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Backstory - Mint Tin Pirates

Min Tin Pirates

It's as simple as two pirate galleons crossing paths in the high seas. Classic 16th century Spanish galleons as often depicted in pirate movies. But they could be French Corsairs or any ship you like (even steampunk ships).

The ships are about 10 yards apart. A warm breeze blows and gentle sea swells are interrupted by an occasional abrupt wave. I think back to when I was 10 and my father had a 32-foot red snapper fishing boat and we'd go out in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast.

The 1600s saw the first European use of the hand mortar and cast iron bomb (grenade). I think of a hollow cannon ball filled with black powder with a fuse. These weapons weren't sophisticated like modern grenades and their damage could vary greatly. Similar to something used by Wile E. Coyote.

I imagine 12-pound cannons on these ships. A ship wouldn’t have many 12-pound cannons because of the tremendous weight of the cannon balls and the cannon itself; this was an important factor for sailing speed. Eight-pound cannons were more common. Twelve-pound cannons take more black powder and are slower to load but they pack a huge punch.

The flintlock pistols are single shot weapons, and it wasn't uncommon for a pirate to have several of them. I picture a pirate shooting these and handing them to someone hiding below the rails to reload as quickly as possible. That could result in poorly packed shots and maybe even the ball rolling out!

DerringerAs a young teenager, my dad gave me a .50 caliber percussion cap brass derringer replica (exactly like this photo). He never intended me to actually shoot it but I carved out an oak bullet mold, melted lead tire weights, and made a dozen balls for it! I somehow obtained percussion caps (these came out after flintlocks and work in the same manner), some black powder, and wadding (this holds the powder and ball in place).

I shot at an aluminum pie tin and quickly saw how incredibly inaccurate a non-rifled pistol is! Rifling makes a bullet spin as it travels down the barrel and makes it fly straight.

The knife, or throwing dirk in this case, is a balanced knife designed to be thrown with some accuracy. Again, as a kid, I had some throwing knives (what the heck kind of environment was I in! sheesh!). They were small knives and not like today's tactical knives, more like carnival sideshow ones. I laced leather shoelace handles onto them and used to imagine I was a pirate (I was probably doing this when I was 10 to 12 years old!). o_O

Throwing a knife to hit a target isn't so hard, but having the point hit, and not the handle takes lots of practice and some luck. Imagine doing that on a rocking boat with some sea spray and you’d have to be a mega pirate to hit anything!

So now you see my perspective on these weapons, which is a combination of research mixed with a little naive experience.

In Mint Tin Pirates, one card represents that you have the weapon and the second card represents it's ready (ready to light for the bombs, loaded for the cannons or guns, and sharp for the knives).

The card pair represents a weapon that's ready for use.

The dice roll represents the luck inherent to the weapon and the conditions at hand (waves, sea spray, wind).

A bomb fuse could fall out, you could miss with your throw, the enemy might kick it away, or they could move out of the way.

The cannon could be packed too tightly and blow up, it could miss with the pitch of a wave, or have too little or too much powder, or have wet powder.

Plymouth GinNaval trivia: The British Royal Navy traditionally sailed with Plymouth Navy Strength Gin (57% versus 41.2%). It's said that even if this gin spilled on gunpowder, the powder would still burn!

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!

Like cannons, pistols are very inaccurate at more than a few feet and, in the heat of battle, reloading is sloppy at best.

Cannons have high odds of success (wide range of dice values) but it's devastating when they miss and they take longer to untie, roll back, clean, reload, roll forward, re-tie, aim, and then fire (thus there are fewer in the deck).

Bombs are broadly damaging in their explosion, so luck favours them a bit but not as much as cannons.

Knives and pistols could, conceivably, be in good supply and more accessible, but their accuracy stinks, so the odds are lower for success.

Now onto more imagination - Davy Jones' Locker and the treason card.

That's pretty much pure Caribbean voodoo and in staying with the pirate meme. Davy Jones' Locker is the watery grave a fallen pirate is condemned to but, as in Hollywood movies, there are ways to get those pirates back! But that has a lot of unknowns and needs luck to pull off your evil voodoo ways.

The treason card - there are only two in the deck because they can really turn the tide of the game. But I thought they should be there because a pirate might think the riches of the other ship is better. And, honestly, how much loyalty do pirates have?

I hope that sheds some light on the attacks and the luck found in Mint Tin Pirates.

In the heat of a sea battle with old tech weapons - luck abounds! But you can still play strategically and, as some reviewers have said, the strategy can be deep, but that’s all in your hands. =)

Now about that gold and the ghost!

Brett from our local game design meetup said I needed something for snake eyes and he wanted a kraken to be released! Snake eyes is rare with only a 2.8% chance of being rolled. I did want something special to happen for doubles, for an event that can be seen as good luck smiling down on a band of misfit pirates.

What could that luck be? A gold treasure maybe? It adds something to fidget with while playing and does favour the bearer with more resources in the form of an extra card.

The pirate ghost is a nod to Scooby Doo! And helps with a potential runaway leader. With such a short play game, a runaway leader isn't a big concern, but that’s a way of addressing it.

As a ghost, I first wanted weapons to not have the same effect—after all, it's a ghost!

But . . . that would mean complicating the already minimal rules. Since it's paranormal, I took creative license and figured that a two-card handicap would help represent the challenges a ghost might face. And it should truly be a last measure.

Oh, another thing about Mint Tin Pirates—the cannon damaging to the ship is a way to keep the game from going too long.

The game is balanced to play, most of the time, without needing to reshuffle the deck.

But if that's too fast, you can play the sea dog variation that Kate and I sometimes do. This almost always needs the discarded cards to be reshuffled and you play each meeple with two positions.

The pirate meeples start in the standing position and lay down when first wounded (the treason card takes a laying down pirate first, if possible). This doubles the numbers of hits you can take. You can also count cannon hits twice by counting down and then back up the damage track.

For me, Mint Tin Pirates is about light and casual play that lets me be part of the surroundings and chat with Loco Coco's wait staff and answer "Yes!" when they ask if I want guacamole on the side! =)

What's next? Mint Tin Pirates: Pizza Party Edition? Maybe . . .

Six player, big hinged tin, an island with treasure, and coves for ship repairs!

Form alliances, betray others, and be ye a scurvy dog!

Mint Tin Pirates