Sunday, August 05, 2007

Pirates and Culling

On Friday night we played a five player game of Pirate's Cove . Three players were new to the game and one of them was relatively new to gaming in general.

The rules explanation went reasonably quickly, although as Melissa and I were dredging particular rules out of our collective memories, I figured that it had been quite a while since the last time either of us had played it.

On the first turn I went to cannon island and all four of the other players went to sail island where a length and destructive battle ensued. Amongst my trouble free loot was quite a bit of gold and Billy Bones' Parrot. This parrot allows you to always fire your total number of cannons, regardless of crew number. Needless to say, since I was already at cannon island I spent all my gold to raise my cannon to five.

Over the next two turns I was involved in battles with other players, but with the help of Billy Bones' Parrot I was able to quickly dispatch them to Pirate's Cove for repairs.

That was actually the last time that I was involved in a battle with another player. Through skill, luck or good fortune I managed to pick islands where other people did not go or were too scared to go. This meant that I had a steady stream of loot flowing into The Black Betsy's hold. I did have the Royal Navy sent after me twice, but on both occasions I was able to send them packing all the way back to Blighty.

Thanks to my five gun volleys, the few combats that I was involved in were relatively quick, all in my favour and relatively painless. Admittedly the two combats with the Royal Navy did damage my hull and I did have to throw some treasure overboard to stay afloat, after looting the island of course! The fact that I almost never had to make any repairs to The Black Betsy meant I was accumulating a lot of gold. In fact the gold was accumulating so much that on my second visit to treasure island in addition to burying nine chests I buried fifteen gold (which is an unprecedented amount in my history of playing the game).

The other unusual aspect of this game was that we actually exhausted the tavern card deck, which I don't remember doing before although some of our previous games were only four player. The tavern cards certainly weren't going through my hand though, I only had five or six card for the entire game.

We had two cases of people forgetting that the Legendary Pirate was visiting an island (even though his boat was there before destinations were chosen), although in one case the player in question did manage to defeat the Legendary Pirate.

On the last turn of the game it looked highly likely that Captain Melissa was intending to deliberately take on the Flying Dutchman at Treasure Island so, after consulting my Evil Play Techniques handbook, I played the Consort card to grab half her loot should she succeed. To my joy, she played some battle and volley cards and quickly dispatched the Flying Dutchman and I then grabbed half of what she buried to boost my final score a little bit more.

With the combination of three new players including one who is a little prone to analysis paralysis, the game actually took about two hours which is longer than normal. Every turn bar one had at least one combat and the judicious use of smoke screens did mean some quite lengthy battles which also helped extend the game length.

After the game I decided to check my theory that it had been quite a while since we had played by looking at the "When Did I Last Play?" statistic in John Farrell's excellent Extended BGG stats. Sure enough my gut feel was correct and it was actually a little over two years since I had last played Pirate's Cove. This is quite a while for a game that we like playing, although admittedly we usually go for slightly heavier games and Daughter the Elder obviously hasn't expressed an interest in playing it for a little over two years :-) (she was involved in that last play back when she was six).

I remember reading on BGG a while back of someone who used to cull (trade or sell) any games in their collection that had not been played for two years. I thought at the time that this was quite ruthless and I assumed that they either a) only played certain types of games regularly, b) only had a small amount of storage space, c) only wanted to keep a small collection or d) didn't want to revisit old games that weren't getting regular plays.

There are a number of reasons why I would not cull games based on how long it was since I had last played them
a) With a collection approaching four hundred games, even if it was assumed that we could play a game a day (to quote This is not Frank's Planet, "That's a mighty big if") then it would be over a year before any game would be due to hit the table for a repeat play.
b) I have found that there are certain stages of life where it is difficult to play long games. Having young children is one such stage. In the past I have played Civilization, Diplomacy, World in Flames and even War in Europe. I have not played any of these games in quite some years now. However, I do fully expect to play both Diplomacy and Civilization again in the next few years. I will admit that the chances of getting World in Flames or War in Europe to the table are slim and I will probably be looking at the five to ten year time frame at least, but I am still not willing to part with them.
c) I am a bit of a hoarder.
d) There are games in our collection that we have owned for ten, twenty or more years. They may not get played often, but they are still good games and are still enjoyed. Many of these older games would be particularly difficult to replace (think EON Cosmic Encounter). Quite a few of them are games that we had and played as children and are now getting to play with our children, and possibly in another twenty or so years may get to play with our grandchildren.
e) Unlike computer games, which can be sometime be dependent on a particular hardware platform, operating system or slower chip set than is still available, board games just need a table to play them. It doesn't matter how old they are, if you want to play them you still can. The physical game doesn't become obsolete, granted sometimes the game itself may become outdated in terms of mechanics or game play.
f) I try not to buy many games without doing any research, so generally if I have bought it there's a fairly good chance that I will like it. Therefore there's not a lot of dead wood in our collection.
g) The words "sell my game" have no meaning to me.

If our collection gets too much bigger we will have to do some serious reorganisation of space and shelves or possibly revisit some of the above, but for now there will be no culling of games in our house.

Mmm meeples taste like...


Dr. Matt J. Carlson said...

I thought about culling my collection a bit (selling things not played in 2 years also seems harsh to me). One of my big limitations is a lack of an appropriate market to sell them in...

Pawnstar said...

It's not easy to get rid of your games even if you want to. Giving them away often costs more than keeping them (postage) and with a philosophy somewhat similar to your own I have lots of trouble finding the right price at which to sell them.

I have recently managed to trade away games at a ratio which has slightly reduced numbers; however most trades end up being one-for-one so I am not reducing anything.

I used to have over a thousand but now I think this is down to more like nine hundred (at least counting exclusive titles); a lot of games have permanently left my collection never to return (dismantled for parts, charity shops and so on).

It's taken some time to even get this far; since this article the size of my collection has decreased, but only by a small amount. For every one or two games I get rid of I seem to be obtaining another.

I guess I will just have to live with it.