Something that’s come up a few times since Mint Tin Pirates launched is what’s the story in my head for it.
It’s as simple as two pirate galleons crossing paths in the high seas. The ships are classic 16th century Spanish galleons as often depicted in pirate movies. But they could be French Corsairs or any ship you like (even steampunk ships).
For the game, the ships aren’t tied together and maybe 10 yards apart. A warm breeze blows and gentle sea swells are interrupted by an occasional abrupt wave. I think back to when I was 10 and my father had a 32 foot red snapper fishing boat and we’d go way out in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast.
The 1600s saw the first European use of the hand mortar and cast iron bombshell (grenade). I picture a hollow cannon ball filled with black powder with a fuse. They weren’t sophisticated like modern grenades and their damage could vary greatly. I also picture these often as used by Wile E. Coyote.
I imagine 12 pound cannons on these ships. A ship wouldn’t have many 12 pound cannons because the weight of the cannon balls and the cannon itself; this was an important factor for sailing speed. Eight pound cannons were more common, but I wanted these to be less in number with conservative use (takes more black powder and slower to load) but they pack a huge punch if they hit their target.
The flintlock pistols are just single shot weapons and it wasn’t uncommon for a pirate to have several on them ready to go. I picture a pirate shooting these and handing them to someone hiding below the rails who’s reloading them as quickly as possible. That could result in poorly packed shots and maybe even the ball rolling out!
As a young teenager, my dad gave me a .50 caliber percussion cap brass derringer replica. He never intended me to actually shoot it but I made an oak bullet mold, melted lead tire weights and made a dozen balls for it! I somehow obtained percussion caps (these came about immediately after flintlocks but work in the same manner), some black powder, and wadding (this holds the powder and then the ball in place).
I shot at an aluminum pie tin and quickly saw how incredibly inaccurate a non-rifled pistol is! Rifling makes a bullet spin as it travels down the barrel and makes it fly straight (I knew a bachelors in physical science would pay off some day!). =p
The knife, or throwing dirk in this case, is a balanced knife designed to be thrown with some accuracy. Again, as a kid, I had some throwing knives (what the heck kind of environment was I in! sheesh!). They were small knives and not like today’s tactical knives, more like carnival sideshow ones. I laced leather shoelace handles onto them and used to imagine I was a pirate (I was probably doing this when I was 10 to 12 years old!). o_O
Throwing a knife to hit a target isn’t so hard, but having the point hit, and not the handle, is a learned skill. Lots of practice and some luck. Imagine doing that on a rocking boat with some sea spray and you’d have to be mega pirate to hit anything!
So now you see my perspective on these weapons, mixed with a little naive experience.
In Mint Tin Pirates, one card represents that you have the weapon and the second card represents it’s ready (ready to light for the bombs, loaded for the cannons or guns, and sharp for the knives).
The card pair represents weapons ready for use now.
The dice roll represents the luck inherent to the weapon and the conditions at hand (waves, sea spray, wind).
The bomb fuse could fall out, you could miss with your throw, the enemy might kick it away, or they could move out of the way.
The cannon could be packed too tightly and blow up, the cannon could miss with the pitch of a wave or not enough or too much powder, or the powder could be wet.
Naval trivia: The British Royal Navy traditionally sailed with Plymouth Navy Strength Gin (57% versus 41.2%). It’s said that even if this gin spilled on gunpowder, the powder would still burn! Now that’s quite a navy! *not intended as an endorsement to drink while playing Mint Tin Pirates*=D
Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
For the pistols, similar issues and luck exist as the cannons. They were very inaccurate at more than a few feet and, in the heat of battle, reloading was sloppy at best.
The cannon has high odds of success (wide range of dice values) but it’s devastating when they miss and they take longer to untie, roll back, clean, reload, roll forward, re-tie, aim, and then fire (thus more scarce in the deck).
Bombs are broadly damaging in their explosion, so luck favours them a bit but not as much as cannons.
Knives and pistols could, conceivably, be in good supply and more accessible, but their accuracy stinks, so the odds are lower for success.
Now onto more imagination – Davy Jones’ Locker and the treason card.
That’s pretty much pure Caribbean voodoo and in staying with the pirate meme. Davy Jone’s Locker is the watery grave a fallen pirate is condemned to but, as in Hollywood movies, there are ways to get those pirates back! But that has a lot of unknowns and needs luck to pull off your evil voodoo ways. =p
The treason card – there are only two in the deck because they can really turn the tide (pun!) of the game. But I thought it should be there because a pirate might think the riches or captain of the other ship is better. And honestly, as pirates, how much loyalty would they have?
I hope that sheds some light on the attacks and the heavy luck in Mint Tin Pirates.
In the heat of a sea battle with old tech weapons – luck abounds! But you can still play strategy and, as some reviewers have said, the strategy can be deep, but that’s all in your hands. =)
Now about that gold and the ghost! Without either, I think the game stays true to the pirate meme and is all about resources at hand and a good dose of luck.
But Brett from our local game design meetup said I needed something for snake eyes and he wanted a kraken to be released! Snake eyes is rare with only a 2.8% chance of being rolled. But I did like that something special should happen for doubles, for what could be seen as good luck smiling down on a band of misfit pirates (as opposed to non-misfit?). =D
What could that luck be? A gold treasure maybe? It adds something to fidgit with while playing and does favour the bearer with more resources in the form of an extra card. This fits in my head anyway (lol, lots of room for cubes in there!).
The pirate ghost is a total nod to Scooby Doo! And helps, a little, with a potential runaway leader. With such a short play game, a runaway leader isn’t a big concern, but that’s my attempt at addressing it.
As a ghost, I first wanted weapons to not have the same affect, after all, it’s a ghost!
But . . . that would mean complicating the already minimal rules (and space for the rules). Since it’s paranormal, I took creative license and figured that a two card handicap would help represent the challenges that being a ghost might present. And it should truly be a last measure (although Kate beats me regularly with the ghost and that sucks). =D
Oh, another thing about Mint Tin Pirates, the cannon doing damage to the ship is a way to keep the game from going too long. Without the damage, a game could go long as the Sorry Man, I Farted crew demonstrated with a 30 minute battle. But I think those guys (and Katie) are true pirates (or reincarnated ones) that push the strategy of the game to the max. They also created the 4 player variant – talk about fantastic imaginations! =)
The game was balanced to play, most of the time, without the need to reshuffle the deck.
But if that is too fast, you can play the sea dog variation that Kate and I sometimes do. I also call it the injured or wounded pirate but yelling out “Avast, tis Sea Dog Pirates sailing these seas!” is fun (and geeky. This almost always need a reshuffle of discarded cards and you play each meeple with two positions.
The pirate meeples start in the standing position and lay down when first wounded (the treason card takes a laying down pirate first, if possible). This doubles the numbers of hits you can take. You can also count cannon hits twice by counting down and then back up the damage track.
For me, Mint Tin Pirates is about light play that let’s me be part of the surroundings and chat with Loco Coco’s wait staff say and answer “Yes!” when they ask if I want guacamole on the side! =)
This post started as an answer to what was I thinking for this game and I’ll end by sharing what I’m thinking next . . .
Mint Tin Pirates: Pizza Party Edition
Six player, big hinged tin, an island with treasure, and coves to do ship repairs!
Form alliances, betray others, and be a scurvy dog! Happy Holidays All!
Quandary – use mini cards to keep cost down or go full-size poker cards and full-size dice? *pizza not included* =D