Santa Slaughter – Christmas Evil
For years I have wanted to play a holiday themed game in December using the Sleigh and Captain Whitebeard. I’ve never liked the game pieces because they’re broken and illegal to use, but it’s been on my bucket list for long enough and I finally acquired them a year or two ago. However, in addition to the house rules normally in effect, this game would feature some more:
-Sink the Sleigh, 25 gold is put on your HI and can’t be removed from it. Eliminate Whitebeard (separate from sinking), and receive 10 gold that also can’t be removed.
-Sleigh starts with 10 random non-UT’s. Each non-Whitebeard fleet can contribute a UT or two but the rest of the gold was random to save time.
Without further ado here are the fleets in the order of play! All game pieces can be found in the Master Spreadsheet.
Sea Rat + helmsman, explorer, oarsman
Nightmare + helmsman, oarsman
Jarvis + BC DNT (canceller), RotF Ralph David, captain
USS Maryland + DJC George Washington LeBeaux, Wayne Nolan, helmsman
Cygnet + RotF Hermione Gold, BC Bratley (canceller), oarsman
HMS Rye + explorer
Wicked Wench + F&S Hammersmith, oarsman
Red Curse + Tia Dalma, MI “Cannonball” Gallows, captain, helmsman
Sleigh + Captain Whitebeard
Captain Whitebeard had the unfortunate distinction of rolling poorly and would go last, which got the other factions excited about what could happen with all of them doing their best to hinder the Sleigh throughout the first round. There was a massive amount of factions scheming together and trying to come up with ways to best the Sleigh and Santa. However, each faction had their own goals of winning in mind as well, so not every ship or crew choice was solely with “Santa Slaughter” in mind. I did take some inspiration from Xerecs’ game in December 2020.
The Cursed aimed to copy the “Ho Ho Ho” ability with Behemoth to freeze the Sleigh in place, but had a couple gold runners including a home island raider. There was some HI raider prevalence, because the factions anticipated that as soon as the Sleigh got an action, Whitebeard would redock the Sleigh to unload his 10 coins for a 1st turn windfall. Talk about unfair! XD As a result, some HI raiders found their way into the fleets in anticipation of stealing from Santa’s hoard after he gets taken out. The Pirates went with a pair, but still made sure they had a canceller as well. The English were the most hardcore about taking down Whitebeard, stacking their fleet with two cancellers, a ship that can’t be hit by the Sleigh’s L-range cannons, and a flotilla to pour in a heavy fire. They looked intimidating but started the game with only 1 cargo space open. With the Cursed opting not to include one of their L-movers, the Americans nearly felt obligated to include GWL as a way to move the Sleigh away from her home island. Wayne Nolan would be there to assist, likely making the Maryland a camped out support ship in the early game. After those 16 points were spent, they had just enough to add a nice combo – the Jarvis can’t be hit by L range guns, has a canceller to cancel the Sleigh’s defenses, and Eternal to boot.
Here is the setup at the end of island and terrain placement. The 4 factions who don’t call the North Pole home all teamed up and collaborated – islands close together to minimize the Sleigh’s base move and cannon range, with whirlpools peppering the map so the various cancellers and L-immune ships could reach the Sleigh as early in the game as possible to try and force a decisive group action to take down Santa. Whitebeard placed 3 fog banks, seeing the odds stacked against him. Knowing he would pick his home island (HI) first, he put a couple near an island in the southeast but they were quickly covered with terrain from the other factions.
Whitebeard chose his HI to be near the undisturbed fog bank (which he placed as the last terrain of course), but was quickly seeing Pirate and English flags very close by. With Santa surrounded so quickly in the setup process, the Americans and Cursed felt a little more freedom to branch out and surreptitiously give themselves a better chance in the long term gold race. There was a lot of fear and anticipation around what Whitebeard was capable of, so each decision felt like a potential mistake – would all four factions have to surround him to give themselves a chance?
Some closeups of the fleets in play order!
The Sleigh in all her glory! How would she perform in her first game for me? I definitely anticipate this being a rare occurrence, though maybe I’ll try to bring her out every other holiday season or something.
The Cursed got things started by copying the Rye’s cancel ability and whirling into position off Whitebeard’s HI.
Then the Maryland flipped GWL and rolled for L moving! The first roll wasn’t enough but Wayne Nolan bailed him out with a 6! The Sleigh is moved L away from her home island, straight towards the waiting cannons of the English!! O_O
With Bratley and the Rye canceling the Sleigh’s defenses, the Cygnet and Gibraltar shoot a combined 5/8 (coming down to the last shot!) to sink the Sleigh and Captain Whitebeard!!
The English thought about trying to capture the Sleigh, but figured Behemoth would cause problems for them if they attempted it. Besides, they now had 25 gold permanently on their HI and the Sleigh went down with 21 gold on her, less than what fleets were expecting.
With that, the game had been reset on the very first round. Although the English now had a decided advantage in the gold race, it was basically a regular 4 fleet game from then onwards. At the right, both Pirate ships and Cursed gold runners have docked at wild islands.
The second round featured the Pirates getting scared, but for good reason. The submerged Behemoth whirled near their HI, with Canceller copied for pretty much every round of the entire game. In this case, Red Curse had no explorer and would likely have her helmsman cancelled to prevent her from returning with gold from a wild island even if she didn’t get hit first. Complicating matters was the Cygnet sailing north, who also had a canceller aboard not to mention S+S+S speed with some firepower. The Red Curse simply returned home, hoping the Wicked Wench would find good treasures on her island. The Jarvis explored, finding a 6 for the Americans while HMS Rye heads north in the west. The Sea Rat docked home a nice haul of 13 gold for the Cursed on three coins.
GWL strikes again! However, this time it is far less consequential (compared to being instrumental in the English sinking of the Sleigh), with the Nightmare being pulled away from the Cursed HI so the Jarvis can shoot her. The Jarvis only goes 1/3. The Sea Rat is taking the safe fog route to the “terrain island” down south, while Behemoth heads east to make sure the Jarvis knows her place.
Sea Rat finds some goodies! The gold is boring, but the UT’s could be huge – Cursed Conch essentially gives the Cursed a Mycron, which they’d love to put on the Nightmare as she is less valuable than the Sea Rat. Runes of Odin is probably not the only rune in play… although they were included with the goal of taking down the Sleigh with an Odin Missile, perhaps the combo can still be pivotal….
Wicked Wench did indeed find an incredible island – Runes of Magic,+6,6,2! She returns the 14 gold as the Red Curse comes over to grab the rune. The Pirates and Cursed don’t know that the other has half of the epic rune combo, but they’d both like to have them entirely within their control….
The Rye found some good coins in the northwest, returning one of them home. She also dumped her explorer to open up her other cargo space, as she anticipates making trips back to that same island to slowly drain it. Cygnet explored the island Red Curse originally wanted, but is full and can’t take any coins, turning west for a possible American threat. The Pirates see that door open and send both of their ships west, happy to finally have their home waters free of big threats. Behemoth has chased away the Jarvis and the Nightmare repairs from the attack. With L-moving options fewer than on the first turn or two, the Maryland drops GWL to open up a cargo space and search for treasure.
Whoa! The Cygnet turns around to go back east, and is joined by the Rye and Gibraltar as conflict looks imminent! The English want to protect the gold on that island the Pirates have headed back to, and build Ramsgate on it right in front of the Pirates’ faces!
With the islands so close together, Ramsgate’s L+L cannon is able to blanket the Pirate HI. However, unbeknownst to them, the Cursed and Pirates were hastily making a deal….
ODIN STRIKES AGAIN!! An icy Odin Missile descends from the heavens and blows up the Cygnet!! One big play followed by another! At the beginning of the Pirate turn, the Cursed agreed to flip Runes of Odin to bring in the iceberg, then the Red Curse flipped Runes of Magic to move it into the Cygnet. The English had gotten out to an early lead and were still looking very strong, so the other factions certainly felt the need to knock them down a peg or two.
Then the big Pirate gunships close in on the fort, but only hit thrice in eight tries!
Almost like Pirates of the Caribbean, with a “future Black Pearl” firing on an English fortification:
Sailors on the Rye look on in horror as their flagship is sunk by an unholy iceberg and their new fort is smashed by cannonade:
The Americans may have a slightly wonky fleet, but they came to play! Premeasuring that the Sea Rat can dock at their HI and steal their 6, DNT (still facedown) orders the construction of Thompson’s Island now that the Jarvis has explored the far southeastern island. Knowing that Behemoth now has a range of at least L+L with the Nightmare giving her actions to Behemoth via the Cursed Conch, the Maryland has moved over an island to distance herself and has explored as well, loading a 4 and the Wine UT. This means that 3 out of the 4 remaining fleets have HI raiding capability.
Well-trained English gunners ring true again as Gibraltar and Ramsgate go a combined 5/6 to sink the Red Curse!! (Tia Dalma and Rye cancelling each other out)
With just one ship left and no way to give it extra actions, Hammersmith (on the Wicked Wench) realized the Pirates were basically screwed. Since it’s not the ship being given the move action, a flotilla can shoot immediately after exiting a whirlpool. Therefore, even if the Wicked Wench (WW) whirled towards home, the English could follow and blast her. They could stick it out and fight the English, but Wicked Wench could not get enough cannons in range to sink Gibraltar without Hammersmith’s captain ability being cancelled by the Rye. It seemed as though the best option was to whirl to the southeast and overlap the fog bank upon exit, getting sucked in automatically. WW lost a mast in the process but lived to see more rounds.
With no gold to steal from the American HI, Sea Rat settles for some leftovers the Jarvis found.
The Rye returned home with the best coins from the Ramsgate island, which happened to be a pair of 6’s! This increased their HI gold score to 38, even more than the Cursed may have been anticipating. The Cursed made a public announcement that they had equal to or less than the amount the English had before the Rye’s dropoff (26), in the aims of getting some allies to fight or steal from the English with. They were telling the truth, though they had exactly 26 gold lol. Because of this, the Cursed and Pirates agreed to team up once again. The Cursed promised not to loose Behemoth on the Wicked Wench and even assist the WW in destruction of the Ramsgate fort if the WW could raid the English HI and thereby decrease their gold score. At the right, the Sea Rat, Jarvis and Maryland have all returned home with some coins.
The Americans were included on the anti-English coalition talks, and they did agree to be a part of it… but they weren’t exactly eager to get into a brawl with the Rye and Gibraltar. Besides, they had more local gold to secure! USS Maryland found Turtles on the last island to be explored! I finally have 10 copies of the UT (made by Woelf for the Fire and Steel set), and can play it as originally designed! (the UT was supposed to be printed with 10 turtle coins, but something changed before the set was printed – I’m thinking that a designer realized that the “game in every pack” would be a bit confusing if someone had only turtles for coins!)
Jarvis also gathering gold:
Top down view looking west showing ship movements:
Wicked Wench and Behemoth team up to destroy Ramsgate! With the coalition building momentum and the English looking weaker, DNT and Ralph David (both still facedown!) agree to pilot the Jarvis over round earth to assist as well. Maryland has actually L moved the WW closer to the English HI, a rare instance of the ability being used to “help” an opponent. All three captained ships now in play are all in opposition to the Rye and Gibraltar, who had ducked into a fog bank for safety to see how things play out. Things were rapidly becoming more complicated as the endgame approached, so much so that I had to pause and think about the “geopolitical situation” a few times, despite the fact that only a handful of ships remained in play. The English were hoping that WW would raid the English HI, get unlucky on the random coins taken (the coins being 6,6,4,4,2), and then get immediately set upon by the Jarvis and/or Behemoth, with the Rye and Gibraltar possibly able to clean up the scraps and recoup some gold. However, there was a much different option – triggering the “half or more” players eliminated endgame condition. If the Cursed or Americans backed out of the coalition and sank or captured the WW, 2/5 original fleets would be out, needing just one more to trigger the end of the game. Rye could drop Gibraltar’s tow in the fog bank (making it lost forever and removing it as a unit of play that can be given future actions), ram the iceberg to derelict herself, then scuttle (needing a 5-6 though) and hope to sink next round.
For a few reasons, the English decided to simply return home and attack. This was because as soon as the WW raided 3 coins from the English HI, that gold swing alone might lose the English the game, especially if the gold fell into the hands of the Cursed long term. By attacking the WW directly, the English were also hoping to speed up the endgame by potentially eliminating the Pirates themselves, though it would take an additional turn since Gibraltar’s 4 shots could only dismast the WW and not sink it.
The Rye has returned! Gibraltar shoots 3/4 against WW!
The Wicked Wench has just enough movement (L+S) to dock at the English HI for a raid, but her helmsman is cancelled by the Rye!
The Cursed knew better than to finish off the WW, loosing Behemoth on the English with a double action to sink the flotilla and dismast the Rye!
The coalition stays strong as Jarvis moves in to capture the Rye and the English are eliminated!! O_O The English plan backfired, as all three members of the coalition needed to eliminate the English specifically and none of their own in order to keep their chances of winning the game alive. With the English HI gold up for grabs, things were about to get interesting. The coalition has been a success, but now the members will inevitably turn on each other. Complicating the situation is the “half or more” endgame rule – all three factions now have the same goal of threading the needle between making sure they have enough gold to win, before potentially eliminating any one of the three remaining fleets in play.
Due to the positioning of two ships ramming the Rye last turn, Wicked Wench has no place to dock and raid the English HI! Hammersmith simply turns for home to repair, or to hinder the Sea Rat, who was sneakily making progress on the former Ramsgate gold. DNT is finally forced to reveal himself to cancel Behemoth, further complicating the situation overall since the Americans now have 2 cancellers in the area with the addition of HMS Rye.
Maryland drops GWL at the American HI for the second time and makes a beeline for the Cursed HI with Wine aboard! (note that all the turtles have swam ashore 🙂 )
Behemoth sinks the Jarvis, but Ralph David reveals himself to save the ship from a watery doom! Behemoth sank the Rye soon afterwards.
Perhaps Behemoth sinking the Jarvis could be a small blessing in disguise, as the ship repairs at the American HI and is on the Maryland’s route back home if she can transport the stolen 6 safely!
Not a chance! The Cursed Conch and the whirlpools have given the Cursed impressive striking power, as Behemoth whirls into the area and dismasts the Maryland! The white straw on the Maryland is a reminder to myself that the Americans rolled well to scuttle her, but the Cursed will make sure they get their 6 back. Sea Rat whirls home to avoid the WW but loses a mast during transit.
The Cursed expected to keep the Nightmare in fog the rest of the game to keep giving Behemoth double actions, but since Behemoth can’t tow, the Nightmare would be more valuable this turn. She emerged to capture the Maryland, with Sea Rat docking home more than 6 gold on her own I believe. But the Jarvis sailed over and sank the Maryland – down goes the 6 coin! In hindsight perhaps Behemoth should have stayed on the surface and moved southeast to block lines of fire from the Jarvis, but then Behemoth may have lost 2 segments to Jarvis and I think Jarvis had an angle of attack around the south part of the fog bank to get at least one cannon in range of the Maryland through that route.
As Wicked Wench repairs, Behemoth dismasts the Jarvis and leaves her there to struggle with scuttle rolls! I’m pretty sure the derelict Jarvis with Eternal Ralph David aboard does not trigger the “half or more” endgame condition because the Jarvis can be given future actions (such as repairing, and then moving/etc) once she is scuttled successfully. The Sea Rat repairs her mizzenmast, as her crew prepare for an important mission… the WW is not the only HI raider left in play….
The climactic moment that many factions thought would come sooner in the game! Wicked Wench and Sea Rat converge on the English HI looking for loot!
But Behemoth gives the Cursed a huge advantage! It takes WW down to 1 mast standing, purposely not dismasting the ship or sinking it. Dismasting WW could backfire if her remaining facedown crew is not an oarsman (it is, but the Cursed can’t know that, another aspect of playing solo) and causes the ship to be a derelict too soon, while sinking WW would surely end the game before the Cursed are comfortable with such an outcome. Sea Rat raids the English HI, only getting a 2 on the first coin. With Behemoth copying DNT for Canceller once again (the only one left in play, and luckily for the Cursed, now faceup with the Rye sunk!), the Cursed shut down the WW’s HI Hoard ability!! O_O Access denied!!
At this point the Jarvis was failing all her scuttle rolls, effectively removing the Americans from having agency in the fight over English treasure. Sick of being on the wrong end of the Cursed, the Pirates and Americans team up! At this point they would actually rather have the English win than be bested by the Cursed at the end, so they try to eliminate the WW. WW loses her mast to a whirlpool on her way to be sunk by the Thompson’s Island fort! However, the Cursed go next and see right through this plan, with Behemoth whirling to the area and being given an extra action via the Cursed Conch (on Nightmare) to knock two flags off the fort! The fort’s remaining three cannons boom, but they all miss!!! O_O The WW is still alive!
The Wicked Wench rows into the whirlpool to try and eliminate her oarsman, but rolls to avoid doing so!
That gave the Cursed another turn to redock at the English HI with the Sea Rat, who eventually was able to steal both 6’s from the English HI for a whopping 14 total gold! On the round of her third consecutive theft, WW finally tossed her oarsman in a whirlpool, thus finally ending the game as the round ended and the Cursed would be up next.
The Cursed played a masterful game, dominating the endgame and finishing as the only fleet with masts up – their fleet nearly intact!
- Cursed: 46 gold (14 on Sea Rat stolen from English HI)
- Americans: 35 (25 on HI, 10 in Thompson’s Island)
- English: 32
- Pirates: 14
- Whitebeard’s Raiders: 0
Wow, what a game! In a contest that could have been dominated by the theme of Whitebeard’s Christmas, an early Santa slaughter allowed the other 4 factions to shine instead, making for a mostly normal multiplayer game. The sheer volume of HI raiders and cancellers that Santa provoked in the fleet building process had a big impact on the game, but in the end the Cursed were able to prevail. Cursed Conch helped turn Behemoth into a dominant force, though the beast also benefited greatly from being able to copy an enemy canceller on pretty much every round of the game. Sea Rat did the heavy lifting in the gold race, eventually being the only ship to successfully HI raid (Maryland was sunk) to give the Cursed another multiplayer win. The Americans were really in it, playing the dark horse from start to finish. The English got out to a huge lead early and only relinquished it after being eliminated by a 3-faction coalition. The Pirates always felt like they were on the verge of something big, but were consistently spoiled by the English and Cursed.
Interesting to note that the scores are the same as the play order. I think the game would have been quite different if Wayne Nolan’s reroll hadn’t bailed out GWL on the first round to yank Santa into harm’s way. Here he didn’t stand a chance!