I like the flavour of SidMeier's Pirates!, with the old-world Caribbean feel, the piracy, the European states falling in and out of war with each other and stealing each other's colonies.
So, I'm thinking of a board depicting a map of the Caribbean ([this sort of range]), and probably in a hex grid. Some number - say, 12 or 16 - major colonies are marked ("major" encompassing Curacao, Port Royal, Havana - some subset of the ports in Pirates!).
At the start of each game, each colony would be assigned a random economic identity (this may just be a price at which it would sell goods to ships, and a price at which it will buy goods from ships - the latter being higher), and players would take it in turns to choose colonies for their nation. Players would have ships of varying types, coming with different speeds, cargo capacities, and fighting possibilities. And colonies would be defended by numbers of soldiers, and could be captured by a sufficiently-overwhelming invasion force.
Players would be looking to maximise some "net worth" value, taking into account money and possibly other assets (colonies, ships).
That's the flavour. Mechanical thoughts include:
Ships would have a number of movement points each turn. It would cost 1 point to move 1 hex N-S, 2 points to move 1 hex either NE or SE, and 1 point for 2 hexes NW or SW. (The prevailing wind is Easterly)
Trade can only be conducted between different nations. You can sell French good to the Spanish, but not to the French. Players can decided whether or not to allow a trading ship in to one of their colonies.
If your ship buys goods from your own colony, you pay the bank; if you buy from a foreign colony, you pay that player.
Whenever you sell goods, the bank pays you regardless of where you sell them.
Ships should be able to carry troops; attacking a foreign colony with sufficient (FSVO sufficient) troops should allow you to capture it.
Less concrete musings include:
There should definitely be piracy involved. This involves a number of additional issues
Ships' cargoes should be secret until the ship is "interacted with" - attacked, or tries to trade. Perhaps Cannon always cost the same as goods at any colony?
Larger ships shouldn't always be better at combat. A sloop or brig should probably beat a merchantman any day of the week if both are fully armed, even though the merchantman can carry more cargo (and hence, by the above point, cannon)
I quite like the idea of also having (say) 24 Settlement locations on the board; in addition to choosing colonies, players also place the same number of Settlements of their nationality on the board.
Settlements - as per Pirates! - could (at a cost) supply additional troops to defend or attack colonies. Should this be the only way to recruit?
Also, at a cost, they could produce new Governors - if transported to a colony, they would change the economic conditions there, making them more favourable to trade.
It might be nice to give each nation a unique bonus, as per Colonization:
England - gets an extra Settlement
Spain - gets more troops to start with / troop recruitment is cheaper
Holland - starts with one upgraded economic Colony
France - ??
It would be nice to have different types of goods - so, perhaps Port Royale produces lots of sugar cheaply, and pays a lot for Spice; while Curacao produces cheap spice, but will pay a lot for gems, etc. However, that makes secret cargoes harder.
It might be nice to have the winner in a ship combat suffer damage somehow, but that possibly smacks of over-complication.
DR comments: If you had ships varying in speed, cost, number of cannons and cargo capacity, so that to take over another ship would require both reaching the same hex and then over powering it (with perhaps the chance of fleeing after first combat round (eg pair of dice rolls)), that could work nicely. You could then have neutral ships going from one side of the board to the other (from Europe to Americas and vice versa) on standard routes (slaves, cotton, gold, silver, etc) with each turn drawing some cards to determine the neutral ship's route, cargo and fighting ability, to give the pirates something to intercept apart from each other. Investing in a second ship would be like buying an extra field in Bohnanza, but would also allow tactics, surrounding a smaller faster ship. Competition between players could be fostered by port governors offering contracts (premium prices) for the first to supply a particular good (eg rum for his daughter's wedding). I love the idea of a group of pirates actually being able to group together to pillage a port, but think there needs to be some sort of incentive for a pirate to betray the group and side with the govenor. If you want to add flavour text to the game, actual [Pirate Codes] listed the money that had to be paid to crew that died or were maimed, so if you keep track of deaths in a battle (perhaps have ships also have a crew stat) then it would be possible to win a battle, take a cargo, but still make a financial loss on it. Ok, we decided yesterday that the above was possibly a little over-complicated, so the new idea is as follows. All numbers subject to change.
The hex-map of the Caribbean stays, as do the colony locations, the random assignment of economy cards, and the selection of colonies for each player. Ship movement rules remain the same, including the prevailing easterly wind (which, whatever ChiarkPerson says, I think would be rememberable given west-pointing arrows on the hex boundaries). There is a turns track around the outside of the board; it starts at 1660 and carries on for some sensible number of turns (20?). The aim of the game is to own the greatest amount of gold at the end of the game. The game needs at least 3 players, and is probably best with 4-6 (and I'll need to work out who nations 5 and 6 are...).
Economy cards carry the prices at which four (or six) commodities can be traded there. These will be Food, Sugar, Spice, Cotton, (Tobacco, Coffee).
Players start with 1 merchant ship and 1 privateer, which start at any colony or colonies of that player's nationality that they choose. They may as well, for simplicity, have the same number of moves per turn (dependant on map-size, possibly 2 - making running westward 4 hexes per turn, but only 1 beating eastward. 4 may be better). Additional ships may be purchased for some amount of money.
Merchant ships sail from their start colony (which needs to be remembered somehow) to colonies of other nations, where they may propose a trade. Proposals of trade may not be done unless your ship is in someone else's colony. If a trade is accepted, a string of ships is placed between the two colonies to mark the trade route. Every turn thereafter each partner receives the maximum over all goods of (difference between the value of that good at their colony and the value at the partner's colony) in gold from the bank. The merchant ship is used up.
Either party may terminate a trade agreement on their turn; each partner receives their ship back at their colony. (It would be nice if each commodity could only be traded once out of each colony, but that requires tracking of which ones are in use on which route, which could be tricky.)
Privateers can be sailed so that they are in a hex through which an established trade route (belonging to other nations) passes. Every turn they remain there alone, they steal half the proceeds from each trading partner. If more than one Privateer is present on a trade route, none of them steal (they spend the whole time posturing at each other). There is no benefit to attacking merchant ships seeking to establish a route.
If 3 or more Privateers are on the same trade route, any of their players (starting with any whose trade route it is) may seek to form a temporary fleet-alliance against another of the Privateers present. Fleet-alliances exist only for one turn. Whichever side forms the largest fleet defeats the other side, whose Privateers are removed from the board and placed 3 turns further along the turn-marker track. When the turn marker catches up, they may replace them at any of their colonies (the Privateers underwent repairs). Similarly if 3 or more Privateers are in the same non-trade-route hex. Players may, of course, form alliances with themselves if they have two Privateers in the same place.
Privateers may acquire Letters of Marque by sailing to foreign ports and seeking one from that player. As with trade routes, Letters of Marque may not be negotiated except in a foreign port. A Letter of Marque, which is an agreement between the two negotiating powers and against a third, carries two expectations: It is an undertaking by the Privateer's player not to steal trade from the issuer; and it is a promise by the issuer to pay a small reward (2 gold?) per turn to the Privateer's player for every trade route of the enemy's that the Privateer's player steals from. The issuer may revoke a Letter of Marque at any time; the Privateer may revoke it by attacking the issuer's ships or trade routes - if he does so, he must pay reparations (10 gold?) to the issuer. My thoughts:
I like the idea of a trade route generating money from the difference in players' resources.
Replacing "spice" with "nutmeg" makes them different letters. This may be a good thing.
If you want to track the settlement a ship is from, have the players place the trade route markers as they go; this would mean that if they take a less-direct route they would be more open to piracy. If you were going to do that, then it might be interesting to have different currents between different hexes rather than a globally prevailing one. Finding efficient routes would be a part of the game, a bit like working with gradients in RailroadTycoon?.
On the other hand, if you want to have the trade routes be one resource and you want to keep track of which settlement trades what, you could place different trade route markers for each resource (so you'd have a coffee route or a sugar route) rather than having generic routes.
It might be possible to do both of the above, but you'd need to put down a thin card marker (say, a card chit) for exploration and a more substantial thing (say, a settlers-style ship) for actual routes.
Piracy looks far too complicated, it would be much simpler just to skim off 1 gold per pirate ship on a route. This could be something you could improve during the game.
Is there a good reason to have two sorts of ship?
I think the game as described lacks ways to spend your resources. How about something like the prestige track in Caylus to represent your nation's technology? One might increase your ships' movement, one might increase how much gold they get through piracy, one might increase production of a given resource.
I like this idea. Pirates! has a number of ship upgrades, most of which would be very hard to translate into a game where you're not directly controlling a sea-battle, but I think the following could work:
Cotton Sails - your ships have extra movement. Probably 1 (that is, 2 windward, no effect against the wind).
Iron Scantlings - a ship damaged as a result of a fleet-alliance returns in 2 turns rather than 3.
Grape Shot - steal +1 gold from trade routes, as your cannon damage the ships less
Copper Plating - not sure whether this would work well, but I could modify the movement rules so that ships can't "turn on a dime"; you can only exit a hex on the three edges mostly-opposite the one you entered from. Requires keeping track of what way your ships are pointing, but could be done if ship markers are hexagonal with arrows on them. Copper Plating lets you turn more freely (can leave any direction but the one you entered)
Looking at these, they also, pleasingly, have the quality that they can have two levels of improvement: +1, +2 speed; 2 turn, 1 turn repairs; +1, +2 gold; turn almost backwards; turn any direction. Something production / trade wise would be nice too. --CH
That's it for now. --SGB Another go at the Caribbean. Pirates! should be about moving ships around the Caribbean, not moving your ship once and then waiting while the money rolls in. So, mix and match the above two, and simplify.
You play gods. You start with one believer in one village (on, probably, a hex board) - where a village is maybe just 4-8 people (coloured, or grey, cubes). By working miracles, you seek to increase your number of worshippers. Each believer creates an amount of faith per turn, which you can store up and which power your miracles. Each action (or most) shift you some distance towards Good or Evil; each turn, you draw some number of Prayers (like Chance cards - small bonus faith points, or more bonus faith if you perform some requested action for the petitioner), and some number of Miracles (so you get a slightly random set of effects you can perform) - each from the appropriate one of five decks: Evil, Bad, Neutral, Good, Benevolent. And the two paths play differently - perhaps Evil is easier to win followers, but harder to keep them or just self-limiting by the fact you occasionally kill your followers. Direct action against other followers can be countered with appropriate miracles by their god.
Game ends when no neutral people exist on the board.
I wonder if something slightly more complex is possible (or desirable), based on the Pratchett idea that we get the Gods we believe in. In other words, have the nature of the God be shaped by the expectations of that God's believers. Have different villagers start off with base assumptions about what a particular deity is like (how violent, powerful, responsive to prayers, etc), and don't just have the villager's beliefs modified by which prayers they witness being answered by miracles, but also have the powers of the deity modified by the beliefs of new followers they acquire. So, for instance, if you want to become a more martial God, strong at providing miraculous support in battle, then send your followers to try to convert a village full of people who already believe in the primacy of military might, who (once converted) will think of you as being a God of battle. --DR
As awesome as that idea sounds, I think it'd be a real pain to keep track of on a board-game (especially when I'm already tracking two fluctuating quantities - faith and alignment). Might work in a computer game, though. --CH
You can do it easily enough by having different colours of villagers and miracles which require a certain number of villagers of x type, but I don't think it's worth it. --SF
I'd intended to have villager colour reflect which God they worshipped, actually. But I quite like the idea of having Gods able to choose at game start one or two areas of miracle they're better at. Kinda like D&D domains, I guess. --CH
Not a BoardGame, but you could have one of the turn-based MMO games (y'know, the ones where you get 15 or so players in a "Kingdom" or whathaveyou, and an hourly tick, and stuff like that) based on the Wild West. But I kinda like the idea of a Township of players having communal projects, started by the elected "Mayor" (you could also elect a Sheriff, and - I don't know - a Tradeguild Chief, or Postmaster, with responsibilities and bonuses), and the projects wouldn't just happen, but require some total amount of resource to be committed by the Township's players, at their discretion. And the option to run a player out of town if they don't co-operate :)