Rules for Thought #37 – Making Marines Better

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  • #7463

    Ben
    Keymaster

    Now that the Rules survey has some results (44 responses as of this post), I think it would be a good idea to discuss some various options in detail.  I’ve been thinking of various house rules for specific crew abilities, which I’ll release as separate threads.

    Here are some house rules for Marines that are designed to make them more useful:

    • Marines can shoot on every player’s turn.

    Notes: Timing issues, both in terms of opponents taking actions and with people leaving the game area while another person takes their turn/etc.  Possibly helped by only letting Marines shoot at the beginning or end of another player’s turn.  Could also be overpowered in some multiplayer battle situations.  I tried this in the Experimental Cumulative Game and generally remember liking it.

    • Marines ignore ALL defensive abilities.

    That would include Catamaran outriggers, 2 hits per mast, ignores first hit, turtle shell panels, etc.  (not cancellers I don’t think)

    • Marine hits eliminate 1 mast and 1 crew.

    Makes it feel like more of a “sniper” position – could also only apply this when Marines are shooting from land.

    • Give the keyword an additional ability such as +1 or +2 to boarding rolls.

    This makes sense given their role as a high-performing individual of a task force.

    • Change their cannon to 1S.

    Perhaps awkward when there aren’t rank-1 cannons in the game, but it makes them a bit more dangerous.

    • Allow Marines the OPTION to eliminate crew INSTEAD of masts, and enable them to target specific crew.

    For example, a Marine would use their 2S shot to target a specific enemy crew on an enemy ship for elimination, instead of eliminating a mast that the opponent would choose.  Definitely takes on more of a sniper role.

    An idea by MagExpress:

    One change I would make is how they’re eliminated. Instead of two hits in the same turn, I think it should be two hits from the same shoot action (ignoring any ship or crew abilities that eliminate crew during shoot actions). In my mind, that would give them a bit more durability and make them more worth the investment.

    I like it!

    So many interesting options!  The first 2 are probably my favorites, but the sniping angle/option is probably more realistic than ignoring defensive abilities.  If I think of more I’ll edit them into the post.

    What do you think of these?  Yay or nay?  Do you have any additional ideas to make Marines better or more worth their high costs?

    #7465

    MagExpress
    Participant

    The crew elimination ability seems useful, and makes the most sense. I’ve always found the Marine and Musketeer ability to eliminate masts rather comical, since you’d expect them to be carrying, well, a musket. It’s almost like they’re toting around a carronade or an antiquated forerunner to the Bazooka (the former makes more sense for Marines, especially after they’ve been dropped off at an island).

    One change I would make is how they’re eliminated. Instead of two hits in the same turn, I think it should be two hits from the same shoot action (ignoring any ship or crew abilities that eliminate crew during shoot actions). In my mind, that would give them a bit more durability and make them more worth the investment.

    #7466

    Ben
    Keymaster

    The crew elimination ability seems useful, and makes the most sense. I’ve always found the Marine and Musketeer ability to eliminate masts rather comical, since you’d expect them to be carrying, well, a musket.

    Haha!  Exactly!  The concept of mast elimination (and how it doesn’t slow down ship speeds) has always been rather strange in this game.  That reminds me, I still need to finish making my custom Carronade equipment.

    One change I would make is how they’re eliminated. Instead of two hits in the same turn, I think it should be two hits from the same shoot action (ignoring any ship or crew abilities that eliminate crew during shoot actions). In my mind, that would give them a bit more durability and make them more worth the investment.

    I agree with that as well!  I think a combination of small changes could be an interesting way to go about it as well.  Perhaps adding that change, +1 to boarding rolls, AND making the cannon 1S would make them worth 6 points. (barely?  XD)

    Adding your idea to the main post!  Thanks for commenting!

    #7491

    Xerecs
    Participant

    I already house ruled that marines will eliminate one mast on a hit for CoEC, but I like the idea of them being able to cut though defenses regardless.

    It’s funny you mentioned Marines, JW and I are thinking about giving every faction a Generic Marine in one of his upcoming Custom sets. We could implement these ideas to make a “new” marine crew.

    #7492

    Ben
    Keymaster

    It’s funny you mentioned Marines, JW and I are thinking about giving every faction a Generic Marine in one of his upcoming Custom sets. We could implement these ideas to make a “new” marine crew.

    Makes sense to me.  They’re more special than Musketeers but I think it would make sense if there were a lot more of them.  The real trouble lies in the costing; Marine would be fine at 3 or 4 points if only Musketeer had been accurately priced at 2 (or even 1?) by Wizkids from the start.  Of course, Marines are theoretically going to be more effective anyway, so perhaps they can just be better crew.  XD    I must say I like the idea of giving them +1 to boarding rolls, even if that’s not an ability I care much about.

    I see you haven’t quite given up the customs game just yet.  😉  😛

    #7493

    Xerecs
    Participant

    I see you haven’t quite given up the customs game just yet.

    I’m mostly helping out JW now. I don’t think I’ll make another full custom set, since I eventually want to bring ALL of my customs sets off of the paper. That’s a VERY long term goal.

    The original idea was for a generic marine as it was written by WK, but costed at 4-5 points. I’ll run some of the ideas here past JW. At the worst we just go with the first option, a generic marine at 4-5 points, with no other abilities or extra stuff.

    #7494

    Jonathan Bowen
    Participant

    In my opinion, I like the idea of Marines being able to target specific crew. It makes sense to me if they ignore defensive abilities on an island, but I think if they’re on a ship, maybe count as one of the ship’s cannons/guns, at least in the way of the Vega/Algernon ability. However, I think for a generic crew, what WK made might work on its own. I could see it either way, house-ruling to include the add-ons, or remaining as WK made them.

    -Darkhurst

    #7495

    Ben
    Keymaster

    The original idea was for a generic marine as it was written by WK, but costed at 4-5 points. I’ll run some of the ideas here past JW. At the worst we just go with the first option, a generic marine at 4-5 points, with no other abilities or extra stuff.

    Cool, I think 4 points would be a good starting place since 5 is a lot to pay for what they do.

    In my opinion, I like the idea of Marines being able to target specific crew. It makes sense to me if they ignore defensive abilities on an island, but I think if they’re on a ship, maybe count as one of the ship’s cannons/guns, at least in the way of the Vega/Algernon ability. However, I think for a generic crew, what WK made might work on its own. I could see it either way, house-ruling to include the add-ons, or remaining as WK made them.

    Indeed.  These ideas are with the goal of making them more useful, since even the 5 point Marines are almost never worth the cost to use.

    Glad to see some responses, thank you!

    #7602

    Woelf
    Participant

    Keeping the ability as-is and reducing the cost by a few points is the simplest and cleanest way to make them better. The “plain” 5-point versions we got late in the game’s run were pretty decent, but the initial set was way overpriced because they also had that +1 boost tacked on. Drop that boost (or make it just 1 point instead of 2), and reduce the keyword itself to 3 points (simultaneously reduce Musketeers to 2, since they’re essentially Cannoneers anyway), and they’d become really useful. Even 4 points for the keyword alone would be good.

    Changing the ability in any significant way largely throws out the point cost and would require it to be completely rebalanced. Some of the ideas for changes would break the game without a significant point increase:

    * Marines can shoot on every player’s turn.
    * Marines ignore ALL defensive abilities.
    * Marine hits eliminate 1 mast and 1 crew.
    * Give the keyword an additional ability such as +1 or +2 to boarding rolls.
    * Change their cannon to 1S.
    * Allow Marines the OPTION to eliminate crew INSTEAD of masts, and enable them to target specific crew.

    * Shooting every turn creates a lot of timing problems, especially if it could be used as a interrupt. It also has a major scaling problem in multiplayer games if it gets to shoot on every player’s turn.
    * Large catch-alls like “ignore all defensive abilities” tend to cause lots of unintended problems – just look at Broadsides Attack. Thematically there may be justifications for some defensive abilities, but even those are so varied in what they do and what they represent that it would be difficult to explain them all. Planting explosives on the hull of a slow-moving monster like El Acorazado is very different from catching a super fast and agile catamaran.
    * Doing extra damage per shot adds a lot to the cost. Maybe not a lot, but enough to go beyond the original price.
    * A +1 boost to boarding works thematically, but even that adds a to the cost. It’s 2 points at the minimum (SM cost), which at best puts them right back where they started (assuming Marine = 3). If one of these adjustments had to be made, this would be my pick.
    * Reducing the cannon rank to 1 for a single shot puts the odds of missing low enough that you might as well just make it an automatic hit at that point. Bad luck can always sneak in, but with a 5/6 chance of hitting it’s reliable enough that Marines would become potentially more dangerous than ships with several poor-rank cannons, especially considering their status as crew with an action completely independent of the ship.
    * Eliminating crew directly always seemed like something that would be better suited to Musketeers, but having that as the standard effect for a Marine would work. Targeting specific crew gets into the realm of way too powerful (essentially a low-risk, high-success, multi-use Duel), but even hitting crew from the bottom up will usually hurt after a couple shots.

    Instead of two hits in the same turn, I think it should be two hits from the same shoot action (ignoring any ship or crew abilities that eliminate crew during shoot actions). In my mind, that would give them a bit more durability and make them more worth the investment.

    Not a bad suggestion, but I think it’s a relatively minor distinction. Maybe things are different in campaign games, or it’s a group think thing, but in all the games I’ve seen where Marines were used (by others or myself), they rarely ever left the safety of a ship’s deck. The inherent crew protections they get just by being on a ship are far better than being able to absorb the first hit they take each turn. Plus, if a Marine is on an island and being enough of a nuisance that an opponent needs to take them out, chances are pretty high that they’ll send in a single ship with enough cannons that a miss or two won’t prevent them from double-tapping the Marine within a single action. Sending two separate ships just to take out one lonely crew is horribly inefficient (and even sending one ship isn’t great in the first place).

    #7608

    Ben
    Keymaster

    Drop that boost (or make it just 1 point instead of 2)

    Huh.  I think Wizkids placed Marine at 6 points, which is shown with crew like Grim the Savage from F&S (one of the super basic Marines).  The boost seems like 1 point, while the 5 point Marines have -1 from Hostile.  “Benoit de Marsilles” (original spelling from BC “final” WK spreadsheet) was one of the early basic Marines and costs 6 points even in that spreadsheet.  Just saw an early version of the keyword where you could put it on islands containing enemy forts.  🙂

    I would definitely like Marines at 3 and Musketeers at 2.  I also think that if the entire game or crew were recosted, captain and helmsman should be the only off-limits abilities, to keep things simple and not have them based on the opposite instead (requiring both of those to go to 5+ points).  Compared to the usefulness of captain and helmsman, I could see Musketeer at 1 and Marine at 2-3.

    You make good points as always.  I think it’s good to have lots of options so people can experiment with house rules if they want.  I could certainly live with Marines having +1 to boarding in addition to their existing keyword for a base of 5 points.  A little less incentive to drop them at an island, but they have never been very successful on land for me anyway.

    Part of the reason I suggested a 1S gun is because Marines are rather lame and ineffective in the game, while they arguably should be one of the more elite crew units.  Plus, I’ve rolled a ton of 1’s while shooting, so to me the better odds are almost needed to feel decent about the shot I’m paying a premium for.  XD

    #7650

    Xerecs
    Participant

    Something that JW and I talked about regarding Marines, what if instead of a boarding bonus, a de-buff for an attacking boarder? In his and mine opinion, a contingent of Marines on a ship (assuming a generic Maine crew) wouldn’t so much boost you chances of a successful boarding, but would increase the defense of you ship in the event of a boarding action against your ship.

    Ability text would pretty much be the WK version of a marine plus: Enemy ships get -1 to their boarding rolls against this ship.

    I’m not sure how that would affect a point cost, but if marines could be used (again, a generic, non-named marine) at 4 points, then the boarding ‘bonus’ would add 1-2 points I think.

    #7652

    Ben
    Keymaster

    Enemy ships get -1 to their boarding rolls against this ship.

    I’ve got that ability on some customs, and it would be effectively the same as +1 to boards.  I understand the idea of them as a defensive force, but I think of them as more offense.  In addition, +1 to boards has been around since 2004, so it’s easier to add to an existing keyword and easier for people to wrap their heads around.  I think either works and would be 1-2 points.  (as I’ve said in the past, based on my experience I think boarding bonuses should have been costed equal to their bonus, ex: +2 to boards for 2 points)

    #7721

    Woelf
    Participant

    Enemy ships get -1 to their boarding rolls against this ship.

    I’ve got that ability on some customs, and it would be effectively the same as +1 to boards

    Yeah, there’s really no need to create a new ability that produces the exact same effect as an existing ability.

    Instead of reducing rolls, a better debuff might be to prevent the use of boarding abilities, similar to what the S-Boarding ability does. It won’t help against every ship, but would be pretty useful against the ships that did have something.
    You could run into a weird scenario with two marines facing off, so you’d have to specify if both worked in full (blocking the bonuses of both ships), or if only one of them functioned.

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