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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

HIS - Ottomans - Strategy - Piracy

Piracy is the Ottoman's "special VP ability".  As abilities go, it is useful but with serious drawbacks.  It is best to gain at least a few points in Piracy.  Furthermore, piracy threatens three of the other players in the game with possibly ill effects, leaving only the Protestants and England untouched.
Must be played by Winter of Turn 3

When Does Piracy Begin

Piracy begins when the Barbary Pirates mandatory card comes into play.  At its earliest this is Turn 1.  At the latest is the end of Turn 3.  Its entry into the game should have no impact on the plans for Turn 1 (see Ottoman's First Turn).

I believe Turn 2 or 3 is an ideal time for Barbary Pirates to enter play.  This gives the Ottoman player plenty of time to Capture Belgrade on Turn 1.  Turn 2 should be spend either consolidating territory, removing the Knights of St. John.  Preferably, the Ottoman player should do both on Turn 2, leaving Turn 3 as the big decision point as to where to proceed.  More on that in the next article.

Drawbacks of Piracy

Piracy comes with two drawbacks.  The first is the temptation to dive into piracy if it arrives early on Turn 1.  Many players dealt Piracy on Turn 1 will play it right away.  It is tempting to begin immediately spending CP on Piracy or build corsairs.  The Ottoman player must overcome this temptation and instead concentrate on taking Belgrade.  Yes, the gain of Algiers immediately gives the Ottoman's an extra card, but as long as Belgrade remains in Hungarian hands, the Hapsburg doesn't need to worry about a possible attack from the Ottomans, and one of the goals is to keep the Hapsburg player worried about as many things as possible.

The second draw back of piracy is its unpredictability of results.  When it is successful, the target of the piracy gets to determine the rewards: a random card draw, target loses a naval unit, or Ottoman's gain a victory point.  The Victory Point option is most common, until the chart begins to reach high levels, then the player's would rather lose naval units.  This means timing and target of Piracy can be critical to success.
Julia Gonzaga
Italian Noblewoman who famously
avoided capture by Barbarossa

Timing Piracy

Ignoring Julia Gonzaga, who gives a 1 VP bonus if Piracy is successful, timing who and when to pirate can be critical.  Ideally, the target of Piracy should be a player who has no remaining cards available to give should the Piracy be successful.  Furthermore, if the player has no adjacent naval units, then every successful piracy will yield a VP.

France makes a great target for this type of approach, particularly since the French player only has a single naval unit and is likely to have fewer cards than you.  The Papacy makes another great target as they have few cards beyond their two home cards, which they can't give you.  If possible, threaten the French with Piracy if they don't yield to your demands during the Diplomatic phase.  The same tactic may work with the Papacy, but be careful as you will need them to keep the Protestants from running away with the game.

The Hapsburgs is the other, and the most likely, target of piracy.  Your piracy on them will be a major threat.  They are much more difficult to threaten, however, as they can easily force you into a land war rather than a sea war.  Furthermore, many of their forts and sea units can actively work against your piracy and force the loss of corsairs, which must be replaced.  When push comes to shove, you must yield your naval activities to defend against a Land War.

Max of 10 VP from Piracy
At the cost of 2 CP, plus cost to move and build the corsairs
Diplomatic Status

You may commit piracy without declaring war.  Ideally, you remain at peace (not at war) with all players, leaving you free to commit piracy.  If, however, war is declared against you, focus your corsairs against your wartime enemy.  Your wartime enemy always gets to attack your pirate ships, even when they are not the target of the piracy.  Gaining a VP can become an expensive option if this is not followed.  In the worst situation, Hapsburg and Papacy both declare war on you.  In this scenario, expect to lose corsairs at an alarming rate.

How Many VP from Piracy?

In general, I believe most Ottoman players will receive around 5 points from Piracy.  Any more and players will begin to destroy their naval units rather than give out VP.  Many players will also keep a card in their hand which is "not great" or is unimportant to their plans in case they are pirated.  Thus, they lose little of value while costing the Ottoman's 2 or 3 CP.

Success Rate of Piracy

Piracy has a good success rate, as long as the Ottoman is rolling at least 2 dice.  The odds of success are detailed below:

Escorts


The Ottoman player must be prepared to lose and replace corsairs.  The Ottoman player should expect an enemy "At War" with them to engage their fleet.  If the fleet does not have an escort of regular naval ships, expect to lose large portions of the fleet.

Conclusion

Piracy is an important Ottoman ability but not to the point everything else should be ignored.  Piracy should complement the player's strategy, not become the sole means of gaining VP.  When combined properly with land assaults, piracy forces the enemy to choose between building expensive ships or confront the land units.  I rarely see the Ottoman's gain their full potential of 10 VP from Piracy, but it can constitute a respectable 5 or 6 VP.


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