Reply To: Strategy/Gameplay discussion thread


Lots of good points for discussion – this could almost be a thread entirely on its own.

Are ban lists and house rules just a knee-jerk reaction to something that players see as unfair, OP, broken, or “unfun”? Have adequate counters been considered, and if so, are they too much of a chore to include to justify not banning/house ruling things?

It can be a mix of those things, and can vary a lot from group to group.   If a certain venue bans a few specific items, it could be because they had recurring problems with it in the past, maybe from players abusing particular strategies, or just because it was getting used so much that the players in general got sick of seeing it.

In a more general sense, I’m not a fan of ban lists, but sometimes a game will include something that is broken to the extent that any player who has or uses it will have an insurmountable advantage over any player who doesn’t do the same, or go well out of their way just to counter it.  It can happen with almost any game, but collectible games are much more prone to it because of the sheer amount of extra content that keeps getting added makes it exponentially more difficult for playtesting and design to address every possible nuance and weird combination possible.  It’s no so easy to get the genie back in the bottle once it’s out, so when something problematic does slip through, sometimes drastic action is required.

In a game called “Pirates”, how justified is it to bring external morality into the game? Should players get upset when they lose by legal combos? In a brutal game like this (crew killed, ships captured/stolen, plans ruined in round 1, etc), should players be annoyed with each other, or at the game itself? (or their own gameplay/fleet choices?)

Is the pursuit of winning honorable regardless of the means used to obtain it? I think for players that can separate the game from real life, I would say yes. Of course, if the objective is simply fun and to keep your game group happy, you could argue that the pursuit of winning takes a backseat and the competitive nature of the game (that some players find more fun than others) gets watered down in the pursuit of a (likely subjective) ethical standard.

Should implied moral judgment be applied more to specific aspects of the game than others? For example, being “ethical” (again, at least partially subjective in this case) in fleet building but then “evil” during gameplay? (or vice versa/etc. Ex: bribing a player before the game with a game piece they don’t have, or making pre-game alliances/etc.)

Is it wrong to use game pieces that are not on a ban list if players deem them “bad”? (especially during/after their usage in the game vs. before starting play)

It’s not so much morality, in a good vs. evil sense, but very much plays on the concept of good sportsmanship.   If most of the players are there just to have a good time (which is largely the point of board games), but there’s a player or two that needs to win at any cost, it’s going to put a damper on the entire event.    Maybe the gotta-win players crush everyone else without mercy, maybe the other players band together to stop them, or any number of other things in between can happen, but if not everyone is on the same page when it comes to the expected level of competitiveness, someone is going to go away having had a bad time.  At the extremes, it can lead to players not wanting to return for future plays or events, and possibly even specific players being banned.

There are appropriate times and places for high levels of competitiveness, so the important thing is to establish expectations ahead of time.  Don’t bring a Norvegia fleet to casual game night.

Is it wrong to bring grievances from outside the game into the game?

“Wrong”, maybe not, but it’s definitely not a good thing.   Wanting a rematch from a previous play is one thing, and agreeing to settle their differences with a direct 2-player game is fine too, but if two players are mad at each other for some reason that has nothing to do with the game they absolutely should not be dragging their issues into a game with other players.  They need to deal with it elsewhere, or find separate tables or something so they’re not ruining things for everyone else present.

If one player wants to continue playing but another doesn’t, should the person who leaves the game be considered a forfeit regardless of their actual gold score at the end of the game?

What is the best way to establish “last round”? (ex: game with a time limit) Ex: someone has to leave by 7pm. All players need an equal number of turns, AND all players need advance notice of when the last round starts so they know if they need to take their ships out of fog banks/etc to have the gold count.  Solution?  20 minutes (?) before the time deadline, regardless of which player is the current player, all players understand that when the next round begins, it will be the last round of the game.

It depends a lot on the situation.   If you know ahead of time that a player can only stay for so long, the group as a whole should do their best to account for it somehow.  That could mean purposely playing shorter games (or smaller fleets), picking a good time for a “last round” in the current game, or figuring out a way to continue playing after the player steps out.

In a tournament setting, where the rules and times and such are all established ahead of time, the player who has to leave early might just have to accept the forfeit, whether that happens due to an emergency or a pre-planned time limit.

Lessons I Learned:
-I hate “asterisks” (game not finished properly/etc) to the point where I need to stop playing games where they might happen. However, I realize this is a symptom of me sometimes caring too much about winning and not just enjoying the game for what it is. I suppose that this year especially, my enjoyment of the game is tied to the game being played properly by the rules.  I think this is driven by my agony over the “what ifs” that simply don’t matter as much (if even applicable) if the game is played to true completion.

I struggle with this sometimes too, at least when it comes to time restraints.   Often a game I want to play doesn’t happen because it seems like there won’t be enough time.   There’s usually something else good that can work in its place, but it still gets frustrating to not be able get your first choice, especially when it happens over and over again.  It’s even worse when you finally reach the time constraint and realize there would have been time for that other game after all.

-Big multiplayer games are a bit overrated. Lots of time in between player turns. More players means more risk that someone will have some emergency or time constraint where they suddenly have to leave. Often not enough time to play the game out before a meal interruption occurs (playing at someone’s house can alleviate this). Games with 6+ players at 60 or more points should generally be the only game scheduled for that day.

Excessive downtime between turns can really kill the mood no matter what the game is or how enthusiastic the players are going into it, and long game times (no matter how many players) always run the risk of interruptions or the need for breaks.

Making sure all players are aware of what they’re getting into definitely helps, but it’s just as important to tailor the game choice (or game mode) to suit the larger group.   Some games deal with larger groups by having simultaneous actions or by keeping individual player turns/actions as short as possible, and many others have variables or adjustment that happen on the board or with components to adjust for different player counts.   Some games, like Pirates, don’t do anything to address higher player counts at all, and leave it entirely up to the players.  Just because it can be played with a dozen people, each with a massive fleet, doesn’t mean it should.

Again, it’s all about setting expectations.  In general, the more players you have, the smaller builds should get, in order to offset for the extra time that will be needed.

-I personally find the game less enjoyable and less rewarding when players don’t want to play things out per the normal endgame rules. (ex: “calling” it)  I recognize that real life factors sometimes have to play a role, but I think my love for the game overrides most of those.  (whereas it doesn’t for many other players, which is fine and more normal than me haha)

I usually prefer to run games to completion too, but when it becomes clear to everyone that a certain play has “won” the game and there’s nothing much the others could do to change that result within the remaining time, I’m fine with ending it there.   Ideally that gives enough time for a reset to play the game again, or to switch over earlier to whatever game was going to be played next.

A player “resigning” because they feel like they fell too far behind is definitely a downer, especially when there’s a significant amount of potential game time still remaining.  Even more so when the game has a lot of random or semi-random elements that could very easily tip the game back in that player’s favor.

-So much luck involved that I can’t wrap my ego/energy up in winning. (ex: one treasure coin being on a different island during the coin distribution to islands could change the winner, let alone dozens of other luck-based things that happen during the game)

The degree of luck in this game is something I always really liked.  A better player or a better fleet is still going to win more often than not, but there’s enough randomness involved that the game should never feel like it’s over before it even begins.

Those moments where someone takes a low-odds chance and succeeds, or fails miserably at something that should have been a sure thing, are always the most memorable.  No one ever remembers the times where players are just grinding through the actions and nothing unexpected ever happens.

-I think it would be useful to establish different “game modes” of Pirates for the community, such as Unlimited (100% normal rules), “Fair Seas” (ban list to eliminate “fun killers”/unfair game pieces, and house rules to enhance fairness, address rule annoyances, and possibly shore up underpowered game pieces), and maybe more.  This is something I plan to work on.

I’m curious to see what you come up with.