cursed Isles. Some of these items are given out in the hauled treasure chests and some are given upon the ship sinking.
In addition to being able to obtain numerous standard clothing items in the Cursed Isle-exclusive color, indigo, Enlightened Masks are given out in both male and female as prize items from the hauled treasure chests. These are just a few examples. It is also possible to win an indigo chroma, which may be used to change a single color on a single item of clothing to indigo.
- Main article: List of Cursed Isle furniture
Certain Cursed Isle-themed furniture items can only be obtained from treasure chests in the Cursed Isles. Normal furniture items in indigo may also be found.
Cursed Isle-themed trinkets and other standard trinkets are available from treasure chests.
Cursed Isle mugs are also available. So far, the only one known is the Cursed Chalice, which gives +30 points when chugging, makes you drunk faster, and does not require adjacent piece placement, similar to the Chalice. Chalices also have an option to drink from them, which temporarily colors your face, similar to a Cultist. The new face only lasts for one log in at a time.
Though the serpent was initially released before the introduction of CIs, and was a mystery gift prize during the All Hallows' Spooktacular Promotion, CIs are presently the only method in-game in which a serpent can be obtained since release 2009-05-27.
- See Sea Monster Hunt booty division in the booty article
In the two weeks between the beginning of Ice testing and the release to production the island design team was tasked with creating a variety of islands and beachheads to be used in the game. Only some islands were included with the initial release; the rest were added with Release 2008-12-16. The following islands were all available at that time.
In March 2010, the winning islands from the The Cursed Isle Challenge island design contest were added to the game. These included 10 small, 5 medium, and 3 large islands. These are shown below:
The following island, used during Ice testing, is not used on production oceans.
- Cursed isles were first released on the Ice Ocean on November 4th, 2008.
- Cursed isles were released into production oceans on November 19th, 2008 under Release 2008-11-19
- Vargas and the Homunculi were added in Release 2009-02-04.
- Cursed isles maps were changed to be distinguished from Atlantis maps by icon under Release 2009-05-27.
- Cursed Isle Introduction
- List of known Cursed Isle words
- List of known Cursed Isle terminology
- Zarchi's Cursed Island Guide
- Disaresta's Cursed Isles Guide
- A fullsize view of the beachhead on the isle
- Commonly discussed ideas from Game Design
- Spanish article: Islas Malditas
|Atlantis Explorers Across:|
|Barbarian Lovers Across:|
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|Cursed Isles Attackers Across:|
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|Flotilla Hunters Across:|
|Haunted Seas Explorers Across:|
|Hearts Players Across:|
|Memming Players Across:|
|United Pillagers Across:|
|Skellie Hunters Across:|
|Spades Players Across:|
|Werewolf Hunters Across:|
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