On Saturday Pennine Megagames were back in Manchester to put on a 60-player game set in the Caribbean in the early 1700s based around the golden age of piracy. Erring more towards historical facts than the pure fantasy of recent films players took on the roles of pirates, colony governors or nation teams. The game was John Sharp’s first design and it filled that very popular slot of having something for everyone in as much as most play styles could be accommodated, from a combat heavy game to colony management to those who just want to roleplay and interact with the other gamers. The players really got behind the idea of the game; most were dressed up; the gender balance was much closer than in previous games and lots of rum was drunk throughout the day leading to an almost party atmosphere. That many players needed a fairly substantial control team, of which I was a member. As seems to be my usual role in this was to be intelligence and dirty tricks control. Quartered in a side room, players would come to me if they wanted to spy on another player, gain intel on a colony or port or come up with their own cunning plan. I would adjudicate on this and make a decision based on how good their plan sounded and how much they were willing to spend to make it happen. Additionally, I was in charge of giving out quest to players- these were a nice idea from John to give the pirate players who didn’t want to – or whose characters weren’t so good go for a combat heavy game.
The game started off with a lot of action at the map which made the game system creak somewhat; I think it is a testament to how far Pennine Megagames has come as a control team that all the control umpires made a decision in the first two turns as to what rules to keep, what rules to get rid of and what rules to modify to make the game work, none of this was done by having a control meeting, everyone just drew on their experience to make it work and it did.
I knew that the game would be a good one as on the first turn players were asking about the possibility of poisoning a water supply to reduce the ability of the garrison of its fort to fight. From then on it was steady stream of players coming in with their plans and spy missions. A couple of highlights for me were they French colony team who paid to spread false rumours that lead to a stream of irate players landing in Philadelphia asking where the treasure could be found- as a tactic to keep people away from their colony it was quite effective. Just before lunch the Governor of Havana came to me as he was worried about arson attacks in his port, he wondered if it would be possible to have extra night watchman patrols to guard against it. I decide that was a very reasonable plan and charged him a modest fee for it. I also noted down on a card rules to the effect of being able to spring an ambush on any would be attackers. I did think that he was wasting his money somewhat as I had had no-one come to me requesting intel on Havana. I had forgotten about the incident as I was mainly dealing with the quests in the afternoon until at about 4 o’ clock a player comes in wanting more intel and complaining that his attempted attack on Havana was foiled by night watchman patrols he was not expecting, I remembered the card I had written and had to laugh (the Governor of Havana did pop by a minute or so later to say thanks too).
The quests were very popular with the players, so much so I had to quickly come up with some more as the nine original one had all be completed. Whether it was searching for wrecks, mapping rivers or hunting albino crocodiles it added an extra dimension for those who didn’t fancy mixing it with the navies on ship to ship combat. Some of the quests were based on emergent technologies of the time such as the Marine Chronometer. It was nice to see that once they had been discovered or captured they were then fought over by players who were not involved in the original action of the quest for possession of them. Talking to John later I think that it would be something that could be expanded upon should the game be reprised, possibly with multi part quests and an overarching story to them.
All in all it was one the most fun megagames I’ve been to, the atmosphere was excellent making for a very enjoyable day.
PS- I know my photos are a bit crappy I really recommend looking on the Pennine Megagames Facebook page for better ones.