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Subject: An Average Joe Review rss

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Rick Struve
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Cedar Rapids
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Average Joe reviews are aimed at the average gamer. You know who you are!

Those of us who:
1) Know what ‘Eurogame’ and ‘Ameritrash’ means.
2) Know that enjoying the game is more important than winning.
3) Don’t own more than 100 games.
4) Don’t consider their FLGS a second home (maybe a 3rd or 4th though).
5) Like to read a review without being overloaded with information.



Goal of Game:
Build ships, hire crew, add some accessories to your ship - then give it a trial run to see how she holds up on water. The best run shipyard wins.

Components:
Nice thick cardboard tiles and pieces. Couple complaints: the money chips (cardboard) are very small, best to use poker chips - and the meeple-esque markers fall over way too easy. Board is a little bland, but functional. The player mats are very nice.

The Rules:
Fairly easy to understand. I found the wording could have been much better in a couple spots. Will need the book for reference first few times playing - but the basic rules of game play are fairly straight forward.

The Game:
It is really enjoyable to have a visible ship to construct. You decide how many sections long it will be, and what each section will offer. You hire a captain and possibly a business man or soldier to accompany the ship on it’s maiden voyage. Weld on sails, smoke stacks or propellers to increase the speed. Add a cannon or crane to make your ship more appealing. Scoring is provided by the judges along the canal that you test sail on before officially commissioning your boat for sale. Bonus points awarded for what you have on the completed ship.

In order to do all of the above, you actually have to work - dang game is so close to real life! Hire special employees that offer special bonuses. Buy rail cars full of iron, coal or grain to sell for cash or maybe use to trade for equipment. Buy sections to add on to your ship. Build a test run canal or just take a break and pick up some extra cash.

This is a worker placement game - so you will have to compete for actions. But with a solid bribe (6 bucks), you can get a bonus action with no competition for any action.

Downtime:
Minimal: Turns roll around fast. The only major downtime you will experience is when a player has a completed ship ready to sail. It takes time to figure out all the scoring.

Analysis Paralysis:
Medium: Quite often, a successfully built ship takes good timing on obtaining the items you want. There is a need to think 3, 4, 5 turns ahead. Some players will really have to wrap their head around this.

Game Length:
This game does last a little too long - especially in the home stretch. Nothing major though.

Finish:
While most of the game, players rarely open up big leads that last longer than a few turns. For the most part, it’s anybody’s game until the end. But at the end of the game, players reveal their secret government contracts for bonus scoring, and with that comes my biggest gripe. There are some contracts that are just too powerful, and a well-played game plan can be destroyed by this. Since the contracts are random draws, it is a matter of luck to get the ‘outstanding’ contracts. In my opinion, you shouldn’t be able to circle the scoring track with a single contract (thus more than doubling the points obtained up to this point).

Replay-ability:
Very good: There are a lot of different strategies to follow with this game, so always interesting to try something different each time. This variety keeps the game fresh. You will also need to alter a strategy based on what your opponents are doing - so this is definitely a game you will play more than a few times.

Pros:
Building a visible ship, not just cubes. Maybe it’s the kid in me.
Easy to understand once taught.
Plays well 2-5 players.

Cons:
Money chips are very small, hard to pick up.
Some government contracts at end game are overpowered.
Wood markers topple over too easy.

Overall:
Very good game. Seeing ship after ship built and sailing off is a fun goal to reach in the game - it’s not just a matter of collecting cubes and VP.

I have seen different successful strategies used - from building many small ships to building a few large ships. So just building bigger than your opponent is not always the right solution.

You may be limited in what actions you take each turn, but there is always something decent available.

There is a good balance on what opportunities are available free, and how to get what you need by paying a little extra. Most every aspect of the game is circle based. If you take the item the marker has landed on, it’s free. Pay a little extra to move the marker a little further around the circle - the futher you circle around, the more it costs. But that adds some real thinking and money management to the game.

I give Shipyard: 8 out of 10.
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Michael Edwards
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Everett
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Nice review. I don't qualify as an average joe (due to the size of my gaming collection), but I think you hit the highlights of this game well. It's nice that you can pursue a variety of different paths for scoring.

I'm still not decided on how the ship contracts sort out. It does seem like some are easier to make points on than others…
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David Larkin
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Chanfan wrote:

I'm still not decided on how the ship contracts sort out. It does seem like some are easier to make points on than others…


It is not so much that some are easier to make points on than others, rather some have much higher maximum point counts. If you only get low value ones you can't compete with someone with a high point one.

I think it is a very good game but let down by this
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Chris Linneman
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rstruve wrote:

Plays well 2-5 players.


I agree it scales well but the game wasn't designed for 5 players, and as such components are only included for up to 4. Actually, come to think of it, there probably aren't enough action tiles to support 5 players.
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Curt Carpenter
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For those who have played the game enough for the card differences to matter, a simple drafting variant will solve the problem.
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Dave Sinclair
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Zark wrote:
Chanfan wrote:

I'm still not decided on how the ship contracts sort out. It does seem like some are easier to make points on than others…


It is not so much that some are easier to make points on than others, rather some have much higher maximum point counts. If you only get low value ones you can't compete with someone with a high point one.

I think it is a very good game but let down by this


Absolutely correct! We find that the contracts can be "game-breakers" because of the maximum points cap differences. (They can be pretty extreme.)

We are going to play it without the contracts and see if it's a worthwhile game without them.
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Curt Carpenter
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cyclone85 wrote:
We are going to play it without the contracts and see if it's a worthwhile game without them.

I think removing contracts completely is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But see my previous comment.
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Curt Carpenter
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KissaTaikuri wrote:
Variants, in my opinion, are for when you get bored of a game and want to spice it up; not to fix a glaring balance issue.

My opinion differs from yours.

But then my current favorite game is Dominant Species which is also not fair.
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Curt Carpenter
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KissaTaikuri wrote:
curtc wrote:
But then my current favorite game is Dominant Species which is also not fair.

I don't get the connection here. Or are you speaking of the shorter play variant?

No variant. I'm just saying they're both unfair. For DS I of course mean the adaptation elements that come out.

For me, if a game is interesting, that is enough. Again, for me personally, I would find it a shame to thumb my nose at games where I find the balance lacking but is easily fixed. I will only play Settlers C&K with a house rlue, for example (for balance, not "spice"), and we have enjoyed many many hours from that. If I meet others who don't know or don't want to play my variant, fine, we just play something else. Nothing ever forces me to play the rules as written. And it's not like I had to put a lot of time or effort into coming up with it. Same for Shipyard.

If you don't think the draft is enough (and I suspect you're right after reading a little more), you can simply tweak the card everyone is complaining about, as has been suggested here. Or both.

It's a fun game. But no one's gonna force you to play it.
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Russ Williams
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curtc wrote:
If I meet others who don't know or don't want to play my variant, fine, we just play something else. Nothing ever forces me to play the rules as written.

Meeting others is a significant reason to prefer games that work right out of the box. House rules can work within an established group that knows each other, knows the game, and agrees there's a problem and how to fix it. But when you meet other people, quite understandably they can be reluctant to play with one stranger's "improvement" or "house rule". And so, as you say, "we just play something else" - something which works well with the rules as written.
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Curt Carpenter
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I don't get it. You guys only play games that you also expect to play with other random people/groups? It's not enough to enjoy a game with one group, family, whatever? If so, I guess I just can't relate.

I think one (other) place where we differ is over the number of great games that exist. I agree there are a lot of games that are worth trying, but I don't find that there are a lot of great games coming out that I enjoy more than Shipyard. At least that fill that niche. I prefer the asymmetric semi multiplayer solitairness in Shipyard over most other such games, including Agricola, for example.
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Russ Williams
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curtc wrote:
I don't get it. You guys only play games that you also expect to play with other random people/groups? It's not enough to enjoy a game with one group, family, whatever? If so, I guess I just can't relate.


Most of the games I play are played with a variety of people, and I go to cons and clubs fairly often, which often means playing with new people, I occasionally enjoy playing in tournaments, and I play some games online. In all these situations, it's good or mandatory to play by the standard rules. So yes, it's a good thing for me to avoid house rules, and I tend to prefer games that don't need house rules.

Also, there's a (perhaps irrational) emotional aesthetic aspect: defects detract from my enjoyment (analogous to reading a book that was poorly proofread - even if the content is good, if there are glaring misspellings and grammar errors, it detracts from my pleasure). So I prefer games that are as defect-free as possible. A small but real of my gaming enjoyment is the appreciation and admiration of a well-crafted creation.


But to be clear, I'm not an absolutist about this. I'm willing to play with a house rule with a regular partner (e.g. my SO and I play Toscana with our variant that you choose which of your tiles to play instead of drawing randomly). But my default preference is to play by the standard rules, and to prefer games whose standard rules work well. Unlike you (from what I understand), there are plenty of games I enjoy with their standard rules, more than I have time to play (and I seem to play more games than most people I know), so usually I indeed don't feel a need to play games with house rules.


As for Shipyard in particular, I had a honeymoon period with it, but ultimately found it slightly too long and fiddly for my taste, independent of the question of The Controversial Contract.
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