There is a discussion going on over on the R&B Kickstarter comments page about mixing and matching crews. No offense to those guys over there, but I wanted to get the discussion going over here as well and throw in my own thoughts on mix/matched crews.
For those interested, this is an official response to the discussion:
Well, also note that the faction specific models are meant to be used with their Tide Decks. Using the models with another factions Tide Deck is asking for a bit of a balancing issue.
Specifically, for example, the Bone Devils have a large amount of build in healing effects on their Heroes. If you were to combine that with most of the abilities listed on the Wellsport Tide Deck then you would have a huge amount of damage output combined with the healing of the Bone Devils...
Reverse that with the Wellsport gaining access to a lot of the healing effects that the Bone Devil's Tide Decks have means you have Heroes with large build-in damage output with a Tide Deck that reinforces healing.
While it may be fun for a few games it's going to get super brutal and super bloody fast... That may be fun for people, but I cannot speak for the balance of it.
Granted, when we were designing the Mercenary Deck (still in progress, mind you) it's more-so focused on non-Hero interactions, simply due to the wide variety of Hero abilities... If you wanted to play that Deck and then draft heroes that would probably be your best bet as far as balanced would go.
In the future we may look into something of a Generic Deck at some point to allow Drafting or whatnot, but that's the future.
We have tons of ideas for Rum and Bones moving forward, all made possible by backers like you
After making several passes through each of the heroes, and looking at what we've been shown from the tide decks, I don't think there would be an issue with mixing crew members. Unless I'm totally daft (always a possibility) I'm not seeing any real synergy between crew mates or between crew mates and their tide decks. Sure, as Michael pointed out, each deck has it's own strengths and that could cause imbalance to an extent, I don't think it will be too big of an issue for casual play. And I have noticed that each crew has an overarching theme, but the crew members don't really seem play off of each other.
I realize it is probably way too early to really get a proper feel for how each faction will play out, and I'll initially play "faction pure" as the designers intended, but I'm really looking forward to putting them all in a pot and seeing what I can make of the stew.
My thoughts on drafting would go like this:
Player 1(P1) drafts a Captain and takes the matching Tide deck.
Player 2(P2) drafts a Captain and matching tide deck and then chooses the desired ship(s)
P1 selects ship(s) and then drafts a hero from one of the 4 remaining classes
P2 selects a hero from the same class as P1 just selected from and then selects from one of the 3 remaining classes
P1 selects from the class that P2 just selected from and selects from one of the remaining 2 classes
P2 selects a hero from the same class as P1 just selected from and then selects from the remaining class
P1 then selects from the final class
Some keys here are that the Tide deck matches the Captain and players can't use captains from the same faction unless there are 2 copies of said Tide deck. I'm pretty sure each player would need to select different faction ships. I don't think you could run Mazu's ships against each other.
I can see the appeal to playing that way, but for myself, I like to have a more solid theme. So naturally, keeping the ships and tide decks the same as the bulk of my crew will fit better for me.
I think there are synergies between the characters, but they are often role dependent, your quartermasters and captains often play off of or contribute to the abilities of your other deployed heroes.
Regarding the tide deck balance, I definitely see Michael's point, the Welsport team can put out a lot of hurt. Take a look at Mad Ivan, for three coin, he can play Flurry of blows which is 4 dice hitting at 3+, then rolling additional dice on hits. This is likely going to cause a lot of damage, and possibly even take out an objective in one hit. Blackout Bart's Greased Lightning Barrage is just as good, but has a range of 3. Throw in Daniel Pale's 'Hoist the Jolly Roger' to re-roll your misses in either of those situations, and you are now seeing 6-8 damage likely. If you had cards like Spectral form that let you ignore 3 damage in your tide deck, it would be difficult to deal with characters like this.
"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
The huge number of mercenaries seems like it should make each faction diverse enough that you'd barely notice the prohibition against mixing crews.
Each of the four named crews has 2 options at each position, plus six mercenary options at each position (except Brute looks like five).
This means that, for a given crew, you have:
8 x 8 x 8 x 8 x 7 = 28,672 distinct crew combinations.
If you want to use the Mercenary versions of Cochon Bombardier and Meirenyu, that increases the figure to 32,256 for La Brise Sanguine and Mazu's Dreadful Curse, and to 35,840 for Wellsport and the Bone Devils.
Granted, pure combinations don't feel like thirty thousand different experiences, but I don't think the game will feel significantly less varied because you never combined Captain Dracula and Mad Ivan on the same crew.