Navigators were a pretty big deal when they first came out. It had been a long time since we had added new generic crew - new abilities accessible to most nations - to the lineup. They still are a big deal, too. They're also still not thoroughly examined, I think. This might have something to do with them being a part of the last expansion, Savage Shores. The end of production killed the buzz on a pretty cool set.
Nealy did a pretty good review on Navigators, back in the day. I recommend that you read it over:
It certainly helped inform this review. But, I think the huge gameplay possibilities opened up by Navigators need a piece-by-piece examination to determine what "new" strategies have been created. Using factions to do this is a pretty handy way because of national flavors and the popularity of faction-pure fleets.
Which faction to choose, then? Well, I'm somewhat of a Cursed fan. They're the smallest of the Big 6, so they're easier to cover. They are also pretty lacking in the speed department, whether its slow tubs or sea monsters that don’t have great access to speed enhancement. I hope to explore the different benefits and drawbacks of using Cursed Navigators.
Navigators are cool because their uses overlap the uses of Helmsmen, while also being something different. They do fill different roles, but they're ultimate purpose is to give ships speed boosts.
Think about the traits of our handy Helmsmen:
-Costs 2 points
-Gives an immediate +S speed bonus every turn
-Takes up a valuable cargo space - on the ship directly benefiting from the speed bump
-Bonus applies to only one ship - the ship the Helmsman is currently on
-No dice roll required
-Speed bonus can be used anywhere on the map
-Easily applies to mastless ships under oar power
-Is friendly to bigger, more valuable ships. If you've got a slow 5-master and a slow 1-master and only have 2 points left, the Helmsman belongs on the 5-master.
-Can snarl built-in speed boosts that require no cargo/crew/Helmsmen
Compare to the Navigators:
-Costs 2 points
-Gives a situational +S speed bonus if a ship sails over the trade current
-Takes up a valuable cargo space - in most cases, not on the ship directly benefiting from the speed bump. So, the ship with the Navigator isn't the one getting speed bumps
-Bonus applies to potentially many ships - depends on how well the trade current is placed, number of ships, etc.
-So, good terrain placement ability/skills are a premium
-Dice roll required
-Costs an action for the Navigating ship
-Speed bonus is relegated to wherever the trade currents are
-Trade Currents are reusable
-Could apply to mastless ships under oar power, but the stars might not align
-Is friendly to smaller, less valuable ships. If you've got a slow 5-master and a slow 1-master and only have 2 points left, the Navigator belongs on the 1-master, which will spend some amount of time in port (all game???) charting Trade Currents
-Does not snarl built-in speed boosts that require no cargo/crew/Helmsmen
-Can help out sea monsters – squids, serpents, Squalo the shark, Terrox the octopus
In summary, Navigators expand speed bonuses in new and different ways. It’s a more reusable, fleet-friendly approach than one-time use, every turn speed bonuses on one ship. The cargo space is lost not aboard the ships needing the bonus, but on another ship. But Navigators have a steep cost. They require giving up an action and a risky 50-50 die roll. Trade currents will be more difficult to work with than a simple +S speed bonus.
The most widely-used approach for them is to put them on a cheap ship whose main purpose will be to sit in the safety of the home island and make trade currents for the benefit of the rest of the fleet. There are other uses, but this is the most effective.
As a refresher, here's a link to a pdf of the Savage Shores rulebook. It has a paragraph on Trade Currents on the column closest to your right hand.
Other rules clarifications are in my first comment at the bottom of this review.
Enough with the theory crafting. Let’s delve into what Cursed ships can benefit from Navigators, and who can use them.
Strategies and game play/Combos with other pieces:
Who needs the speed boast?
Some S-speed ships that could use it:
(Really, any S-speed ship you're using could benefit from a Navigator. I took the ones that are the most worthwhile to use and also said what they can use the speed boost to do)
Dark Pact. Very good cargo, good mast count at a fair price. A durable Cursed gold hauler. You probably will want a Helmsman onboard, too.
Flying Dutchman. One of the best Cursed gunships. Again, you’ll probably want a Helmsman. If you’re using the Dutchman, you might as well max her out and dedicate all your points to her. S+S base speed probably won’t cut it.
Guichuan. If you’re fielding her in a 50-70 point game, you might as well go all out and dedicate all your resources to bettering her. Some speed boosts to get that huge hull moving across the board will be nice.
Guinee. A cool mid-size Cursed cancelling ship. If you want her on the front lines, she’ll need a Helmsman and extra help. I can see her being a popular ship in a deathmatch.
Loki's Revenge. A nasty Cursed SACrifice longship gunship. (The gunship part is probably redundant - Is there any other type of Longship?) In a 40-50 point fleet, you’ll probably want to make her the star and sink all your points into her. She needs all the room she can get to carry SAC-fodder - Oarsman and Explorers.
Maman Brigitte. If you’re using her as a gold hauler (not the worst idea out there) you’ll want to invest points in a speed boost for her, but probably not a Helmsman because she’ll get shredded. A Navigator is reusable and applicable to other ships in your fleet.
Mourning Star. If you’re trying to turn her into a gunship, you might have difficulty fitting the Helmsman on board. Even if you do, you might want additional speed. She costs 10 points, so it’ll be difficult to stuff an extra action crew (the Cursed don’t have many standalones) plus a Captain plus a Helmsman.
Needle. This ship is probably never worth her cost, but if you wanna play with fog-hopping, you could make it interesting by ringing them up near fog banks.
Nightmare(OE). There’s probably a dozen Cursed ships you should use before this one, but if you insist… She’ll need more than S+S to catch gold ships and still have enough cargo space to make stealing all their treasure worthwhile.
Tarantula/Sarcophagus. These cute little DJC LE Turtle ships belong punched in their cards. Seriously, don’t punch these guys to play them. If you proxy for them, though, they have potential as gold ships. (Cursed gold ships, mind you, these would be a joke to other nations) They don’t have much cargo room, though. Use a Navigator. You’ll have multiple ships with these cheaper ships, so maybe they can reuse the fog banks?
Scorpion. This ship has some unfortunate flavor text. The first phrase reads, “The first of the Cursed’s terrible new ships.” They probably didn’t mean THAT version of “terrible,” but she’s asking for some extra speed, don’t you think?
Whydah. With a little bit of love, this ship could be turned into a neat gunship. She’s only got 3 cargo, so if you want to do anything fancy, a Navigator gives you options.
That’s basically the bottom line on Navigators – they give you options.
Wow, thank goodness Wizkids didn’t give any Cursed sea monsters S-speed! That’d cripple them before they left port… Haven’t checked the Cursed RtSS pieces for a while, though…
L-speed ships in particular (all of them could, really) that could use some Navigator help:
All the sea monsters. They're begging for it! There’s crew out there like Sargasso Nightmare that give sea monsters a speed boost, but that really isn’t super practical. The ability costs 4 points and requires a fast ship to keep up with the beastie at all times. Unlike the beastie, it can’t hide underwater, so if the tailing ship is small it could get blown to smithereens. Cool idea, but not super practical. A Navigator is more utilitarian.
Alligator. Only two cargo, so she doesn’t have much room to fool around. Also, proxy this one! Leave her punched! A Turtle ship foghopper isn’t as cool as a mint DJC LE.
Crushed Skull. There’s possible gunship material for this ghost ship. She only has 2 cargo spaces, so even your simple Helmsman/Captain/Oarsman build will be a tight squeeze.
Dance. See the other DJC LE’s. She isn’t as good, though. KEEP THEM PUNCHED!
He<Insert two toothpicks here>fire. She’s a good gunship, really. Give her a try! Only has two cargo spaces. Captain, Helmsman, RotF El Fantasma?
Sautez le Requin/Verdani. Cool Longship, only has 2 cargo spaces if you want to make her the flagship of your fleet.
Squalo. The cheapest sea monster around could use a speed boost. If you want him/her to stay underwater and spread fear, you’ll want the speed to keep up with enemy ships.
Straw Man/Strix. Cheap little fighters with only 2 cargo spaces.
The Cursed Submarines Locker/Pyre. You wanna catch those gold ships? You might need more than Helmsmen.
All of the other potential fighting ships that have three cargo and L speed. There’s quite a few of them. Just search for Cursed+3 cargo+L speed.
Brachyura/Chum Maker/Divine Dragon/Drowned Man/Monkey’s Paw/Scythe/ Spilled Salt . [I only put in links for the more obscure of these Cursed gunships] With a Helmsman, these gunships are fast. Their cannons are strictly average, though. If you really want them to hit hard, you’ll want to ensure they get the very first shot.
Native Canoes. With so many of these guys swimming around, you’ll want them to get a speed boost. They’d make pretty good use of it, I think. Multiple canoes could use the same trade current.
Jikininki. She’s a strange, unique ship. She’s pretty good in most respects BUT she’s got ZERO cargo… The only such wooden-hulled ship out there. She’s pretty fast as-is, but if you’re looking to use her for something, a Navigator is one of the few crew that will be of any sort of use to her.
Ships to chart the trade currents:
Loa's Justice. Why, when she needs help herself? Because she’s the only Cursed ship with a built-in “Crew of any nationality may serve…” ability. She can pick up a reroller – because the Cursed don’t have any such crew! Navigators have a good chance of failing, so the reroll will be greatly appreciated.
Fiddler's Green. Along with the squid Lechim Namod, she’s the only Cursed ship with a built-in reroller. Navigators are risky business. They’re going to fail half the time. You’re going to want a reroller, but you probably don’t want an expensive combo using Cavendish / Tabitha McWarren.
Nightmare (2-masted DJC, not the 4-masted DJC Nightmare or the OE 3-masted Nightmare ). She’s your best bet for Navigators. She’s super cheap, isn’t valuable, can be a backup gold hauler, and has two masts. If an opponent rams her at her home island, they probably can’t ram off both masts and they’ll be pinned in place.
If you’re going to use the Navigator throughout the whole game, it’s probably best just to stick to using this ship, guys. She’s pretty common, too.
Lizard's Sting. She’s a little more costly (still the second cheapest ship in the Cursed fleet) but she’s more ready made to participate in the game than the Nightmare. Good cannon, good ability, good cargo, fair speed. She’s only a 1-master, though… And very rare, DON’T punch her out of her card! Seriously.
Pestilence (F&S) and Fallen Angel. Same deal as the Lizard’s Sting, more or less.
Samedi's Curse. An awkward scout ship. Even the Cursed can probably find better, but feel free to try out her blazing speed. Chart some currents, leave the Navigator at home, use that L+L base speed to quickly get back into the game.
Cursed Turtle ships. Not the best of options, but sometimes a Cursed player has got to be desperate. The above 3 are probably better choices, though.
Sea Duck. There’s not too many cheap ships in the Cursed fleet. She’s one of them. She’s really one of their best small ships. Consider using her to do a few trade currents, but then use her for other things.
And lastly, consider the Celestine. She’s quite good. A very good addition to the Cursed fleet. I’m not even going to attempt to cover her in this review, because there’s so much to be said about her. Check out ziotoo4’s fantastic review on Celestine:
Ways to counteract it:
-Ram/board/shoot the charting ship. She’ll probably be small, neglected and vulnerable to attack. Be careful not to get pinned at the home island during the ram – maybe get a ship that can’t be pinned.
-If you’re going to be in the area, it might be a good idea to have a home island raider that can steal some coins while you’re taking down the Navigating ship.
-Outmaneuver your opponent so they can’t take advantage of the trade currents.
-Capture/sink ships that have oar power. This is especially true if they’ve got a Helmsman. They have the potential to slip away and repair.
-Having a fast fleet of your own.
-Having a Navigator of your own.
-Get a terrain-removing UT.
-If you’re using a Navigator, it’s probably a good idea to avoid ships and crew that ignore terrain. Otherwise, you’ll counteract your own ability…
Cheap. Lets you get flexible with your fleet. You can be more flexible when crewing ships with low cargo space. You have more ways to get crewless sea creatures into the game. Lets you support other ships that are on the frontlines. Might come through during desperate situations. They have a pretty ideal ship, the Nightmare, that can chart the trade currents.
Expensive when you factor in the ship cost – a 6 point investment at the bare minimum. Very risky – a good chance the roll will fail. The Navigating ship loses its action, too, die roll success or die roll fail. Very few rerolling options in the Cursed fleet. No 2-point or 3-point Cursed ships. Some Cursed ships probably still need a Helmsman, too. So, difficult to fit into a 40-point build without skimping on the rest of the fleet. More hassle than its worth?
Artwork and aesthetics:
Um... Not the best artwork out there. Sort of a grainy portrait, but that might be the picture of the artwork. The Navigators all have the same artwork, I think, which was a break from all the cool, unique artwork for generic crew we were spoiled with in RotF F&S. This picture does look the part, though.
Extra action crew -- only 3, really – OE El Fantasma’s SAC, OE Davy Jones’ All-Powerful, RotF El Fantasma’s SAT. OE El Fantasma OE Davy Jones RotF El Fantasma
Master Scribe, who’s a Navigator + Explorer and links to the Celestine. If you’ve got plans to use the charting ship for gold, too, you might want this guy. Saves a cargo space.
Sea monster speed boosters.
Ships/crew brought to the Cursed using Black Mark, crew that will give speed boosts/extra actions.
Taken solely for its own merits, I’d give the Cursed Navigator a 7/10. Relatively speaking, it gets a 10/10. It’s not an earth-shattering addition that explodes the Cursed gameplay. It does give you some additional options that just weren’t available before. You can get this added flexibility for a pretty low price. In the end, what more can you ask for in a game piece?