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Dead Men Tell No Tales» Forums » Variants

Subject: Variant idea rss

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Geoff Duncan
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Just curious, has anyone tried playing this "Betrayal at House on the Hill"-style where, instead of adding a new tile every turn, you only add new tiles when going through an open door to an empty slot? I'm assuming it would lead to a lot more tile-related losses since it would be more difficult to plan the layout of the boat, but maybe that's offset by the fact that new tiles aren't always being added every turn?

I may give this a shot soon, but was wondering if the designers or anyone else had already tried it as well.
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Dan Angevine
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this would turn it down a bit, leave us more time to explore the ship (lookout deckhands!) wtihout rushing against tiles
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Geoff Duncan
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danimal13 wrote:
this would turn it down a bit, leave us more time to explore the ship (lookout deckhands!) wtihout rushing against tiles


That was my thought as well. I like that the game ratchets up the intensity as you go on, but there is a bit of a tipping point where you can suddenly go from having things relatively under control to all-out chaos, only because you hit an "add deckhands" card when all of the trap doors are out (even if they are in parts of the ship that no one has actually explored yet).
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Kane Klenko
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While I've never played Betrayal, I did consider this during testing. The main issue is that it gives you too much control over the speed that the tension/panic escalates. For me, the fun of the game (and most co-ops) is that feeling that there's a bit too much happening for you to control, but you somehow are able to hold it all together just long enough to either barely win or lose. If you can deal with all of the threats on the board before adding new ones, then you lose that sense of just-barely-out-of-control-oh-no-this-had-better-not-be-a-4-card-because-then-we-are-in-so-much-trouble-feeling.™

That said, I design games for people to have fun, so if you think that would be fun then go ahead and give it a shot.

-Kane
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Geoff Duncan
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Thanks Kane! And I agree, I'm interested to see whether this variant would make the game too easy or lose that sense of urgency. Will probably give it a try in the next week or so and will see how it goes.

Thanks again for making a great game, I'm looking forward to the expansions whenever they're ready!
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James Mathe
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What you could do is either allow someone to explore to a new area OR put out a new tile. Thus if no one turns over a tile during exploring this round, you still must flip a tile and place it.

James
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Geoff Duncan
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RPGShop wrote:
What you could do is either allow someone to explore to a new area OR put out a new tile. Thus if no one turns over a tile during exploring this round, you still must flip a tile and place it.

James


Great idea! If I'm reading that correctly, it sounds like you're saying there would be a 1 tile minimum per round of player turns (instead of 1 tile minimum on each player's turn), but with the option to explore more if the players want to take that risk.

So, for example in a 3-player game, if all 3 players spend their turns doing something on the already-discovered ship, then at the end of player 3's turn they must flip a new tile and place it. If, on the other hand, one or more of them decide to explore a new area on their turn, the minimum is met for that round.

I think that could be a good balance, excited to give that a shot as well.
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fortheloveofdice
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My guess is that would slow things down too much - I actually play such that each character turn you place two tiles for the first 2-3 rounds (as in 2-3 turns for that character - and same for all the others).

I agree - try it, see if it is fun for your group.

For me, with double tile pulls only the first turn for each character it felt like things got off the ground really slowly - too slowly. I'd rather get into more frenzied action more quickly.
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Geoff Duncan
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I tried playing a few games with these variants over the weekend, and can confirm that waiting to place the tiles until going through empty doors did slow down the game a bit too much, and also was a bit awkward with tile placement. We ended up stopping mid-game and resetting back to the regular rules because it wasn't as fun.

We did stumble into a small rule tweak that I think was really helpful, though. The issue we were running into was with the deckhands, specifically after all 7 trap doors were out. Each time we got that far, even if we had the deckhands mostly under control, all it took was 2-3 turns with a deckhand add/spread card hitting and suddenly we were placing 7-10+ on each turn, which just seemed ridiculous and killed any chance for strategy in a 2-player game. I do love the intensity in this game, but that exponential growth just felt unbalanced.

The tweak we tried was to only apply deckhand actions to tiles that were within line of sight of any player. We figured line of sight goes through any open door, so as long as there was a direct path through doors to the player, it counted (but not around corners or through walls). I think this works thematically as well, the idea being that the deckhands are going to keep coming out and spreading if they can see you, but not in parts of the boat that are out of sight/not currently relevant.

Your mileage may vary, but we found this made for the right balance for us and plan to use this tweak again in the future.
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fortheloveofdice
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You may find deckhand control easier if you focus on the trapdoors themselves rather than the surrounding areas. If a door has zero deckhands on it and the surrounding areas have one, it would take two deckhands emerge cards plus a deckhands spread out card, in that order, before any spread. Other deckhands spread out cards mixed in up until that point wouldn't matter.

Other things can help such as tile placement and your strategies in moving characters around the ship.

Crazy as it sounds, a person I game with plays with 10 deckhands removed and I've played with 5 removed.

They can be a challenge to control and sometimes deckhands will cause you to lose the game. If they make the game too frustrating then yeah try something else for a bit. You may want to revisit the original rules for them once you have a bit more experience with the game, as there are strategies to explore which do help and can be fun to figure out.

Glad you found something that is working for you for now.
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Geoff Duncan
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Absolutely, I'm guessing part of our problems were just poor tile placement or getting distracted by fires & treasure to keep the deckhands under control, combined with a few games in a row where we drew several add deckhands cards right at those worst possible times. I'm sure with some more experience we may revert back to the original rules if we find it's too easy.

Another idea I was toying with (which admittedly is also to help the deckhand problem, so probably not of interest if you're looking for more challenge) was to be able to "close" a trap door with an action, assuming there are no deckhands in the room. A closed trap door would then reopen on the next add deckhands card (but no new deckhands come out yet). Or even possibly have the option to "block" a trap door by sacrificing a cutlass. Again, probably not for everyone but I thought it was an interesting idea that could add another strategic option to consider.
 
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Kane Klenko
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Gdunc wrote:


Another idea I was toying with (which admittedly is also to help the deckhand problem, so probably not of interest if you're looking for more challenge) was to be able to "close" a trap door with an action, assuming there are no deckhands in the room. A closed trap door would then reopen on the next add deckhands card (but no new deckhands come out yet).


I like this idea. It's worth a shot. Let me know how it goes.
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Geoff Duncan
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Favre4MVP wrote:
Gdunc wrote:


Another idea I was toying with (which admittedly is also to help the deckhand problem, so probably not of interest if you're looking for more challenge) was to be able to "close" a trap door with an action, assuming there are no deckhands in the room. A closed trap door would then reopen on the next add deckhands card (but no new deckhands come out yet).


I like this idea. It's worth a shot. Let me know how it goes.


I did try this idea a few times and can say that I liked having the option to close the trap doors. Doesn't make a huge difference in terms of the overall flow of the game, but can be helpful as a temporary way to slow down the deckhands in a high-traffic area.

If you ever wanted to incorporate this into new versions I think it would be fairly easy to swap out the image on one side of the tokens to be closed vs open.
 
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Timothy Carr
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As far as the original topic regarding exploring the ship yourself, that has been one of the things I've simply had to re-theme. The rulebook says you're searching, but people then ask why you can't explore for yourself on your turn (as well as other questions regarding the theme as it relates to the rules). So I instead say something along the lines of the following:

"The Skelit's Revenge is an infamous ghost-ship, a burning Hell for some of the most treacherous, mutinous, and depraved pirates to serve upon in a cursed afterlife. These are the pirates who went too far, who broke any honor or morals a normal pirate has left. Doomed to an eternity of torment and greed, the Skelit's Revenge haunts the seven seas, appearing out of thin air to terrorize all in its path (pirates and innocents alike). But an immortality of looting and destruction has a price; every time the ship enters the mortal realm it is ablaze, fated to burn down to nothing again and again. The ship's covetous occupants are too attached to their vast piles of ill-gotten gains to ever leave the fiery cycle, and thus ravage all passerby for ever more wealth.
You are all pirate Captains who have struck a temporary truce in order to take down this scourge. For too long has the Skelit's Revenge threatened your crews, and indeed all seafarers. Fewer ships now sail the sea in fear of it, and so there are fewer to plunder. If you take enough of their gold the skeleton crew will have nothing left to tie themselves to this world and they will vanish! (The booty, even shared, is also reason enough!) But beware: Leave with too little, and they will be able to follow the scent of their missing gold until they take it from your cold, dead hands...
You have successfully boarded the ship as it has begun to fade into existence, turning from mere mirage to blazing monstrosity! You must act quickly to find the guards and steal the treasure before it's too late. Work together to fight the skeletons and your own fatigue, tossing tools and lending a hand amidst the chaos. Just make sure that you don't leave a fellow Captain behind to die after the battle has been won, or else they may haunt you just as the Skelit's Revenge has haunted the seven seas..."


I've found this explanation thematically solves a few rules quirks:
You aren't “searching” the ship, the ship is materializing (there is no more ship to explore yet). And if a ship tile's doorway doesn't match it's not just a random loss rule, it's the ship failing to materialize properly and thus collapsing from reality. The backstory about the treasure explains why you have to take a certain amount of gold rather than leave with what you have, and being Captains explains why you don't mutiny (as this crazy mission was your idea) as well as makes each person feel special! Changing items becomes tossing and catching them across the ship action movie style, and the last bit explains why leaving a man behind results in a loss despite being backstabbing pirates.

That said, I just started a thread on gameplay and component ideas for expansions which includes a concept that could potentially be used to allow self-exploration while keeping the pressure Mr. Klenko had intended. Essentially, weather effects! (The game does take place in a storm, after all.) Wave and rain cards mixed into the revenge deck could help with deckhands and fire respectively, but each one would simultaneously make the ship slowly fill with water and get close to sinking. (More details in that topic.)
With adding a small handful of cards and without adding any complicated rules, thematic weather effects would make many things easier (a welcome respite as the game is incredibly difficult even on the easiest difficulty) while keeping the pressure on. If you did manual exploration like suggested in this topic, it would become a risk/reward scenario. You could play it slow and safe, keeping every room in complete control, but each surge of water would still get you closer to death regardless of how much of the ship is revealed. You wouldn't need the “search” phase anymore, or the first turn double-draws. You would, however, need to figure out the increased issue with invalid tile positioning, as that would get frustrating. I still like the idea of weather effects regardless, even without Betrayal-esque exploration.
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