Until Games Workshop decides to develop a historical system based on pirates then best thing we have going, in terms of rules are those from Flagship Games. Their system is very fun and the world quite open. If you can imagine a Turkish fleet versus a Viking Fleet versus a Pirate fleet then it can happen! Semi-submersibles, gliders and even dirigibles are covered in their rules. Be sure to check their pirates store page for all of the boat models they make, they even make sea monsters! There are plenty of pirate miniatures to choose from but they prefer it if you do business with their good friends over at Redoubt Enterprises.
If you are looking for more pirate miniatures there are always dozens upon dozens available from the Foundry. They even sell a small, easy to construct Pirate Sloop for your table. If you need help building bigger ship models then you can always use the tips and templates provided by Games Workshop. GW even has hobby tips on painting sails. Dixon Miniatures also crafts some nicepirate minis. World Works Games has the best cardstock pirate ship you'll ever see, check out the Maiden of the High Seas. Also check their models for Skull Cove and Himmeivel Harbormaster. So if you are a fan of pirates and have wanted to get into tabletop gaming then you have no excuses.
But what about systems set in steampunk civilization or alternate history for that matter?
Brigade Models has a really tight niche going for itself. If you are a fan of flying ships then check out their Victorian-era system Aeronef. If however you wonder how turn-of-the-century space combat would have been then check out Iron Stars by Majestic 12 Games. Both systems are unique and relatively easy to set up.
Parroom Station works exclusively in a Victorian-era steampunk genre. They have a system that mirrors the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Imagine a world where robotic machinations meet War of the Worlds and you get a sense as to their systems. Be sure to check out their gallery and take a look at all the interesting characters.
For fans of old movie serials and high adventure, like Indiana Jones, there is one go-to system. Pulp Figures writes the rules for chisel jawed heroes and dames that can kill with a wink. Be sure to check their store for the various ranges of miniatures.
Artizan has a small selection of pirate miniatures. However nobody can touch their lineup of Thrilling Tale minis.
Brigade Games is a one-stop shop for minis and systems based on pulp-era action and high adventure. Their own Victorian system is called G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. for which they make miniatures in 28mm and 15mm. They also make or distribute some keen tanks and Sloppy Jalopy vehicles.
Copplestone Casting makes miniatures for High Adventure as well as publishes several skirmish rules. Just like Foundry's Masai tribe and Darkest Africa Explorers you can include miniatures from other Victorian periods to expand the world.
World War II is a favorite subject for alternate history, here are three systems that capture it best. Darkson Designs has a series titled Alternate Earth World War II. They make miniatures of mad scientists, soldiers, power armor and crazed experiments. Their skirmish rules can be downloaded right from their site for free.
Imagine a world where transforming vehicles were invented just before WWII. The axis and allies have some fantastic weapons in Gear Krieg. These include experimental tanks, jet planes and rocket fighters. Any system that has Nazi rocketmen and Tesla coil cannons is for me!
West Wind Productions has a system titled Secrets of the Third Reich. Which features science run amok, big tanks, Nazi zombies and early mecha. The system looks like fun.
I think I've covered the bases for today. From flying steamships to crazed Nazi's there should be a tabletop game for everyone. Be sure to come back tomorrow when I talk about one of my favorite genres, the wild west!