Earlier this month my sleep schedule synched up properly to let me go play some board games at Sara's. I finally got a chance to learn Navegador which is a game played in an event at WBC. It's a game with the 'rondel' mechanic where the set of actions you can choose from this turn is based on what action you took last turn. The game we played was a 3 player game with 2 people learning but it felt really unbalanced and I've been trying to figure out if the game just doesn't work with 3 people or if we just missed something tactically that could have been done to balance things back out.
The core money making mechanic of the game is the market action which exists in 2 spots on the rondel. When you go to the market you have to choose buy or sell for each of 3 different goods in the game. If you choose to sell a good type then all of your colonies of that type pay out money. If you choose to buy a good type then all of your factories of that type pay out money. The amount of money is based on the position of those goods on the market and goes up and down as different amounts of those goods are sold and bought. Colonies are worth 20-60 for sugar, 30-70 for gold, and 40-80 for spice. Factories are worth 20-60 regardless of type.
It feels like what this means is you don't want both factories and colonies of the same type. You can buy or sell, not both, and even at the lowest value for gold you're getting 30 from a colony. Buy a sugar factory and even if it's also worth the lowest value you're getting 50 from both. 60 from a gold factory is better than 50, but only a little bit, and only in the edge case where gold and sugar are both set to be terrible for you.
It also feels like this means you want to be doing the opposite of the person before you. If they're buying gold and selling sugar then right after they go to the market the values will encourage selling gold and buying sugar. The first person to get a crack at that changed market is the person who plays immediately next.
We played our game based off of those two axioms. Patrick went first and explored gold. I went second and explored sugar. Sara went third and bought some boats. Patrick and I bought colonies of the appropriate types and now Sara had to choose where to go with her double movement action. Moving into sugar colonies immediately after a sugar colony player seems wrong because you'll never get a good sugar sell action and because sugar is worth 10 less across the board. Moving into gold on the other hand boxes me into gold factories (only I want to be the third person to buy gold colonies) and she set herself up to be the person who gets the good gold sell action after my gold buy action. No one varied from there with both Sara and Patrick getting gold colonies and sugar factories while I got sugar colonies and gold factories. (Spice colonies come into the game a lot later than gold and sugar do, so spice factories start off terrible, but Patrick's plan was to get the spice colonies as soon as he could.)
I ended up winning pretty handily because my market actions were always awesome. I consistently got maximum value from my colonies and factories while the other players sometimes got average value and sometimes got minimum value. Sara came second because she got most of the average value actions due to going right after me. Patrick came a distant third.
We tried to figure out some ways to shake things up, but they all seemed bad. Being the first to commit to a type of colony felt like it was going to set the table up to screw you since lefty was going to go the other way and righty was going to copy you. So maybe no one should ever buy a colony? Or push hard for spice?
One thing I've been mulling over is ignoring factories entirely. Could Patrick have gone for both sugar and gold colonies? Or could he have abandoned his gold colony and gone for both sugar and gold factories? I feel like throwing away your 30 bucks per market action from your first gold colony is probably wrong so double factories is bad. And cloning righty is bad. So you have to go for both colony types as the only viable course of action. But is it viable enough? No matter who you marketplace after you're going to get one average sale and one bad sale. You probably need to grab the cheap spice factory too and rake in a third bad sale? Or maybe you actually race for spice and go all three colonies?
In our game we all went a split of colonies and factories but the way scoring happens in the game you're actually encouraged to focus on one or the other. You get to take actions to score 1 point per colony or 1 per factory. Going all in on colonies means your point action is better? And then you can just skip the building action on the rondel (or use it strictly on shipyards or churches) and focus on just getting more and more colonies. Your market action is going to be worse than the other people at the table because you're duplicating parts of both other players and their market actions are going to be better because they each have an exclusive element, but maybe the trade of more efficient point actions for worse market actions is worth it? Certainly the way the game actually played out with giving one player both exclusive market actions was game losing so this can't be worse!
I do want to play this game again to see...