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Prune These Mechanics?

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I'm sketching out ideas for a pirate game. Arrrgh!

The basic design is a pickup-&-deliver commodity game. Each port in the Caribbean produces a Cargo type, and at any time each port will have a random Market tile (representing demand for a particular Cargo).

You go to a Port, pick up a Cargo, and deliver it to another Port where you collect the Market tile from the board. Each of the tiles has a point value on it (generally higher for the better Cargoes) and when all the Market tiles have been claimed, the game ends and whoever has the most points wins. So it's basically a race to pick up the high-value tiles with lots of points before your opponents can.

There's also a simple combat game which is mostly about raiding other ships' holds, as well as riddling their hulls with cannonballs and decimating their crews. Hull & Crew are two resources that players have to manage, to keep their ships seaworthy, and they can replenish each at port.

The board is divided into Seas each of which have several ports in them. Each player has three ships and a turn will look something like this:

1. Pick One Of Your Three Ships
This ship becomes the “Merchant” for this turn: all other ships might be Pirates! Arrgh!
2. Declare New Sea For Ship To Voyage To
3. Opponents Play Weather
Each player has a hand of cards with a Weather value from 1 - Calm Seas, to 7 - Hurricane. When you move, each of your opponents secretly selects a card and they all play simultaneously.
4. Match The Weather
Now you have to discard a card of your own.
If you match or trump the value of the highest opposing card, you enter the new Sea unharmed (skip to step 10)
If you cannot match, you are overtaken by a Pirate! Battle ensues.

So far, as you can see, it's a bidding game. Do I keep my highest Weather cards to ensure the safe passage of my own ships, or do I play storms to get opponent ships attacked by Pirates? There's added tension because you don't know what anyone else is going to play.

5. Choosing The PirateStarting with the highest Weather played, each of your opponents is offered to become the Pirate.
You have to have a ship in the target Sea to be the Pirate.
The Pirate picks any one of his/her ships in the target Sea to attack with.
If all players decline to become the Pirate, you enter the Sea unharmed (see step 10).

6. First Bombardment
The Merchant takes one Cannonball in the Hull. Check for Shipwreck.

There are two resources you have to manage in battle - Hull & Crew. Hull is a measure of how battle-torn your ship is. In any battle, the Merchant will lose one hull piece and the loser of the battle (Merchant or Pirate) will lose another one. You only have 5 Hull pieces total.

7. Boarding
Each player plays a card.
Player with the highest total wins.
Winner loses as many Crew as the Swords on his card (or as many as possible).
Loser loses as many Crew as the Sails on his card (or as many as possible).
Check for Shipwreck.

Each Weather card also has a Sword and a Sail number from 1 to 5 (for example: 3/4 Swords/Sails). This is a risk element. You want to play a high total to win the battle but that means taking more casualties. You could bet heavily on winning - for example, play a 1/5 card - if you win you only take 1 casualty, if you lose you take 5 though!

8. Boarding Damage
Loser of Boarding takes one Cannonball to the Hull. Check for Shipwreck (from Hull).

6-8a. Shipwreck.
You're Shipwrecked if there is a Shipwreck check and you have no Crew, or your Hull is completely riddled with Cannonballs. You lose all your crew & Cargo and restart your ship immediately, in any Sea of your choice, with 7 crew and a full Hull. If your opponent is Shipwrecked and you are the Pirate, you get a chance to Captury his Booty.

It's impossible for any player to be eliminated from the game (as this is a Eurogame not a wargame per se). Shipwreck does mean losing all you've invested in Crew & Cargo though, and this can be very bad if you're carrying a Cargo that has a great Market tile waiting for it.

9. Captured Booty
If the Pirate wins and is not Shipwrecked, he may take one Cargo from the Merchant and place it in his Hold (if his Hold already has 2 Cargo and is full, he may jettison one of his own Cargo pieces to make room). The Pirate may capture Booty even if the Merchant is Shipwrecked.

10. Dock at Port

The Merchant now picks a Port in his Sea. He will spend the rest of his turn at Port. Don't physically move your ship to the Port; it remains in the Sea.

11. Actions at Port
Each Port shows a Market, a Warehouse, a Shipyard and a Tavern. You may visit any two unless you have Captured the Port, in which case you may visit any three.

11a. The Market
If you can unload a Cargo that matches the Market tile, you may take the Market tile (keep it to keep track of your Fortune). Place a new Market tile on the Market (you may not take this new tile even if you have matching Cargo).

11b. The Warehouse
Load 1 Cargo from the Warehouse into your ship. You may carry 2 Cargo pieces at a time. You may jettison Cargo you are already carrying to make room. Each Port has a Warehouse with a different Cargo type.

11c. The Shipyard
Hire the listed number of Crew, or repair the listed number of Hull sections. Each Port has a Shipyard with a different number of Crew or Hull pieces (generally, the Ports with Warehouses selling crappy Cargo, have Shipyards where you can hire lots of Crew or repair lots of Hull sections).

11d. The Tavern
Draw a card from the Character deck and place it face up in front of you. At any time you may shuffle a Character card back into the Tavern deck and use its special ability.

This is an added flavor element. For example the Parrot is a character, and you can discard him at any time to loot two cargo from a defeated Merchant instead of one. Each of the characters has their own special ability.

12. Capture the Port
You may now Capture a Port by landing Crew from your ship. The next time one of your ships docks there, you may visit three locations instead of two.
If the Port has not yet been Captured, land 1 Crew there. Other players may Capture it from you but the next capturer must land 2 crew instead; the one after that 3 crew, etc.

This is another simple bidding element. You are investing Crew in the hopes that another of your ships will visit the Port soon and visit many locations. The other players can trump your ownership - if they are willing to pay the cost.

13. End Of Turn
Draw enough cards to refill your hand (total = number of players + 4)
Play passes to the player on your left who picks a new ship.


Anyway, I think at this point it's a bit too complicated. What mechanics are good, in your opinion? What could be removed without harming the game?

Thanks in advance for input. This design is still in a very rough shape. ;)

Prune These Mechanics?

Complicated, yes. I like the concept though. I'd consider getting rid of the weather mechanic. I don't see how it affects overall gameplay in relation to the overall concept. I'd stick to focusing only on getting to the ports quickly without getting sunk inbetween them. If I were you, I'd consider making the board only one sea. Or, if there are three seas, then each player plays a single ship in each sea, so in effect they have three ships going all at once (though the total point value wouldn't make much sense if you're a pirate because you wouldn't have a "fleet" of pirate ships (3)).

Hedge-o-Matic's picture
Joined: 07/30/2008
Prune These Mechanics?

I'd suggest giving the game a try or three before changing it. Remember, verbal descriptions can take longer than actual play mechanics, especially when players know what they're doing.

If, in play, the sequence bpgs, then consider which is the worst offender. You might be surprised as to what part slows play the most, or doesn't fit with the others. Or, you might be pleasantly surprised to find your original mechanics work just fine.

Joined: 12/31/1969
Prune These Mechanics?

It seems fairly simple (at least compared to most fantsy flight games).

here's the bit I don't get:

Now you have to discard a card of your own.
If you match or trump the value of the highest opposing card, you enter the new Sea unharmed (skip to step 10)
If you cannot match, you are overtaken by a Pirate! Battle ensues.

Why does bad weather equal pirates?
If I was playing, I'd keep my weather cards to protect my ships, and let soeone else do the public service of attacking others.

Another question, only a minor point really, you mention that "You may jettison Cargo you are already carrying to make room."
Do you have to pay any financial penalty for wasting goods like that? I don't imagine the suppliers would be happy!

Apart from that it's looking pretty good.

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