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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What's next?

For those following and visiting this blog, yes, there will be additional content going forward but just now very busy in the "real world."  So, stay tuned for more - but me patient in the waiting.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Carob Bean Sea Comes Alive - and Many Die!

The Great Day has come and gone and the game is torn down, packed up, and put away - well, mostly so.  Ah, but there are many a photo that captured the day.  My wife took almost all of the photos - a great many during the course of the set up and a couple of dozen during the game.  Unfortunately, she left long before the end of the game and I was too busy to take photos (or too tired, 18 hour day before the game and only 4 hours of sleep ahead of the game itself) so there are not as many actions shots as I would have liked.  But enough to give you a good sense of how it went.  I did get photos of all but one of the prize winners and the game masters at the very end - and I will point out the absent prize winner because he is in some of the game photographs.  And something my wife commented on several times - we had three women players in the game.  But no young people - though some did come by to look us over and at least one got a small gift as a result.

So, how did it go?  Well, besides the five game masters, we had at least 23 but I think 25 players out of the 32 possible.  Most stayed through the whole game but a few dropped out and a few got sunk - our earliest sinking earned a consolation prize.   And he was a great sport about it.   A few of those who got sunk early happily stepped into a vacant roll in order to stay in the game until the end.  Indeed, almost everyone seemed to have a good time though a couple had a few issues but those issues were generally a result of not getting into the spirit of the game for there was plenty of action going on.  We had one early drop out by a man who really wanted to play but whose less than youthful health caused him to depart.  As always with such things, it is important to pay attention to player responses to the game and adjust and improve for the next time around.  And one of the things I hope to do for the next game is have a large contingent of non-player ships, small merchants, that the player operated ships can try and take as prizes.  We had a bunch of "static" ships on the table - some of which at least one player took joy in moving about just to make other player's nervous.  They won't be static next time around.

What were the player's goals?  Each player had an individual goal (and these goals will be revised and improved upon for our next outing at Pacificon in September) which ran the gamut from finding and sinking a particular ship, engaging in trade and perhaps a little plundering along the way, founding a colony, rescuing Gina Lobsterbrigitta - her prime suitor was the first sunk! so she went unrescued, and most importantly finding treasure.  

We had 100 treasure tokens placed all over the table and charts players rolled on to see what they found. Some tokens were null, most were just basic, some provided a plus or minus to the die roll, and some went directly to the "Shiver Me Timbers" or "X-Marks The Spot" tables.  I will be adding A LOT more treasure tokens for the next game.  And revising the charts.  And adding new charts for players who sink ships and who capture ships.  But the ships are going to be hard to sink and more worthy of a fight next go round.  I intend to upgun the smaller ships!  Be warned.  

Any disappointments?  Well, not so much generally, but it would have been nice if we'd had all the towns with active players for both the governor and the commander as well as players to run the natives.
I'm weighing and considering giving each player two commands for the next game, will be 36 separate commands available, so that if we only get 18 players we get all commands involved in the game.  That, or have each assistant game master run a command - almost certainly one of the four native commands.  And I would run the other natives - yes, there are some sem-random appearing natives.  As we go over 18 players, then the first 18 surrender a command in a specified sequence so that if we do get the full 36 then we can accommodate them and have a plan in place to do so.

I suspect we will have more players at Pacificon in San Jose than we did here at ConQuest Sacramento.  And there will be some additional tweaking of the rules in a few areas - again listening to our players.

Still, all in all, I believe it went pretty darn good.

Now,  more to the point of the day and using the photos to tell the story:
 When we were well underway with being set up we had a request to change out all of the 6' tables on one of our boards for 8' tables which we agreed to - they were needed to accommodate other games it seems.  Did cause a little consternation when it took longer than expected to locate enough 8' tables but we made it.

And once set up it was time for yours truly, The Mute Parrot, to get "rigged up":
 Three pistols, a sword, a dagger, a ring, an earring, a gold necklace, a sabre scar, and an eye patch.   Apparently I made quite an impression - there was a real world business meeting going on and some of the businessmen in their suits wanted to take their picture with a pirate!  Aargh!
 And a lighter moment.
Recognize the face in the foreground but don't recall his name, he just came by to see the setup which you can see in the background.  That is the east table from the southern end closest to the camera.
 And without the spectator.
 The end of the table with the mini-pirate flags.  Didn't get photos of the skeletons hanging from the other edge of the table, curses!
 But we did get a larger flag up, draped over a 'tree'.  That is the crowded Dutch waters but before the game has started so some ships that don't belong and a couple of figure boxes in view.
 This is the northern end of the western table.  In the middle of the green field can be seen one our treasure tokens.  These are simply adhesive cushions for use on furniture put on a wooden square and then spray painted to blend in with the terrain better.
 Note flags on the ships.  Rob Kent, one of our game masters put some real effort into tracking down flags and helped create them and get them ready for the ships.  All flags are removable and interchangeable.  We did have one flag 'gaff' - one Spanish ship spent the game flying a false color using a Dutch flag.  Mental note to create more Spanish flags - and just more flags in general - for next time around.
 A closer view of the Spanish town.  On the left can be seen our "Deities and Other Disasters."  Sort of scattered in this shot but if you look closely you will see Davy Jones and his two lockers, Poseidon, Calypso, "Mikey" the maelstrom, and "Oscar" the octopus.  Except for the latter two, all got some use in the game.  Next outing some of the additional treasure tokens will summon these events to ensure they have a better chance of getting in the game.  Also, note the four small black ships - these were a late addition to the game over the last week or two before hand: they are the colonist ships.  I decided to use the figures originally thought of as game master troops as colonists instead.  The player controlling these had to go another island and found and build up a colony.   Will build on this theme further - and complicate insidiously.
 Another shot of the east table, well down on the right is the volcano, slumbering peacefully at the moment.
 And a shot up the west table.
 And another.
 This is the east side of the middle of the west board and that is the pirate island and a couple of the four pirate ships.  Those haystacks on the right are a product from a company out of Poland that makes some very nice models.  The buildings to the right of the town flag, the one with the upper and lower porch, is from the same company.
 This is the southern native island.  And this reveals one of the three things that didn't get completed in time for the game - the pygmies did get painted but they didn't get their bases properly textured because they are being done differently and it is a more complex scheme.  But they were at least done and able to populate the four villages.  Unlike the much larger, in size and numbers, natives who were supposed to be available.  Yours truly is the guilty party on this front.  They will be ready for Pacificon.
This is the Rocks of Runes and Ruins.  That rocky outcrop to the left back was supposed to be on The Gilder Stones.  Oh, well, it worked where it was - and even had treasure.  The "red" greenery wasn't supposed to be an islet but, hey, someone liked it there.
Another shot of the Dutch town and the five boxes of Dutch figures - plus a sixth box for colonists.  All five towns had six boxes of figures to crew the ships and populate the towns.  48 figures and two casualty figures per box.
This ship, courtesy of George Gardea, another assistant game master, represents our Careened ship.  Someday there will be a more appropriate model.  That is an over turned token on the right - a null token unfortunately.  Oh, and those little creatures on the water, like the turtle, those served a real purpose in the game, they divided the sectors (see map in earlier post) into squares; six sectors and each sector had twelve squares in it.  Ships were moved by order into sectors and squares - and no tape measures needed.  But they were used to move troops on land.
A view looking over the mangrove island.
And here is the shipwreck on its "reef" and another item to be replaced with a more suitable item one day.   Really need to enhance the treasure options - but I see here that this island, did, indeed have treasure tokens on it so the player who went hunting there and found nothing was just too late it seems.
Hard to see in this photo but just outside of town is a "cork" rock outcrop and on it are three skeletons 'hung out to dry.'  Someday they will be on gibbets or some such display.
And here are the too barren Feather Stones - that missing outcrop mentioned above and the trees as islets instead of on the island.  Plans survive until the action begins - including set up.  But more room for treasure tokens and maneuver.
This is the northern native island - would have been nice to get closer shots of the pygmies.  They are from Blue Moon's Deep Dark Africa Range (18 mm) and I know there are many who would like to see them painted.
Here is the French town.  And you can see the governor and his party there in the town.  Still need to improve the basing of all of the governor vignettes.  Workable for now but they can be better.
The French fleet as we get nearer game start.
That little ship, if I can find more, will be represent a non-player merchant ship plying the seas.
One of our lagoons with its very colorful greenery.  Note there are a couple of treasure tokens in view.
And here is a nice shot of the back of Gilderakatoa and the 'lava'.  Alas, did not get very far along with the special effects.  I hope to rebuild this piece because it is made out of beaded styrofoam and much too fragile.  The 'lava' is removable.
And beyond the pirate ship is Salt Water Springs Island with its cliff - which can also make the volcano into a full round game piece.
A view of the northern native island.
And the southern one.  That odd looking rectangle on the top right is actually a piece of clear prismatic plastic that we refer to as the "sparkling sea" and player's can sail to it and discover something good - or something bad.  Another element in need of fine tuning to make it better.
The other lagoon.
In case anyone had trouble spotting our game!  "It is too laugh."
And at long last we get to the action shots.  This is where I roused the rabble and got them in the mood for the game, lots of "Aarghing" - and I gathered the players (and alarmed more than a few no doubt) by roaring out, "AAAAAAARRGGHHHH!  If you've the stomach for a broadside, come aboard...."  And whatever other piratical nonsense I could think of in the moment.  It seemed to work.  That's only about half the crowd in this photo.
The photographer being my wife, she did tend to center me in the photos.  But, bless her, I would not have made it without her encouragement, support, patience, and perseverance these past six months.  She's a keeper.
Way down the end of the table, Joe Bianchi is explaining the rules - he was the main man on the rules front and the game would not have been what it is without his efforts.  And the nearest the camera on the left is Charlie Gomez who painted up one of the national contingents and helped out quite a bit on the terrain as did his sons Anthony and Andrew (hope I got that right).
The man on the right in the bright colors is George Gardea another game master and provider of many ships, including all those on bases.
Almost ready to start.

Me explaining some point of the rules.  And note the man on the left in the green near the flag, close to the wall, that is Mike Smith - the only prize winner not around at the end to get his photo taken - he was there at the end of the game but left after our session where all the players got to tell there "Tales of Valor, Tales of Woe."  His was a very good and characterful tale.
Action is underway and players are getting into the game.
Troops landing and searching for treasure.
The Dutch town is quiet - for now.
A couple of British players sitting down - are they plotting something dubious?
Ships all over the place...
The volcano still sleeps but there are crews ashore.
And here as well on the southern lagoon.
And the volcano sleeps no more!
The Dutch are in action, Trista in the black on the left is just beginning her trip into legend.
A couple of ships have gone down and some of the crew are in the water - and so are some sharks!
No, the alligator is not about to be cooked in a lava flow; it's just a sector marker.
Davy Jones with his lockers, Poseidon, and Oscar hanging around.  And Mike can be seen if you look closely.  By the way, this was the only island to get its beaches.  One of those things where time ran out. More will be ready by Pacificon.
Here a bunch of pirates are going ashore by boat.  Boats had to be paid for by players - they all started with some coins - and for some this worked out well and for others not so well.  This was calculated to give a chance of some crews getting stranded.  It worked!  But I will probably add some more boats.
The most active corner of the board for most of the game was off shore of the Dutch town.  And another ship has gone down and there are more crew - and sharks - in the water.
Three ships sunk and a fourth soon to join them.
Those troops marching along the town are colonists.

I'm afraid that's all the useful, non-repetitive action photos my wife got.  Some of the things not captured were one of the Spanish? players attacking the southern native island and either killing or capturing all of the natives on the island over many turns and then selling them to the Spanish colonists on the Dutch island.  They did build their colony as did the British and the French.  Alas, it was a very bad day for the French - all their ships got sunk and their town taken over by the British - and their colonists switched allegiance to the British and flew their flag - and some scoundrel broke one of our ship flags for this purpose! : )   So, even though at sea the British did not do as well as they hoped - and one British player didn't care much for the intrinsic crews of the ships still being able to fire their broadsides (which had ammunition limits, by the way).  Not adjusting that but explaining better in writing though we did explain at the beginning of the game.

The pirates went into alliance with the Spanish, of all things.  And why did they do such a bizarre thing? Well, someone had to attempt to hold the Dutch in check.  Of the eight ships sunk during the game, 4 were sunk by the most successful captain who assisted in two other sinkings.  During the "Tales of Valor, Tales of Woe" a refrain came into being:  "Who sinks ships?  The Dutch sink ships!"  Even the other players got into the spirit.

Sure, we could have a better after action report.  And, sure, we will do it better next time.  But I feel comfortable in saying we did okay this time around.  Lots of people had lots of fun.  There were lots of rounds of loud "Aarghs!" throughout the day.

And before we get on to our prize winners, I would be deeply remiss if I don't take a moment to sing the praises of the staff of the convention from Gabe Vega, grand supremo, on down the line.  They went all out to accommodate us, promote us, and support us.  They declared Saturday as dress like a pirate day and several staff did so and one of those, whenever he had an announcement to boom out, did so in pirate character.  So, on behalf of all of those of us who built this game and the players, a huge THANK YOU to Avalon and staff.

And I will also take this moment to name all of the people, hopefully, who helped put this game together: without all your efforts this game would not have happened.  So, an even bigger THANK YOU to all of the follwing: I don't have all the names of the play testers from January but please know that the game would not have been as good as it was without your effort and input.  And from MWS, Miniature Wargames of Sacramento ( Mike O'Brien, Joe Riddle, Joe Bianchi, Hal Lotman, Nils ?, Rob Kent, Dave Reed, Robert Knestrick, George Gardea, Charlie Gomez and his son's Anthony and Andrew, and Chris Osborne all worked on the project.  If I've left anyone out my profound apologies.  No contribution, however small was insignificant.  But I do wish to single out a couple of people.  While I have mentioned over the years the idea of the club doing a project game, it was Mike O'Brien who lit the spark that became this event - let's keep the momentum going, guys.  And I must give special mention to Joe Riddle who painted over 1000 figures in six months for this game, including 250 in the last month or so before the game.  And last, but by no means least, I must mention again, my wife, Letty's extraordinary support throughout, from inception onwards.

Now on to the prizes - and thanks to our donors, especially Blue Moon/Old Glory 25s, but also Rebel Minis.  Perhaps in relative sizes between the two companies there donation merit equal stature.  So, thank you to both companies for your support and please understand that the prizes you see displayed here are only half of what they provided because there will be the same set of prizes available at Pacificon!
Our big prize winner is Dave Reed for the best costume by a player in the game.  He wins an Old Glory army card, a Blue Moon pirate ship, and a crew of 30 Blue Moon figures (from several packs so that he'd have a good crew out the gate).  Congratulations Dave - hope we see you in September.  And with more competition!
Chris Osborne won an Old Glory army card for the most sportsmanlike behavior - he unselfishly sought out the game master to point out something that should have been in favor of his opponent.  And he seemed genuinely surprised - if not shocked - to win this prize.  May he continue to be a good sportsman in all his games going forward!
Trista Megehee won a Blue Moon pirate ship for being the most in character player and this was decided by the acclimation of all the players because she was so successful.  She may now proudly bear the title of "Admiral of the Carob Sea."  Way to go Trista!
Michael Duncan won a crew of 30 Blue Moon figures for coming up with the funniest things during the game - and just plain being creative in his thinking.  He it was subdued the natives and sold them off to the Spanish.  (not noble in today's eyes but certainly part of how things were in the day)  Thanks for the laughs, Michael!
And Ben Brittain gave Chris a run for being most sportsmanlike.  He got a consolation prize for being the first one knocked out of the game - and I leave it to you to guess who was in on sinking his ship.  He ran another force for a time before moving on to another game but he did come back to give his tale of woe and collect his prize.  His prize?  An appropriate Rebel Minis Skeleton Army pack of 24 figures.
And by popular acclaim, Theresa Moreno won our other consolation prize, for being most picked on - a pack of Blue Moon naval guns.

Pictured earlier during the game above was Mike Smith who won the Game Master's discretion award, he was closest competition for the funniest and most creative player.  He got a pack of Blue Moon naval guns as well.

Congratulations all around.
Here, except for Mike Smith, are all our prize winners together.
And here they are with that scruffy pirate, The Mute Parrot himself, known more familiarly as Greg Marker, aka The Cecil B. DeMille of 15 Mil!

But please not to leave just yet because there is some additional recognition to be given.
Happy to be able to sit down for a bit are our four faithful assistant game masters - you saved my life by being there to make this game work guys.  THANKS TO YOU ALL!
And with one last "Aargh" from George Gardea, Joe Bianchi, Charlie Gomez, and Rob Kent (left to right)
Pirates of the Carob Bean Sea sails off into the setting sun

                                                       UNTIL PACIFICON in September!