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Firefly: The Game» Forums » Variants

Subject: Clear Sailing! rss

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Jack Carlson
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At various times in these boards, players have complained that turning a nav card for every sector bogs down play, and suggested alternatives. Here's another suggestion, one that's worked fairly well for me.

I play a lengthy solo game with multiple ships on the board. Even when I played fewer ships, it seemed like every time a ship flew somewhere, it had multiple adventures--salvage ops, breakdowns, Alliance hassles, Reaver attacks. The problem only increased as I added more ships to the board. It both slowed down play and offended my sense of realism--seemed like spaceflight would be a little more routine.

So, for those who'd like to experiment with a little more fly and a little less action on the average Fly Action, I offer Clear Sailing! Here's the basic rule, followed by comments:

Clear Sailing
When a Big Black nav card is drawn, roll 1d6. An even number results in Clear Sailing, and the ship may complete its full burn without drawing any further nav cards.

That's the whole thing. It's worked pretty well for me. A lot of flights now come off without event, but ships still encounter adventures in the Black, and every so often a voyage is cursed (or blessed) with multiple events. A couple notes:

1. 50% of Big Black cards leading to Clear Sailing! creates a good balance for me, but obviously a player or a group could set the trigger to be more or less often. Based on my own experience, I wouldn't recommend going any higher than 50% Clear Sailing! results on Big Black cards, but players who wanted more action could set the trigger to be a 1d6 roll of 1-2 or even 1 to get Clear Sailing! sometimes but less often.

2. This probably works best in a longer game; in the average 20-turn game 50% Clear Sailing! results would remove too much action, though the rule might still work if Clear Sailing! had a lower chance of being triggered--1-2 or 1 on a 1d6 roll.

3. Anyone who experiments with this and decides on a balanced trigger for their game--whether it be 1, 2 or 3 Clear Sailings! for every 6 Big Black results--could eliminate the need for die rolls by marking the proper percentage of Big Black cards Clear Sailing!

4. One variant I've considered but not tried yet is that a Clear Sailing! result only works for that area of space. In other words, if you left Harvest for a mud run into the Core and drew Clear Sailing! in your first sector out of Harvest, Clear Sailing! would only last until you left Border Space. On the first Alliance Space sector you entered, you'd have to draw a nav card, which would, of course, also be subject to a Clear Sailing! result.

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Bill H
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Have you considered using number of players as the threshold for Clear Sailing (e.g., if the d6 is < number of players, clear sailing)?
 
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Jay Johnson
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johnnysaintpaul wrote:
offended my sense of realism--seemed like spaceflight would be a little more routine.


Have you experienced alot of spaceflight?
(independent spaceflight, without a big mission control team monitoring everything from the safety of Houston or whereever. Just you, your ship and your crew, alone in the Big Black.... until you're not alone that is, for good or ill)
 
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Jack Carlson
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I'd bet the house I have exactly as much space flight experience as you, Jay ;-). The point being, if space flight is common and commercially viable, much of it must be fairly routine--perhaps analogous to tramp ocean freighters or maybe bush pilots, which have plenty of risk, but maybe not every time out. Of course we're not concerned with getting it exactly right--we want an exciting game. To that end, drawing a nav card every sector bogged down my solo game and Clear Sailing is the most elegant solution I've found, which the added advantage of being easily adjustable in frequency for anyone who'd like to experiment with it.
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Jack Carlson
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Shijuro wrote:
Have you considered using number of players as the threshold for Clear Sailing (e.g., if the d6 is < number of players, clear sailing)?


I think frequency depends more on the length of the game and how much action you want than the number of players, Bill. 3 of 6 Big Black cards resulting in Clear Sailing is about right for my long solo games; for an evening's multiplayer session, I don't think you'd want more than 1 or 2 of 6.
 
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George Krubski
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Some interesting points from both "sides."

I'd have to say that if we look at the series, it's not especially uncommon for the crew to have an eventful trip. There are only a few "spacebound" episodes (Bushwhacked, Out of Gas and Objects in Space come to mind) and the first two definitely include multiple "events" during a single flight. Even trips within other episodes seem to include multiple events, if we factor in the NPC movement.

Point is, I don't think it's unreasonable to accept that, in the 'Verse, travel for folks like Mal and his ilk may not be routine. If we're looking for a historical (or genre parallel), I think travel between towns in the Old West is applicable. Might be totally safe, or you might run afoul of wolves, Indians, bandits and bad weather before you reach your destination.

If we look at the cards, there are now 180 Nav cards, 68 of which (38%) are straight-up Keep Flying.

Another 44 cards represent "player to your right" movement of the NPC ships without direct, required contact with your ship. It MIGHT happen, it might not. Now, this is probably the single biggest portion of "even" cards (making up almost a quarter of all cards)... but what do these cards really MEAN? Do they really have anything to do with the actual player whose turn it is, or are they simply a mechanism for random events? I don't have an answer, but if we accept that the latter is a possibility, now a little less than two thirds of the cards (62%) represent "non-events."

Now, before I continue, it's worth nothing that a mechanism that makes travel easier is going to severely impair NPC ship movement unless another mechanic is also added. Making up 24% of all cards, they should come up, on average, at least once per turn, but if you create a situation where you're going through considerably fewer cards, that reduces their movement.

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, since their movement can actually get pretty gorram crazy if you play with all cards. But it's definitely something to be aware of.

Two other large categories are BREAKDOWNS (13 cards) and SALVAGE OPS (15 cards), accounting for a little more than 15% of all Nav cards. In most cases, Salvage Ops can be ignored and Breakdowns can be ignored with Parts or sufficient Tech. Tellingly, these categories both speak to the implied nature of life in the 'Verse. These ships are running on duct tape and prayers and require constant maintenance. And SOMETHING created those salvage opportunities!

Again, I think this is reasonable reflective of the nature of the show where the state of Serenity is discussed multiple times (leading to a BIG breakdown in OUT OF GAS) and where the crew happens across salvage opportunities twice over the course of 15 episodes.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that a house rule reducing number of Nav Cards flipped is a bad one, but I DO think that the eventful travel of the game is reasonable reflective of some of the episodes of the show (on the other hand, we don't see travel in a lot of other cases, which probably means nothing interesting happened - which might mean I undid my whole thesis in a few words...).

If there are any old school D&D players out there, the Nav Cards are somewhat comparable to the good old Wandering Monsters table.

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Jay Johnson
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johnnysaintpaul wrote:
3. Anyone who experiments with this and decides on a balanced trigger for their game--whether it be 1, 2 or 3 Clear Sailings! for every 6 Big Black results--could eliminate the need for die rolls by marking the proper percentage of Big Black cards Clear Sailing!


if you have your Nav Decks sleeved, you could slip an additional paper in with the designated Big Black cards to indicate the clear sailing. and with this method, the ratio can be easily adjusted if need be.

not sure how the "clear sailing" variant would work with the Emmissions Recycler's fuel-saving option. One could just make "clear sailing" optional, so that if someone had the recycler and were looking to get that fuel back they could elect to keep drawing after the Big Black to see if a second BB came up. Though I'm guessing in many situations, the possibility of maybe gaining back one fuel isn't worth the risk of what drawing another Nav Card might bring if giving the option to sail clear instead.
 
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Nathan Christianson
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JayJ79 wrote:
johnnysaintpaul wrote:
3. Anyone who experiments with this and decides on a balanced trigger for their game--whether it be 1, 2 or 3 Clear Sailings! for every 6 Big Black results--could eliminate the need for die rolls by marking the proper percentage of Big Black cards Clear Sailing!


if you have your Nav Decks sleeved, you could slip an additional paper in with the designated Big Black cards to indicate the clear sailing. and with this method, the ratio can be easily adjusted if need be.

not sure how the "clear sailing" variant would work with the Emmissions Recycler's fuel-saving option. One could just make "clear sailing" optional, so that if someone had the recycler and were looking to get that fuel back they could elect to keep drawing after the Big Black to see if a second BB came up. Though I'm guessing in many situations, the possibility of maybe gaining back one fuel isn't worth the risk of what drawing another Nav Card might bring if giving the option to sail clear instead.


That would be kinda cool. Make a "Clear Sailing" card(s) and add it to the Nav Deck. If you draw this card, the rest of your movement is free. No need for another die roll, and you can control the statistics by how many "Clear Sailing" cards are in the Nav deck.
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Jack Carlson
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JayJ79 wrote:
not sure how the "clear sailing" variant would work with the Emmissions Recycler's fuel-saving option. One could just make "clear sailing" optional, so that if someone had the recycler and were looking to get that fuel back they could elect to keep drawing after the Big Black to see if a second BB came up. Though I'm guessing in many situations, the possibility of maybe gaining back one fuel isn't worth the risk of what drawing another Nav Card might bring if giving the option to sail clear instead.


I'm thinking players would have the option to continue drawing nav cards--though I'm guessing most would take the guaranteed safe fly action. But I did intentionally write the rule "the ship *may* complete its full burn without drawing any further nav cards" in order to allow ships to continue drawing nav cards if for some reason they wanted to. When I wrote the rule that way, I was thinking that ships might be looking for a salvage op & might want to continue drawing cards.
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Jack Carlson
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I knew I could count on George for insightful numbers & philosophy. Cheers, George.
 
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Mike Dawson
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rackham9 wrote:
JayJ79 wrote:
johnnysaintpaul wrote:
3. Anyone who experiments with this and decides on a balanced trigger for their game--whether it be 1, 2 or 3 Clear Sailings! for every 6 Big Black results--could eliminate the need for die rolls by marking the proper percentage of Big Black cards Clear Sailing!


if you have your Nav Decks sleeved, you could slip an additional paper in with the designated Big Black cards to indicate the clear sailing. and with this method, the ratio can be easily adjusted if need be.

not sure how the "clear sailing" variant would work with the Emmissions Recycler's fuel-saving option. One could just make "clear sailing" optional, so that if someone had the recycler and were looking to get that fuel back they could elect to keep drawing after the Big Black to see if a second BB came up. Though I'm guessing in many situations, the possibility of maybe gaining back one fuel isn't worth the risk of what drawing another Nav Card might bring if giving the option to sail clear instead.


That would be kinda cool. Make a "Clear Sailing" card(s) and add it to the Nav Deck. If you draw this card, the rest of your movement is free. No need for another die roll, and you can control the statistics by how many "Clear Sailing" cards are in the Nav deck.


Can someone design one for Printstudio and/or Artscow? Maybe 4 cards for each nav deck?
 
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George Krubski
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johnnysaintpaul wrote:
I knew I could count on George for insightful numbers & philosophy. Cheers, George.


I hope I didn't come off as trashing the idea - that wasn't my intention.

When you solo, you use some kind of AI for the NPCs, if I recall correctly. If so, that probably counter balances a reduction in drawn Nav cards.
 
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Jack Carlson
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gwek wrote:
johnnysaintpaul wrote:
I knew I could count on George for insightful numbers & philosophy. Cheers, George.


I hope I didn't come off as trashing the idea - that wasn't my intention.

When you solo, you use some kind of AI for the NPCs, if I recall correctly. If so, that probably counter balances a reduction in drawn Nav cards.


I thought you were more taking issue w the rationale than the optional rule (though even w the rationale, as you noted, you undercut yourself in the late parenthetical). Anyway, the rationale is certainly arguable, and I think the rule is a pretty workable variant for those who want a little less action while flying.

And you remember right, I do use an AI for my NP ships, which has required a lot of tweaking to balance trying to play a dozen or more ships at the same time as a solo player.
 
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George Krubski
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You really need to post some "time lapse" pictures of your board, so we can watch all those ships move around!

With respect to the "thematic" side of things, though, I DO agree that space travel CAN be fairly routine, but I guess I sort of see that as represented by the Mosey (where you don't have to worry about any cards, at least in the regular version of the game) rather than a Full Burn.

I was also trying to note -- and this may not have come across -- that the cards aren't quite as "eventful" for the crew as they may appear on the surface (ie, the NPC movement cards are often more about game mechanics than about the actual player taking their turn).
 
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Jack Carlson
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gwek wrote:
You really need to post some "time lapse" pictures of your board, so we can watch all those ships move around!

With respect to the "thematic" side of things, though, I DO agree that space travel CAN be fairly routine, but I guess I sort of see that as represented by the Mosey (where you don't have to worry about any cards, at least in the regular version of the game) rather than a Full Burn.

I was also trying to note -- and this may not have come across -- that the cards aren't quite as "eventful" for the crew as they may appear on the surface (ie, the NPC movement cards are often more about game mechanics than about the actual player taking their turn).


Yes, the NPC movement isn't necessarily that eventful for a ship in the regular game. The Clear Sailing rule rose out of some of the special problems I've created for myself by trying to solo play a dozen-plus ships at once. Lack of enough gear & crew are one of those problems. Another is the AI NPC ship movement we discussed above. I had to write those movement rules so that Alliance & Reaver ships *only* pursued the ship drawing the card. Otherwise, anyone in flight anywhere near the Alliance or Reavers had a very good chance of getting clobbered before the turn cycled through a dozen other ships, some of them also flying & drawing multiple nav cards.

Clear Sailing addresses the fact that a single round of play in my solo game involves a dozen ships, & if all of the ships flying in a given turn drew a nav card for every sector, I'd have more action to resolve than I wanted in a round, not to mention that I'd be exhausting & reshuffling the nav decks constantly.

Still, even with less ships on the board, I found the number of salvage ops & breakdowns that popped up to be rather high, and as other players have mentioned a problem with the nav card per sector mechanic in the past, thought I'd share Clear Sailing for people to play around with.

Right now I'm finding that Clear Sailing on 50% of Big Black cards may flatten out the adventure of flying a little too much, and am going to try the variant I mentioned in the original post, in which a Clear Sailing result only lasts until a ship crosses into another area of space (Alliance to Border, for example), at which point a new nav card must be drawn. My gut feeling is that will balance things out nicely, though I wonder how it might affect navigation--whether I'll be tempted to re-route ships to remain longer in an area of space that's come up Clear Sailing. That could be interesting, too, though.

Yeah, I'll post some shots of the board with a dozen or more ships on it someday. It tends to look a bit crowded. One fun variant it's allowed me to add is that any time a ship draws "A Rival Crew" while Misbehaving, any other ships in the sector can attempt to hijack the job. Haven't had it come up yet, but I expect it may get a little bloody.
 
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George Krubski
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I suspect it would work well with a game with a lot of players -- where the NPC movement cards can be pretty prominent.

There might be a strange dynamic, where players who are falling behind don't take advantage of Clear Sailing, in hopes of messing with the leader player(s)! I could even see folks bribing other players to use Clear Sailing or not!

Either way, a nice, simple, easy-to-implement house rule.
 
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