My crew is getting scurvier

Wow, applying a reasonably coherent theme has made a huge difference.  Over the last couple of weeks my drafting game has mutated into something barely recognisable from its original form.  So, here are some of the key changes and an outline of how the game works now...
  • As I mentioned last time I wrote about the game, I have stopped using persona cards for scoring and instead, each player has a ship card which gives their objectives for the game.  Essentially, each ship has a set of requirements (icons -- which represent crew skills -- which must be collected in order to allow the ship to leave port), and possibly some other bonuses or abilities.  The ship card is initially kept face down and secret from other players.
  • Instead of my original idea of passing hands of cards around as a packet draft (like in 7 Wonders or Fairy Tale), crew are recruited from "taverns", which are rows of face-up card in the middle of the table.  If a player visits a tavern, only players with more "fighting" icons revealed can visit the same tavern, allowing a small degree of blocking.
    • The game runs in three phases -- I'm tempted to call them "acts":
      • Act 1 is recruiting the bulk of your crew (building a hand of cards and putting some of them into play).  In practice this means that you can draw two cards from a tavern and add one card from your hand to your tableau.
      • Act 2 is making ready to sail (mostly putting cards into play, but also still gaining a few new cards).  At this stage you can draw one card from a tavern each turn and play two to your tableau.  Entering Act 2 involves revealing your ship card, enabling its abilities, but also letting other players know what your objectives are.
      • Act 3 is setting sail and gaining treasure.  This partly involves drawing cards from a treasure deck, but can also involve attacking other pirates who are also at sea.
      • Players will probably enter the different acts at different times.
    • It is the gaining of treasure in act 3 that wins the game, so the first to set sail may be at an advantage, but anyone not too far behind may be able to catch up with attacks.
    Two players, both of them me, one of whom has just entered Act 2.  The beer, by the way, is Fuller's Bengal Lancer.  :)
    So, that is actually quite a big change to the game, from the mechanism for gaining cards to the treasure grab and potential take-that battle in Act 3.  I have in my mind that moving the game through three distinct stages should give the game a clear shape which could form some sort of a narrative arc and end with a bit of a climax.

    I can see a number of potential problems with this which I will have to address, including:
    • If one player hits Act 3 a long time before anyone else, they will just sit there picking up treasure for a few dull turns and nobody else will have a chance of catching them.
    • On the other hand, if Act 3 allows too much swing, then it could render the earlier part of the game irrelevant as everything is resolved by a take-that slugfest. 
    • Either way, though, getting the right level of activity in Act 3 may be a bit of a challenge.
    • I suspect we will see a significant first player advantage.  Only playtesting (a lot) will really tell if this is the case, or how much of a problem it is, but it is very likely I'll have to come up with some form of mitigation for this.
    As we stand right now I have a deck of cards for the game which will at least work, and have played a solo game against myself.  I only have partially written rules, but this test play has revealed that I hadn't really thought Act 3 through properly, so I have made a few notes about what needs to change.  The plan now is to get the rules as they stand written up and play a couple more times (ideally with someone else if I can persuade a victim/volunteer), revise the rules, and then post the current state online to see if anyone is interested in taking a look.

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