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Subject: Rules of Boatswains (Boatsmen) Revisited rss

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The different rule sets (Hans im Glück; Rio Grande Games; Z-Man Games) differ slightly in how they present the rules for moving Vikings to islands from the mainland (I call this "ferrying"). This is done using Boatswains (perhaps the best translation of the German Bootsmänner, although the Rio Grande rules used Boatsmen). For simplicity, I will use the term "Viking" to refer to a veeple that is not a Boatswain.

I believe that these rules are best understood in two parts: the rules that specify ferrying that are not allowed; and the rules that specify ferrying that is required. The rule sets mix the presentation of these concepts (or at least appear to do so), and I think that has been a source of confusion.

I will put my proposed rules in italics so that readers who don't want to read all my reasoning can find them easily. I also summarize them here:

1. A ferrying is disallowed if it does not include a Boatswain and if it does not include at least one Viking.

2. Standard rules: A ferrying is disallowed if it includes three or more Vikings, two of which are the same color and two of which are different colors (the two disallowing pairs can include a common Viking).

3. Advanced rules (without use of special boat tile): A ferrying is disallowed it includes more than one Viking.

4. Advanced rules (with use of special boat tile): A ferrying is disallowed only if it would be disallowed by the standard rule.

5. In the large scoring at the end of round 6, a player must perform ferrying as long as (1) she has a Boatswain; and (2) she has a Viking on her mainland and a corresponding island tile with no Viking on it.

Disallowed Ferrying

The most central rules are those that specify the kinds of ferrying that are disallowed. These rules are defined based solely on the Vikings being ferried (and not those remaining on the mainland).

Standard rules (Rio Grande called these "the basic game"): A ferrying is disallowed if it includes three or more Vikings, two of which are the same color and two of which are different colors (the two disallowing pairs can include a common Viking).

Advanced game (Rio Grande call this "the progress version"): A ferrying is disallowed it includes more than one Viking.

Advanced game when a special boat tile is used: A ferrying is disallowed only if it would be disallowed by the standard rule.

For completeness, one could say that a ferrying is disallowed if it does not include a Boatswain (of course) and if it does not include at least one Viking. One cannot use a "null" ferrying to eliminate a hungry Boatswain!

Required Ferrying

There are rules that specify that ferrying is required in some cases. These rules have been the subject of considerable discussion.

These rules appear to impose efficiency on players. At first, this seems odd. Players should plan and execute their ferrying to maximize efficiency. A player does not want to end the game with Vikings left on the mainland. In addition, the game rewards the player or players who retain the most Boatswains at the end of the game. It's not clear why a rule would be necessary to require efficiency.

I believe that, for this game, such rules exist both for theme and balance. The Boatswains are in the game (and are "hired" by players) for the purpose of ferrying Vikings. They shouldn't be kept around on the mainland (with unferried Vikings) solely to gain some efficiency award. If the 10-point award for most end-game Boatswains is designed to award efficient ferrying, it would seem odd to award it to a player who declined to do any ferrying at all!

There are two places in which the rules appear to require ferrying: one for the standard rule, and one for the final scoring.

The standard rule for ferrying says that "1 Boatswain may be used to move all Vikings of one color or 1 Viking of each available color to unoccupied Island tiles."

There has been discussion here about the terms "all" and "each" here. Questions have been raised such as, "If I have two free spaces on red islands, can I use a Boatswain to ferry two red Vikings to them - even if I have three red Vikings on the mainland?"

I believe that the designer did not intend this rule to say more than what I wrote under "Disallowed Ferrying" above. The main point was to say that each ferrying must be either "only one color" or "no more than one of any color."

I don't believe the intention was to prevent ferrying for the "I have more red Vikings than red-island spaces" case above - or even for the (perhaps unlikely) case in which a player just doesn't feel like ferrying everyone that he can.

(Here's another point. It seems clear that the advanced rule for ferrying - one Viking per Boatswain - was intended to be more restrictive than the standard rule. But if the standard rule required this maximization of ferrying, it would actually disallow some ferrying that would be allowed by the advanced rule!)

The general rule (i.e., "all Vikings of one color or 1 Viking of each available color") applies to every large scoring. As I said earlier, the main reason to have an "enforced efficiency" rule seems to relate to the end-game bonus for most Boatswains. Thus, there does not seem to be a reason to force efficiency in the general case.

I believe that for any large scoring other than the last, the only ferrying rules should be those I gave above for "Disallowed Ferrying"; one can leave Vikings behind on the mainland.

Forced efficiency does make sense for end-game scoring. It is here that the rule sets differ subtly. The Rio Grande rules (and, if I understand them correctly, the Hans im Glück rules) say that each player must ferry with as many Boatswains as possible (minimizing the number of unused Boatswains). In contrast, the Z-Man rules say that each player must ferry as many Vikings as possible (minimizing the number of unferried Vikings).

These are not exactly the same thing. Each of them creates potential enforcement challenges: what if I perform three ferryings at the end of the game and, after I do so, another player says that I could have used more Boatswains (Rio Grande) or ferried more Vikings (Z-Man)? Do we have to remember the earlier configuration just to be sure?

(In the advanced game, one could also imagine arguments about whether a player used each special boat tile to maximal efficiency.)

Both sets of rules say something like the following: "a player is not allowed to refrain from using Boatswains when legal placements for her other Vikings remain."

I think that it would best to replace each of the two disparate rule formulations with the following simpler rule:

In the large scoring at the end of round 6, a player must perform ferrying as long as (1) she has a Boatswain; and (2) she has a Viking on her mainland and a corresponding island tile with no Viking on it.

This rule is simple, and I believe that it captures the original intent: at game end, you cannot choose not to use a Boatswain if there is a way to use it. The rule is easy to enforce, because it is sufficient to look at a player's play area to determine whether another ferrying is possible. There is no need to verify that each ferrying was done optimally or wonder whether special boat tiles were used ideally.

I realize that this rule is not equivalent to the formulations in the rule books. But I think that satisfies the main goal (to prevent players for hoarding Boatswains that could be used), allows a reasonable amount of player choice, and is easy to use and enforce.

Edit: provide summary of proposed rules formulation at beginning for reference.
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Jonathan Harrison
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Your proposed rule is how we have always played, and I think it captures the intent of the rules.
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