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Subject: First game and a 10-0 win for the merchant player. rss

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Steve N
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Enjoyable, if one-sided, first game this evening (two-player).

My opponent (Chris) was a law-abiding merchant throughout. He got off to a good start and within two or three turns he had a good haul of gold and a couple of glory points. By contrast my career in piracy got off to a poor start with a succession of failed scouting attempts on merchants. As Chris was starting to present such a juicy target himself it became fairly evident to both of us that my best strategy was to start hunting him down, which I tried to do. Chris, however, was alert to the threat and he spent the rest of the game moving no further than one sea-zone at a time and thereby always finishing his turn in port. In this way I didn't get a single chance to scout for him. Before long Chris upgraded to a galleon and then his passage to victory was unimpeded.

Is there anything I could have done to bring Chris into combat? His strategy seemed to ensure this was impossible. If it is so easy to avoid the threat that pirates pose how can they ever win?
 
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Jack Francisco
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Cut-throat variant.
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Kyle
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Two player games work, but they can be somewhat unbalanced like this. The problem is that you can't really force another player to fight you if they don't want to fight you.

It sounds like you spent quite a few turns chasing after him and waiting for him to come out in the open, which was time spent not scoring any glory points. If you had been hunting merchants along the way, even with the occasional failure, you would have done much, much better in the long run. As long as you keep going for merchants in his vicinity you'll keep the pressure on him, so he'll have to occasionally risk exposing his ship to you or he'll continue wasting two entire actions every other turn port-hopping to remain safe.

Another option is to use the cutthroat variant listed in the official FAQ (check the files section), which would allow you to intercept him any time he tried to leave port.
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Steve N
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I've just browsed the forums a bit and it seems as though the strategy I describe is called "port-hopping". Experienced players assert that this will not win because it involves wasting two actions every other turn.
Seems hard to agree with having just seen it prove so overwhelmingly successful. I guess the cutthroat variant is worth looking at...?
 
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Steve N
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Thanks for the replies. To be clear, I was doing my best to raid merchants whenever I could. My scouting was weak (2) and the dice weren't helping. I was only tempted into piracy because my seamanship was strong (4) and my opponent had made a really fast start. When I did find a merchant I didn't once raid enough gold for a glory point. It seems really hard to believe that I could have accrued glory points quickly in that way but I guess it must be possible.

Is the cutthroat variant widespread?
 
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Ray Greenley
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Merchant raids can be VERY successful in getting glory. But you do need to be able to scout successfully. Without that, you'll have no chance. Otherwise, be sure to remember that special weapons can be used during merchant raids to change failed dice to successes on your seamanship roll. That can be HUGE for getting enough gold in a raid for the glory point.
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Einmal ist keinmal
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Yeah, that's some really bad luck if you had a Seamanship of 4 and had trouble getting 12+ value from merchant raids. What was your ship's Maneuverability? Were the merchants escaping?
 
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Dan
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A scouting of 2 is not desireable for a pirate but it's not a total disaster. You have a 56% chance of finding each merchant. If your opponent is port hopping that should give you the time you need.

This is interesting. I would think the pirate would have the edge in this scenario, so I'm surprised by your results. When you did find a merchant, what percentage of yhe time did you win a glory point?
 
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Andy Leber
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Rianane wrote:
A scouting of 2 is not desireable for a pirate but it's not a total disaster. You have a 56% chance of finding each merchant. If your opponent is port hopping that should give you the time you need.

This is interesting. I would think the pirate would have the edge in this scenario, so I'm surprised by your results. When you did find a merchant, what percentage of yhe time did you win a glory point?


About zero percent, by the sounds of it, lol.
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Dan
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Yes, I missed the subject line.
 
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Kyle
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ReggieMcFly wrote:
Thanks for the replies. To be clear, I was doing my best to raid merchants whenever I could. My scouting was weak (2) and the dice weren't helping. I was only tempted into piracy because my seamanship was strong (4) and my opponent had made a really fast start. When I did find a merchant I didn't once raid enough gold for a glory point. It seems really hard to believe that I could have accrued glory points quickly in that way but I guess it must be possible.

Sounds like some seriously bad luck if you're not regularly getting 12+ in raids with a 4 Seamanship. On the roll alone you should almost always (statistically) be getting at least once success and two more at least half the time, so the odds are definitely in your favor. Special weapons are what will put that over the top, and if you're not already, you need to be investing heavily in those if you want to be serious about raiding merchants. Regardless of seamanship, they can make up for a bad roll or can make a good roll even better.

4 Seamanship plus a full load of special is about as close to guaranteed as you can get when it comes to a merchant raid. A really bad draw of cards can sometimes still get you, but those will be few and far between.

Quote:
Is the cutthroat variant widespread?
I have no idea how many people out there actually use it, but I think it's a fairly small minority. It does gets a fair amount of attention here on the forums, but the majority of the time that's from it being brought up in response to first time plays like you've described.

Once players have the experience of 5, 10, 15, or even more plays, it's really not necessary because the time wasted port-hopping more than offsets any advantages in those early plays. Beyond that, you'll probably only see it within really aggressive player groups.
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Steve Duff
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ReggieMcFly wrote:
Thanks for the replies. To be clear, I was doing my best to raid merchants whenever I could. My scouting was weak (2) and the dice weren't helping. I was only tempted into piracy because my seamanship was strong (4) and my opponent had made a really fast start. When I did find a merchant I didn't once raid enough gold for a glory point.


Sure, port hopping can defend a lead, but it doesn't make sense to have 0 glory points to 10 and game over.

How many times did you scout? How many were successful? How many of those ended up just short of 12? Were you using special weapons?
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Steve N
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Thanks all for the tone of your replies. I expected to be blasted for either getting rules wrong or playing like a moron.

I probably made 6 or 7 successful scouting attempts. It felt like my success rate was less than 50% so I'd be inclined to estimate that I made about 15 attempts. I drew almost all low value cards - in all those attempts I remember one 5 gold card - and that ended with 4 escape cards (I had a sloop). I don't think I can remember any 4 gold cards - it was almost all 2s and 3s. On one occasion I decided to let the merchant go because it would have meant a bounty from a third nation and I thought that unwise. I didn't use any special weapons so perhaps that might have made the difference?

I'd be keen to try piracy again to see whether it proves to be more successful. We'll perhaps hold off on the cutthroat variant until we have played a few more times.
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Einmal ist keinmal
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ReggieMcFly wrote:
I didn't use any special weapons so perhaps that might have made the difference?

Yes, this is very important, as someone stated above.

Each Special Weapon you discard will change one failed Seamanship roll into a success, allowing you to manipulate the plunder cards more effectively.
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Steve N
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Ok, thanks. The rules imply that using special weapons in this way is kinda desperate so I didn't give it too much thought. Typically my three-card draw had a value of 7 or 8 gold so it would have been asking a lot to make 12+ from that. I imagine most players would only consider using a special weapon in this way if they were only 1 or 2 gold short?
 
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ReggieMcFly wrote:
Ok, thanks. The rules imply that using special weapons in this way is kinda desperate so I didn't give it too much thought. Typically my three-card draw had a value of 7 or 8 gold so it would have been asking a lot to make 12+ from that. I imagine most players would only consider using a special weapon in this way if they were only 1 or 2 gold short?


a 3 card draw of 7-8 will turn into victory as follows:
assume 4 dice thrown with 1 skull.
decide to use 2 special weapons to upgrade 2 dice to skulls,
now you have 3 skulls.

for skull 1 ask for a 4th card: a 3, for a total of 10-11.
for skull 2 ask for your 5th card: a 4, for a total of 14-15.

If you have to many escapes and or a destroyed location,
you can always use your last skull to remove the worst card.
and probably you still have 12 in plunder.

Remember: each skull can be used (one at the time) to ask for an extra card, the change of a card or the removal of a card.

so even a 7-8 initial draw with 3 successes are very easily converted into a glory point...

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Steve N
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Ok, thanks. thumbsup Indiscriminate use of special weapons. arrrh

Got it.
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Kyle
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ReggieMcFly wrote:
Ok, thanks. The rules imply that using special weapons in this way is kinda desperate so I didn't give it too much thought. Typically my three-card draw had a value of 7 or 8 gold so it would have been asking a lot to make 12+ from that. I imagine most players would only consider using a special weapon in this way if they were only 1 or 2 gold short?
6 or 7 is probably the bottom end where I personally would consider not using Specials, but it would depend on what I rolled and which hit/escape icons were out too.

If you're dealt a "fail", switching out some of the bad cards is essential. In a sloop that means getting rid of any cannon hit cards, and at least one of anything else that's doubled-up. You're stuck with all damage from the raid cards whether you succeed or fail, so even if you can't get glory at least reduce the damage enough that you can sail away with the gold and maybe some cargo you can sell nearby in demand. If you didn't roll enough to get rid of those cards with normal successes, you'll need to spend specials to do it. Unless you've got a really horrible draw where you're failing multiple ways at once, swapping at least the first card is usually better than simply discarding because that replacement card will often help push you back in the right direction.

If you're dealt a "safe" raid (one that isn't failing) but is simply a few gold short of glory, that's when specials really become valuable.

I like to have a minimum of two successes in the raid (whether rolled or via specials) so I can add a card to the lineup but still have the option to get rid of it or one of the other cards if that extra would result in a failed raid. If you have three successes you can do even more; add one card and if that doesn't fail the raid add another - you've still got that third as a safety to get rid of a bad card.

If your first/second added card doesn't fail the raid but you're still short of glory, you can play the "push your luck" game depending on how close you are for gold and which hit icons are out. Knowing the odds will help you a lot here:
--The card values range from 1-5, but the largest number of them are 3-value, and 3 is also the average value. Depending on where you are in relation to the 12+ total, that'll tell you how many additional cards you can expect to need to reach it.
--The icons are split 50/50 between escapes and hits, and the hits are spread fairly evenly between locations. If you're one escape away from failing it's risky to add another card if you can't get rid of it, but if you're one away on a hit location or two your odds of avoiding additional damage to that specific location are much higher.
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Also check out this great guide:
So, You want to be a Pirate? A Merchants & Marauder's Strategy Guide
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