Inspired by some of the reports of campaign and longer-style game play, I sat down yesterday to play a simple test rules set for a campaign style. There would be three fleets in the running: the English, the Pirates, and the Spanish. Each fleet would start with two ships, totaling 15 points. 60 gold was distributed among 4 wild islands, and combat was barred for the first 10 turns (in an effort to allow each nation a chance to bank some gold for future purchases). What ensued is a game I'll call...
Echoes of the Spanish Main
Chapter 1 - The Age of Exploration
At the game's start, the fleets consisted of the following ships:
HMS Lord Cauldwell
By virtue of die roll, the English, sailing from a Home Island on the northern edge of the map, would go first. The Pirates would move second, positioned on the eastern edge of the map, and the Spanish would travel from their southern port last.
With the 10 turn 'Trade Truce' in effect, each nation took advantage, sending their ships without escort, on missions to the closest Wild Islands. The early speed of the Pirate ships was evident, as the Proud Tortoise
and Freedom's Hand
had each explored an island by the 4th round of play. That round also saw explorations by the English HMS Antelope
and Spanish El Picador
, respectively, meaning that each fleet had gold coming back home by their 5th turns.
Turn 5 for the English also saw an explore action taken by the HMS Lord Cauldwell
, leaving Spain's Napolitana
as the only ship unaccounted for since leaving her home port. She would not explore her designated island until Spain's 7th turn, putting them in an early hole. Indeed, by the time the Napolitana
would explore her island, the English would already have 9 gold banked for their cause, and the Pirates stowing away a speedy 12 points themselves. El Picador
would return to the Spanish port the following turn, depositing 9 gold for King and Country. Meeting similar fanfare up north, the HMS Lord Cauldwell
delivered 5 additional gold for the English, setting the stage for each fleet's initial purchases.
The English, knowing that the truce was due to expire in hours, sought to protect their sovereignty at sea in the way they best knew: with swift, accurate cannons. The HMS Gallowglass
was commissioned to this end, and crewed with a Captain. A Helmsman was added the the HMS Lord Cauldwell
, giving the English a balanced fleet of three ships.
The Pirates, for their part, sought to legitimize the threat of combat from their rag-tag fleet without dipping too deeply in the coffers. A Captain was hired to command the Freedom's Hand
, and the Queen of Cups
was set to follow her out, sailing the Jolly Roger from her stern.
As for the Spanish, having little gold and still missing half their fleet at sea as the truce that protected ships for commerce was winding to an end, decided their resources were best spent training able crewmen for future expeditions. To this end, a Captain and Helmsman were bought and kept in the Spanish Home Island, awaiting commission to a worthy vessel. Additionally, a Helmsman was hired aboard El Picador
, in the hopes that her increased handling could help the Spanish catch back up in the gold game.
For ten turns, the three nation-cities had enjoyed the spoils of commerce under flags of truce. The same could be said for the trading ports established at Wild Islands, established by crews seeking kinder shelter than crude make-shift lodgings when ashore. These cities traded openly with what they had to offer, and had, in fact, started to become profitable unto themselves (IN GAME: At turn 10, I distributed an additional 50 points of treasure among the islands). With the truce ending, these cities knew the trade would be more frantically handled from this point out, as ships docking would no longer be guaranteed safe passage home.
Trade would not immediately see a slow-down in frequency, though the value of said trades diminished in a tangible fashion. The Pirates, fearing the fate her small ships might encounter if isolated, sail her ships under the watchful eye of the Freedom's Hand
. Where earlier excursions might have called for the ships to fan out in hope of maximizing the value of the haul home, their ships instead choose to frequent the same port, resulting in hurried trades for a slighter monetary value. While the Pirates (3 gold aboard 2 ships) and the English (2 gold aboard the HMS Antelope
) continue to tally diminishing returns, the Spanish rejoice at a welcome sight: the prodigal Napolitana
, weary, but laden with a haul of 6 gold points, has finally come home. Now crewed by the Captain and Helmsman, Napolitana
makes an impressive switch: going in a single turn from the slowest active ship (S), to the fastest (S+L+S).
Sailing in westerly headings in efforts to expand their respective fleets' sphere of influence among the burgeoning trade ports in the are, the HMS Lord Cauldwell
and El Picador
pass without incident, perhaps as a last nod to the peace that had offered them chances to explore previously.
makes her target first, but does so in full view of the main force of the English navy. Wagering her ship's speed is enough to escape any hostile encounter, the Spanish crew elect to sail into port and trade. The port, previously only found by the English is swiftly defended by a patrolling HMS Gallowglass
, with the HMS Antelope
, freshly restocked and ready for action, trailing. The Spanish crew prepare to leave the island with a 5 gold haul aboard, when gunfire from the Gallowglass
signal the official start of active warfare in the area. Losing a mast, the crew decide to try making a run south, hoping to outpace her pursuers. While able to maneuver to a position that negated the presence of the Antelope
, El Picador
was unable to shake off the initial English aggressor. The following turn, the Gallowglass
dis-masted the Spanish runner and killed her Helmsman (named Suerte Rios), making the ship a prized commodity in its own right - 5 gold already aboard, and a fine addition to a capturing navy. Any plans to rename her were quickly dashed by silhouettes on the horizon. The Pirates, seeking ports who weren't depleted by constant, hurried, and repetitive trades, arrived with their full compliment to the scene of two small ships, one completely unable to fight.
In the south, the Lord Cauldwell
docks at a trading city under Spanish protection. The Napolitana
, tasked with rescuing her sister ship from its imperiled state, spies the intruding English vessel and readies for combat. Though unsuccessful at damaging the ship, the Lord Cauldwell
's Helmsman, Lucky Pryce, perishes in the fray (NOTE - Never, ever name anything 'Lucky' and put it in harm's way). The Lord Cauldwell
removes one of the Napolitana
's masts, and after a round of stale-mated gunfire each way, decides to make a break for it. The Napolitana
heads back home, knowing that the English ship wouldn't pursue it, and also that she was in no condition to enter heavy combat in her current state.
Amidst this chaos, the promise of open war between the three fleets forced the respective commands to enlist capable crew and rush them to ships in the fleet. A new Helmsman, by the name of Smith 'Smitty' Smythe, was dispatched to the HMS Lord Cauldwell
. The Queen of Cups
was buoyed by the arrival of a Firepot Specialist. The Spanish, now desperate for a decisive win, trained a captain to be ready for command of Spain's next commissioned ship. While the debate rages on throughout time as to what ship in this encounter could definitively lay claim to being the fastest throughout this period, scholars often point to the mysterious slips, little more than life boats, that managed to ferry crew to ship in active war zones without being detected by enemy forces as the true 'lightning fleet' of the age. (NOTE - In my excitement to get the crew to where they were going, I neglected to have them wait at their Home Islands until the ships requiring them re-docked. What can I say, enthusiasm got the best of me!)
Round 17 opened in the northwest theater with more combat, as a second battle seamlessly bled into the aftermath of the first. The HMS Gallowglass
continued her show of skill under duress, aiming true once more and removing a plate from the Proud Tortoise
. To secure a numbers advantage, an advancing Freedom's Hand
opened fire on the HMS Antelope
, wounding the English runner and sending her on a direct heading back to port. The English gunship then entered a game of cat-and-mouse, maneuvering carefully to avoid the accurate ranges of the Pirate galley's cannons. As the Queen of Cups
swung low to set of a burning salvo, she was blind-sided by the HMS Lord Cauldwell
, who was desperately attempting to bring her treasure home to the English port. The English ship fired true at her target, negating any threat the fire shot may have held, allowing the HMS Gallowglass
to set her sights upon the Freedom's Hand
. The English gunship, however, failed to score a hit, leaving an opening the Pirates would not hesitate to take. With two quick shots, the Gallowglass
found itself derelict in the very waters it has wreaked so much havoc, a fitting close to the 'Age of Exploration'...
After 20 rounds of play, the Fleets stand as follows:
HMS Lord Cauldwell
, with Helmsman
, with Captain
, with Captain
Queen of Cups
, with Firepot Specialist
, with Captain
To be Continued...