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Moby Dick, or, The Card Game» Forums » General

Subject: Lots of death, not a drop of oil :( rss

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George Breden
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Played my first game of Moby Dick, or, The Card Game last night.

Before I start with the problems we encountered, let me say that I LOVE the artwork and the theme of this game, and the way that theme is realized with all of the quotes on the cards. Brilliant.

The game also comes with lots of lovely whale oil counters. Lots of them. Which is why it seemed funny that we never got one during the whole game. Not one.

We start with three sailors, and no way of buying more since we don't have any oil. Without lots of sailors or oil, there also is no reason to trade; since we all ever had only a few sailors who were close enough in ability not to matter, we never took that action the entire game either. With no oil, no one could bribe anyone so that never happened too. The entire game proceeded with a player pulling from the sea deck and maybe getting something lucky like a free sailor, but more than likely pulling something bad, or getting a new chapter or a sighting of Moby... in this way the game raced along chapter to chapter without an actual whale encounter for the longest time, and though I was enjoying the theme I could tell my friends were baffled and frustrated by their lack of options and lack of actual whaling or success of any kind. No one ever got a chapter oil bonus because the chapters wouldn't stick around long enough, even if we had had any chance of getting one. Then when the whales did appear, they simply killed everyone almost immediately as we only had a few sailors anyway (as again, we had acquired zero oil). So the game resets with everyone getting two sailors, and no oil, and we go again pulling sea cards in the same way and either advancing the chapters or getting whales that again kill everyone, racing the game on toward finally meeting Moby Dick, who then once again kills everyone. Last one killed? Good enough, you're the winner!

I really, really wanted to like this game, and hope it can be salvaged with some kind of rules to add oil. Some at the beginning, plus a little every turn? I'll try it again, because I want to like it so much.

What house rules, (or official rules), can fix this issue well?

Edit: I wanted to add this here, as it seems I've approached this game from entirely the wrong way!

Hmm ... I'm going to need to re-think all of this.

I just listened to the KS project movie again, and the designers actually state that the game is meant to be a "hard, brutal, bleak game experience" - and specifically that players will come to the game with a capitalist mindset of killing whales and getting oil and hiring sailors, and as the game becomes more chaotic and strange, they will begin to question whether oil is really the most important thing. Eventually they will come to realize that the way of 'winning' the game is simply surviving...

So. With that, I'll need to take another look at this, and approach it entirely differently to see if I can enjoy Moby Dick in a way that isn't like most card games I have, and instead just enjoy the epic journey. I may owe the designers an apology for rushing to judgement!
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1 Lucky Texan
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You guys understand the 'doubles' rules for the dice , and maybe how to 'retreat' I guess?
 
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George Breden
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Well, yes -- a few of us did get fast a few times, but then got slaughtered. Those of us that retreated lived, but that didn't get us any oil ever; so eventually, we just went for it, and then died. Should we just retreat over and over at the start of the game, running away from every whale every time, until someone gets lucky enough with their draws from the sea deck to put a crew together despite no oil?
 
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1 Lucky Texan
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I was just double-checking. And remember loomings gives you (2 ?) extra boat strength too.

maybe try 3 xtra boat strength for Loomings?

And you still have to deal with an attack (at least one) before you can retreat so, you can never really 'remain' retreated - just thinking if you feel a bad shuffle is the issue, retreat a lot until less aggressive cards come up.

I have only played a couple of times with my PnP but, there just always will be a lot of death.
 
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George Breden
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'Doubles'-checking.

What do you think of having each of your sailors get paid in oil for being brave enough to lower after a whale? Say, 10 oil per sailor? Maybe even 5 oil per sailor if they retreat?
 
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George Breden
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Oh, I thought if you retreat you are out of the hunt after that? First you deal with the initial attack, then you can retreat and back out of the chase for the rest of that hunt. Is that not right?
 
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George Breden
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The problem was that Loomings doesn't stick around long enough for the extra boat strength to do any good, as there are so many other chapter cards in the deck plus the Moby cards. Wait -- do the chapter cards stay in effect the rest of the game once they come out? I wouldn't think so ... I thought they were replaced by the next chapter that appears. Unless a whale pops up first thing, Loomings doesn't seem that useful -- plus, the whale attacks first, and if you lose even a single sailor out of the first three you're back where you started. Plus, if you can't roll dice well when you need to, the whale is going to get more than the minimum two attacks against your puny crew. Seriously tough.
 
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1 Lucky Texan
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a lot of games have house rules so, you could try that.

I think the 'feeling' of sailors earning their 'lay' after killing a whale is better, that's why I think some house rule/variant making it a little easier to not die too soon is a better way to modify the game. Lower with more sailors or increase the boat strength or make ANY double strike the whale during Loomings....etc. After all, early in a voyage is when equipment is in good condition and the men are better fed and more enthusiastic to get that first whale!



let us know what you work out. Still waiting for my real copy, hoping to 'lower away' during the holidays.
 
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a_flying_possum wrote:
Oh, I thought if you retreat you are out of the hunt after that? First you deal with the initial attack, then you can retreat and back out of the chase for the rest of that hunt. Is that not right?


yes, maybe I worded things confusingly.
 
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Sid Rain
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Maybe start the game with 20 or 30 oil. You can use that to either hire one or two sailors or possibly bribe a low level sailor. Although the problem is that the advantage goes to the first player. You could possibly counteract this by making the first Gam phase a free-for-all for everyone.
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George Breden
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Hmm ... I'm going to need to re-think all of this.

I just listened to the KS project movie again, and the designers actually state that the game is meant to be a "hard, brutal, bleak game experience" - and specifically that players will come to the game with a capitalist mindset of killing whales and getting oil and hiring sailors, and as the game becomes more chaotic and strange, they will begin to question whether oil is really the most important thing. Eventually they will come to realize that the way of 'winning' the game is simply surviving...

So. With that, I'll need to take another look at this, and approach it entirely differently to see if I can enjoy Moby Dick in a way that isn't like most card games I have. I may owe the designers an apology for rushing to judgement!
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I suggest trying one of these approaches;

make a 4th 'timing deck'. Pull all the Chapters and one MB white card from the sea deck. Select Loomings for the top, then 3-4-5 Chapters (you could draw them randomly or pick them out and shuffle them) then, the white card on the bottom. Use this deck like this, play the Loomings chapter until you have fought one whale, then, turn it 90 degrees until you fight another whale, then, remove it and play the next Chapter until you fight a whale, turn the card 90degs and play until you fight a second whale - repeat. (if this seems too long, try fighting 1 whale for each chapter). When MB cards come up in the sea deck, Ahab moves as usual, when you get to the MB card at the bottom of the timing deck, fight Moby.

Or, Try playing with a house rule that you ignore Chapter cards until a whale (or 2?) has been fought in the current Chapter.

or, reduce the number of Chapter cards in the deck by half or 1/3.

Thematically, sailors rarely shipped with more money than it took to maybe buy a new knife and pair of pants from the captain's 'slop chest'. And certainly there was little/no whale oil on board initially.

Your experience is not new as folks who played with the PnP also found the number of Chapter cards to create a little too much 'chaos'. To be clear,I don't recall who came up with the timing deck (it wasn't me) but that is how I've played so far.
 
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Matt Price
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a_flying_possum wrote:
Hmm ... I'm going to need to re-think all of this.

I just listened to the KS project movie again, and the designers actually state that the game is meant to be a "hard, brutal, bleak game experience" - and specifically that players will come to the game with a capitalist mindset of killing whales and getting oil and hiring sailors, and as the game becomes more chaotic and strange, they will begin to question whether oil is really the most important thing. Eventually they will come to realize that the way of 'winning' the game is simply surviving...

So. With that, I'll need to take another look at this, and approach it entirely differently to see if I can enjoy Moby Dick in a way that isn't like most card games I have. I may owe the designers an apology for rushing to judgement!


It's a shame the designers didn't open the rulebook with some sort of set-the-scene, designer's notes thing that said exactly this. I'm seeing more comments that this game is brutal; I suspect this might turn off lots of players who perhaps thing they're playing the game incorrectly but have no other options in the rulebook.
 
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Tyrone ..................
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Oh man, is it brutal. I played about 5-6 games and we killed only 1 whale the whole time. Luckily there were some card effects that allowed us to get new sailors. Except for the very end with Moby Dick, it was a great experience though.
 
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George Breden
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Yes, I think the game should be fun as well ...

Plus, while it's true that 19th century whalers were injured and died quite often, it isn't as if they were out there failing to kill whales all the time ... the whalers were so successful that they had started to wipe out the whales in easy distance, and so had to go out farther and farther to find the ones they wanted .. and the oil and other products were a very significant resource to the young nation's economy.

So why can't we kill a single whale, without losing 4 boats worth of sailors?? Why do we have zero oil in the hold when the ship's main function is to process it??

There was a whole lot of successful whaling happening at the time, and a lot of successful whaling in the book, too. After thinking about it, I can't accept that the game is simply meant to be this brutal and discouraging.
 
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1 Lucky Texan
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you're right about the book - despite Ahab's usurpation for revenge - the Pequod does find and take whales. But it is also true that whaling was sometimes extremely difficult. There is at least one record of a ship returning to New Bedford empty of oil - after 4 years!
 
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Dick Butler
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My solution is going to be to increase the number of sailors that players get at the start of the game--to five at first, then perhaps even seven. This won't reduce the number of sailors killed in the whale attacks, but it will delay the time when you have to lower away with just one sailor in your boat instead of a number more likely to bring about a success once in a while.

If I don't make this house rule, I don't think I'll ever get anyone to play the game with me. I'm the only literature major in my gaming group.
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you should never START hunting with less than 2;

Quote:
2.2 HIRING NEW SAILORS
No sailor can bear to see an undermanned whale boat and will happily join
for free when there are a few spots open. If you have no sailors at the start
of your turn, draw two from the sailor deck. If you have one or two sailors,
draw one.
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Michael Alexander
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Honestly, the house rule I'm most interested in is simply, "Loomings cannot end until someone has taken down a whale. If it's Loomings and you draw a Moby sighting or a new chapter before you've faced at least one whale, ignore it, reshuffle and draw another."
 
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