Th' C-"ARR!"-ds

As I mentioned earlier, there are 322 cards in 7th Sea: No Quarter. But 5 of those are the 5 Seas, which don't really count as cards, per se, as they act as more of a "game board." Of the remaining cards, 117 are Crew and Ships, which leaves a nice, round 200 Actions, Adventures, and Attachments. If you've played any collectible card game with "character" cards before, you know that nothing is more important than ensuring that the characters (Crew) you choose complement those "activity" cards you use--no items that no one in your deck can use, for instance. At any rate, I view the Crew and the other cards as two halves of a whole, as one must usually consider a clump of "activities" in conjunction with each of several groups of "characters," looking for that parfait mélange. I first shall consider the "activities," and the Crew on the following page.

It is necessary, when attempting to understand a new CCG, to not only be familiar with the rules, but also with the cards. The rules define how the cards interact, but it is the cards themselves that define the possibilities within a game. Very little occurs in 7th Sea without some kind of card play--just movement and combat. Only card diversity determines how important cannon attacks and boardings are to the game. Diversity provides the alternatives which allow a player to attempt some kind of tertiary strategy--surprise by wackiness--but overzealous card development could accidentally render cannon attacks and boardings ineffective against the newer card-based strategies. That, of course, would be futile and tragic, so erring towards caution is wisest. It is infinitely easier for a company to release a new card than to un-release it after it's found to be broken or flawed.

This last cautionary note is decidedly not the case with "No Quarter." I will not accuse "No Quarter" of being dull, alluding as it does to many of the piratical standards one hopes for: the Romantic Captive who keeps your Captain a little more, well... swashbuckling; the booty plunder hinted at by Adventures; application of prosthetic hooks to record Hit absorption... 7th Sea does capture the mood while following through on the brilliantly minimalist mechanics it set for itself. However, while I'll acknowledge there wasn't much space left to work with, I am just a little bit disappointed to see there wasn't slightly more "coloring outside the lines" with the card development. If anything, the designers of 7th Sea were overly-conscious of the need to create a balanced environment, and so filled "No Quarter's" card sheets with foundation-layer cards, leaving only a few slots for the niftier stuff.

There are 200 total Actions, Adventures, and Attachments in "No Quarter." Of these 200 cards, a little more than half (107) are Actions, a little more than quarter (57) are Attachments, and the remaining (36) are Adventures. I broke all of these cards down into eight categories, based on the cards' primary effects. (I still have the list, of course, if someone out there finds my numbers repugnant and wishes an accounting.) Before entering into the categorical descriptions, I'll remind the reader that discussion of Action, Adventure, and Attachment cards' use appears in the game document.

Categories

---Cannon Attacks (6.5%)
---Boarding Attacks (16%)
---Hits (14%)
---Skill Enhancers (34%)
---Skill Foils (6%)
---Tacking & Un (6%)
---Card Advantage (6%)
---Miscellaneous (11.5%)
pie chart

Cannon Attacks


Surprisingly few of the cards deal exclusively with cannon attacks, so I'll describe them in some detail. Of the 13 cannon attack-related cards, 5 give alternate methods of creating a cannon attack, 5 enhance cannon attacks, and 3 provide defense against cannon attacks. We should not overlook cards which enhance Cannon skill when considering cannon attacks, however--these are covered in the
Skill Enhancers section.

There are three "Volley" cards, their strength increasing with their rarity, which allow you to combine several Crew's Cannon into a single massed attack. The size of the attack is set, so if you tack more Cannon than is required, it goes to waste--on the other hand, Volleys provide a few bonus Hits. Two other rares exist in this sub-category: Crossing the T works similarly to a Volley, but causes damage when you tack for Cannon or Sailing skill, making it a popular card. No Escape! lets you slip in an extra move right before a cannon attack.

Five cards received my "enhances a cannon attack" stamp, almost all of them rare: "Again, Boys!" and "Fire the Chase Guns!" both allow one cannon attack to follow on another's heels, but AB generally requires a third gunman to tack for its play, while FtCG simply requires that the first Cannon attack used at least 4 Cannon. Chain Shot and Grape Shot are also similar to each other, each changing the skill the opponent uses to absorb Hits to Sailing and Cannon, respectively--both likely to be an unwelcome surprise. The fifth, The Pact of the Crimson Rogers, is actually a fixed-rarity card which comes in the Crimson Rogers starter deck, and can boost a cannon attack by a couple of Hits.

Three cards exist specifically to deal with cannon attack defense (also see the cards for absorbing Hits in general): The rare Evasive Course reduces a cannon attack by 5 Hits, but costs Sailing to play. The remaining two are both common. Quick Tack reduces cannon attacks by 3 Hits. Misfire! costs an Adventuring point and only reduces attacks by one Hit, but the attacker suffers that lost Hit.


Boarding Attacks


As the second-largest category with 32 cards, boarding has received ample attention in "No Quarter." Boarding is harder to pull off than cannon attacks, but when done well can be much deadlier. Only 2 cards provide help in initiating boarding, but 19 exist to enhance the boarding attacks themselves, and 11 help in defense against boardings. Of course,
Swashbuckling-enhancing cards should not be overlooked, any more than general Hit-absorbing cards.

The two cards referred to above, High Seas Boarding and Ambush Boarding (common and rare, respectively) are quite similar. HSB increases the normal cost to initiate and to cancel boarding each by 3 Sailing. AB takes the idea further by adding 6 Sailing points to the initiation cost and forbidding cancellation via the normal method, though other cards will still work against it.

The cards that I think of as the boarding attack enhancers are mostly actions and attachments. Many of the actions are played in lieu of making a boarding attack when given the opportunity in a round, and either increase the damage of future boarding attacks (e.g. "Prepare for Boarding!") or directly inflict Hits (Sniper). There also exist ways to untack a Crew when boarding starts (Grappling Gun), increase damage inflicted by a Crew member (Hidden Knife), force an opponent to discard cards (Disarmed!), and so on. The choices here are pretty diverse.

There also are several cards offering help with boarding defense. "Cut the Ropes!" causes a boarding to end prematurely (before both players are willing to pass). Others reduce damage suffered, like Near Miss, A Hero's Courage, or Mr. Briggs--a parrot (Attachment) who can be discarded to absorb all hits from a single boarding attack. Most essential to the sailor who wishes to avoid boardings altogether are Steering Clear, Hiding in the Reefs, and Last Second Cannon Volley, all of which cancel a boarding attempt. SC is free but prone to cancellation, where HitR and LSCV have costs but also inflict Hits on the would-be attacker.


Hits: Inflicting and Avoiding


Cannon and boarding attacks are important simply because they inflict Hits; Hits are important because they are what kill Crew; killing Crew is important because that's how you win the game! It is not, then, very surprising that there also exist ways to inflict Hits without making a cannon or boarding attack, and that there are cards to help deal with Hits inflicted on you no matter what the source. There are 28 such cards: 13 which avoid Hits, and 15 which inflict them.

There are several Actions which become Crew attachments once they've been played, like Eyepatch, Peg Leg, and Hook. There is a parallel group of cards, like Syrneth Crystal Eye, Artifact Leg, and Scarlet Hook of Madness, which operate in the same way but can attach only to your Captain. (This is relevant, as no Crew member can have more than one attachment pertaining to the same body part!) These are fun ways to reduce damage, but it's mostly the rarer Captain's versions, which impart nice abilities, that are actually worth using--the "prosthetics" don't usually absorb as many Hits as some of the other cards. Betrayal has a whopping price tag, but allows damage to be redirected to any other player. And Unexpected Turn of Events reverses damage when inflicted by a player in another Sea--an attack technique we'll be reading about in the very next paragraph!

Many of the cards that directly inflict Hits are Sea Attachments, which you can leave behind in one Sea to interfere with your opponent's sailing: generally they can be tacked to inflict a small number of Hits in their Sea, and an opponent can tack a slightly larger amount of Cannon skill to sink the attachments. Two varieties of this are Waylaid and Here There Be Monsters. There also are Actions along the same vein, like Mermaids and Hole in the Hull. There is enough of a variety of cards here to provide for a pretty solid "half-strategy" of direct damage, and it's nice that it's partially implemented in such a way that an opponent can plan a response to the events before being affected.


Skill Enhancers


By far, the largest group is cards which enhance Crew's skill: fully one-third (68) of the non-Crew/Ship/Sea cards exist for this purpose. There is at least one Action, Attachment, and Adventure to enhance each of the 5 skills. Actually, there are at least 5 Adventures for each skill, one for each Sea. Being the central mechanic of the game, it is only appropriate that skills receive a large portion of the basic card base's attention. Incidentally, out of these 68 cards, 13 enhance Cannon, 9 enhance Sailing, 11 enhance Adventure, 20 enhance Influence, 10 enhance Swashbuckling, and 5 are polymorphous.

Each skill has a related common Action card which provides an additional point of skill on a one-shot basis, as Narrow Escape does for Adventuring. There are slightly larger enhancements available for most skills, though they usually will require some other skill be paid. And several cards, like "Target Their Powder Room!" and Direct Hit!, exist to further increase Cannon production, whose most obvious use is in cannon attacks. Another Action, Carousing, produces an extra point in any skill, but requires you to discard something from your hand.

A good, normative example of the standard Attachment would be Master of the Tops, which costs Influence to play and gives a Crew +1 Sailing. Though better, less common enhancement is also available, each skill has a card more or less like MotT. There are also Sea Attachments which operate similarly, but are playable using non-Influence skills (usually Adventuring or Swashbuckling). The Sea Attachments are vulnerable to your opponents if they come near. There are also cards like Fine Galley, which counts against your Ship's Crew Maximum and can tack to provide an extra point of skill (like Carousing), and Cat O' Nine Tails (which can only be attached to "Villainous" Crew), which similarly boosts another's skill by 3 points, but then discards the whipped Crew.

Typically, an Adventure will cost Adventuring (less in one particular Sea) and improve some skill by 3 points (though Swashbuckling Adventures' rewards are a little more conservative). And for each skill, there are a few adventures that are above average in their costs and rewards, though these are no different in other ways. Consider that there is at least one Adventure for every skill & Sea combination. La Boca, the central of the five Seas, is the favored location of only one Adventure per skill, and none among them are exceptional. The outer Seas provide more variety, with the Trade Sea and Forbidden Sea (numbers 1 and 4 in the sequence, respectively) being the homes of the biggest standard Adventures. And even though only one of them, the Cutlass of Command, actually applies to this section, I'll mention that there are 5 "Artifact" Adventures--one for each Sea--which each provide more unusual benefits to their bearer; all of the other Adventures are standard skill Enhancers.


Skill Foils


There are considerably fewer cards designed to foil another's use of a skill than to enhance skill use--only 12. Of these, 6 impede Sailing in some way, and the other half impede the other 4 skills. What these cards will do is typically something like the uncommon Bad Powder, the only Cannon foil: it causes someone to produce 0 Cannon instead of what they were supposed to, costs an Adventuring point to play, and can be cancelled by more of the same from the victim player. Another common theme is illustrated by Scurvy: it costs mucho Adventuring, can be cancelled by less, and causes a Ship's Crew to be -1 Swashbuckling for the turn (to a minimum of 1, since it'd be rather catastrophic if several Crew were to become unable to absorb any Hits). The goodly variety of anti-Sailing goes well with the fact that Sailing is inherently important in every game, since the initiative always goes to the player with the highest total Sailing skill at the start of the turn--this applies to reaction order as well! Part of a player's quest for naval dominance might as well be obstructing opponents as advancing oneself.


Tacking/Untacking Crew


There is obvious advantage in a card which untacks your card or tacks your opponent's card--you get to do more in a turn, or your opponent gets to do less. But once someone scrapes together a deck that does little more than tinker with everyone else's cards--instead of coming out and fighting!--exasperation must soon follow. Luckily, 7th Sea is in great shape so far: only 12 of the 200 cards are concerned exclusively with tacking and untacking Crew, 7 which tack and 5 which untack.

My favorite thing about untacking is that there are not (yet?) any "free lunch" cards: nothing that simply lets you, by playing a card, untack something else. All of the Crew-untacking cards cost some skill to play, which implicitly tacks another of your Crew (or some alternative resource). Uncommons Quick Reload and Quick Sailing untack a Gunner or Topman ("traits" which appear on some Crew) for Adventuring. The common Wenching untacks anyone but your Captain for Influence. The rare Stirring Speech also untacks any non-Captain, but tacks a Holy or First Mate Crew of yours. The rare Port Master is an Attachment, which allows its bearer--who may only be the Captain of a particular faction--to tack to untack another Crew. As Wenching's cost is equal to that of playing a lower-middling level Crew, untacking Crew isn't likely to be sorely abused. Grappling Gun ought to be remembered here as well (see the Boarding Attacks category, above), though I didn't count it in this category (since it's usable only at a particular time).

Likewise, the cards which tack Crew are diverse in the targets they are allowed; however, they commonly require Adventuring skill to play. Two (The Inquisition and Flashing Swords Inn) are uncommon Sea Attachments which can tack either Villainous or Heroic Crew that pass through. Another is a rare, very narrowly-playable Crew Attachment (it would, at this point, entail at least another rare and an uncommon card), which allows that Crew to tack any non-Captain Crew in the game by tacking. The rest are all Actions, victimizing Crew: with low Swashbuckling, with low Influence, from different factions than their Captain, or on ships with multiple untacked Crew (and no Influence for a counter).


Card Advantage [Draw/Discard]


There is also obvious advantage in cards that let you draw extra cards, or control (in this case, by discarding) your opponent's cards. Again, the game is not over-extended here, with 7 cards conferring a draw advantage and 5 cards causing an opponent's card to be discarded from play. Note that 7th Sea is a game of fixed draw rate (as opposed to one in which the players periodically return to a set hand size), which increases the importance of draw advantages, as well as the cost of discarding cards from your hand.

The draw cards make you work for it in some way. Ancient Maps is an expensive Adventure. Black Heart requires you be a Villainous Captain (i.e. Crimson Rogers, right now) who sinks a Crew. Mad Jack O'Bannon is a Sea Attachment that demands 5 Hits of you whenever used. But there are also less painful methods available, such as Captain's Quarters and Flogging... though, now that I think about it, flogging is generally kind of painful. Nyuk nyuk.

There are only 5 cards which discard cards in play, so here's a list:


Miscellaneous


After codifying the preceding seven categories, we are left with 23 cards that don't form appreciable groups. They are simply miscellaneous cards, either truly unique or heralding an as-yet tentatively developed strategy. A goodly number of the following cards are rare.


1. The Game
2. The Cards
3. The Crew
4. Summary
5. Sample Game