It's a Pirates' Life for me!
In my first solitaire game since last fall (I think), I decided to do something totally different.
Following the Water World rules introduced by brettb45, there would be no home islands. However, similar to a few other games I played last fall, there would also be no home forts. There was absolutely nowhere to store or unload gold - only gold on ships would count towards victory at the end of the game. The game would end once all the wild islands had sunk, when they had no more gold on them.
To make things even more bizarre, there were 5 fleets at 30 points, but no ship could have ANY cargo spaces open to start the game. Every ship had to be full to the brim with crew and/or equipment, which meant that to load gold, crew would have to be either left on the island or killed in combat! It was a whole new approach to the game, with new strategies, tactics in fleet construction, and odd gameplay. It turned out to be great fun! I also happened to be in a rush playing the game, so all of this happened very quickly.
These were the fleets - one from each of the Big 5. Making the fleets was rather strange - given the constraints of my traveling collection, there were only so many options. It was also tough to fit named crew, especially without defaulting to a one-ship setup. The play order went in the reverse faction order, with the Americans going first, and then the Pirates. Each of the 4 wild islands had 5 coins.
The Pirates unfurled their sails but the Spanish were right behind them! The Furia quickly took out the Fancy, but the Cantabrian struggled mightily against the Selkie, managing to win a boarding party after missing both shots and failing to damage the ship with a ram.
The other 3 fleets were content to sail towards wild islands without interference:
The Selkie fought both broadsides against the Spanish, but missed 0/3 and rolled a 1 with her exploding shot to lose a mast! The Furia punished her afterwards, scoring a hit to dismast the Selkie and eliminate the Pirates from the game before a single island had been explored! In the meantime, the Americans had ominously turned the United States around - why bother getting a few coins early in the game (which would come at the expense of some very valuable crew) when you could wreck havoc first?
The Maui's Fishhook (MF) finds Plague! The UT wipes out all 5 of her generic crew, but it does allow her to load 3 regular coins without making any tough crew decisions. She left a 0 coin on the island as a decoy, and to keep the game alive in case she would be able to load more gold and/or use the Plague to terrorize other fleets.
The United States sank the Fancy and Selkie to destroy both Pirate ships, but the Furia sailed up and shot away two of the American's masts! In the meantime, the Cantabrian had explored an island and loaded a couple coins, leaving her captain and helmsman behind. The Spanish were looking good...
But so were the French! The Missionary actually made it easier for them - the Floating Stone was their main gold ship anyway, so losing the helmsman and explorer wasn't a big deal. The French had a plan for the island's gold.
The Floating Stone loaded two 1's and the Weapons, which would soon be transferred to the Marie Antoinette, who swapped her explorer for the final 1 coin. It was a good "resource management" turn - the MA would now have a +2 bonus on boards, which was a great combo with her built-in S-boarding ability.
An overview of the situation:
Not wanting to risk a Broadsides Attack with a world-hater aboard, the United States went 1/3 to take a mast off the Furia! It wasn't enough once the Cantabrian and Furia teamed up to eliminate the Americans from the game! The Spanish had their own resource management plan: maximize gold aboard ships by transferring the Cantabrian's gold to the United States, and then have the Cantabrian go back to the island to pick up more gold. It was definitely a strange game for strategy, but a fun and refreshing one at that!
The northwestern island sank, and the Marie Antoinette was looking to attack the Spanish before turning on the English because the MF's Plague could render the MA relatively weak to the Furia.
However, I then realized that due to the Plague (using the old version), the MF couldn't dock, so she headed straight for the MA!
The Furia sailed bravely into battle to protect her fleet's gold, but missed her shot against the MA. The MA utilized her S-boarding prior to moving, but remarkably, she couldn't even win the boarding party with extra Weapons aboard!! With two crew aboard and a die roll of 1, the MA had a boarding score of 7, which was tied when the Furia rolled an improbable 6!
The MA used her move action to smartly get away from the sickly MF, instead dismasting the Cantabrian and sinking the United States with 4 gold aboard! As a result the MF dumped the Plague onto the Furia to eliminate all 3 of her crew, and France now had the upper hand against Spain.
The MF actually won her boarding party against the Furia to take the Plague right back! This made her a target for the MA, who dismasted her with (ironically) help from the Furia. (with no crew the Furia couldn't ram or shoot the MA on her turn)
However, the French still had a logistical issue in the way of them winning the game. The only gold they controlled was the three 1's on their two ships, which could not be counted on against the 3 coins aboard the MF, who was captured by the Spanish. The French countered by capturing the Cantabrian. It was a race to see who could control the most gold the fastest, but the key lied with the MA's still-healthy crew complement.
The Marie Antoinette used her captain and helmsman to sail up to the Spanish, sinking the MF and dismasting the Furia! The game had ended not with all the islands sinking, but with only one fleet remaining!
The French had won with 5 gold! All the other fleets had not a single coin between them. The extremely low values were explained after the game by the unexplored southeastern island, which held a nice cache of 15 gold. Even if the United States had grabbed that gold early in the game, it's not likely she would have held onto it with the dangerous Furia and MA opposing her.
This was a really fun setup, and I'd recommend it if you want a quick, desperate, and exciting match. I'd like to do it again soon, possibly with other variations (such as making it mandatory to fill up each ship's point cost with crew, rather than cargo spaces) and likely a higher point limit.