Cornish Smuggler allows players to assume the roles of Smugglers in 18th Century Cornwall. Buying and selling goods for gold while employing a network of local characters, secret knowledge, hidden locations, bribes, dirty tricks and a healthy dose of cunning to evade the attentions of the customs officers and the other players.
When selling goods, players can choose how much to sell them for; making a choice to either increase their reputation and influence in the community by selling cheaply, or maximising their profit by getting the best price possible. An increased reputation allows a player to transport their contraband more easily and evade customs, but to win the game they must have the most gold out of all the other players. However, the higher the price goods are sold for, the stronger the customs forces become…
Smuggling in Cornwall was rarely performed by just one person; rather large swathes of the community were often involved. In Cornish Smuggler, players must build a smuggling network by employing characters; each with a unique ability, cost and affect on a smugglers reputation within the local community.
When smuggling goods, the choice of which goods to buy is key. Players can choose to buy big bulky goods, which are hard to fit on board ship (goods and ships are all different shapes and sizes) or smaller more easily transported goods which are worth far less.
Also, different sized towns will offer different prices for goods. Smaller towns offer a lower price, but with a lower risk. Larger towns offer better prices and allow smugglers to sell more goods, but the risk of do so is (generally) much greater.
The customs forces in Cornish Smuggler will move around the board dependant on what the players do. Landing, moving and selling goods merits their attention although players can also move customs by spending influence or utilising secrets. Luckily all Customs can be bribed meaning that once you've bought them they will remain 'your man' until the end of the game...or until another player pays them more.
Although starting off fairly underfunded and under supported, as the game progresses the Customs Officers will get steadily stronger, harder to bribe and more numerous. As such, it gets harder and harder to smuggle goods effectively, secretly and profitably so each game has a clearly defined end point that is visible to all players
Discovering secret tricks can help a players cause, and there are secret storehouses that can be hired out where you can stash your goods, hiding them from Customs and protecting them from being seized.
There are many possible paths to victory in Cornish Smuggler. Players will have to adapt their strategy to accommodate the actions of the other players, employ the right characters, buy the right goods, discover the right secrets and make the right deals.
This game is about real things that happened to real people in a real place, thus creating a directly relatable experience between 21st Century Cornwall and Cornwall at a time when the community was experiencing significant poverty and exorbitant taxation. As a result, smuggling wasn’t necessarily seen as something that was illegal, but rather as something that was ‘fair game’ and as such was taken with an often light hearted view.
What this game is:
Dodging the Law, employing the local vicar, building an network, discovering and using secrets, renting out the mayor's wine cellar, getting rich, a surprisingly accurate historical representation.
What this game isn't:
Ship racing, firing cannons, being a pirate