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Subject: House Rules for balance rss

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Matthew Leahy
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I backed the Kickstarter for Cornish Smuggler with enthusiasm, it looked very good (as an artist that's important to me, regardless of playability) and the mechanics seemed interesting. I like the card mechanic and the Tetris mini-game. I've had a chance to play it a few times, with inexperienced and hardcore competitive gamers.

As others have expressed, I noticed that the game had some balance issues from the first play. There are moves, usually based on the luck of a draw, that will knock another player out of the game with little to no risk. We all know it isn't fun to watch other players continue a game you can't win even on a longshot.

That said, I like the game a lot and really want it to shine. Players really seem to enjoy it and think it's worth tweaking, whereas we have played games that get put away never to see the light of day again.

One of the disappointing things is that we don't really seem to be avoiding customs counters. As has been noted, they tend to hover around the first unloadings, and they're bribed. No risk. I'd like to feel like I need to drop off goods in other ports, just to get them off ship, but so far we don't seem to need to do that. Also, there are cards that allow theft of goods shapes, and this is devastating. We've not had a game yet that went to the end of the customs track.

We are trying the following next time we play:

Customs markers: Players that 'pass' may move a customs marker of their choice. The last player that passes may not move a marker. This will encourage customs to move, and will pressure that last player that seems to have double influence and keeps taking action after action to pass as well, encouraging a new turn. It has been noted that the designers probably intended that players use actions to move customs, but it almost never happens as a result of paying gold or influence as an action. We may reduce the cost to move customs markers.

Secrets Card- Going Pirate:This is devastating, often garnering the player a four or five square goods shape for a paltry 2 Rep. So, you've gained something that will get you about 15-20 gold, while robbing another player and maybe even leaving them with no gold at all, and no hope for coming back. I've not seen a player come back after getting this card played on them.

We're proposing a loss of all Rep when 'Going Pirate'.

Secrets Card- Work Experience: Another devastating card. When played, this will almost assuredly swap a great character with a storehouse for a wretch. If you're the unfortunate victim, you will be losing reputation immediately (along with influence next turn), a good character, a storehouse in your carefully built network, and probably a 3-5 square goods shape. I've not seen a player come back after getting this card played on them.

We may be taking this card out entirely, or playing the card as 'discard storehouse' with the goods shape being left exposed, which is bad- but not as bad. I like actions that gain you something, or make a player lose something. When you play a card that provides you a great positive at the same time as severely shafting someone else, not so much.

Starting Influence:We're also wondering if starting influence should be halved.

Goods Shapes:The game doesn't really scale with the number of players. I think that the game really could use more goods, or see them replenish, with the game ending upon hitting the end of the track rather than ending upon the last good shape being purchased. We haven't decided how to add shapes (we are considering making more and stacking them on top in the merchant warehouse, or the player with least gold at a turn's end places a good shape of their choice from the discard pile on a merchant warehouse).

I'll update with how the game goes after these changes.

All said and done, we like it


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Steve Carey
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Really interesting post, Matthew - we've had many of the same thoughts.

--Another factor associated with C.O's and Goods not being seized basically renders the Mob ability (and several Secrets cards) useless. My copy of the game came with an extra 2-squard Goods piece, so I was thinking of starting that in the Customs Warehouse and seeing how it goes.

--'Going Pirate' can be harsh, but it does require a sequence to enact - if someone else moves their ship into your Ship space (and you're carrying Goods), you do have a chance to move out. It creates some tension, and I'd be inclined to leave it as is (or perhaps have a player lose 1/2 their Reputation, not all of it?).

--'Work Experience' is too brutal, I agree - I asked a question earlier if any Goods in the Storehouse transfers to the new owner, and the official answer was "yes". This card (along with 'Defector') needs a fix.

--The first turn can run very long with the starting Initiative true, but I think it's necessary for players to get things going. Why do you think Initiative should be halved?

--The game should scale better with varied number of players, I'd agree with you here too. Ending the game when the Customs Track runs out seems to be an easy variant, but not sure how to recycle the Goods without unhinging the game.
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Steve Walker
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Great thread guys. Here are some thoughts:

Going Pirate

Has come out in both our games and was fairly tough. You can play assuming that your opponents have it, but that still won't help you if they're lying in wait on that central sea space.

Work Experience

Thematically it would make better sense if someone doing work experience copied the ability of the other character, rather than replaced it.

Starting Influence

Yes, please tell us why you think it should be halved.

Goods Shapes

We too have never had goods seized: though some players have been under quite a bit of pressure, it seems that for the automatic customs moves you can do the math ahead of time and figure out if you'll get hit or not - so avoiding them is doable. I like the idea of seeding a customs warehouse or two - I also have a spare goods piece and will try this.

Let us know how it goes with your tweaks, we do enjoy the game.
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Steve Carey
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MonkeySamba wrote:
You can play assuming that your opponents have it, but that still won't help you if they're lying in wait on that central sea space.


Good point, Steve - that central sea space is well-traveled.
 
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Matthew Leahy
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Steve Carey wrote:

--The first turn can run very long with the starting Initiative true, but I think it's necessary for players to get things going. Why do you think Initiative should be halved?


It was one of the things to 'fix' suggested by one of the players- I think it was because another player got lucky and had characters that were getting more influence as well (the 'erratted' ones), so it seemed like he just kept going, and going, and going...

In retrospect the starting influence as is should actually level the first turn out- more so than if it was lowered.

Has anyone had a game go more than three turns? I think all of ours have been two or three turns with the last goods shape triggering the end.
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Stuart Dawson
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Interesting thread. I'm glad that there is discussion around the game, as I think it's quite a unique title.

I have only played it 3 times so far, and here is how mine was looking:

In all 3 games, the end was triggered by the customs track.
In 2 out of the 3 games, goods were seized.
All three of our games lasted 4 turns.
(These were all 4 player games).

In one of my game groups, we can be pretty combative and the game certainly allows for that. People spent time ensuring peoples goods were stolen. As has been pointed out, 'going pirate' and also, in my opinion, the 'Defector', are devastating. I would also say this is true for having a goods seized. I 2 games I had a 5 piece good seized, and trying to get it back was so hard. One time I spent my 2 final turns getting it out of the Customs Warehouse, only to have 2 other players spend their turns seizing it again. To be fair, there were things I could have done to avoid it but I didn't act fast enough.

Anyway, just my thoughts. I am enjoying the game and hoping to play it quite a bit more and work out other strategies.
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Jim Scheiderich
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I have had two plays - 3P and 4P. The 4P was brutal - probably a good reflection of the times.

The 3P was the first game and the scores were 50-48-28. The 2nd 4P game it was 28-25-23-18. Two of us had Customs drop on us in Sennen losing each a 5 Good. Then one player Pirated a 3 Good from me. I went from leader to struggling.

The first game finished on the CT; the 2nd due to the last Good being gone (via a Secrets card) but the CT was in the last 2-3 spaces.

Three of us struggled mightily with a lack of Gold. I had enough Rep that the Influence allowed me to make mischief with Customs moves and to get Secrets cards.

I agree that one can get stuck in the game. I'm not sure the "fix" to Honest work didn't go a bit overboard with discarding half your Rep (as well as having no Goods). Maybe 1 Rep for every 2 Gold gained (assuming you have the Rep) or you gain 11 Gold less any Gold you have but take Rep out of the equation (though still losing some of it). Example you have zero Gold and 6 Rep - now you gain 8 Gold but lose 3 Rep (not sure if it is 11 - Gold held - reduced Rep OR current Rep). In the method I proposed, you could gain 11 Gold but would lose ALL Rep (not good) - or take 6 Gold and lose 3 Rep etc. A tough trade off.

At the end of the day perhaps there are some other tweaks needed or one can make sure that ALL players are aware of the game's penchant for being tough. Perhaps it should be renamed Cornish Strugglers!

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Steve Carey
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LHIM wrote:
Two of us had Customs drop on us in Sennen losing each a 5 Good.


Just curious Jim, do you remember the specifics on how this happened?
 
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Jim Scheiderich
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Another player used a Secrets card (I do not recall which one) to move the CO who was in St Just. Yep - dumb to be sitting one space off a CO while totin' around a 5 Good...

IIRC it was fairly late in the turn so Inf was low (certainly for the player that acted as he was pinched on Inf all game) and there wasn't much Gold around either - probably left me with a false sense of security. Both of us (who were poached) likely on the way to St Just to sell. The other player would have arrived 1st - drawing the CO back again. I ran about the whole game with the most Rep and usually had Inf though I found myself always using it all.

In retrospect, I should have bribed the CO involved earlier but focused too much on a 2nd trip to the Merchants. Greedy. Did that help?

Steve Carey wrote:
LHIM wrote:
Two of us had Customs drop on us in Sennen losing each a 5 Good.


Just curious Jim, do you remember the specifics on how this happened?
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Lazy McCrow
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Thanks for the thread. Looking forward to playing our first game next week, I'm hoping our group will like the game (My bias as a Kickstarter), but they/we are a hyper critical bunch and are usually discussing house rules before the first playthrough is complete (XD).
I'm wondering if you guys would recommend removing the 'Going Pirate' cards - or indeed any others for our first playthrough. What say yew!?
 
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Jim Scheiderich
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I think you ought to play it at least once before removing any cards. There is a chance it won't show.

Also think that if group is hyper-critical, then making a house rule of the bat will simply embolden them...
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Steve Walker
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LazyMcCrow wrote:
What say yew!?


I'd leave all cards in but tell them to expect, and prepare for, thematic nastiness
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Joe Robinson
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MonkeySamba wrote:
You can play assuming that your opponents have it, but that still won't help you if they're lying in wait on that central sea space.


This is how my girlfriend got me in our test play. She was deliberately waiting on that space, and I wasn't sure why until she played the card.

To be honest though, you can turn it into a waiting game - they can't sit there forever, and the list of actions means that you can do other stuff while you wait them out.

Given the way things are balanced, if you make them come to you, then you'll be able to escape.

But I haven't played many games yet so I'll have to see how viable a strategy this really is.

I like it so far, but there is a weirdness to its design. Looking at some of the ways the game has been broken by others (like nearly all goods pieces going in Turn One)

Sounds like this is one of those games that kind of expects the players to 'behave' to a point in order for it work as intended.
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Steve Carey
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DigitalEccentric wrote:
I like it so far, but there is a weirdness to its design.


CS hasn't returned to our table since its initial offering - we love the theme, but there are too many kinks in the hose.
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