RogerBW's Blog

Cornish Smuggler 06 August 2014

No room at the boardgame café, so we ended up with some three-sided games at my place. With images; cc-by-sa on everything.

We warmed up with a couple of rounds of Coup. As always, it was short and vicious.

Then the main event, Cornish Smuggler. I picked this up at Essen last year, but hadn't actually got round to playing it before. The rulebook isn't as intuitively laid out as it might be, but I think we got the hang of things fairly quickly.

(Don't ask about the auto white balance. The game really isn't that pink. Neither is the table.)

The important thing to bear in mind during setup, it seems, is your Network markers. You're moving goods from foreign parts to ports in Cornwall, and then overland, and you need to do this via people you can trust. (Or whom you've bribed, in the case of Customs officers. I rather like the small rubber bands that go over the black pegs to indicate who owns that particular Customs man, though they're a little fiddly.)

We spread out fairly quickly, and then the infighting began. We weren't quarrelling over turf, particularly; with cards that affected specific places, we tended to gravitate to particular territories (my opposition both got secret ports, while I was stuck with St Levan). We just pushed the Customs at each other, a lot.

However, I had the Witch of St Levan, who could steal cargo off any ship that passed the crucial sea area off that bit of coast, and that's a bit that every ship has to go through. It's a remarkably powerful card, though I paid for it: she has zero reputation, which is what one needs to get influence markers, which in turn are the currency used to pay for most actions, so I was doing less per turn than the other players. In the end, she didn't actually steal any cargo at all; she just charged a toll for allowing ships to pass unmolested.

In the end I took a fairly convincing last place, but I still had fun with the game. There's obvious eurogame styling in place, most plainly in the customs track which changes a variety of parameters as it progresses, but the game's not purist; there's a lot of randomness in terms of what characters and secret cards come up, which may make some eurogamers uncomfortable, but which I enjoyed because it immediately started to imply what specific strategies could work during this play. It hasn't jumped up my enthusiasm scale the way Firefly did on first play, but I'd definitely be interested in playing this again; I'd recommend that players read the rulebook first, though, as indeed I should have.

In terms of graphic design, I think it would be helpful if the character cards listed "place a network marker" (which you do automatically when you acquire any character), or indeed separated a character's gold (cost) from reputation (gained). Still, a quick-reference sheet might help remind one of all this, and even more of all the unrelated things that happen when smuggled goods are actually sold (take cash, move the closest customs officer towards the sale, advance the gold wheel and the customs track, place new customs officers if necessary, deal a secret card to each other player). I'll print off one of the reference sheets from BGG for future use.

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  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:21pm on 06 August 2014

    Your auto white balance seems worse than my Olympus E-M10. I've recently been shooting Raw+JPEG and while photography fans talk about using the Raw to fix exposure faults, I find I'm using it almost exclusively to correct the white balance. The camera's auto exposure works a lot better than the auto white balance.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 01:24pm on 06 August 2014

    As you've seen elsewhere on the blog, the white balance seems to work most of the time; perhaps it's the halogen incandescent lamps that confuse it.

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