Uncharted Seas: Pre-Game Treaty Round & Diplomacy House rules


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From casual perusal of the download section on each faction on the Spartan Games website, there’s been some work done on the fantasy background fluff to Uncharted Seas.  I haven’t really checked it out until recently. Sadly, I think a lot of what has been written to add more story detail has also added needless complexity to a simple, fun, and wonderful fantasy naval skirmishing game, but that’s the direction Spartan Games seems to want to go with the mythic arc of this world, so one needs must shrug and move onward.

I’ve been running Uncharted Seas games since the game was first published. One element that would characterize most of the games that I have run has been multi-faction naval engagements, and  the players’ habit of negotiate alliances in a multi-sided engagement game.  It’s only human nature, and I don’t have a problem with it, per se. Players will seek to establish relationships (albeit temporary ones) to protect their flanks and even to the point of providing mutual support when entering combat. When I first ran Uncharted Seas back at my 2009 Fantasy Gaming camp, I told the children present: “Remember two things. 1) This is NOT the Warhammer universe. Your assumptions must NOT be driven by Warhammer histories. and 2) Stop making treaties in advance. Everyone is equal. You’re all at war with each other”  Neither one of these assumptions really easy to enforce– and it took a lot of effort to get them to stop “making bargains” based on a “Warhammer-centric” view o f the world before entering combat. They all wanted to make a deal with the guy to either side and then take on the alleged ancestral enemy across the table from them. I’ve noticed this mindset taking hold of even adult players.

I really don’t mind deal brokering, but I insist on two things.  It can’t happen during the game turns, as a battle has been joined and boats are in the water duking it out.  Therefore, all potential deals need to be brokered before the first combat result is rolled, in something I call the Treaty Round.  Secondly, I’m sorry, the diplomacy has to make sense.  I refuse to believe that a Shroud Mage fleet would assist an Iron Dwarf fleet, because I’ve read the background, and I know the antipathy between the two factions runs deep.  At this stage, I think it is better to not fight the game diplomats, and instead, channel the inclination into a series of guidelines for a little pre-game diplomacy.

After a long slog through the background fluff pieces in the downloads available on the Spartan Games Uncharted Seas website (and a mighty long slog it was!), I have created the following set of relationships based on hints, assumptions and statements in each faction’s background material:

Uncharted Seas Treaty Chart Predispositons

Predispositions between Races

This chart reflects how the races view each other between battles, how they are per-disposed towards each other.   HATRED is reserved for races that appear to be hereditary enemies from the fluff material.  One example of my reasoning: The First Edition rules hinted that the Dragon Lords and Thaniras Elves might be related to each other, though now it appears that language has been mitigated to something more neutral.  I choose to interpret this as a dysfunctional family relation– the Dragon Lords are disdainful of the notion they are related to the Elves and the Elves loathe the notion that they are related to the Dragon Lords.  Likewise, some races traditionally have worked together or worked for the same boss, and are CORDIAL with each other.  Others have had little prior contact with each other before the Old World races entered into the Uncharted Seas, and are INDIFFERENT.  Some have hired each other as mercenaries in the past and can work together if needed, but aren’t exactly friendly.  These are WARY.  Some have fought in the past and are encroaching on each others territory, and thus DISLIKE each other.  Some races, particularly Orcs and Pirates, may be motivated by sheer CHAOS and don’t really form lasting antipathy or cordiality to other races.

Ranking

These diplomacy predispositions are in an descending order.  Except Chaos, which isn’t structured.

  1. Cordial
  2. Indifferent
  3. Wary
  4. Dislike
  5. Hatred
  • (Chaos is outside the ranking order)

What this means for Combat

These assumptions hold BEFORE A TREATY IS AGREED TO: If two forces are on the table with a HATRED condition between them, they will seek each other out as preferred enemies, disdaining other combats.  If two forces are on the table with a DISLIKE condition between them, they will seek each other out but would not avoid other combats.   If two forces are WARY with each other, it is left to the circumstances and predilections of the players present, and the same response holds for INDIFFERENCE.  If two players are CORDIAL to each other they will support each other in a multi faction battle as allies.  CHAOTIC factions will attack anyone they have a chaotic relationship with, as conditions dictate.

Pre-Game Treaty Round

At the onset of a game, and ONLY THEN, the players may attempt a treaty round.  This the one opportunity to influence these pre-disposition relationships in the game by making an agreement (a Treaty) that can alter these relationships for the duration of the game.

The Treaty must be a simple language, binding agreement between two sides and only two sides.  It must reference either attacking or supporting two parties, and have only one conditional clause.  Examples: “I won’t attack you if you don’t attack me, for the rest of the game”  “I’ll help you in all attacks versus the Dragon Lords if you do the same for me when I’m fighting the Bone Griffons”.

A treaty round is only five minutes long.  The treaty must be proposed and concluded in the space of five minutes.

Treaties are concluded with dice rolls.  Players start with a Diplomacy score of 10.  One player rolls 2D6, consults the table above and adjusts the dice roll:

  • The roll automatically fails if either race HATES each other.  No deal possible.
  • The roll adjusts -5 for DISLIKE on either or both sides.
  • The roll adjusts -2 for WARY on either or both sides
  • The roll doesn’t adjust at all for INDIFFERENCE.
  • The roll adjusts +5 for CORDIALITY on either or both sides.
  • In the case of CHAOS (mostly for the orc raiders and pirates) a third dice is rolled, if is high (4-6), then the roll adjusts +3.  If it is low (1-3), then the roll adjusts -3.

Scoring:

If the adjusted roll is 15 or higher, then a deal is possible and is binding throughout the battle.

If the adjusted roll is 5 or lower, then the predisposition between races decreases one point (example: DISLIKE becomes HATRED).

Only one treaty round may be intitated per player per game.  It can’t be renegotiated once the game starts.  Treaties represents pre-combat agreements that are binding BEFORE fleets sail into battle, and cannot be changed in the midst of battle.

A player may opt to have no treaty rounds with anyone, and just sail into combat.  That is his option, but the dictates of pre-dispositions (see table and combat) still hold force.

Good luck with this, and please contact me with feedback about how you like the idea.

Uncharted Seas

Image by tim ellis via Flickr

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5 responses to “Uncharted Seas: Pre-Game Treaty Round & Diplomacy House rules

  1. Dewey LaRochelle

    I still don’t think you can stop players from agreeing to not shoot at each other, even if for a few turns, even if I am just really trying to get my fleet into a better firing position and my gullible opponent falls for it. I have had the same things happen in a big Viking game. These are people I don’t play with often so I have no regrets in making a temporary cease fire and then plastering them when they walk into the trap. Happens all the time in real life. Heck, even the Germans and the Russians managed to have short cease fires during their disagreements. They seldom last.

  2. Dewey LaRochelle

    And all I am thinking while the opponent is agreeing to not shoot me unless I shoot them first is SUCKER!

  3. It’s just an idea. If it’s clumsy, I’ll abandon it. It’s really mostly for gaming camp, which I’m running this summer. Children crave structure, gamers crave rules.

  4. Dewey LaRochelle

    I’ll see if Gar falls for the same trap as in August on Saturday!

  5. he’s hard bitten and cynical now.. and knows the ways of man…