By Carl “CatLord” Rosa II, 28 March 2018
Back in November, a review was done for British vs Pirates. It scored well, with room for improvement. As of this posting, the Kickstarter is coming to a close, but let’s take a look at everything being introduced in this edition.
Reviewer’s Note: It should be noted that I have been following this game since early development, and have a “Supporter” acknowledgement for feedback throughout the development of this game.
- The expansion set appears to have all the components you need to start anew.
- Here is what the Kickstarter includes in the Volume II Core Set:
- 6 sea tiles
- Rule book
- 40d6 (20 for each of the two factions)
- 8 ship minis for each faction
- 8 Ship cards
- 5 Captain cards per faction
- 5 Crew tokens per faction
- 25 Cards per faction
- 25 Event cards
- 4 Event tokens
- Kraken mini
- 2 Fort minis
- 2 Fort cards
- *Mission cards for players
- *Academy skill cards for players
- Wind Vane mini
*Mission and Academy cards are still in development and have no official listing in the current edition of the rulebook. The packing list as described above matched the Kickstarter promise.
This set could serve as a standalone kit if this is where you want to started. It is a solid set of resources with the same advantages as the version that came before: Dice are reusable, the ship miniatures have loads of uses, and the additional feature of the forts and kraken could easily be reapplied to other hex map games (with usage being dependent on scale). The cards have some use for art inspiration in other games, but otherwise there is not much to be plundered for other uses.
To avoid being pedantic, this section is only focusing on what has be added or changed from the previous version.
Crew tokens are the easiest starting point. They function essentially the same as the captain bonus in the prior edition, except it is interchangeable. The crew bonus is activated if the ship size/class matches, except that it can be on any captain of that faction.
Shallows and storm tokens
Skill Cards now consume crew morale instead of solely requiring a minimum level.
Ship collisions have been added as an advanced/optional rule. If a ship is at least two hexes away, and ends movement with its bow towards an adjacent ship, it has the chance to damage one or both ships. If the ramming ship wins a contested roll, the target ship takes one damage on the appropriate side. If either ship botches, they take damage to the bow if the rammer (thus failing the collision), or appropriate side if target ship. The rammer must pivot (change facing one direction) regardless of result. The rules specifically say that this can affect friendly ships and sea monsters, but provides no mention of forts. Ship size does not change the damage, although the roll is based on the armor of both ships involved giving advantage to larger vessels.
Advanced Boarding rules have been added. Now the attacker rolls as normal against a static number from the defender, which is made up as before, but uses the armor value of the boarding side in place of their die roll. Victory for the attacker restores morale equal to the armor value used in the roll, and maxes morale for the defender if they win. As before, the loser still goes to 1 morale and loses 1 structure.
Ship Capture mechanics have also been introduced. By taking the last structure point via boarding, you may put its structure to 3, and all armor dice to 1, and most notably replace the captain with an unused one of your own.
Aspects & Takeaways
Due to the limited amount of content added to a product already thoroughly explained, the below will be both the positive and negative takeaways after looking at everything as a whole.
Everything new addresses either a musing or a genuine concern from the game’s players and community. The game creators were dedicated to maintaining the game’s complexity level while addressing those issues, which they released in the next (this) edition. The strongest aspect to the updates is that they are entirely modular, allowing players to use what works and nothing else on top of the first edition rules.
The boarding rules in conjunction with collisions can create some very dynamic situations, especially if it results in a capture. One must also consider that the collision rules can be used in addition to the minimum movement rule, requiring some very strategic thinking. The biggest disadvantage to the new collision rule is that the map scale still remains small on average. This can be bypassed by the fact that if you’ve been following along since the start, you have fifteen sea tiles to really open up the map. Without a decent map size, or even with one if everyone clusters to one spot, you can end up playing bumper boats for attrition. It must also be considered that ramming heavily favors the larger ships (as physics would dictate), and means that the smaller ships specializing in boarding now have to be extra careful in their approach. However it does offer them the opportunity to do a little more damage which can go a long way.
Given the bounds of the rules that exist and the preservation of game complexity, this is as elegant a fix as can be expected, and may need some experimentation for the right combos.
Forts allow for “home zones”, which can take away from the monotony of players chasing each other from edge to edge. Even with this addition, the biggest drawback is dependent on the map setup for the game. Poor placement of a fort has the potential to lock a fort out of the game entirely, where ruthless placement can dominate a significant portion of the map. Its attack arc makes up for the immobility, and it only has one hit die which makes up for its immunity to boarding and ramming. Their range and power is offset by the fact that they should never get the first shot on a wary captain. They are represented by a smaller card due to having no captain, morale, or half of the ship stats. All in all, the addition is balanced as long as all factions have the same number.
The fact that skill cards now consume morale is a major step forward for balance. In almost every game this reviewer has played in first edition, both players involved have piled up two to three card combos that would have required 6+ morale, and crippled a ship in one round. This seems like a necessary fix because a huge play will leave a ship open to boarding.
Without a full deck list of the event cards, it is difficult to gauge how effective or fair they are. The storm tokens/templates were an idea in early development, but postponed to focus on the core mechanic. The sample token displayed on the Kickstarter page makes it seem rather quick and fair. The example card for fog has the person drawing the event card putting the fog on their own ship to start, and is permanent thereafter. If other tokens are placed this way, it means they will be kept relevant and not just tossed in the corner and forgotten. Sea monsters give a faction an extra piece seemingly, which can genuinely throw an entire game out of balance depending on the player that it aligns to and placement when beckoned.
Within the new core, the newest aspects are the ones we lack the most. It’s great to see the French vs Buccaneers as a new flavor of the same product, although that alone does not give players anything new on its own. There is an add-on for South Sea Alliance, which emulates pirates from China. The artists remain diligent in matching the ships to their origins, which makes the most interesting new faction simply optional. Some concerns still exist – the amount of record keeping cards around the table that grow in quantity with the size of the map, the number of unsecured dice vital for record keeping becoming what I like to call a “cat hazard”, and while the ships are all uniform for their size it can get difficult to track them if you don’t actively paint or sculpt them somehow.
That said, the new rules seem to compliment the game well. None of them over complicate the rules already in existence and where there are new scenarios and play modes that embrace these new rules in any combination, there is no requirement to do so to enjoy the game overall. The art direction and quality remains from the first
Final score holds at four buns. Sustained quality with useful rule changes potentially clouded by outsourcing of resources to add-ons.