Thoughts/Suggestions on Optimal Strategies


#1

Hey gang!

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.

Extremely Good
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!


#2

So interesting post. I’ll add only three short considerations:

  • If you have a Grappler, the settlements are so easy to take.
  • Armour is essential! Without that you can’t build a strong army that can defeat the new weak ships, the map became crowded of them and the strategy suffers.
  • You should add the Pointer to the list of Extremely Good.

Anyway I take this opportunity to repeat that an Healer/Carpenter should be fundamental as a new Buccaneer, especially now that the Dredger came out.


#3

Overall I’d like to see a bit of a rework on damage. I think stacks of ships shouldn’t each take full damage, and armor should negate total damage that turn not individual attacks.

As it is right now a ship with sufficient attack (especially with bouncer) can basically solo weaker players and there’s no real efficient counter to it.


#4

Interesting thoughts.

On the topic of armor, while not exactly the same, I just wrote a post (Fleets & Armadas) describing something that I think can deal with a lot of the concerns raised here - essentially that of 5+ low level ships just get wiped out in 1 turn against 1 bigger ship because of it’s armor rating. I’m curious what your thoughts are in relation to your concerns here.


#5

Regarding the buccaneers… When I have the chance, I am buying buccaneers in the following order:

  • Dipper
  • Slaver
  • Dredger

To me, those are the 3 best buccaneers. During the first 5 turns or so, the Dipper doesn’t help much, but it’s imperative to buy health for that ship every turn. Pretty soon, you’re gaining 30+ gold every turn. Given the special resource map limitations that @sparker points out, I am always using the market to buy the special resources I need. More buccaneers are always needed, and that extra gold goes a long way.

I don’t think there’s a better buccaneer than the Slaver to be honest. Not only do you weaken your opponent by stealing his buccaneers, but you also weaken his position in the point system, whilst strengthening your own!

I personally don’t have a use for the Chipper as I’m usually attacking with a juggernaut ship, but I definitely think it’s a good one in general.

I don’t think I have ever hired a Grabber or a Fisher - I only get them when my Slaver kidnaps them. If there were a rebalance to buccaneers, I would start with these two.


#6

Thanks for the great post @sparker, and everybody else for the great comments.

You made some good observations about wide vs tall. I think our games do tend to favor wide because I think the pressure to expand is a good excuse to push the players into conflict. I don’t really want players sitting in thier corners growing thier empire tall without interacting with the other players.

We also have a natural tendency to nerf rush strategies becuase they tend to favor experienced players. In super competitive game, sure, but it a casual board game I think getting rushed kind of sucks.

The Chipper, Dredger, and Grappler are our most recent buccaneers, and we to make things “too good” so that they are really appealing. Rather than nerfing them I would like to identify the weakest and give them a boost. I would like it if all the buccaneers seems too good!

Right now there is some debate about the weakest, which is good I think. I like the Dipper too. They pay for themselves. In my current 12 player game I have a stack of 6 ships with Grabbers on them next to metal. Also worth it!


#7

Interesting, thanks for the response @JayKyburz . If I’m reading you correctly, it’s your intent to funnel all players into a wide, boom strategy and base competition on who can do that the best. If so, I suggest three tweaks to keep some level of strategic depth to the game.

Nerf settlements a bit. I still think they are a bit too tough early on, and it fits in with the “push players into conflict” goal you mentioned.

Pull food / metal / wood apart. If you have to make more choices about how to build your boom economy then I think a game where all players are on a boom strategy could still be interesting. Offworld Trading Company is a good example - most strategies there are effectively variations on “boom” but the resources are separated enough, both on the map and in usage, that a player still has to make choices about what materials they focus on and what they’ll get through trade.

Because the distribution of food/wood/metal is so balanced and the ways to spend those three are very closely entwined, it doesn’t seem possible to have an economy that is strong in only two or one of those. This naturally leads to someone who is leading in Boom or Bounty leading in the other too.

Finally, I’d think about capping settlement development at 2 or 3 to make it obvious to players that they must go wide. I think the option to upgrade into 4+ is a “trap choice,” a choice that is almost always incorrect.

Thanks for listening and thanks for the game. I’ll hush up now. :slight_smile:


#8

That’s an interesting idea @JayKyburz - I had initially dismissed the notion of using ships to farm, but it does sound like it would solve a problem of not having enough metal, or that one precious resource you’re nowhere need. I might give that a try next game.


#9

@sparker I agree that it’s interesting when resources are not evenly spread. Actually on the Serpent Seas map I found myself with good access to metal and little wood, while other players were in the opposite situation. This gives importance to trade, diplomacy and picking the right strategy.

It’s good to encourage wide vs tall, but I disagree with capping settlement development to 2 or 3. Currently 3 can definitely be good choice mid-game for some rare resources, depending on the configuration. Maybe 4 and 5 are indeed slightly too expensive to offer a valid option. Currently we have cost 2/4/8/16 (metal), maybe it could be tweaked slightly down, e.g. 2/4/7/12. cost(n+2) = cost(n) + cost(n+1) + 1, a modified Fibonacci :wink:


#10

In my 12 player game I have starting building some level 5 settlements, but wow, the are expensive!


#11

I wonder if it would make sense to either scale the cost down of leveling up settlements, or provide additional benefits. What if, once you reach level 4, leveling up settlements also comes with +1 to attack/armor?


#12

To make it worth while you would have to make it + its level. So level 2 would get +2, level 3 would get +3 etc.