Rules for Thought #42 – Capturing crewless ships via boarding

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    Now that the Rules survey has some results (46 responses as of this post), I think it would be a good idea to discuss some various options in detail.

    Dylan commented:

    The way I and my friends had always played boarding is if one ship didn’t have any crew or both didn’t have crew the winner (if there was not crew to be killed) claimed the opposing vessel.

    I like this idea, especially because it makes historical sense.  There would be less need to re-orient ships to capture derelicts.

    Any thoughts on it?


    this is super interesting! I like the idea of more going on during boarding actions. I like the idea they used for the Deul Event, picking crew members to roll against eachother to see who dies. Could work that in as well. Maybe two captains could duel as a wager for ships, as is seen often in the flavor texts.


    While that would work as a variant, I’d be opposed to it becoming an actual rule change, at least with how the game is currently designed, and how it represents different aspects.

    A ship’s fighting crew (plural) are directly represented by the number of masts on the ship, and each would be the equivalent of several people. It could be 5, 10, or even more per mast, depending on the ship. These numbers don’t count the bare minimum required to actually sail the ship. They also don’t count the crew tokens, most of which represent unique individuals who don’t contribute directly to fighting, beyond any specific abilities they might have. Someone with a +1 to boarding brings expertise, training, leadership, or whatever else that makes the ship’s existing crew much more effective, but the majority of other crew tokens are just along for the ride, not superhumans that somehow protect the ship from capture.

    More to the point, to make a rule change like this work, the game would really need to have a separate stat built in to track the number of fighting crew on a ship, independent of its number of masts/cannons and its cargo space. That’s not an easy change with the current system, because every ship in the game could potentially have its own value for that, but it would be relatively easy to bake into the system when (re)building it from scratch.

    Applying to the system as-is makes certain abilities extremely overpowered, particular ones that can kill crew/cargo tokens with hits, and the ones that can wipe out everyone on a ship with a successful boarding. Unless additional rules/restrictions are added beyond what’s mentioned in the variant up above, the ones that wipe out all crew could potentially capture a perfectly intact ship of any size simply by beating it with a single die roll.

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