Megagame Report: Buccaneer.

The 23rd of March saw the first game of the Pennine Megagame calendar: Buccaneer by John Sharp. Set during the Anglo- Dutch Wars of the 17th century it was a prequel of sorts to the very popular game of his Pirates that ran in 2017 ( see here ). It was also the first time that Pennine Megagames had put on a non- operational game in Sheffield since our very first one Sengoku.


The rules mechanics had been comprehensively overhauled and streamlined- I had some input into the quest side of things and this hard work showed on the day as the game progressed much faster than the previous run through. The use of custom- made dice again made it very easy for control to run the game and seemed popular with the players too. Buccaneer was a smaller game too, I often prefer the smaller megagames I think they flow better and seem more sociable in a way.


A lovely venue in Sheffield- The Old Post Office.

I reprised my role as intelligence/ quest control. The quests were a very popular late edition to the first game; accordingly, they were increased in prominence for this run through. This time one of the changes was to have the different countries’ colony governors be able to give them out. This added to player interaction as well as having the chance to set the players against each other.


A view of my messy workstation where I dished out the quests.

The players adopted similar roles to the previous game, colonies run by governors, nation teams running the navy and two smaller groups of pirates/ buccaneers. Given the game started within a state of war the pirate players could, and were encouraged to, get letters of marque from nations allowing them to target the merchant ships of enemy nations in a form of asymmetric economic warfare with a get out of jail letter as long as they only attacked the enemies they were meant to.


The map (and also social media is very popular in megagames with live streams on facebook being common).

Being away from the main map my knowledge of how the war between the nations was going. These wars started and finished by control interjection as the war in the Caribbean that the game represented was on the periphery of and subservient to, the conflicts in Europe. Besides I was too busy running the perennially popular quests and off the wall plans of the players. These varied from spreading rumours and gossip to trying to salvage the body of a pirate who had been killed so it could be strung up as a warning to others.


A view of one of the port maps- in this case Port of Spain.

The best of which involved a horse race. The governor of the Port of Spain had a very nice race horse that he would be prepared to accept a challenge from anyone to race against it. However, the governor of the port of Havana coveted the horse and got two different buccaneers to steal it for him. To provide a distraction he organised a sword duelling competition to keep the other players busy… The first plan was to get the grooms drunk then swap out the horse before the race, I adjudicated this and unfortunately it was not successful, the horse race was then run (ably improvised by Ian) and duly won by the champion race horse. At this point I interjected and ran through the plot of the second buccaneer; he had paid a hefty bribe, using a secret agent for the jockey to keep riding after the race, down to the harbour and then on to his waiting ship. The governor of the Port of Spain was worried about some funny business happening in the horse race so borrowed some militia off the governor of Havana to stave that off, unfortunately for him that unit of militia were under orders, passed to me in secret, not to intervene. I guess it is a case of be careful who you trust…


A gibbet’d pirate- put there as a warning to others.

Things got even more complicated as the first buccaneer whose plan failed bought another horse and passed it off as the original, saying that the horse that actually ran the race was the fake horse, having been stolen before the race had started. This provided much confusion in the other players as to which horse was the genuine one. It was some great game playing by Becky to sow such confusion, for more details see her blog here.


In situations like this it was easy to use the dice (different colours marked with different numbers of skull and cross bones if you roll one it counts as a pass) to settle matters, each player rolls there dice first to get a success against their opponent wins. There were a few extremes of luck both bad (black dice with a 4 in 6 chance of success failing three times in a row for someone) and good: 12 rolls on red dice for damage on a ship from a fort’s guns, given the 50/50 odds the player felt confident with his 7 hull hit points on this ship… no 11 successes. In that latter example the player who had delivered the race horse to the governor of Havana decided to help himself to some treasure on the way out, got caught and paid the price. Unfortunately, the crown he stole went down with the ship. Many divers died trying to recover it for the governor.


The game seemed to be well received by the players and was a great start to the year’s calendar.





The Pirate Republic Megagame- the view from the side room.

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.