A Pair of 3×50 Games
I met up with Dan and Kyle at Zulu’s Board Game Cafe in Bothell WA for a pair of 3×50 games (3 players, 50 points). Here are the house rules we use. The other house rule we used was a big one, and the main theme for the day: each player’s turn was limited to 2 minutes. We used our phone timers. In general, if a ship had commenced an action, she was allowed to finish that action even if the time was up (partly to not ignore obvious rules like resolving boarding parties/etc). If any rules or UT ability text needed to be researched, the timer was paused. These were my first games ever using timed turns, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
I went first with a Spanish UPS idea (Universal Pirate Shipping, a fleet strategy publicly pioneered by darrin of Miniature Trading). The fleet actually started with the Song since this is the first time I’ve used her in a physical game, but she paired perfectly with the Sol, another ship on my list of ships I wanted to use in the near future.
Song + Genny Gallows (SM), helmsman, 3x oarsmen with 1 starting on HI
Sol + SM Castro, Vaccaro, Bianco’s Haulers (SS), helmsman
Cursed Blade + helmsman
Dan went next with a Jade Pirate fleet consisting of the Eagle, Black Lotus, and Tiger’s Breath.
Kyle went with an English all-junk fleet with HMS Grand Temple, Divine Wind, and HMS Clear Wind. This meant every player had at least one junk in their fleet.
The Sol flipped a coin to the Song, who redocked to unload it at +3 value between Genny Gallows and the Song’s ability. HMS Grand Temple was about to shoot at the Sol, but Bianco’s Haulers prevented it.
The Sol also grabbed Homemade Flag, which could make her annoying to face even while at sea. My Cursed Blade (a different copy of the same ship from my original collection and one of my favorites) got loaded up with all four coins from a western island while Dan’s fleet headed out. The Tiger’s Breath has provided a quick ROI.
With the Sol an invalid target, Kyle takes HMS GT over round earth to dismast the Cursed Blade! However, at the right you can see Dan just now moving the Eagle into position to blast the mighty junk…
However, the Eagle only shot 1/7 in a double action, leaving her wide open to a devastating counterattack!
The area turns into all-out war, with both sides suffering HEAVY losses! The Grand Temple is sunk, but the Eagle and Black Lotus are both dismasted. HMS Clear Wind is trying to salvage the situation for the English but has set herself alight with fire shot. The 5 on the Cursed Blade is a scuttle roll (I did this to prevent others from capturing her, as at the time it looked very unlikely the scuttle would go through and trying to rescue her with the Song would have likely lost me the Song as well).
In the meantime, the Divine Wind has returned a coin home for the English. Capitan Castro is keeping Genny busy, trading home more coins for additional +3 bonuses. Before Robinson went down with the Grand Temple, his ability allowed me (the player to Kyle’s left) to fling some impressive named crew over to the Sol’s new island. I wouldn’t be able to convert them into gold somehow, but I figured at least one might be valuable in the long run.
The Cursed Blade was scuttled, going down with 12 gold aboard. The English will not go quietly, as HMS Clear Wind presses her attack even as her fire spreads. However, the Black Lotus is hiding in fog and the CW cannot finish the Eagle.
HMS Clear Wind puts one fire out, but the other spreads, dooming the ship to burn to the waterline.
With the gold dwindling and no home island raiders in play that I anticipated, I had little to lose towards the endgame. The Sol went for some of the final coins on an island in the south, but was promptly sunk by the Divine Wind. However, I still had the Song, who had dumped Genny Gallows at home in favor of picking up OE Calico Cat from the island at the right.
The worst thing has happened to the Black Lotus – she rolled a 1 to exit fog onto a reef, and became a shipwreck! However, Dan is still in business, especially with the Eagle getting ready for more action.
We agreed that if a ship can touch a shipwreck without touching the reef, the ship would not have to roll for reef damage. The Divine Wind made a detour to build Ramsgate (admittedly just for fun by Kyle), but heads back south as the Song tries to pick up some of the last coins. The Tiger’s Breath stole one of my coins with the Wine UT.
The Divine Wind dismasted the Song and killed Calico Cat. The Song was still able to explore, and I loaded her up heavily to increase the chances of getting any coins home. One of the coins you see on the deckplate is Homing Beacon, which might help if she miraculously survives a lengthy chase scene. However, for now the path is blocked by sargasso seas. Although Dan was not able to save the Black Lotus, he does get her coin home and now has 2 fresh ships for the final phase of play.
The Divine Wind pursued the Song but then headed to the center since Dan was attacking Ramsgate. This allowed the Song to get home, but I had no way to pick up Genny Gallows before the Song’s coin automatically unloaded, at least that I know of. After the coin was unloaded I tried to end the game by wrecking the Song, but couldn’t roll a 1 with either reef roll. Dan had won the battle at the fort and eliminated Kyle, taking home all 4 gold from Ramsgate, which actually proved crucial!
- Dan: 20 gold
- Ben: 17
- Kyle: 1
A nice game with a tight finish. As we see in a ton of games, lots of alternative endings. If Kyle hadn’t built Ramsgate, I would win 17-16-5. If the Song had successfully ran aground it would have been 17-16-1. Alas it was not to be!
We had all prepared two fleets for the day’s games, so the second game would feature a completely new setup and fresh fleets. The final island was placed in close proximity to others, but quickly got surrounded with terrain.
I rolled to go first again, bringing a mostly American fleet. Continuing the theme for the 5th or 6th game in a row of playing a ship brand-new to my collection for the first time, USS Maryland was how the fleet started. In the end I couldn’t resist two of my American favorites for the rest, as the Roanoke and Hessian are both just so versatile and fun.
Roanoke + Captain Mysion, Le Requin, Gus Schultz, Wayne Nolan, helmsman, oarsman
USS Maryland + captain, helmsman
Hessian + helmsman, oarsman
Dan went with HMS Interceptor, HMS Gibraltar, and the Devil Ray:
Kyle’s French fleet had La Vengeance, Tepant, Pique, and Coeur du Lion:
The Tepant got SAT from CC Gaston de St. Croix early, but her captain was cancelled by Lawrence aboard the Interceptor! The Vengeance braves a reef to get gold. The Gibraltar, Pique, Hessian and Roanoke have all made quick gold runs. The gold supply seemed to be running out quickly, but this game actually wound up taking longer than the first….
The Roanoke explored one of the center islands soon afterwards, but found Wolves along with Wine and two 3’s. Dan had included the Wolves and had the only musketeer in play, RotF Trevor van Tyne.
The Interceptor dismasted and captured the Tepant. The Roanoke gets stuck in a sargasso sea, but she will explore before trying to free herself. Seeing the impressive French gold running scheme, the Maryland whirls west to combat their gold runners. A gaffe with the Plunder UT (which got thrown out) was the first of about two asterisks for this game. The Gibraltar is transferring coins from the Devil Ray since the latter can’t dock at home with Mercenary.
I sacrificed the Maryland to dismast the Coeur but couldn’t sink her, leaving her easy prey for the Vengeance. The Interceptor returns home as the strategic elements intensify.
The Devil Ray rammed a mast off the Vengeance, who fails to dismast the Maryland. This allowed me to capture the Coeur with the Maryland, but that area was still a lost cause for me. More interesting was combating the Gibraltar with the Hessian, but the Hessian didn’t have the speed or cancelling options to contest the island they’re docked at. All while the Pique misses a few S+S range potshots at the Hessian. The Roanoke only spends one turn stuck in seaweed, ready to launch home next turn.
In the south, the Maryland is finally dismasted and the Gibraltar returns home with a couple coins. I am eyeing the wide-open Tepant derelict at this point, despite her proximity to Dan’s HI via round earth. The Roanoke’s 2 remaining face down crew (Captain Mysion and Gus Schultz) may have deterred Dan from being aggressive.
Kyle sent the Pique north, allowing the Hessian to ram her derelict. With the Roanoke watching the Tepant, the Hessian turns back to capture the French prize. I immediately roll for scuttling, trying to trigger Eternal as fast as possible so I don’t have to tow her home. Part of the reason I was able to snag the Tepant was because Dan was preoccupied with stealing some of Kyle’s gold, home island raiding with HMS Gibraltar! The Vengeance had towed the Coeur home but lost a mast to the Devil Ray’s submerged ramming, which helped when even Kyle’s accurate anti-English guns were not numerous enough to sink the Gibraltar! The thief runs into fog, not able to return home on oar power with no helmsman. (Sir Jeremy Rothschild was her other crew. A neat sign of the times as all three of us have used rather interesting and unconventional crew setups in nearly all of our recent fleets.)
Some general regrouping. I figured I’d increase the size of my fleet by capturing the Pique as well, though both French prizes were vulnerable to the Interceptor’s striking range. The Gibraltar gets her stolen loot home while the French repair.
Here the second asterisk affected some of the decisions, as Dan didn’t realize that ships could be given actions immediately after warping home via Eternal. I think he was thinking about raiding my HI with the repaired Gibraltar when the Tepant showed up and Gaston used SAT to quickly repair half her masts, simultaneously blocking off some of my HI and getting some much-needed firepower at the American HI. It turned into an accidental French-American ship swap, as Kyle had captured USS Maryland and was repairing her for future use.
The Roanoke lost two masts after exiting fog straight onto a reef. However, she reached home with an SAT. The sloops have no fear of reefs, with the Hessian towing the Pique over one to get home faster. By now I believe all gold except for that guarded by Wolves in the middle was unloaded to HI’s. The attention turned towards Dan, as his decisions would control the endgame. TvTyne on the Interceptor was the only path to freeing up the last 2 coins worth value in the middle, and his HMS Gibraltar had the HI raiding capability that could also extend the game if she stole any more loot.
Kyle was using Marksman’s Map every turn to look at face down coins on my home island. This would help him calculate his odds of winning and how much the coins in the middle might matter. We spent a lot of turns doing almost nothing, with various “passes” occurring as we weighed decisions and jockeyed for position. Kyle eventually explored the middle island with the Coeur in order to see what coins lay there. Dan considered various options and had to figure out how to make his few key game pieces count the most despite 4-5 dangerous ships that would inevitably oppose his run on the Wolves. At one point the Vengeance was somewhat vulnerable near the Roanoke, but I elected to repair given my generally horrid luck with rank-3 guns and the ever-present timer that limited my decision time. This was probably a mistake in hindsight, but there were a lot of outcomes and plays that couldn’t be given the regular amount of consideration since we only had 2 minutes per turn to do everything with all of our ships.
At one point I had the Roanoke in between reefs near my HI when Dan decided he wanted to force things so the game didn’t take a massive amount of time. He flipped Grease Barrels, round earthed the Interceptor and hit a nice 4/5 on rank-3 shooting to smash the Roanoke. She was nearly dismasted but the Devil Ray rolled a 1 with submerged ramming (the first of three 1’s in a row for her submerged rams!). The Vengeance had been protecting the French HI from another Gibraltar raid, so this did leave things open for Dan in the center. However, we all knew that all hell would break loose as soon as the Wolves were killed!
And indeed, the game completely exploded. TvTyne shot the Wolves out of play with his musket, allowing Sir Jeremy Rothschild to load both 3’s and the Wine on the Gibraltar. She was rammed by the Pique (who stole a 3) and Maryland (killing Rothschild) but managed to flee into a fog bank! In a rushed turn the Roanoke blasted her way back onto the scene, using Requin’s SAT and her 3L cannons to sink the Interceptor outside of Lawrence’s cancelling range.
The Vengeance arrives and the French and Americans get caught up in a big fight. The Vengeance sank Le Pique, who took 3 gold with her. My luck completely evaporated as the Roanoke failed her SAT and to dismast the Vengeance.
Many shots are exchanged between the French and Americans, with the Roanoke losing masts and crew at a depressing rate (for me lol). The Maryland was doing more damage to my fleet than I doled out with her earlier. The most important thing in play is still HMS Gibraltar, who is sprinting home with her gold. Can the Coeur du Lion stop her?
OOF!! Dan decides to take the Gibraltar through a whirlpool to get home the back way, but for the second game in a row he ends up with a shipwreck!! O_O This is pretty wild since shipwrecks are rare enough in this game… let alone two from the same player in one day! This marked another roll of 1 in the endgame for Dan, whose luck ran out after the Interceptor owned her gunnery against the Roanoke and the wolves.
Top of pic: With the Maryland effectively finishing off the Roanoke, I had to divert the Hessian to get rid of my own pest. Bottom right: Inevitably the wreck of HMS Gibraltar is swarmed. The Vengeance explored the wreck after being dismasted by the Tepant.
The Tepant has no cargo space open to steal the Vengeance’s 3 coin, so she starts ramming to eliminate the oarsman from the Vengeance. However, she runs out of time as the Vengeance rows into the nearby fog bank. She was also losing masts to the Devil Ray’s submerged ramming, which finally started working. The Hessian arrives with the intent to help the Tepant block fog bank exit maneuvers but is too late. This entire endgame for me was like watching a long painful train wreck. Everything that could go wrong went wrong!
In the end, there would not be another fog-reef-shipwreck sequence. The Vengeance rolled a 1 to exit the fog near home, but rolled well to avoid wrecking herself. She rowed home to end the game, and the coin mattered immensely!!
- Kyle: 16 gold
- Ben: 14
- Dan: 12
What a game! Even more entertaining than the last game and with closer scores! Lots of crucial plays and big rolls that affected the endgame, the difference being that they happened rather rapidly due to the turn timer. Overall it was pretty well played by all sides. Arguably, each fleet had at least one thing they wanted to “redo”. The French wished they hadn’t eliminated the Tepant’s oarsman, thinking they could get an abandoned one to replace it (leaving her open to capture right after getting dismasted). The English may have done better if the Interceptor had brought the Tepant home soon after capturing her. I probably should have taken the chance with the Roanoke when she had SAT and could have put 6 3L shots at the Vengeance. My endgame was a complete disaster, though it’s hard for me to know if it was because the turn timer forced my decisions. I was really disappointed to barely use Mysion and Schultz, though I think it’s good I didn’t Parley when the Interceptor attacked, as it may have flipped my gold score with Dan’s. Towards the end it was really cool that Kyle was able to use the Marksman’s Map many times over (partly due to the large number of turns the game took) in order to see what he needed at the end to win, earning the victory over the tight competition.
I definitely enjoyed the turn timer more than I expected. It’s a neat house rule we’ll probably use again. My only problem is that it did result in a few lost actions, but generally not due to excessive deliberating. There are just some turns where you have 5-6 actions to take (especially with extra actions available) and with all the cannon shots, ramming, boarding and maneuvering there is just not time to do it all. I think the Tepant lost an action in the endgame, which probably wouldn’t have affected the standings… but when you add up all the lost actions in the game it feels a little weird (especially if another player can’t decide if they want to board and the first player needs to move on). Mostly because it’s rarely in a player’s best interests to lose actions or ship turns in crucial moments. Perhaps in a game of this size (40-60 points I’d say), a timer of 3 minutes per player turn would be the sweet spot between keeping the game moving at a good pace while not impeding on how fleets are played or how rushed actions are taken. I also think it would be worth trying a game with a “total time limit”, where each player has 30-60 minutes to take ALL of their actions for the entire game. If they run out of time, they are out of the running entirely or their gold is counted up and that is their fixed score for the end regardless of what happens after.
I am happy to say that these are games 14 and 15 for me in 2022, which is actually the most I’ve played since 2017! O_O