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Subject: Better Days: A Solo Blackbeard Session rss

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Paul Szilagyi
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"Better were the days when mastery of the seas came... from the sweat of a man's brow, and the strength of his back alone. You all know this to be true."

A Tale In Five Parts
[with expository commentary, by them what know the way of it.]

Part one: (in which I take to the seas to seek my fortune...)

MY personal history being what it was, and service to my country, there was left in me the will and desire to add grief to the Queen of Spain. Nor was I the only one; four captains (what History will, no doubt, call pirates), myself included, took sail for riches and glory, and between us made a gentlemen's agreement to each cut for ourselves a bolt of the Cloth of the World, and see whose was the richest.

THERE were Francis Spriggs, a right CRUEL pirate and an able (if somewhat unmotivated) seaman; Henry Avery, a crafty devil, and a LEADER of men; and Bartholomew Roberts, whom I thought most likely to be my rival, whose ABILITY was second to none, with CUNNING and INITIATIVE to match.

KNOWING as I did where waters rich for this purpose might be found, I fitted out a goodly ship with crew of a mind to redistribute the conniving Lady's wealth, and the means to persuade her Merchants to let us relieve them of their heavy loads. I made that persuasion my emphasis, giving up some speed in the process, and made sail for the sea-routes which serviced Central America. In due course, we spied a vessel moving as if she hadn't a care in the world and, having the wind on her, made good our chase.

THE lads set up a cheer, seeing already the swag we hadn't got, but a good Captain knows when a storm is on the horrizon. As we neared our quarry, a WARSHIP was sighted that might have closed on us, had the wind been right, but it were a tiny thing and I think her master thought better of it by the look of our gun-ports. I think now that the ship may have been an ill omen, and her captain merely serving warning. At any rate, I hear she later turned tail again when the TURMOIL IN EUROPE started; a load of good such a sorry ship would do in any scrape.

WHAT had seemed a fat hare to be plucked, though, turned out a scrawny rabbit, when once it was caught. Somehow it was deemed my fault that she were only carrying a load of bricks, and those not of gold. The crew turned surly at that, and I began to wonder what I might do about it. By Chance, I later found one casualty of that small, and mostly fruitless, fray that I'd come to regret: a stray shot tore open the desk wherein lay my plans to improve our cannon-mounts. I'll have to redraw them, if ever I get some peace. [SP Player draws FINGER OF FATE. Following my interpretation of the card, I discard HEAVY GUNS.] I was able to 'persuade' a SPANISH OFFICER to give us some information on the defenses as Portobello, mayhap I'll put them to use another time.

Rumors:
SOME of the letters from the Spanish Merchant shed some light on other gentlemen of fortune. It seems Spriggs' men had contracted Scurvy, poor lads, but that he decided to kill two birds with one stone by putting in for provisions in Havana, and taking that ripe plum for whatever else she was worth! Avery had taken another Spanish boat on its way to Catagena, despite having also encountered a WARSHIP of the Spanish Navy. And perhaps it was the same runt as showed us her stern, as Avery wasn't attacked either. By another coincidence, he made the acquaintence of a SPANISH OFFICER too. A good haul, and some drinking and shouting to follow. I'll bet his crew love him more than mine do me, the wretched curs. Old Roberts, 'Black' Bart, had meanwhile taken up his task along the coast of India, whereat he'd done some damage to the business of trade.

Part Two: (In which the world becomes a more hostile place...)

MEN know that Fate will deal them a blow to match every good fortune, but we'd not yet had good fortune and the tide had already turned against me. The grumbling talk that I'd not been able to quell by agreement, I was forced to quell with my sword-arm and the COMMAND of my will when a MUTINY arose among the men. I had only given the order to sail up the coast, toward New Providence, but that was sailing against the wind, where the ideas of the crew were concerned. What makes them think they have the right I know not, but it was all I could do to stay in command of my own ship. [roll vs. Leadership was equal!] This crew has never been less loyal, and I don't think they're convinced that I will lead them to glory.

HOPING some sport would quench the boys' desire to see something skewered, and preferring it not be me, I laid in toward another Merchant vessel near Port Royal, but it seems our (bad) luck was holding. A new WARSHIP appeared, and, while I have no quarrel with the English, it seems their master has one with my taking Merchant Ships. I had thought this ship a mere pup too, but it seems they have a canny leader, or else the hearts of my crew were not in the fight, and she gave us all we could handle and more. We were forced to disengage, and our quarry escaped.

NEEDLESS to say, the crew thought I'd handled the situation poorly. I had thought to try again, Warship be damned, but I could not get the sails to fill for my life. It may yet mean my life; all this time wasted and nothing accomplished, but the men have grown unhappier still.

Rumors:
DON'T ask me how, as we've not made port or taken a prize, but I hear the World's become more ANTI-PIRATE. The GOVERNORS have promised action, not that I'm worried in the slightest. I'll bet Spriggs is on his way to New Providence to trade loot for coin, after attacking Havana. Henry Avery had weathered some STORMS off the coast of South America, being In-Port at the time, then traded one port for another, as his men held an spur-of-the-moment DRINKING BINGE, as it were, when he headed out to sea, and they were forced to be still while they slept it off. I heard nothing from Bartholomew Roberts. Either the distance from India is too great for news to have travelled this quickly, or else his men were SEASICK (har har), and they've done nothing at all.

Part Three: (In which I take a new Ship, and curse myself for a fool)

INSTILLING loyalty in a crew is so much easier if first you instill money in their purses. That, and I'd begun itching for a fight, but I needed my crew mostly intact and didn't want to take it out on them. As such I made for another Merchant Ship, but a little ways farther up the coast, despite having been driven off my last prey. Sure enough, no sooner had I spotted one than yet another WARSHIP (a part of the Government's promised 'action', no doubt) appeared [*details of card-play to follow at the end]. I lay into her with everything I had, keeping one eye upon maneuvering in such a way that I might proceed toward my Merchant target, if my shots were true. In the first round of broadside shot, the Warship began to list to one side, and a few more opportune strikes took all the fight out of her. We lost little time in our pursuit of the Merchant Ship, and the men were satisfied when my shrewd tactics and seamanship produced one sunk Warship.

AS a reward, a beautiful BRIGANTINE awaited us... we closed relentlessly, and soon their crew had surrendered to our obvious (to their way of thinking, they might have given us more of a fight had they tried) superiority. To my eye, their vessel, undamaged as it was, and larger, appeared agreeable, and though the cargo was disappointing, (worse than my first 'prize' in fact) I CONVERTED it to my use. I'd expect the crew to be 'disappointed' with our meager take, but I think our recent victory might have had them in good spirits. At any rate, I decided to press some of the new ship's crew into my service, and the rest were put off-ship on a nearby scrap of land to fend for themselves. Her CAPTAIN I kept, as I wanted to talk to him about the lay of the land at Charleston. It was my idea that with my new ship's increased capacity for firepower AND merchandise I might have a go at that valuable port. It was his misfortune that my 'guest' was reluctant to share details, but he soon talked about the defenses, and nothing else.

PLANNING out an attack is not always a virtue. As I skulked offshore, awaiting my oportunity, it seems my kindness was rewarded with treachery: some of the old crew of my new home made it back to whisper in the Governor's ear my whereabouts. I had not expected them to be able to make the trip so quickly. My REPUTATION had also gotten to Charleston ahead of me; combined with their testimony, and in keeping with its fearsomeness, a special ship was outfitted under the command of a daring young officer, William Rhett. [Notoriety Trigger: System Player dispatches King's Commisioner].

OUR new boat was pretty, but not in the least bit quick. The blackguard Rhett caught up with me before I'd ever sighted Charleston down the barrels of my long guns. Our fight was fierce, and I confess that I thought for the briefest moment that it might be Davy Jones' Locker for me, [I won the battle roll by one point] but at the end of the day it was the career of the young, brave officer of His Majesty's Navy that was cut short. Cold as their hearts are, my crew rejoiced. In the fullness of time, however, we'd come to learn that the battle had given to us more than our portion. The WEAR AND TEAR on the ship started to show almost immediately.

Rumors:
BY the day, more ANTI-PIRATE GOVERNORS join the ranks of the oppressors of free enterprise. Although there's been some talk of a GENERAL PARDON (I wish they'd have told poor William before he set out, and saved me the trouble of killing him) it seems to have come, for the moment, to nothing. [The SPs got little accomplished, this turn, as they used their actions almost solely against Blackbeard, and not for themselves.]

Part Four: (In which my name grows, while my ship falls apart)

AFTER a day and night's heavy pounding, the harbor guns at Charleston were silenced, and my hold filled with their moveable goods. Afterwards, I was of a mind to REFIT my ship, so as to bring her back up to speed, but I came to find that neither the City's repair fascilities (damaged in the fight) nor my DEBAUCHED CREW [SP AP Action] were in any condition to effect our reconditioning. Thinking again, I decided to put to sea and hope that a FAIR WIND [I was holding the card] would blow me to somewhere where the return on my hard-gotten gains would be better.

SEA turtles were outstripping my barnacle-hulled behemoth. [It took my remaining two actions to Move out to sea]. No sooner had we braced our meandering rudder, than our hull sprung a leak. More WEAR AND TEAR. With my crew (it serves 'em right) busy pumping water out of our boat just to keep us on top of the waves, we'd gone from 'slow' to 'becalmed'. We were dead in the water.

GOD, it seems, never wanted me to be a pirate. Why else would He have given me this gutless crew, and this back-broken boat. And why else, then of all times, would he have set the Furies on me in the form of Thomas Matthews? Though I'd thought that the King had Matthews busy in the Merry Olde, it may have been wiser to have moved on to warmer waters when I'd had the chance; after the last COMMISSIONER THE KING had sent after me. His boat, the Bravery, was as heavy with cannon as you'd wonder that it could float. To the devil with Pride, I'd have fled if I could.

NEVER has there been a battle at sea that men have lived to tell of that was harder fought than when the cannons on the Bravery opened up, and my own guns responded. More holes were opened in our hull than I can fathom, and more men's blood was spilled than I thought the decks could hold. The wind had died, and the haze of our gunpowder smoke lay like a thick fog, making each blast look like lightning. If it were not for that haze, I know we would have been doomed. It was only by CUNNING that we survived. As the sun began to set, I let slip away from the far side of my ship a tiny, one man craft whose only passerger was a barrel of powder. A makeshift bomb, she took the Bravery unware, and rent a wound in her that no ship could recover from. What crew of mine were left, I'd finally won their respect, for whatever good it did me.

Rumors:
THERE were a rash of STORMS, some of them in the East, and also the Caribbean was wiped out. It seems I got out ahead of time, before they hit near me. Spriggs had gone silent, and Avery was more 'on the move' than active, seeking the Merchants that had begun to cluster under the protection of the ANTI-PIRATE GOVERNORS who had sprung up all down the North Atlantic Coast. Cap'n Roberts made me feel a touch better when he had to put down a MUTINY among his crew, but it didn't stop him from looting the Portuguese Port at Goa. It seems all of us Gentlemen of Fortune were starting to make a name for ourselves, and I was secretly glad of that. Mayhap it would take my pot off the fire, so to speak, when it came to the King's Commissioners.

Part Five: (In which my fortune runs its course)

THE storm-winds were FAIR WINDS to me, and the breeze that blew in front of the gale filled every one of my sheets with renewed strength. In no time at all, it seemed (at least compared to how we had been moving), we were sighting land at the Isle Ste. Marie, away in East Africa. I wanted to empty my holds in that den of DEBAUCHERY AND REVELRY, and from there I planned to see if the 'Rumors' were true about how rich the waters around India were, give Bart Roberts a run for his money. Meanwhile my crew was celebrating the fact that our bulging holds now meant their pockets were bulging as well. It's a shame they'll never get to spend what they've earned.

PESTILENCE, plain and simple. Whether the Isle's foul moors have spilled this vapor into our lungs, ignited this fire in our veins, or whether it is indeed the Visitation of God upon the villains that crawl about these cursed shores I cannot say. Like Alexander the Great, it seems I am to be felled by disease when no other force could stop me. I would have continued to conquer, but I am to be laid low. I don't know who will get my ship, whomever lives may have it. I don't know who will get my wealth, it has done me no good. My forehead burns, and my clothes cling to me; even as I pen this last, my vision dims. It were a good run when we made it, and we'd have shaken the world yet.

A bottle of rum will see me to my everlasting bed.

--THE END--

Final Thoughts: (Perspective on gameplay and card usage)

Final Score: Blackbeard: 66pts -- System Pirates: 28 pts.

Had we all retired, the score would have been:

. . . . . . . . . .Blackbeard: 89pts -- System Pirates: 51 pts.

Each of us was about halfway to our goal.

As you can tell from the Report, it was tough going from the start for Blackbeard in this solo round. I was somewhat relieved at that, having heard that it might be too easy. On the contray, I almost died twice (before I actually did die), and found myself having to use my CUNNING ROLLS to save my skin, rather than to get some benefit.

Especially devastating were the WEAR AND TEAR cards that had me moving at a tragic -1 Speed. These came out at a point in the game when my Notoriety was such that a KC was sure to be dispatched against me if I so much as ended my turn 'At Sea'.

That having been said, I was playing the System Player as anti-Blackbeard as I could... to the point where their own careers may have suffered. I suppose it's a valid option to play to Eliminate Blackbeard, rather than to out-pace him... that's going to be down to you Solo-play style.

For myself, I gave the SPs certain breaks, including the [*details] I promised. At one point, when I went to Find a Merchant Ship, the SP drew KC SURPRISE as his potential AP Action. This didn't apply, as there wasn't a Warship 'On Station', but I decided that (since the SPs can't upgrade Warships to KCs as in the main game) there SHOULD be one, so I deployed a regular Warship (the next best thing) instead of a KC. Also, I play FINGER OF FATE as a forced-discard. At many points during the game, the SPs were using cards 'For Events' against me instead of taking any for 'Actions'.

The up-side of all this, if you're like me, is that the game felt tense, almost desperate at times. I was BADLY in need of repair when I used that FAIR WINDS card to get to a Pirate Port. Had I lived, and gotten some repair, I'm sure I could have pulled 130 pts, but I'm NOT sure I'd have done it before the SPs got their 100. I felt I really had to work to earn what I got (and not in a tedious way).

WHICH brings me to how I died. It was a freak chance, but it felt in harmony with the game. Start-to-finish, I was at about 3 hours (that's WITH frequent rulebook checks, because I don't have the game comitted to memory yet). I'm confident the whole game can be played in less than that, if you know what you're doing, but I had fun that whole time so I don't feel like that was 'wasted effort', and I was happy to see the game 'beat' me. (Some people have cried 'too easy', I don't see it.)

I should add that I don't feel like it was a cheap-shot. It was a random card, which needed to hit an exact random number to take me out. In my case I was in Port #66, so it was necessary to roll 'Box-cars' for the DISEASE to hit my port. It's my luck that that's just what I did.

((A tip: Ports after gaps in the numbers (i.e. #21) are easier to hit with Disease. Something to seriously keep in mind in the Solo game, where "Must Play Immediately" cards come out 3 per turn.))edit: disregard, idiocy

All in all, I'm happy, and I'm looking forward to my next match against the System.

I hope you've enjoyed my Session Report,

-Zero.








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McDog
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Outstanding!

I very much enjoyed it. I have the AH version sitting here, I should try a solitaire game sometime. Heck, I should go re-install Sid meier's Pirates again!
 
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Bill H
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Excellent session report, both in style and content.

You've convinced me that I need a copy of this.
 
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Mark Taraba
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Quote:
((A tip: Ports after gaps in the numbers (i.e. #21) are easier to hit with Disease. Something to seriously keep in mind in the Solo game, where "Must Play Immediately" cards come out 3 per turn.))


Can you explain why? I assumed by looking at the board (and not owning the game and having access to rules) that you rolled two dice and one was a tens and one was a ones for random port selections. It looked like there were 36 ports from 11 to 66, so I'm not sure why 21 is worse than any other number.
 
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Neil Randall
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Quote:
It looked like there were 36 ports from 11 to 66, so I'm not sure why 21 is worse than any other number.


I don't get this either, I have to admit.

But a superb AAR nevertheless, and thank you very much!
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Paul Szilagyi
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I was playing Disease the same way I'd been placing Merchant Ships (and Governors in the setup phase) (e.g. if the result was invalid, use "the next available Port with a higher number (starting back at 11 if you get all the way to 66)"

The rules for this card don't specifically say to do this (and that's not how I got hit by the Disease card that ended my game), but I'd already been doing it so often (for Merchant Ship placement) that it seemed like the thing to do.

IF you play it that way, which I'm no longer sure is a good idea, then a result of 17, 18, 19, 20, or 21 will all hit Port #21, St. Augustine.

I'll ask about this, over in the rules Forum.

FORTUNATELY, as they kindly pointed out to me in the Rules Forum (because I didn't get the hint, here) such a result is impossible, and therefore should not be worried about.

I take my worrying very seriously, not limitting myself to the field of mere possibilty.
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Matt Morrison
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Great report! Quite a fun read. I only wish the game flowed like that! 5 turns in 3 hours isn't much action. I played a solo game last night as well, going at about the same pace. I do hope that I can pick it up significantly when the rules are really in head.

Regarding the d66 port rolls, I started rerolling any number that wasn't on the board or (for merchants) was already occupied. Just made more sense to me that way.

Also, I hadn't thought of using the SP's event cards for the event, rather than the actions. Interesting idea--I think my SPs were gaining a lot more VP's, but I wasn't in much danger myself.

Thanks for the write-up!
 
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ZeroZilla wrote:
IF you play it that way, which I'm no longer sure is a good idea, then a result of 17, 18, 19, 20, or 21 will all hit Port #21, St. Augustine.


I think the question is "Why weren't you just rolling d6/d6? Therefore making a roll of 17 impossible. "

So put the d10 away and take out the d6.
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John Kennard
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That, sir, was a masterpiece.
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Paul Szilagyi
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Thank you all, very kindly, for your encouragement.

 
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Gerit Driessen
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You deserve it, it is a wonderful piece of storytelling!
 
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John O'Haver
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Alright, I'm sold and I have an unredeemed $10.00 Gift Certificate from Pet Shop Comics to apply to the purchase.


Damn, PSC is closed on Tuesday and won't be near there the rest of the week.
 
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Richard Berg
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"I have the AH version sitting here, I should try a solitaire game sometime. Heck, I should go re-install Sid meier's Pirates again!"
'
'Better yet, go out and by a copy of the GMT BLACKBEARD . . .and increase your Fun level. (And my royalties.)

RHB
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McDog
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BROG wrote:
"I have the AH version sitting here, I should try a solitaire game sometime. Heck, I should go re-install Sid meier's Pirates again!"
'
'Better yet, go out and by a copy of the GMT BLACKBEARD . . .and increase your Fun level. (And my royalties.)

RHB



Well Richard, will you take a trade in?
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Lee Massey
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I agree! Your style and form is wonderful! I enjoyed that report very much! I'm going to play more solitaire Blackbeard. It's a wonderful game! Here's to more reports!
 
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Richard Berg
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"Well Richard, will you take a trade in?"

Mostcertainly.

I'll trade you a mint copy of BLACKBEARD for a nice handful of your handy cash . . .

RHB
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Tom Hancock
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Paul, awesome session report. I have linked it from the top of my review.
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Paul Szilagyi
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hancock.tom wrote:
Paul, awesome session report. I have linked it from the top of my review.


That's really cool of you. Thank you. ('nuff said)
 
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Nikos Diavatis
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Two thumbs up, WAY up. Excellent piece of story-telling. I'll be playing tonight until I win the %^$^#$ thing (or drop dead from exhaustion).
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John O'Haver
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I bought the game and have the solitaire situation set up on my big gaming table as I write this. I'm still working my way through the rules but expect to give it a shot this evening after dinner.
 
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