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Subject: Review and First Play rss

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Yehuda Berlinger
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As was expected, I really don't like dice combat mechanisms, and this one was no exception. Add to that random power cards of wildly varying power which can really throw the balance of power in the game. Which is a shame, because I liked every other aspect of the game.

Pirate's Cove is a blind bidding game. Each player has four stats: initiative, two combat stats of which the lowest one determines how many combat dice you roll, and treasure capacity. Each round, five cards are revealed, one in each of five locations, and each player secretly decides which one to take or whether to cash in treasures already earned. Four of the five locations also allow you to increase one of your stats using earned gold, while the fifth allows you to buy power cards.

If two people go for the same card, they fight. Alternately roll dice; hits are subtracted from an opponent's stat of your choosing. An any time, or if one of your stats falls to zero, you can withdraw and fix your damaged stat and draw a power card, or draw two power cards and pay two gold to fix your stat. The remaining player gets a VP and the fought-over card.

Cards give random amounts of VPs, gold, treasures which can be cashed in for VPs, and/or power cards. Power cards are worth VPs, great benefits in attacking or defense, and so on. Naturally, like the dice rolls you need, the power cards you get may or may not be the ones you need. Some are greatly better than others almost any time.

It was readily apparent to me that given a rather straightforward choice between VP's or treasures, VP's were a better strategy. They don't require you to waste a turn cashing them in for treasures, can't be stolen, and require no particular capacity to store. Naturally, if everyone has this idea, there will be lots more fighting over the cards that give better VP bonuses; and, generally speaking, the player with better stats or better power cards will win fights. Or the better roller, naturally.

Adding to the mix is a Big Pirate that travels around to areas 1-6 in order. Anyone who wants the card in that area also has to fight this guy first. He's hard to kill, can do some nasty damage, and may be worth a nice or small amount of VPs.

In our game, the Big Pirate gave a fair chunk of VPs. Everyone else was avoiding him, so I decided early on that the best chance of leaping ahead was to save my best power cards and take him on. Not only will I get the VPs from beating him, but then I will get the card from the area uncontested.

I waited until he was in an area with a nice VP card. Took him out, gained nice points, gained even more nice points, and that was basically game, because the next Big Pirate flipped up to replace him was just as nasty but gave only half the VPs. Furthermore, it was already near the end of the game and people hadn't been saving up just for a battle like that.

So even with my average dice rolling, my planning won the day. Which made me appreciate the game. But still: dice rolling combat. Shudder. There must be a universal way to fix all games with dice rolling combat.
 
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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Shade_Jon wrote:
But still: dice rolling combat. Shudder. There must be a universal way to fix all games with dice rolling combat.


I've said this before, but dice rolling is a perfectly good way to simulate combat... as long as there are relevant factors involved. For example, in Axis & Allies, if you are thinking of taking 3 tanks (which hit on a roll of 3 or less) in to fight against 5 infantry (hit on 2 or less), that's a nice tactical decision to have to make based on the odds and the number of units involved.

Are you trying to suggest some method for combat that isn't random to some extent? If so, I would say that's completely the wrong approach. There will be a lot of randomness in any battle... that's just reality... Sometimes your sharpshooter will miss and sometimes your half-blind foot soldier will hit. As long as the battling reflects some difference in odds between the two, then that's fine. I think some of the newer designer games (Age of Empires III and Antike come to mind) do somewhat of a disservice to reflecting their combat elements appropriately, just to appease the gamers who can't deal with any amount of randomness in their games.
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Die Scholle
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Quote:
I think some of the newer designer games (Age of Empires III and Antike come to mind) do somewhat of a disservice to reflecting their combat elements appropriately, just to appease the gamers who can't deal with any amount of randomness in their games.


I agree with your views, but I think that the main purpose of 1:1 combat in Antike is a clever way to make it expensive to fight another player without giving a massive advantage to everyone else.
 
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Bruno Valerio
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It's a nice review but Pirates Cove is one of the weakest games i've ever played. Wonderful production as usual from Days of Wonder but the game itself lacks so many things imho.

Nonetheless it could be a good game to introduce people to the hobby.
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Yehuda Berlinger
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Eric,

Dice rolling is a fine way of simulating randomness. I don't like it. That's all.

There are lots of things that work as great simulations, but that doesn't mean that I have to like them in my games.

Yehuda
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Henrik Lantz
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Good review. I keep being amazed at how different we humans are, in what we like and do not like. For example, the dice rolling combat is a real plus for me. Antike is one of the most painfully boring games I have played. So the one thing you mentioned as the most negative is probably one of the most postive for me. But you state very clearly what you did not like which makes it possible for any reader to decide for him/herself. Very good.
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Peter Marchlewitz
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I really like this game, and have absolutely no problem with the dice rolling combat system. So many other games ( including role playing and miniatures) use dice for combat, and I have played many of them since the 70s.
BTW I love Antike as well, and Mare Nostrum. I must admit to not really liking the combat system in Game of Thrones as much.
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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Shade_Jon wrote:
Eric,

Dice rolling is a fine way of simulating randomness. I don't like it. That's all.

There are lots of things that work as great simulations, but that doesn't mean that I have to like them in my games.

Yehuda


Understood. And I shouldn't have assumed it was a randomness thing, so I apologize for jumping to that conclusion. So yeah, how else to do that, then? Card draws, cube tower... I like the method of combat in Friedrich. That's different.
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Ken B.
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Shade_Jon wrote:
There must be a universal way to fix all games with dice rolling combat.



You know, I imagine that there probably is. However, a lot of people (myself included) *quite* like this mechanism for handling combat. So whether such a thing needs "fixing" is rather debatable.


If dice-based combat were "universally" "fixed" in all games, I'd find myself an exit from the hobby. Quickly.


Nice review, though. Your description of what you found negative is actually quite helpful for those who would see such a mechanism as a positive.


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