Captain’s Log -AAR Play Test

This is an After Action Report on the last play test for our Pirate Game. This design is almost done. We have sent it off to the graphics guys for final art work. With a little luck, it might be available later this summer. At the very latest, this fall!

This looks very rough. The cards look terrible but we are we are very happy with the way the game play is turning out. This should give you a good feel for how the game works.

Pre Game

I’m playing a 2 player game against Ty.  My mission?  To safely sail my ship across the table and end the game with the most points.  We lose points for damage to our ship.  We gain points for plundering other ships or sinking pirates.  We get double points for transporting cargo to market, safely across the map.  I’m sailing out of the North.  Ty will be coming out of the South.

The wind is to my back, out of the North.  Fantastic!  That gives me the weather gage.  A huge advantage!  In theory, this puts me in the driver’s seat.  We can engage at will and fight on our terms.  We can evade and avoid contact all together.  Provided I don’t blow it.  –As I’m prone to doing at times.    

I decide to sail a Sloop.  This square rigged ship will give me a faster speed while running with the wind.  I name her the Dauntless.  My favorite!  Now what to take on board?

Since we have the wind, I want to load up with all cargo.  IF I can craftily slip past Ty and sail off the opposite table edge, that will give me 12 points.  However…  I’d better hedge my bets to be safe.  I’m going to take 1 set of guns and 2 compliments of crew.   That will cut my cargo in half but give me a little bit of resilience if I do blunder into a scrap.  I won’t be defenseless.  This will also give me options if Ty tries to make a cargo run.  In that case, I’ll need to be able to intercept him.  It’s nice to have some flexibility here. 

In this game, the configuration of cargo, guns and crew for the ships is kept secret.  Neither player will know exactly what the other has.        

Ty picks a Schooner.  Good choice.  Schooners are actually faster while reaching into the wind.  That negates much of our wind advantage.  He flies a French flag:  The Magnifique!

Opening move

Ok, we set sail, full speed ahead.  Best to appear confident right?

He sets off on a port tack, heading NE.  That doesn’t mean he is weak or scared of us.  He can’t sail straight for us because that would be directly into the wind for him. 

The main question before us now:  Is he trying to slip past us with a heavy load of cargo, or is he intent on boarding and capturing our ship?  Right now, we have no clue.

His ship is smaller and faster.  If he is loaded up with just cargo and we both just sail across the board unscathed, he will win.  An all cargo load will give him 10 points.  We can only make 6 now because of the guns and crew we carry.  That would be a 4 point loss.  Not too bad, but it’s better for us to win right?

If he is loaded up for a fight, then all we need to do is slip past him.  If we can pull that off, the score will be our 6 to his 0.  That’s the best we can hope for unless we get a chance to capture his ship or something. 

 Turn 2

No change in wind.  Wow, we are closing fast.  I guess this makes sense since we are both moving at maximum speed!  The Magnifique turns about to a starboard tack to the NW.  It is towards us!  Is this an aggressive move?  Not necessarily.  They are running out of table over there and needed to turn about anyways. 

The wind shifts a little.  Coming out of the NE now.  No big deal.  We still have the advantage. 

(Movement in this game is simultaneous.  Both players pick their course and speed in secret.  They reveal at the same time and then move.  -Similar to Sails of Glory or X-Wing miniatures.)

We are about to close.  This next move is probably the most important in the game.  Huge decision to make!!!  Depending on how we move, we could easily end up in firing range.  We still have no indication of his intent. 

What should we do?  At this point, I think we are looking to engage.  We may be out gunned.  If that’s the case, we can try to run.  We do need to test the Magnifique and see what she’s made of.  I like our position and heading.  I continue ahead but slow to a crawl.  Let’s see what Ty does. 

Turn 3

Doggonit!!  That sounded good didn’t it?  Caulk up another boneheaded move for me!  The Magnifique comes about and lines up a perfect raking shot on us.  We can’t even fire back.  Let’s see what she does.  If they have any gumption to fight, she will certainly open up now. 

And she does.  She fires 2 sets of guns.  Ok, that clears that up.  Now we know.  She is armed to the teeth and looking to take us down.  Firing on us is an act of Piracy.  Ty switches his flag to the Bella Donna.  Now we get points if we can sink him! 

Ok, now let’s let’s get a damage report.  Hopefully this won’t be too bad.  We draw 2 damage cards for a long range shot, 1 extra for the 2nd set of guns and 1 more for being raked. 

(These are the crude play test graphics.  The graphics wizards should have the final art ready soon.)

Ok, a mix.  A fire.  No big deal.  We can get that put out.  Two sail damage cards.  Not cool.  That will reduce us to minimal speed.  We are going to need to get that fixed.  Finally a hull shot.  That means Ty can randomly pick one of our ship cards to destroy.  What does he pick? 

Our guns!!!  Noooooooooo!  We only had 1.  Now we cannot return fire.  We are a sitting duck.

Now what do we do?!  It’s not over yet.  It’s important to keep a good attitude in this game.  I’ve seen things turn around from situations like this.  We still have a fighting chance.  It is a different game now.  With no guns, we’ll have to run for it.  We still have a strong crew though.  If boarded, we could win.  Maybe the wind will help us!

Noooooooooooooooo!!  The wind slows down!  With our sail damage, that brings us to an all stop.  We are dead in the water. 

Turn 4

Ok, what can we do?  The good news is that we have 2 crew left.  That means they can fix 2 things for damage control.  I put out the fire and repair one of the sails.  If we don’t get clobbered to bad in this next shot, we might be able to slip away for a win! 

The Bella Donna comes around and fires another shot.  It is still long range, just barely.  It is also still a raking shot.  Now one good thing about this, is that right now, Ty doesn’t know that he blew out our only guns.  We haven’t been able to fire at him yet.  For all he knows, we have a full compliment of guns ready to blaze away at him as soon as we get a shot. 

Another interesting puzzle for Ty:  We came to an all stop, why?  Did we do that because we had to or because we wanted to?  He doesn’t know!  All of that is hidden.  He may think that we are incapable of moving now.  Hopefully this will lead to him into making a blunderous move!  Let’s keep our fingers crossed.  Brace for impact.

Ok.  Not too bad.  A new fire, a hull shot and 2 breaches.  The hull shot destroys one of our cargo cards.  Fine.  Right now we need the crew cards!  We can deal with this. 

The wind picks back up again!  Hurray!!

Turn 5

Alright, I bring her about, 45 degrees to port and at best speed which is 2, just 1 notch slower because of the remaining sail damage.  No thoughts of glory now.  All we want to do is run and escape off the South side of the table.  If we can do that we win 4-0.  -We are down 2 points for our destroyed cargo. 

Now just a darned minute.  Belay that order!  I need to think about this.  I already made 1 bad move.  This is another key moment.  I need to think about this from the enemy’s perspective.  What are they going to do?  They can’t turn 90 degrees to starboard because that will put them in irons.  The wind is coming from that direction.  They won’t break off and turn to port because they think they are beating us now.  That means, they will most likely go ahead slow or turn slightly to starboard, right? 

If they do that, and we move 45 degrees to port, we’ll get blasted with another broadside, but this time at short range!!  We got lucky last time.  We want to minimize those shots at us before our luck runs out!

Ok, so how about we instead turn hard to starboard?  That could line up a raking shot on him!!  We can’t fire at him but he doesn’t know that yet.  It is still very valuable for us to line up a raking shot on him because then he can’t fire at us! 

Now the down side to all this is, that we could very well end up in boarding range after this move.  That’s not good but it’s better than the alternative right?  We have 2 crew.  He has at least 2 crew.  He has 1 more card that we haven’t seen.  That is mostly likely another crew.  So we are probably outnumbered for boarding but not by much.

The way I see it, if we’re going to get boarded, better that it happen now right?  We are as close as we are going to get to parity.  If we take another broadside, we might take a crew hit.  We can’t reduce his crew with broadsides.    

So we can try to run away by turning port.  He’ll most likely get 1 more good shot at us.  That could sink us.  It could also kill our crew and slow us down so that he can easily capture our ship for a massive loss:  -6 to 10.  If we are lucky yet again, we’ll slip away for a moderate win:  4 to 0.

If we turn starboard, we will most likely be boarded.  We are not favorites but we could win:  9 to -5.  I like this option.  A better reward for the risk!  New heading:  90 degrees hard about to starboard.  Let out the main sheet!

What does the Bella Donna do?  All Stop.  Woo Hoo!!!!

My crafty thinking actually paid off!  We have indeed lined up a raking shot.  The Bella Donna can’t fire at us now!  We can’t fire. Not firing on them raised an eyebrow.  We would have fired if we could.  Ty knows it now.  We know that he knows.  Well, it was fun while it lasted.  Yep the jig is up. 

Time for some damage control!  We have 4 damage cards.  Our 2 crew can repair 2 of them.  Which 2?  If we don’t fix the breaches, we’ll take on water.  If we don’t put out the fire, it will spread.  If we don’t fix the sails, we may not be able to get up the speed to escape! 

Ok, I’m going to put out the fire.  If that spreads, it can get out of control really quick.  I don’t like to mess around with fire.  I have the other crew fix the sails.  We need all the speed we can get now.  It’s time to run.  The breaches will take on water but not enough to sink us.  At least not this turn.    

The wind shifts back to the north. 

Turn 6

Ok now.  Time for another crafty move!  To make points off our cargo, we have to escape off the south edge.  The problem is that if we turn that direction, (port) we are liable to get blasted.

The Bella Donna can’t turn starboard because that’s where the wind is coming from.  What will they do?  Probably come around to port to try to line up another shot on us as we escape.  Think, think.  Ah!  I know:   All Stop!

Yes!!!  The Bella Donna turns hard to port and we line up another raking shot on her!  Ha!  They are so lucky I don’t have guns.  We’d be hauling their sorry carcasses off to be hanged now. 

I patch the 2 breaches in the hull.  We can pump out the water next turn.  No change in wind. 

Turn 7

Ok, now what?  We could just sail dead ahead and run off the map to the right side.  We’d get 0 points then and Ty would get 2 for the damage he did to us.  Hardly seems worth it. 

We can’t turn starboard.  Straight or port will likely get us shot at.  Hmmmm…   Now, what if we come about hard to port?  Maybe we can slip in behind her and then make a run for it!  Let’s try that:  90 degrees, hard to port. 

Whoa!!!   The Bella Donna stopped!  Neither of us have a shot.  I was afraid of this but guess what?  Lady luck winks at us yet again!  We are just a hair’s width out of boarding range.  Thank goodness!!

The wind slows a bit and we do indeed get all the water bailed out. 

Turn 8

We are down 1 in speed because of the wind but so it he.  His ship is faster.  Ours is slower but, his is slower while running (heading down wind).  While heading south like this, he is actually down 2 in speed (1 for the slow wind, 1 for running).  We are as close to even with him as we are going to get.  I think it’s time to make our run for it!  Do we go port or starboard?  Let’s go 45 degrees to port, best possible speed!

Ty reads my mind with the same maneuver.  He fires a broadside.  Brace for impact.

Medium range.  We take 3 damage cards plus 1 for a second gun. 

Well, the bad news is that we have 2 fires and a hull hit.  The good news is that we didn’t take any sail damage and that the hull hit destroyed another cargo.  If it had destroyed a crew, our ship would have burned and sunk!  We wouldn’t have been able to put it out.  We still have a fighting chance!

Oh no!  The wind dies off!!

Turn 9

Well, I guess the upside here to the wind dying off is that it will stop the Bella Donna dead in her tracks.  She is already -1 in speed for running. -2 for wind brings her down to 0 for speed.  We’ll probably take another broadside.  Let’s see if we can start putting some distance between us in the mean time:  Ahead full. 

We put out the fires but they get a raking shot at us. 

Ok, now it’s getting ugly.  Two fires, 2 sail damage, we take on 1 water and we have rudder damage.  That means we can’t make any course changes until we get it fixed.  The wind picks back up again.

Well, not looking good now.  We can still keep her from sinking but if we take one more blast like that, we’re done. 

Turn 10

We limp ahead at minimal speed.  The best we can do.  I’d like to fix those sails but if we do, the fire will rage out of control!  Hmmm….   We could fix 1 sail and put out 1 fire.  That will spread to another fire next turn but we can deal with that later.  That will get us making more forward progress sooner, which will improve our chances of escaping.  We are very lucky we haven’t lost any crew yet.  We still have a chance of winning if they board us.  Let’s see what the Bella Donna does now.

Well, would you look at that?!  Even at minimum speed, we shot ahead pretty quick!  We are on the inside track.  The Bella Donna was slower for running and turning but she’ll pick up speed now that she’s on a beam reach.  Hopefully fixing that sail early will be the edge we need to win this race!  No broadsides this turn.

The wind shifts!!  Out of the NE now.  Not good.  If it shifts 1 more notch to the East, we are in big trouble. 

Turn 11

Ahead full!

Oh no!  The Bella Donna does indeed pick up speed.  She swoops around, into boarding range.  Well, here we go.  At least we have a full crew and a fighting chance, but we are still the under dog.

First, Damage Control. Should I put out the fires?  Hmmm….    If I don’t, and the Bella Donna beats my crew, they will likely not have enough to stop the fire!  My ship will burn and sink.  That means they won’t get any points for capturing my ship.  On the other hand, if I win, my ship will still burn & sink, and I won’t be able to save it.  I have 2 crew now.  Just enough to put out the fire and stop it for good.  If even 1 of my crew dies in the boarding attempt, (very likely) I won’t be able to stop it later.  Well, I guess I’d better go ahead and just put the darned thing out now while I still can.  She has been a good ship. 

Boarding Party

Ty indeed has 3 crew vs my 2.

Round 1:  I kill 1 of his crew!

Round 2:  He kills 1 of my crew! 

Round 2:  He kills my last crew!  Nooooooo!!!

I lost.  He does seize my ship.  The fire is out but there is 1 breach and 2 water.  He can easily fix that with his 2 crew left.  Final score:

Me:  -6 for losing my ship.

Ty:  1 for seizing what is left of my ship, + 2 for taking the cargo on board to market for a profit for a total of 3.  He would have made more if he hadn’t of damaged my ship so badly.  Still a 9 point total victory.  Not bad. 

I fought well.  If I hadn’t lost my gun in that opening shot, this could easily have been a very different fight.  Even so, I gave him a good run for his money.  It’s all kind of my fault for giving him that first raking shot to begin with.    

If there was another player or two, this could have been a totally different situation.  Sure, Ty took my ship but now his crew is spread pretty thin.  He also has a lot damage to repair on the Dauntless before it becomes operational.  Another nearby player could have swooped in and easily stolen his prize.  Maybe even his ship as well! 

Could he fix the Dauntless in time and fight off an attack in his weakened state?  Possibly but it sure wouldn’t be easy. 

Even given all this, I still came close.  I was only 2 moves from escaping off the board for a victory!