The Bizarre Bottleneck Game
I thought of the idea of a “bottleneck” game some time ago. The idea is to have a small waterway that fleets must traverse in order to achieve their goal. I finally tested this for the first time, though it was with a very basic setup in a somewhat rushed game. Despite the lack of time and effort, it turned into one of the better games I’ve played, although more in a bizarre way than anything else.
The fleets, in turn order:
Common Fleet Challenge entry (2011)
The setup featured the 4 fleets around the 5 beach island, something that’s fun to do once in a while in a total opposite of having the 5 beach island be a giant wild island full of gold. Flat earth rules with multiple sandbars making up a bottleneck leading to the 2 wild islands, which held 7 coins each. (all UT’s from the above fleets included, so only 7 coins with regular gold values)
My remaining copy of the Prussian Crown is badly broken, so I proxied her with the Stoneheart. As happens far too frequently, I forgot to start the Mercenaries S away from their home beach. They got to pick their beach first since they were going last, and naturally picked the beach closest to the gold. I wanted to give them what was hopefully a slight advantage. Not only were they going first, but that would also mean that they would not be shot at on their first turn. The Santa Molina would potentially be able to shoot at opponents right away. The English fleet looked to perhaps be the strongest (partly because the other Fleet Challenge entry fleets had more restricting limitations), so they picked their home beach last and therefore could have a tough time even getting through the bottleneck in the first place.
The English went first and took a wide turn, hoping to avoid a Pirate attack. The French and Pirates headed for the gold, but the Mercs were in the best position. The Devil Ray used submerged ramming to nearly move S+L+S+S! +L bonus while submerged, helmsman for +S, and the “move S away” from the ram was used to put her even closer to the wild islands after knocking a mast off the Descharges. Then the Santa Molina made her mark on the Pirate fleet, simultaneously blocking all of their ships from entering the bottleneck and shooting 2 masts off the Prussian Crown. (eliminating the PC’s explorer with her ability; Fiore and Tia Dalma cancelling each other out)
Could the Mercs pull off a stunning upset?! They’ve got the start they needed!
Relieved that they didn’t get blasted on Turn 1, the English readied their cannons for an attack on the Pirates. The Victor shot a mast off the Raven, with Ducie Chads ecstatic that the Pirates ended up being the fleet adjacent to the English beach. Cartier gave the Descharges a double move, allowing her to reach a wild island before any other ship! The Mercure used the stern turn from her Schooner keyword to partially block the submerged Devil Ray.
The Prussian Crown utterly fails on her turn, getting three 3’s in a row to miss the Santa Molina! (continuing my Pirates-career-long trend of failing miserably on rank-3 cannons…) The Raven cannot get to a wild island or her own home beach (to repair), so she simply shoots a mast off the Santa Molina. Ophidious rams the Lady Provost to pin the English gold runner! The ram roll fails but the LP loses her explorer to the serpent’s boarding attack.
Ophidious, one of the best sea creatures in the game:
The Devil Ray nearly reached the second wild island, with the Barracuda also submerged:
The Santa Molina had a disappointing turn – she hit 1/3 against the Prussian Crown (killing Tia Dalma, which became important later on) and rammed a mast off the Intrepide, losing a crew in the boarding party.
Ducie Chads takes the Victor into battle against Ophidious! He regrets boarding the beast for its gold parts, and gets killed in action!
Thomas Gunn the Younger is there to save the day, as HMS Lord Walpole hits 3/3 with classic English gunnery to kill Ophidious! (though the creature is Eternal…)
The French were up again, and the Descharges explored. She loaded all of these UT’s along with 6 gold.
Unable to shoot at the submerged Barracude, the Mercure simply tries to block for the Descharges. Wanting to keep the Santa Molina pinned, the Intrepide shoots but misses with a 2.
The Devil Ray surfaces to dock and explore at the second wild island. She finds the remaining coins, and loads the top 4 in this picture. This gives her +3 to her boarding rolls and potential control of Ophidious.
The Barracuda surfaces to shoot at the Mercure, but crucially misses a shot, keeping the dangerous schooner alive. At the upper right, the Santa Molina sinks the Intrepide and the Pirates roll successfully to scuttle the Prussian Crown.
With Ransom crew Cannonball Gallows aboard the doomed PC, the English spring into action. The Lady Provost captures the Pirate flagship, as the English plan to deposit Gallows on their home beach for his 5 gold Ransom payout. The Victor moves to shoot at the Santa Molina, but predictably her captain is cancelled by Christian Fiore. The Lord Walpole takes some shots instead, but only hits once.
At this point the Mercure has taken the Enemy of the State UT from the Descharges (to avoid Mercenary issues at home), who has lost a mast to a shot from the Barracuda. The Devil Ray submerges again and sprints for home, hoping that Christian Fiore can allow her to dock and unload.
The English sink the Santa Molina! This effectively doomed the Mercenaries, as they cannot dock either submarine at home with cancelling the Mercenary keyword with Christian Fiore. In addition, both cancellers are now out of the game. The Mercure turned around and shot at the Barracuda but missed. In a sudden change of strategy, the Mercenaries turned both of their subs around with the purpose of getting more gold. Their thinking was that with Fiore out of the game, their best chance to not finish last in the standings was to amass as much gold on their subs as possible, submerge, and then just wait the game out until it was over.
The Mercure finally connects, setting the Barracuda ablaze with a well-placed firepot!
The English and French are making for home. However, Ophidious is nearly back to full strength! The serpent rams and pins the Lady Provost for the second time in the game, but once again fails to knock over a mast. However, the English were anticipating this, and both English gunships are ready for another fight. At the far left you can see the Descharges breaking for home, using the EA ability to slip past the bottleneck. Cartier and Rousseau are hoping the English focus on Ophidious rather than turning around.
In a strange situation, the Mercenaries submerge the Barracuda but also roll a 1 on her fire mast, dooming the ship. (weird because the ship technically had 2 fire masts while underwater) The Devil Ray dumps both of her crew to load up more gold, preparing to submerge for good next turn….
Although Ducie Chads is not alive to see it, the Victor gets to board Ophidious successfully, loading the serpent’s head aboard ship!! This happened only after the Victor eliminated the other 2 remaining segments via shooting, meaning Ophidious will “die” for the second time in the game.
With Ophidious taken care of, Thomas Gunn the Younger can turn his attention (and ship!) to the French… but Duncan Rousseau uses Parley to avoid getting shot at! Luckily for the French, Screw Engine is the random coin that gets transferred! This means that the Descharges still has both of her coins worth gold.
The Mercure continues her rampage, getting revenge for the early game success of the Mercs against the French! She sets the Devil Ray on fire and steals the Cursed Conch! Perhaps the French can command Ophidious against the English? (even though the Pirates were already using the beast to do the same thing) It’s not often that you see a single ship set two submarines on fire in the same game!
The French crew combo works wonders! Duncan Rousseau bails out Amiral Louis Cartier with the Reroll ability, with the EA allowing the Descharges to dock home her 2 coins! Between the Merc subs, Santa Molina, and English, it’s a bit of a miracle that the Descharges was able to get home safely. To the right, Ophidious’ second “death” should allow the Lady Provost to dock home the captured Prussian Crown.
Game over!! Wait what?? On the last few turns, the English returned home with both the Prussian Crown and the head of Ophidious (on the Victor). The Descharges got another EA to repair her masts, while the Devil Ray submerged. The Mercenaries did not give the Devil Ray an action while submerging her, meaning that they didn’t have to roll for her fire mast. The Mercenaries then sat and didn’t take any more turns, content to stay underwater with a submarine that is on fire but with 3 coins on board! It was a truly bizarre ending to a bizarre game.
Making the rounds, here are how the fleets finished up:
In first (?), the English have 7 gold! However, NONE of it came from any gold! Gallows is worth 5 gold via Ransom capture, while the head of Ophidious is worth another 2. You could say that two Pirate heads won the game for the English!
In second with 6 gold are the French:
In last, the Pirates had nearly regenerated Ophidious again. Of course, the head would have to be imaginary since I don’t have another Ophidious in my collection. I’ve thought about this situation before – in a long enough game, you could go through multiple Ophidious pieces and have all sorts of segments floating around in different fleets!
In third, the Mercenaries have 8 gold on the submerged and flaming Devil Ray. (not counted because they didn’t and can’t unload it at home!)
The final coin in play was ignored, as Targeting Scope was not worth bothering with. In the end, the Mercenary strategy of holding out to not finish last actually worked! Though just barely, as the Devil Ray was an action and a bad fire roll away from sinking.
So the English win 7-6, with the Mercenaries third with 8 on a submerged submarine breaking a 0-0 tie with the Pirates. I didn’t keep playing because I was pressed for time.
At least, that’s how I played it. But actually the Mercenaries won!! XD O_O Per the Pirate Code on Multiplayer Rules:
When any end condition is met, players reveal all treasure on their home islands, in forts, and on their ships. The revealed treasure is added up and the player with the highest gold value is declared the winner.
Since the Mercenaries have 8 gold on a ship, technically they win 8-7-6! O_O
However, I have a lot of issues with that. First off, the Mercenaries would NOT survive getting the gold back home. The fire mast and Mercure alone would have doomed the Devil Ray, let alone the English fleet (now looking like an armada with no competition) intervening at some point. Secondly, counting all 3 coins as “winning gold” on a burning Mercenary submarine 2 hull cracks from going to Davy Jones’ Locker seems like a lame way to cheat the English out of a solid game. With both cancellers gone, the Mercs had no way to dock home the gold.
Third, the Mercs were now benefiting from a rare but completely viable strategy: Submarine Stalemate. Get a bunch of submarines loaded up with gold, eliminate any counters in enemy fleets that could bring them to the surface, and then just sit the rest of the game out while chilling underwater. This is where a house rule that forces submarines to the surface every X turns could come into play. If that happened, the Devil Ray would be a sitting duck for the firepower remaining in the game.
I suppose I should have kept playing. In that case, the Mercs could wait it out until the English got the Prussian Crown repaired. Her ability would suddenly be the determining factor in the game. Since she’s able to shoot at submerged ships, she would be able to blast the Devil Ray and send her gold to the bottom, with the DR having nowhere to hide since she can’t dock at home.
The Santa Molina’s ability was clutch, as it eliminated Tia Dalma and could have paved the way to a more clear Mercenary victory with the enemy canceller out of the game. However, they had to resort to a cheap strategy once Fiore was gone.
In the end, perhaps there can be a dual winner. In my mind the English won, but since I didn’t keep playing, technically the Mercenaries get a bizarre victory. This is the kind of game that makes you love Pirates! I wanted the game to revolve around one faction building a fort on the sandbar by the bottleneck to restrict sea traffic to the islands. However, the complete opposite happened, and it was great!