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Shipwrights of the North Sea» Forums » Sessions

Subject: First play - impressions & feedback rss

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Daniel Theuerkaufer
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Yesterday we have had our first play of Shipwrights. We were a group of four people, gaming in that constellation every week, most of the time playing euro games. Two of us consider themselves experienced players and game collectors, that includes me.

I read the rules in advance, both the original English version and the German translation. It left no questions. But when explaining the game to the others, I noticed that they were having a hard time to really get the hang of it. This is a common paradox in our group: They can't just listen, their minds always come up with things like "Oh, that's like Catan"... "Ah, you do that just like in...", I guess you all know this sort of distubing comments that take away the focus.

Anyway, after the 2nd or third day (day = round) everyone knew the basics. It still happened that someone forgot to take the extra gold for one of his ships and we also forgot to check, if the mill capacity got reduced by one of the ships.

The real problem we all had was the distribution of cards. Maybe we made a mistake and you can help us out. Just like in the rules, we did this 3 times: we drew 5 cards (4 player +1), first player chose one, handed cards to the left etc. That way the last player has not more than two cards to chose from. It occurred that most of the time, the cards seemed useless at the time they were drawn. I say "seemed" because with some more experience, players will hopefully find ways to use cards that only appear useless. Anyway, everyone was feeling like the cards offered merely a choice. Buildings were too expensive, craftsmen rare and some cards so dangerous, that the only way to protect yourself of these was to take them in the own hand, leaving less cards you actually wanted.

I really need some help here: What do I do if I have cards like 1 building I cant afford, 1 tool I can't afford and a ship I can't place? It happened a lot that some of us finished their afternoon-phase without any noteworthy action.

Quote:
It may have felt like there was more choice and control of what is actually happening, if players were allowed to...
1. draw 4 cards instead of three
2. play three and keep one or discard the unused card
3. refill the hand to four cards


The Watchman is great, because he offers protection. Leaving you with just two more cards, but the protective benefit is worth it. The Sage on the other hand felt like a stopgap for the poor cards. If I got it right, he is discarded and allows swapping any card that is discarded after him. So this action allows to swap max. 2 cards. Since you never know what you will draw, this feels like a 50/50 choice, like a weak action.

OK, to make a long story short: It took us a while to get the hang of the game. Probably not longer than any other new Euro game we have played. It was easy to miss things, like mill capacity, extra workers, extra gold. A turn sequence card would have been great. The backside of the ship table is blank, that is the perfect place for a turn sequence print. I wonder why no one came up with this idea during the KS campaign.

Raiding felt a little harsh.
Four cards were extremely dangerous and close to killjoy: 1. Reducing a players gold equal to the number of goods in the mill. 2. Remove a craftsman, 3. Capture a craftsman, 4. destroy a ship from the workshop. Since it's a Viking game and raiding meant to be a part of it, we can't really complain about it. We ended up playing a more friendly version, asking "Who wants his ship destroyed anyway?". Some of us where happy to get rid of a ship they weren't able to build.

The game ended with 2 players having 10 VPs (that includes me) and 2 players having 7 VPs. Both ties resolved by gold.

Everyone liked the artwork. The great illustrations were the reason why I backed this. I didn't get disappointed, I received a great game in awesome quality.

Overall everyone liked the game, once they got the hang of it. And we all agreed to play it again next week, now that we have seen all cards, characters and learned more about the actions that can be taken. Even if some of us had a hard time with raiding or collecting enough gold, everyone was enjoying it. During raiding we were more like laughing "yeah, OK, take my craftsman" than seriously angry.

Two of us also play 2p-games at home. We both agreed that this is nothing to play with our wives, since they don't like aggressive gaming.

Edit: With how many victory points do you guys end your games?
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Nat Levan
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Glenside
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Great review. I had the same feelings about the game.
It looks and sounds like it should be a meaty engine building euro game, especially with all of the connections between ships and abilities.
But instead, game play was much lighter and much more conflict based. It's difficult to accomplish anything because it's hard to find the sets of cards you need, but easy to play a card that hurts someone.
That's probably fine if the game plays quickly, but for us, the game was longer and more tedious than the suggested 60 minutes, with a lot of turns spent doing very little.

The production quality is top notch, though. Love the pieces and artwork.
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Thebrewgeek
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My impression with this game was there wasn't any defensive cards to combat all of the attack cards. I'm going to try this option to see if it can save the game for me and my group. I'm suggesting that you have the option to play a card face down on any card to protect it from attacks. Once the card is attacked the card that is face down will be discarded leaving the card underneath it defenseless.

This game with others that the designer has made seems under developed, for example Capek (which is a card game that I had to modify to make if playable).

I'm still on the fence with this game but I'm hoping it works out because the artwork is top notch.
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Daniel Theuerkaufer
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Shipwrights is perfectly playable and I am not sure if it is 'under developed'. But yes, I agree that maybe some more thoughts should have been spent on some aspects of the game. Here is hoping that we'll manage to have a better play once we have played it more often. And as you say, there is always the option to tweak gameplay with house rules.

I like your idea of protecting cards. Then again, you can only protect one or two if you want to play some cards using their action. So you'll still be attacked and instead of the protected card you'll lose another. At least you have a choice.

Other things that are easy to modify are the gold reduction equal to foods in the mill. Just rewrite it to "gold reduction equal to hoods in mill -2", if the original action feels to strong.

As for the raiding attacks that destroy a ship or craftsman, I can think of a tweak that allows to sacrifice a worker from the village instead of the card. So whenever you are attacked and have a worker in town, you can sacrifice him. This would be like a simple watchman for a single defense.

P. S.: Off-topic: Shopwrights is the second game I backed at Kickstarter that seems to need a second look into it. I am also active in a thread about tweaking the game Tower for a better experience.
 
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Daniel Theuerkaufer
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Shem Phillips, the designer of Shipwrights, had a look at my questions. I'll share his tips:

Quote:
Shem:
Just had a read through. Sounds like you're wanting to add house rules to tweak the game slightly? I know others have discussed this too. I think the biggest misunderstanding is the aim/purpose of the game. A lot of players thought it was a euro engine building. But I describe it more as a plan making game - where you try achieve your plans under threat of attack. So it's all about having a plan B and plan C in case you're attacked.

My advice would be:
- don't put the first two ships you see into your workshops
- don't just keep every craftsmen you see either.
- Try and keep your gold high - so don't buy goods when you have low gold.

I hope that helps!
Shem.


And I also asked:

"Tweaking the game is a thing I had in mind to give players slightly better chances to actually do something noteworthy with their cards. How do you feel about it today, is it true that it sometimes occurs that the hand of three cards is more or less useless to a player?"

Quote:
Shem:
Yea, there are times when cards can be useless. This never bothered me, but I see now it bothers a few players. Discarding cards for gold would be a quick fix to that issue.


So how does everyone think about that tweak? We have had the idea of protecting cards with a card played face down or my suggestion of a variant where people draw up to 4 cards, keeping one for the next turn. To discard a card that doesn't seem useful for gold sounds like a sleek idea. 1 Gold per card or two cards for one gold, what do think?
 
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Daniel Theuerkaufer
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Second play - feedback and final thoughts (houserules included)
I just poested my 2nd session report. Its still pending approval.
Quote:
Read part 1 here: First play - impressions & feedback

Yesterday we have had our second play of Shipwrights. Again, we were a group of four people, the same constellation like last week. We are a group that is playing mostly games that are released by German publishers like Hans im Gl├╝ck, Kosmos, Queen Games etc. Two of us consider themselves experienced players and game collectors, that includes me.

Since we all knew the rules and mechanics of Shipwrights, we were able to start right away without any further questions. This is important to mention, because in the end you'll hear how long it took us to finish the game.

We agreed to play with a house rule, since the game tends to be pretty aggressive and often enough players may have a hand of three cards that is totally useless to them. Psychologically that's not ideal in a game, it just feels bad, like a missed chance. Some users, including me, have made suggestions how to house rule in the first thread.

Here is how we played it. In addition to the standard rules, we introduced one extra action:

Quote:
Once per day (afternoon phase), a player may discard one of his cards to gain +1 gold or play one card face down onto one of his ships, buildings, tools or craftsmen to protect this one card from any sort of attack for the following turn. Just like the Watchmen this card will be discarded when it's that players turn again. Other than the Watchmen this card does not protect the whole set, just the one card it is placed on.


The game went over lots of rounds, way more than the last time. Everyone was doing better building ships, gaining resources and managing the gold reserve. I noticed that other than during the first play, we were all using the different townsfolk characters more effectively. With the result that players were able to steal/trade more effectively, which brought each of us nearer to get where we wanted.

But... and that is in the nature of the game, most efforts of building or collecting the right craftsmen required to build ships, where disturbed if not made impossible by the many aggressive, attacking actions by the Assassin and other unfriendly townsfolk characters. So just like in a friendly euro game everyone was trying to build something, which then got destroyed.

I made a big mistake when I placed two craftsmen of the same type and blocked my free slots by that. I did it, because after all that happened before, I was pretty sure someone would be stealing or destroying one of these craftsmen. In the end it didn't happen and I had all my craftsmen slots blocked till the end of the game. The second mistake I made was that I forgot I had the Watchman active when a player raided me. She took a precious craftsman and I didn't realize that I was protected. (She didn't do it on purpose, we both overlooked the Watchman.)

Slowly we all managed to build more and more ships and buildings, way more than during the first play where only one of us had buildings. Other than in the first game, which did end pretty soon, this one went on for three hours. Yes, that's right, we played for 180 Minutes. The box says 50-70 minutes. The reason why it happened, is that we all knew exactly what to do and we all were building head to head and at the same time destroying at whoever was leading. So no one was able to finish early.

The game ended with 1st player 14 VP, 2nd player 13 VP, 3rd player 10 VP, 4th player 8 VP. I lost.

It was good to see that everyone built more than during the first play. Part of the long playing time was caused by players 'thinking' too much. They did think during the morning phase and again during the afternoon phase. Which isn't really necessary because once you picked your cards during the morning phase, you already know what you have planned for the afternoon phase. No need to plan it a second time.

Feedback
Players once again liked the game, one even put it to her wish list. Everyone thought that it was too long but no one felt like they had lost precious time this evening. No one felt like the game is unbalanced, just tough and a bit unfair, if certain people focus too much on attacking the same victim again and again.

Feedback on houserules
I personally didn't think the house rule changed the game or its outcome much. Which is probably a good sign, since a tweak never should be too powerful or a game changer. All of us used the action of protecting a single card or receiving one gold for a discarded card more than once. It may well be that the single card protection did prevent attacks, but it is hard to tell. The +1 gold felt good, didn't make a big change though. All in all my gaming group told me that the house rule made for a better gaming experience, be it for psychological reasons only.

Final thoughts
Taking the artwork and component quality into consideration and the fact that the designer is a nice guy and responsive, I'll give this a 7/10, maybe even a 8/10 considering the tweaks. I backed this game during the Kickstarter campaign, if I had bought it in a shop without further social interaction in its community cosmos, I'd give it a 6/10 or 7/10 max.
 
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