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Andy Blozinski
11-10-2013, 23:06
I'd only got the demo kit only 8 days before the convention, so I didn't have a chance to set up a practice game at the store. I went into this half blind, but with a little help from hints from those on the forum so far. I wanted to get a lot of people to try the game, so I decided to go big with the (12) ships supplied. All this added up to "don't make it too complicated". Standard rules and I added in sail settings and boarding. There were no alternate ammo damage counters, so only ball ammo. I went with Keith's idea of the card boxes to keep cards from getting all over the table. Some of the smoke markers were supplied, so I wanted to use those to keep track of cannon loading and firing. I have an old blue hex mat and I wanted to use the hex grid to mark wind direction. I have a cheap "admiral's hat" that I figured players could take turns wearing by letting whoever kicked the most ass recently celebrate by getting to wear the hat. The scenario was totally plain with two lines starting with the wind going between them. I started them kind of far apart with the intention to have some time practicing maneuvering. The only planning counters I would have them use is one for sail setting and two to track cannon loading.
The game was 8PM-midnight on Saturday in the lobby area of the convention, so high visibility. I had LOTS of people walking by and checking it out during set-up. I mentioned these were pre-production minis, but they were still quite impressed at the detail and the price. Several said that they'd get the minis even if they didn't like the rules. I got lots of questions on if it was hex based and had to keep explaining that was just the map I was using and wanted to use the hex grid to make sure the wind direction didn't get blurred.
Be careful what you wish for. I had (9) players and the table was packed. One guy ran double ships so we'd have even numbers. It was (4) Frigates and (1) SOL each side. It was a great group of guys, but I'm not sure if I want to go that many players again. It was a little crazy sometimes because everything is simultaneous, so everyone is at the board all at once when we're doing movement. I specifically told everyone that of the demo games so far, there were collision problems and that they needed to spread out. They didn't listen and we had lots of friendly collisions for a while. One of the players mentioned something that I kind of noticed when looking at the rules. You don't realize how fast the ships are going to move because you think the movement is only what's showing on the card. It's actually an entire ship length plus what's on the card. Although they knew to play their movement correctly, I think your brain keeps thinking otherwise because of the card visual and it took them a awhile to switch the signals and get it down. They were pulling tight coordinations later on in the game with some experience under their belt. I would suggest you MAKE new players on one side start well distanced from each other. I did have one player mess up movements at one point and I went over how movements work again. I'm thinking blatantly stating every move is a card length plus what you see on the card and then doing it that way would probably help to clear this up. I kind of did that, but didn't state it that blatantly. Also make sure you clearly state the back of your ship is the end point. First turn or two I had to re-explain that. Maybe state clearly front of your ship against card is start point and back of your ship to card position is end point.
The players really liked using the smoke counters to mark cannon usage and reloading status. I also heard several open comments about liking the two card plotting. I went around and placed the damage markers for the first half of the game and explained how the system works, but I think once one of the players still thought damage rolled over into the next box when you exceed a box. I would suggest making a specific point during explanations that it does not. Since I was doing the damage placement and explanations for the first half, this meant I was rushing from one side of the table to the other with all the damage bags. I bought two sets of counters for my kickstarter with the intention to have a complete set of damage markers on either side. After this demo, I would suggest that as a good idea. The card boxes worked out well for table clutter control and keeping their cards from getting mixed and scattered. I did still have a problem with one player accidentally grabbing from another player's box. This was a result of the table being packed and them sitting so close to each other with all their stuff so close to each other. Spread the players out physically. Make sure you go over the rules for raking and denote that it's a gunnery exception in that you actually must target through the center mast. I did this and it all went well. They really got into setting up rakes once they started maneuvering much better. State the three key things about a rake: 1) Through the full middle broadside 2) Through a narrow base end and 3) Through the mast. I think explaining it as those three steps and making it "through" for every step helps it stick in people's heads better. I had one guy question why raking was allowed at more than close range. I mentioned it varies from one game system to the next as to whether this is allowed or not and mentioned Heart of Oak and Signal Close Action as contrasting examples. He was cool with that.
Surprisingly, we didn't have problems with the collision mechanics. I think they messed up one when I wasn't looking really early off. I asked them to get my attention every time, but they started to do it pretty well themselves. Unfortunately maybe it was a practice makes perfect situation, considering how many collisions they had.
I was pretty clueless as to whose ship was whose. Fortunately the players did a good job of keeping track of their own ships. I'm probably going to paint half my bases dark green to denote the other side in a conflict. That lowers confusion one level. So I can quickly reference whose ship is getting shot and whose ship is shooting , I need to come up with a system to mark the ships and match mark the planning mats. My first guess would be a colored flag and then a colored something placed on their mat to match the color of the flag. Different color flag for each ship. Maybe something else might sound better later.
I had several players discussing amongst themselves how they liked the complication in the movement interaction caused by wind direction relative to the ships and the different sail settings. I would suggest you use sail settings in every game.
The #5 red maneuver card is straight back. This means you will perpetually be stuck going backwards in the red. So...all #5 cards are not always straight. You can get a slight turn out of some of them. I had a guy screw up and end up with a #5 red card. Page 11 doesn't say how you get out of it. You have to let them plot either the 4- or 6+ red card after they've done the second hour glass on the 5 card.

OK, it's getting late. Overall it went well. I want to run a less drab scenario next time. I might lower the number of players. The one guy running double ships had no problems. One day I want to run it with the full crew management Advanced rules. That might make running double ships a problem. Might not. The guys liked the hat idea.

http://i116.photobucket.com/albums/o9/Pollock1939/DSC00498_zps345a688c.jpg (http://s116.photobucket.com/user/Pollock1939/media/DSC00498_zps345a688c.jpg.html)

Coog
11-11-2013, 00:42
Andy did a great job of running the game. All the players really had a great time and things got hilariously crazy at times, amping up everyone's enjoyment and generating a lot of laughs. Andy's demo was definitely a winner and a fantastic promotion the game. Thanks Andy for running it!

The Royal Hajj
11-11-2013, 09:00
Sounds like you had a great game Andy, thanks for running it.

As for the #5 taken aback cards, the players should never be planning a red card... always a blue one. Since they get to select the card they plan, the simply have to plan a non #5 blue card to have their ship fall off the wind when it is replaced with the red card during the movement phase.

Cmmdre
11-11-2013, 10:20
As for the #5 taken aback cards, the players should never be planning a red card... always a blue one. Since they get to select the card they plan, the simply have to plan a non #5 blue card to have their ship fall off the wind when it is replaced with the red card during the movement phase.

Thank you for the play tip Keith.

7eat51
11-11-2013, 20:14
Well done, Andy. I like how you explained raking, and the hat idea is great - adds a bit of humor and friendly bragging rights.

It seems like some of the problems you faced are going to be common until we are more experienced at playing and running games. Whenever I run a con game again, I would like to have someone to help and to take pictures. I was busy enough that photos were out of my mind. The more folks play, the more they will be able to help others out as well. So far, it seems that for a bunch of newbies, we are having great times and great success.

Andy Blozinski
11-11-2013, 22:06
When I have my own stuff and plenty of time to figure out what to do I figure I'll have a pretty solid demo game. I think it will help to actually play a game too!
I really really want to run a game with the full crew management. I'm thinking I'll run a simple demo game at the local store and then run a second game with all the bells and whistles a few weeks later. I'd like to see how much the crew management slows the game down. Will I be able to run a quick simple game and a complicated game in the same time slot to give the players a taste for how the rules can be used at their choice of detail? I'll see with some more experience when I get my own stuff.

Comte de Brueys
11-12-2013, 07:21
Interesting AAR, Andy.

The idea to make it a nearly pure frigate battle was good, too.

You explained the problems of a first game or demo games with newbies very good.

:g&t:

Cpt Kangaroo
11-17-2013, 12:37
Andy,

Thanks for the AAR.

Glad to hear it went well for you.

I have to say, having a great bunch of players makes it sooo much more enjoyable for everyone, including the GM.

It sounds like you all had a good time which is the first goal of any good game system.

I too would strongly recommend a back up GM for a large game.

Good job!

RichardPF
11-17-2013, 13:41
Are the official game maps part of the demo kit that is traveling around?

The Royal Hajj
11-17-2013, 13:48
Are the official game maps part of the demo kit that is traveling around?

Nope, we did not have any at the time.

7eat51
11-17-2013, 14:40
Are the official game maps part of the demo kit that is traveling around?

We used blue felt, which worked very well. It was nice and clean, but the wind was only blowing in one direction, so it was fairly easy to gauge a ship's attitude to the wind.