I’m really enjoying the game thus far. I think there are some optimal and sub-optimal strategies for BBB and I’d love to see that evolve. I’ll share a few observations on them - I appreciate your indulgence in a long-winded post!
Wide Beats Tall
A game of Civilization allows either a wide strategy (building many, somewhat-improved cities) or a tall strategy (building few, very-improved cities). In BBB the cost of improving settlements increases dramatically while the cost of a new settlement (one ship) remains flat. Not only that, but wide also includes growing your cannons simultaneously (since each new ship is +2 cannons). As such, wide seems a much, much more effective strategy than tall for winning.
Remedies to this might include cheaper settlement upgrades or making settlements weaker to increase the risk of a wide strategy.
Boom Beats Rush & Turtle
In many games, “rush” strategies require early aggression and focus on early-game victories, “boom” strategies focus on building economic power towards late-game victories, and “turtle” strategies aim to defensively outlast the “rush.” Rush beats boom, boom beats turtle, and turtle beats rush.
I don’t see any viable option but “boom” for BBB because it is very easy to play a strong defense regardless of strategy. Settlements are tough and slow to capture until you can routinely deal 5+ damage in a single attack (meaning you can deal so much damage that your opponent must buy health).
If settlements were weaker and easier to take, defense would be harder and more strategies would be viable. The obvious thing would be disallowing health upgrades for settlements, ending most protracted sieges. There are other ways for sure - increasing movement speed or slowing down economic development would also improve this.
Armor Wins Wars
Armor is incredibly good. It doesn’t just negate opposing cannons, but it negates superior numbers too because it applies to each attack. If you have a 2/4/2 ship and your opponent has 10 2/4/0 ships, you’re invincible despite 10:1 cannon disadvantage. The only counters to armor are more cannons per-ship and Chippers. Cannons are restricted to one per ship per turn, and Chippers require special resources that you may or may not have access to. This incentivizes slow, plodding wars when I feel like this game wants to incentivize fast, decisive action.
This is a radical suggestion but I think the game would be better without armor at all. Entering the seas would be a risk and you would never feel safe, anywhere. Otherwise I’d make it more expensive or less effective somehow.
Not All Buccaneers Are Created Equal
I think there are several tiers of quality within the Buccaneers. I’ll call out the top and bottom.
Chipper, Dredger, Grappler - Buccaneers with a dramatic effect on winning wars. These abilities are huge. I’d buy one almost every single turn when possible.
Not So Great
Grabber, Fisher, Dipper - Buccaneers that have a mild, situational economic impact. I like the idea of being able to convert ships into further economic power, but in each the impact is pretty meager vs. converting those resources into building or upgrading settlements. I don’t even buy these to compete on total number of Buccaneers.
Everything else falls somewhere in a happy medium. The net result is that your nearby starting resources can have a huge swing on the game.
I’d love to see both ends of this power spectrum moved towards the middle. My ideal is more buccaneers like the Ballooner - a very situational ability that influences your strategy without dominating it.
Trade is for Special Resources
Trade is an opportunity for both parties to beat the in-game market value of their items and to receive more in value than what they give. Because trades only take effect in the next turn, it also requires both players to say “I don’t need this item now, but I will need something else later.”
Both of those factors make it hard to trade for wood or metal. I have an immediate use for both at all times, and the map is balanced such that I am never producing a surplus of one and a deficit of the other. In other words, the wood/metal situation for all players is roughly the same – need more than they have. Even if I will end a turn with 2-3 wood or metal, I’ll rarely consider trading that since I know next turn I’ll have that same need for them too.
As such, trade seems to only involve special resources. Their uneven distribution on the map and the different requirements per Buccaneer means that every player has different levels of need for each resource. That feels like a wasted opportunity for more and more interesting trades.
Fixes for this could include a more uneven distribution of resources on the map or making trades take effect immediately, in order to make them truly better than the market because of the time value of money.
This is just my experience after a couple of games, so I may be missing something deeper. Also, none of this is the critique of a hater or detractor – I really enjoy this game and I want to see it thrive. I welcome thoughts or debates. Thanks!