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Subject: What's in a Story?, ver 2.0 rss

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George Krubski
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I know I did a similar analysis a while back, but I think it was when we had a smaller number of Story Cards available to us. With a dozen and a half Story Cards, we can put together a fairly robust understanding of what a Story Card means, at least to GF9.

I had previously group cards into three categories, with a few outliers, and that still seems to be true. The categories are STORY-ORIENTED (typically three different and unique Goals that the players progress through in order), GOAL-ORIENTED (where the players perform some activity or activities repeatedly, notching up Goals; first to the predetermined amount of Goals wins), and MONEY GRABS (where the end result is to have the most money, by any means possible).


STORY-ORIENTED CARDS include Harken’s Folly, Niska’s Holiday, The King of All Londinium, Patience’s War, Jail Break… and First Time in the Captain’s Chair. I will openly admit that these are my favorite type of story card, possibly because they go well with a solo or 2-player game, which is how I most often play. Although there appears to be a fair amount of diversity among these cards, the “engine” that drives them all is surprisingly similar.

HARKEN’S FOLLY requires getting Solid with 4 Contacts (so, at least 4 Jobs), then various skill tests and Misbehaves. Success will require a ton of luck or, more likely, investing in a well-balanced Crew. This job establishes what I consider the sort of baseline for Story-Oriented Cards, as well see below.

THE KING OF ALL LONDINIUM is a pretty similar story card, except that you don’t have to get Solid with a set number of Contacts. However, there are more Misbehaves (9 total), which reduces the chances that luck alone will get you through. The added Misbehaves and skill tests will require a well-balanced Crew, and the first goal is a “gatekeeper” goal, requiring you to pay out at least $5000 before proceeding. In order to have that much money on top of a solid Crew, you’re probably going to have to work 3-5 Jobs, similar to Harken’s follow, but with a little more flexibility.

NISKA’S HOLIDAY is a bit of a variation on the theme in that while the Goals must be completed progressively, you can actively work toward all three simultaneously. The final Goal requires 12K, which you can probably get while completing 4 Jobs for Niska for Goal 2. The first Goal, with a high Fight test and 3 Misbehaves, calls for a decent crew… which you can build up while working those 4 Jobs for Niska. So, once again, there’s a pattern in the rough number of Jobs that need to be completed.

Interestingly, these three Story-Oriented Cards represent a sort of spectrum to me, with different elements being tweaked. In Niska’s Holiday, you MUST work for Niska, but beyond that, you have a lot of flexibility. Conversely, in The King of All Londinium, you can do whatever you want, but MUST have coin in hand early. Harken’s Folly sits as the sort if tipping point of flexibility between the other two.

JAIL BREAK increases flexibility somewhat. You must be Solid with two specific Contacts (which requires 2 Jobs, unless you grab the right Gear for Harken), but, again, we have a monetary requirement for a Goal, and you’re not likely to be able to scrap up 5K in walking-around money from just 2 Jobs, especially if one is for Harken. Yes, that’s right. You’re likely going to have to do 3-5 Jobs to complete this story, too.

PATIENCE’S WAR combines elements of some of the previous Story-Oriented Cards. You only need to be Solid with 2 Contacts and might be able to pull it off from one Job, but the 9 Misbehaves and escalating Fight tests call for a very solid Crew that you need to invest in. If you’re very lucky, you might be able to get away with only 1 or 2 Jobs, but don’t count on it, especially since a number of Crew may die and need to be replaced. Although you don’t need to pay out a large sum (5K or 12K), you will likely need to stop at least once to re-equip.

FIRST TIME IN THE CAPTAIN’S CHAIR is basically a “starter” version of the Story-Oriented Card. I had previously classified it as an outlier, but it’s really just a half-strength version of the other stories – almost literally! 2 Contacts (and therefore Jobs) rather than 4, and $6000 rather than $12,000.

FINAL THOUGHTS: No matter how you slice it, most of Story-Oriented Cards boil down to working 3-5 Jobs, during which you will accumulate a fair amount of coin, most of which will either be invested in a tough Crew, or spent on “gatekeeper” goals. Despite the very different way each of these Story-Oriented Cards plays out, the engine that keeps them all running is pretty much the same.


MONEY GRABS include Respectable Persons of Business, Desperadoes, Any Port in a Storm, The Great Recession and The Well’s Run Dry. At their core, Money Grabs are the simplest of games: be the first to a certain amount of money (often some variation on $12K. How you accomplish this is up to you… but I’ll tell you, it’s probably going to involve working 3-5 Jobs!

RESPECTABLE PERSONS OF BUSINESS is the gold standard of Money Grabs, and all others are variations on the theme. Collect 12K before the other guys.

DESPERADOES complicates things a little by forcing a focus on Illegal Jobs. Here’s an interesting and important note: the value you need increases from 12K to 15K, but you get an additional $1000 per Job. So, to make up the difference, how many Illegal Jobs do you need to work? Yep. You guessed it. Three.

ANY PORT IN A STORM plays with Outlaw ships and Alert tokens rather than Illegal Jobs per se, but it’s really not that different than the other two. The trigger changes here, though – rather than declaring Last Call to win, a player must reach a set location, bringing in a minor element of the Story-Oriented Cards.

THE WELL’S RUN DRY and THE GREAT RECESSION are essentially the same game but with different limiters. In both cases, you’re not trying to get a set amount of money but rather just the MOST money. It’s instructive, I think, that in the Great Recession there are 3 Jobs per player and in the Well’s Run Dry, there’s $5K per player. 3+ Jobs is certainly in line with what we’ve seen before, and earning “more than 5K” is also not far from what we’d expect.

FINAL THOUGHTS: In a sense, Money Grabs fall into two sub-categories: first player to $X wins vs player with the most coin when Y happens wins. As noted, there’s more flexibility than the Story-Oriented Cards in how you achieve prosperity, but I think the “engine” of 3-5 Jobs to win remains fairly consistent, especially in the first category.


GOAL-ORIENTED CARDS
include The Choices We Make, Another Man’s Treasure, Where the Wind Takes Us, Down and Out, and It’s All in Who You Know. Interestingly, this class of Job was not introduced until Pirates & Bounty Hunters.

There is probably more variety here than in other categories, although the underlying mechanic of each Goal-Oriented Card is basically the same: do X repeatedly to accumulate Y Goals before the other guy.

THE CHOICES WE MAKE was probably the first popular Goal-Oriented Card, at least based on conversation on the forums. Despite the many cosmetic differences, once again, we see that the core of the card comes down to “Work some Jobs.” In this case, rather than being tied to a specific Contact, the Jobs are tied to certain types. Although 5 Goals likely equates to 5 Jobs, it could be higher or lower based on the impact of Piracy. Still, this is generally close to the “Work 3-5 Jobs” range.

ANOTHER MAN’S TREASURE is an interesting twist in that it’s possible that it could be completed without completing ANY Jobs… although I don’t think that’s necessarily the strategy the designers had in mind. At the time the card came out, there were no solid ways to purchase Cargo or Contraband, so you’re looking at Nav Cards, Piracy, or breaking contracts by starting Jobs to steal the Goods. It’s hard to quantify how that would play out. But there’s also a conservative approach: Delivering sets of purchased Parts. Four sets of 8 Parts would cost $9600. At this point, do I even need to say that it would likely take 3-5 Jobs to earn that much spare coin? Although less structured than pretty much all prior Story Cards, it’s still in the same neighborhood.

DOWN AND OUT and WHERE THE WIND TAKES US are back on point as story cards where you must, literally, work 3-5 Jobs to win. Although the former has you working Jobs to get Solid with Contacts (first person to 5 wins!), in the latter, the Jobs are not a means to an end, but rather than end itself. The interesting hook with these two stories (and the reason I grouped them together) is that both limit your viable job options. “Work 3 Jobs” is pretty open-ended… but “Work 3 Jobs the end at a limited group of locations” is anything but. As we’ve seen with other story cards, the broader the end goal, the more restrictions on how you can get there.

IT’S ALL IN WHO YOU KNOW offers a new take on the Goal-Oriented Card, almost a parallel to The Well’s Run Dry and The Great Recession. Whereas the other Goal-Oriented Cards have a certain benchmark, this one his “be the guy with the most Solids (basically, Goals) when the timer runs down.” Because of the variable length of this game, it’s tough to measure it against others, but I will say this: If the game were to run the “average” length (20 or so rounds), I would expect that the winner would typically be Solid with, you guessed it, 3 to 5 Contacts.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Goal-Oriented Cards may be the most diverse of the three larger categories, and I don’t think I’d be able to identify too many patterns from them, but I think it’s fairly easy to see that most of the patterns demonstrated in other categories appear pretty consistently here.

It’s worth nothing that I put the groups in order for a reason: Story-Oriented Cards are the most specific, then Money Grabs, then Goal-Oriented Cards. Although there are a lot of elements of freedom to how you accomplish your Goal in most Story Cards, I see the follow chain:

Story-Oriented Cards = WORK JOBS to MAKE MONEY to ADVANCE THE STORY

Money Grabs = WORK JOBS to MAKE MONEY

Goal-Oriented Cards = WORK JOBS

It’s not a perfect pattern, but I think it’s a pretty consistent trend.

Note that the two remaining Story Cards are outliers that don’t fall cleanly into any category: AWFUL LONELY IN THE BIG BLACK is for solo play and THE SCAVENGER’S ‘VERSE is sort of a beer and pretzels “special edition.” Although the latter is hard to quantify, it’s not surprising that the Goals in the former largely align with the same types of patterns we see in other Story Cards.
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Roger BW
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Good stuff!

Something worth bearing in mind, I think, is how the different cards push you into getting solid with different contacts - either by naming them explicitly, by having a money goal (Niška!), or by having a Solid-count goal (Harken and Duul, possibly M&F)..
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Gerald Bocook
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So, now knowing what makes the doughnuts, so you feel like this informs how to build your own story cards so they don't feel out-of-place in-'Verse? Or the opposite, where you buck these trends specifically?
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Ralph Stratford
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One other factor that can be of assistance to some of these stories where you need to become solid with Contacts is Piracy. This tends not to be used in PBF games, but it's a sure fire way to become solid with a Contact that has Piracy Jobs. Additionally, Amnon Duul allows you to steal other Players Jobs so not only do you get to become Solid with him when you successfully do one of his Piracy Jobs, but you also set back you rival and advance your own position if they happen to hold inactive Jobs that you need to win!
 
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Jon Snow
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arrrh For me, what's missing most is a Co-Op story. I was going to work on one and never did. I think others might have, but I haven't tried them out. Although some of the ship competition is nasty in the show, the basic ethos is the cooperation of the crew. And many captains must have friends among others (Mal and Monty, as ex-Browncoats). There are probably small companies of ships cooperating with each other out in border space as well.
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Bob
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A Co-Op story would be a welcome addition to the game. I've tried a couple times, but was never happy with the results.

(edit: spelling)
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George Krubski
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motosada wrote:
So, now knowing what makes the doughnuts, so you feel like this informs how to build your own story cards so they don't feel out-of-place in-'Verse? Or the opposite, where you buck these trends specifically?


Both?

With respect to customs - I believe it was Picasso who said something like "Learn the rules like a pro so you can break the rules like an artist."

With that in mind, I like to have a solid understanding of what I'm mucking with when I play around with things. I do tend toward conservative at times, so I want things to "feel real" as often as possible. Having said that, I also like to push the boundaries a bit (otherwise, what's the fun?), but knowing what the core of things looks like makes it highly useful to know when I'm pushing a boundary versus veering into extreme territory.
 
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George Krubski
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Firedrake wrote:
Good stuff!

Something worth bearing in mind, I think, is how the different cards push you into getting solid with different contacts - either by naming them explicitly, by having a money goal (Niška!), or by having a Solid-count goal (Harken and Duul, possibly M&F)..


Good point.

I'm having a little difficulty getting my head fully around it, but there seems to be a definite benchmark in structure, where it's a mix of cash, requirements for certain skill tests (either directly or in Misbehaves), and/or Contacts (either specific ones or a set number), and maybe a few other factors.

As I noted in one of the other threads, one of the things I like about different Solids is that they can lend a specific flavor to the card. For example, both NISKA'S HOLIDAY and HARKEN'S FOLLY require working 4 Jobs, but for the former, it's all for Niska (ie, tough and immoral) while for the latter, it's more of a scavenger hunt across the 'Verse.

Two of my own recent cards require 2 Solids at different points: THE RUMRUNNER'S SEASONAL requires Solid with Lord Harrow and Amnon Duul, which means you'll probably be doing some Smuggling (and certainly not Crime), while REAP THE WHIRLWIND requires Solid with Niska and Fanty & Mingo (both of whom are all-Illegal, and mostly pretty tough). Both of these pairings, I hope, set a different tone for the cards.
 
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George Krubski
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Dalek1 wrote:
One other factor that can be of assistance to some of these stories where you need to become solid with Contacts is Piracy. This tends not to be used in PBF games, but it's a sure fire way to become solid with a Contact that has Piracy Jobs. Additionally, Amnon Duul allows you to steal other Players Jobs so not only do you get to become Solid with him when you successfully do one of his Piracy Jobs, but you also set back you rival and advance your own position if they happen to hold inactive Jobs that you need to win!


Piracy can indeed be a wild card, as we've seen recently in the play-by-forum games.

Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about it for The Rumrummers' Seasonal. But if I were to try to exempt Piracy, I'd also have to get rid of Tasks...
 
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George Krubski
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Jon and Bob: If you guys have thoughts on how a Co-op game might work, let's get to it!

In simple terms, if we consider doubling the numbers expected for winning a standard game, that's a start, in broad strokes, but what about the finesse? What makes it properly co-op?

I think my favorite co-op attempt has been SLAYING THE DRAGON, which, if I recall, had three goals with different flavors:

GOAL 1 requires 2 players to accomplish something simultaneously.

GOAL 2 is a series of mini-goals that can be completed by either or both crews.

GOAL 3 is a "big finish" that requires the might of two different crews to take on.

Although I like that mix, I'd almost like to see a "big finish" be more Star Wars-style, where two different crews are doing different things. I believe SLAYING THE DRAGON has a big Fight Test with a target that no single crew an easily achieve (24+, maybe?) but I prefer "You take down the shields and we'll do the bombing run," if you will.

In fairness, though, I don't have enough experience with co-op games (with the exception of a handful of games of PANDEMIC and ESCAPE) to have a sense for how something like this should "feel" compared with regular rules.
 
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Bob
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George, I'm working another story card angle. But once that's done I'd be happy to focus efforts on a co-op... thumbsup
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Ralph Stratford
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I have some thoughts around a Co-op PBF game. I will need to think this through a bit more but the basic idea is it's all the Players vs the Reavers and Alliance. In practical terms this means the Moderator will move all NPC ships to the disadvantage of Players, while Players have to achieve some sort of Goal(s) and/or do certain Jobs and/or become Solid with all Contacts, etc while working to help each other.

The players win if they do what is required, the Reaver and Alliance win if the Players lose X number or more of their Crew to NPC ships.

The first bit around moving NPC ships is easy enough to implement without breaking anything, but the victory conditions for the Players will need careful design to make them challenging, but not too easy or too hard and they need to be achievable.

Perhaps "within X number of Turns" should be a part of the equation to put pressure on the Players to not shop for optimum Crew/Gear/Ship Upgrades for too long to also add to the risk of losing if they have too many Crew Killed/Captured to NPC ships!



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George Krubski
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With almost 40 votes currently in this thread about favorite story, I was curious to see how things correlated to story type...

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1622338/which-your-favo...

STORY-ORIENTED CARDS - 18 votes (average of 3)
Harken’s Folly - 3
Niska’s Holiday - 3
The King of All Londinium - 5
Patience’s War - 1
Jail Break - 2
First Time in the Captain’s Chair - 4

MONEY GRABS - 5 votes (average of 1)
Respectable Persons of Business - 1
Desperadoes - 2
Any Port in a Storm - 2
The Great Recession - 0
The Well’s Run Dry - 0

GOAL-ORIENTED CARDS - 13 votes (average of 2.6)
The Choices We Make - 1
Another Man’s Treasure - 1
Where the Wind Takes Us - 9
Down and Out - 1
It’s All in Who You Know - 1

(The above categories do not include Awful Lonely in the Big Black and The Scavenger's 'Verse, with 0 and 3 votes respectively).

Do we see any patterns? Well, with the exception of the outlier favorite of Where the Wind Takes Us, goal-oriented cards are not specially popular, with only a single vote for each story in the category.

Overall, the most popular options seem to be the story-oriented cards, which are the only category where a majority of cards received more than one vote (even if you remove First Time in the Captain's Chair from the category).

In general, there also seems to be a bias toward cards from the core game, perhaps because more people own them or are comfortable/familiar with them.

Of the 16 cards categorized, two received no votes, six received 1 vote (interestingly, both of the PVP-centric cards), and three received 2 votes.

Of the story cards that received three or more votes (Harken’s Folly - 3
Niska’s Holiday - 3, The King of All Londinium - 5, First Time in the Captain’s Chair - 4 , Where the Wind Takes Us - 9), all were from the core game except for Where the Wind Takes Us.
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Carl Hanson
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gwek wrote:
Do we see any patterns? Well, with the exception of the outlier favorite of Where the Wind Takes Us, goal-oriented cards are not specially popular, with only a single vote for each story in the category.


I wonder if this indicates that Where the Wind Takes Us is the only goal-oriented story that is commonly beloved, or if it is nearly universally considered to be the best story card in that category so the majority of players that like those stories best picked it.

We really don't have the data to distinguish between those two options. And there could be a third option that I didn't think of to explain that result.
 
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Bob
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George, I'm almost finished with that story card I mentioned. When you're ready, let's compare notes and ideas for coop. cool
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George Krubski
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Ashitaka wrote:
George, I'm almost finished with that story card I mentioned. When you're ready, let's compare notes and ideas for coop. cool


Cool! Ping me when you're ready.
 
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George Krubski
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turambur wrote:
gwek wrote:
Do we see any patterns? Well, with the exception of the outlier favorite of Where the Wind Takes Us, goal-oriented cards are not specially popular, with only a single vote for each story in the category.


I wonder if this indicates that Where the Wind Takes Us is the only goal-oriented story that is commonly beloved, or if it is nearly universally considered to be the best story card in that category so the majority of players that like those stories best picked it.

We really don't have the data to distinguish between those two options. And there could be a third option that I didn't think of to explain that result.


Agreed. Even though there are a few dozen votes, it's still not a super-robust sampling, so who knows?

One thing I'll say is that the goal-oriented Story Cards probably include the most variability, which may be a factor. This is in contrast to some of the other categories.

For example, your opinion on Harken's Folly will likely be the same as your opinion on King of All Londinium. There is likely to be some variability, but if you like Niska's Holiday, I'd wager you'll also enjoy Patience's War.

The money grabs, similarly, are... similar. You're collecting coin. All that changes are a few minors tweaks. You might prefer Desperadoes to Respectable Persons of Interest for the flavor (or, in the latter case, simplicity), but, again, I feel like if you like one, you probably like the other.

On the other hand, the goal-oriented Story Cards show more variability. You might like collecting contacts but not care for the idea of delivery Goods to your Haven. I suspect that's part of the reason for the focus on Where the Wind Takes Us. In a recent review thread, one player said that it was her favorite story card and cited the variability of the set up: no two games will be the same because of how goal locations are collected. I suspect that may be a factor, too.

All interesting to think about.
 
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