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I played my first game last night with my son and we had a blast even though we really didn't have a good understanding of the rules until we were almost finished. I'm really looking forward to our next game.

In this game there are non-player captains (NPCs) that may engage in combat with player-controlled ships. Combat decisions for the NPC are decided by the player(s) not engaged in that combat as described in the following rule.

NPCs in combat are controlled by another player with an interest in doing his or her best to secure victory. If there are any issues over who gets to control an NPC, then the player to the left of the player fighting the NPC controls it.

In the first sentence, does secure victory refer to winning the game, sinking the player ship at all costs, fleeing a losing battle, or other?

For example, suppose player A is controlling an NPC in a battle vs. player B. Player A might want to avoid sinking player B because player A wants to attack player B on their next turn to gain a glory (victory) point. This seems like a gamey tactic that goes against the spirit of the rules. What do you think?

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This is quite a controversial question that has already been extensively discussed on BGG [1][2]. The general consensus is that you should play the NPC as if you were the NPC captain and it was your own ship, even to the detrimental of your own captain. Examples:

  • The NPC neither plays no politics nor it has any knowledge of the scoring board. You should try to sink it even if that means letting another player win.
  • Boarding "should" only occur when the NPC is "sure" that they can win. Otherwise, if you just roll for boarding without good chances, just to let the human player inflict damage or escape, then you are not trying "hard enough" to win.
  • Remember that the official rules state that an NPC can only try to flee if either their cannons or their crew are less than the respective stat of the human player. Therefore, it's perfectly fine to try to flee at that point, albeit should the NPC be on the verge of sinking the human player, then such a decision may be controversial.

Controlling the NPC is, overall, a delicate situation. In a single phrase, it can be summarized as do your best to sink/board the enemy ship, even if it means going against your own captain (you were planning to attack that player) or letting a third player win.

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I read that as "to secure victory [for the NPC]", as opposed to some gamey out-of-character motivation such as you imagined for Player A.

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