I finally got a chance to playtest this card game, made by a member of my gaming group. "Captain" John Morgan (he's even got a piratey name!) brought along Treasure Fleet, a clever card game in which players play Cannon cards in order to capture Spanish treasure ships on their way from the Caribbean to Spain.
It's a sort of area control game, where the areas to control are the various ships that come up each 'sailing', and the influence you exert comes from Cannon cards in your supply. Everyone starts out with the same set of Cannon cards, which range from 1 to 4 cannons plus 1 Boarding Party.
Game the First, 5 players
Having never played the game before, I was unsure exactly what to expect. The 5 player version of the game had not been played much at all, so we included none of the additional or variant rules (Storms, Cursed Ships, sinking ships). I think it would have worked out allright if we had, but it made sense not to as 3 of the 5 players had never played before.
'Roarin' Reed Ethington
'Mangey' Michael Sorenson
'Savvy' Seth Jaffee
'Captain' John Morgan
'Wiley' John Wierich
Roarin' Reed pulled out ahead in the first round, winning 2 large ships. With the exception of the designer, Reed had played the game more than anyone else, and Captain Morgan said Reed is the winningest of all the playtesters. Reed and Michael both used their Boarding Parties this round, and there were comments that this was unusually early for that.
Seth was the savvy player in round 2, picking up 2 good sized treasure ships to go with the medium one he got in the previous round. Seth would have liked to use more of his lower valued cards, but was concentrating too much on winning ships and therefore would later find his hand to be pretty weak.On the up side, a timely use of his boarding party not only won Seth a large treasure ship, but effectively cancelled out 2 of Mangey Mike's 4-Cannon cards.
(I may be getting these out of order)
Wiley John Wierich, despite consistant complaints that he hadn't understood some rule or other, or that his whole strategy was screwed up, or that he'd have done something differently, was sitting pretty after the third round. Looking at the scoring piles I discovered that the game was not between myself and Reed as I'd surmised, but that Wiley John was likely to win (and I said so).
Mangey Mike had failed to grasp some of the more subtle points of the game, and had used most of his high cards already, and yet not to good effect. He was pretty far behind at this point, with no way to catch up. Captain John was mounting a comeback, after some mistakes in the early game. The game was clearly between Seth, Reed, and John Wierich. Sadly, with my hand full of low cards I feared I was done winning large ships, meaning I was not going to win. In Sailing number 4 this was exacerbated by particularly poor play on my part, first playing the wrong card onto the right ship, and then by playing the right card on to the wrong ship. Instead of winning a 12 point ship, I placed my last cannon onto a larger ship, only to have Captain John trump it with a boarding party. I announced that if I lost by less than 12 points, I'd be upset.
Finally, the last sailing saw Seth get no ships (again), and Wiley John Wierich captured 2 good sized treasure ships.
If I remember right, noone had saved a 4-Cannon card for the Ransom (final scoring round). Having left myself only a 2-cannon card, I could only cross my fingers and hope noone saved a 3-cannon card. This was my last chance to get any points at all this game! As people turned up 1-cannon cards left and right I almost got my hopes up, but alas someone did have a 3-cannon card and I ended up not scoring a single point in the last half of the game.
Final scores were on the order of:
76 (Wierich)/ 72 (John or Reed)/ 71 (John or Reed)/ 61 (Seth)/ 30-something (Mike)
I'll note that the 12 points I could have had in round 4 would have put me in 2nd place, but not first, so I was able to stop lamenting my mistakes.
Game the Second, 4 players
I suggested another game, and in order for the playtesters to experience the 4 player game Captain John decided to sit this one out. The game was originally designed as a 4 player game, and it definitely went more smoothly with 4. This game I was out for revenge, and we also added in the Storm cards.
I won't go play by play this time, but through cunnning play I managed to not only avenge my loss last game, but in fact score higher than Captain John had ever seen before.
This game was mainly a fight between myself and Mangey Mike Sorenson. Reed and John were pretty much out of the running after the first Sailing or two. When the biggest ship (22 points) came up, I was the lookout so I opened with a Boarding Party on the big guy. I figured if anyone wanted to thwart me with their own boarding party, then at least noone will go up 20 points on me, and it's really in the other players' best interest to take their own ship with their Boarding Party.
In the same round, playing the third card I was second-to-last, with my main competetor (Mike) playing the very last card. Due to many Storm cards, on my last play there were 2 ships without any cannonfire on them - a 14 and a 17. I logiced out loud that Mike's card could probably beat my 2-cannons, so I'd leave him the bigger ship and take the 14. Sure enough, Mike had a 3-cannon card and he played it on the 17. Captain John pointed out that I'd conned Mike into making that play, as he could have taken the 14 point ship from me... costing him 3 points would have cost me 14.
I saved a 4-cannon card for the Ransom that game, figuring someone else would too. I just wanted Mike to NOT get the 16 points for the Governer, getting the points myself would have just been icing on the cake. It turned out that John was the other player to save a 4-cannon card. Scores that game were something like 84/73/<70/<70, with me winning over Mike, and Reed and John well behind us.
All in all a pretty decent game!
A number of things were unique in these two games. One was the high scoring second game. The other was the vicious use of storm cards. Storm cards were coming out all over the place early in the second (4p) game. It is nice to see how quickly people pick up the play and spirit of this game. There was some nasty playing going on in that second game. All I can say when I see someone make a major screw-you play out of spite is, "pirate!"
On the first game, I was the one (Mangy Michael) who had the 4 cannon card at the end to get the governor, not that it helped my score much (38, I think).
Ideas for other cards:
Press Gang: would allow you exchange another players cannon card for one of your own
Ration of Rum: would allow you to decrease another players cannon card by one
Legendary Captain: increase your or another players cannon card by one
Davy Jones's Locker: sinks a ship immediately
Lucky Shot (or Golden BB): increase your cannon card by two
Traitor: allows you to steal one ship card from another player
Arr! The game was fun, even if the designer did tell the other players that I'd won more than anyone else. I don't think I've ever had so many storms played on ships I was going to take. This was my first time playing the 5 player game but I enjoyed it as much as I've enjoyed the other variants. I think the 4 player game makes it easier for beginners to learn, but the 5 player game has a lot more intrique. It's still a fast game for either size, but the 5 player game definately turns it into a longer game instead of one that can be played several times in a night. The 4 player game continues to take about 15-20 minutes or slightly longer with new players. The 5 player can increase the time to 45 minutes - 1 hour depending on player experience and speed.
I don't think it was mentioned above, but Cap'n Morgan hired a professional artist for artwork on the cards that will soon be printed and what he's got so far is awesome! The captain cards and cannons are good but the cursed ship just looks incredible already and it's not even finished yet. I'm really excited to see what the finished product looks like.