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Daniel
Germany
Freiburg
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Last night we have played Shipwrights, this time with the Townsfolk expansion. We were a group of five people, two of them new to the game. All of us new to the Townsfolk expansion. After a thoughtful and structured introduction of all the rules everyone felt comfortable starting the game. And let's face it: the game isn't complex, all you have to know is the actions and to understand what each card does.

That is where the trouble began. Unfortunately one of our players didn't understand most of the English effect descriptions on the cards, although it is not much text. This is obviously a 'personal problem' because we are not English native speakers and everyone had a different skill level in languages. However, some more iconography in the text on the cards would have helped big time. Note: I know that the cards have additional symbols in the top corner, giving a quick idea what type of effect to expect. Easy for experts, a little harder to grasp for newbies.

A turn overview card would have been great for all of us. I love these in every game and the backside of the overview card with the ship construction prices is the perfect place for that. I'll probably go and put a printed sticker on it, although I don't like modifying original game components.

The game took about 3.5 hours. And I have put that in bold letters because that wasn't normal, but it happened. Sure, we were 5 players and with the higher player count comes more playing time. However, I wouldn't expect more than 90 minutes tops if everything runs smoothly. So where did it go wrong? It was definitely the Morning phase, the card drafting, that slowed the game down. I noticed that the others spent more time choosing a card than they spent on performing their actions during the Noon phase. Why is that? 1st, English, like I mentioned before. 2nd, they were asking again and again what each card does, although there are only a bunch of different effects on the cards and one should have gotten them all after a few rounds. 3rd, people were thinking far too long which card to take. This is even more unnecessary now that the Townsfolk expansion allows to use one craftsman for another or remove craftsmen or protect yourself with a shield. Overall the Townsfolk expansion does buffer/mitigate negative effects quite good so you don't have to think for too long which cards to take in the Morning.

Solution?
Again, in bold. Because I have none, other that avoiding this group in combination with this game. The only thing I came up with and that should work for beginners:

In the Morning phase deal 5 cards to each player. During their turn they use 3 of these, keep one for the next round and discard the rest.

At the start of each turn people would have one card they kept + 5 new, discarding 2 cards each round (except for round 1 where thy discard 1).

This would allow to keep a card and save on it. How many times had I to discard a much needed Boat House because I couldn't afford it? It would have been great to keep it and save up some gold to build it in a later turn.

To avoid people stocking powerful characters like the King or Assassin, there could also be a "construction area" for buildings. Very much like the Workshop you can place a building in the construction area and keep it there until you actually build it.

Or, simpler:

You can keep cards for the next round and draw back to three.

Drafting is neat, if players don't spend too much time with it. If newbies are in the game it maybe isn't as important than in advanced game play to choose each card. So drafting could be replaced with simply dealing out cards to all players.

So I guess, after putting all this together, I can imagine this as a variant for a game with 5 players and newbies to speed it up:

Deal 5 cards to each player. Keep three cards, discard two at the beginning of your turn. After your turn you may keep one card. Next turn draw back to 5.

How does that sound? This will most likely be the first game that we alter by house rules.

Disclaimer: The game is a good game. This is not exactly critique on the game itself. W have had specific individual problems caused by some members of the group.
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Christian Schepers
Germany
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Here's what we did to speed up the morning phase:

After the first player had chosen a card a and handed the rest to the following player, he IMMEDIATELY grabbed a new pack of cards instead of waiting until the round was complete.

This way all players where choosing cars simultaneously, which also reduced the downtime quite a bit.

You have to be a little careful not to mess up the different card packs, but after every player simply waited for the next to player to pass his remaining cards before handing over his own remaining cards, everything worked fine. Before that it happened every now and then that a player simply put his remaining cards on the table and passed them over before his neighbor was done with his own cards... This created some confusion very fast...
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Daniel
Germany
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SirWillibald wrote:
Here's what we did to speed up the morning phase:

After the first player had chosen a card a and handed the rest to the following player, he IMMEDIATELY grabbed a new pack of cards instead of waiting until the round was complete.

This way all players where choosing cars simultaneously, which also reduced the downtime quite a bit.

You have to be a little careful not to mess up the different card packs, but after every player simply waited for the next to player to pass his remaining cards before handing over his own remaining cards, everything worked fine. Before that it happened every now and then that a player simply put his remaining cards on the table and passed them over before his neighbor was done with his own cards... This created some confusion very fast...

We did that anyway. Didn't help much. The piles where coming to rest at those players, who were just slow. See my edit of the OP, I added a suggestion, too.
 
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Jebstone Boppman
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unfortunately there's not much that you can do. It's just the nature of the game in it's take that ways.

The expansion helped a lot, especially when you would be stuck with the wrong craftsman after someone took out a boat you had under construction and you would just be stuck not being able to do anything for 20-30 mins, but the games still run on about 2 hours with 4.

I've tried house ruling things to make it go quicker, but it breaks the balance of the game - so what we usually do is just reduce the number of ships needed to trigger end game to 2 ships.

But ultimately, due to it's length, this game rarely sees the table for me, where as Raiders and Explorers are on quite often.
 
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Daniel
Germany
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I also thought of triggering game end at three instead of four ships. But I am pretty sure that this will interfere negatively with the game balancing. See, while some may focus on ending the game as a race, someone else might be saving up for a larger ship or building that gives more victory points. Ending it earlier only makes it harder to build 'heavy' stuff.

And since my group was spending more time on drafting than on their actions, I thought I should reduce or simplyfiy that, the Morning phase.
 
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