2 Player and Turn Order Variants
There are some unofficial variants for Scalawag! that I wanted to share, some of which I mentioned at the KublaCon demo. The game as defined by the rules is how I would recommend you learn to play, but here are a few other options to spice things up once you are familiar with the core game.
There are two variants that affect turn order; both adding to play time and increasing the chaos dramatically. They should only be used for games with 5 or more players.
1) At the start of a round, shuffle the Ship Flag Cards used to determine the seating positions and turn over the top card to determine which player should take their turn. Once that player completes their turn, turn over the next Ship Flag Card and so on.
This variant adds a considerable amount of luck to the game, but doesn't add too much to the play time. Some fun tension is created each time a Ship Flag Card is rolled to see who gets to act.
2) At the start of a round, shuffle the Ship Flag Cards used to determine the seating positions and deal out a new seating arrangement, requiring the players at the table to move to a new location with their Ship Mat, tokens, and cards. The first Ship Flag Card dealt is the first player to take their turn for that round, followed by others in clockwise order.
This variant adds to the play time significantly (rearranging seats) and increases the luck, but really adds an interesting twist with the new adjacency relationships that will be created each round. It also works great with Allegiance Play, as the hidden partnerships have a better opportunity to help each other as their positions shift about.
This variant provides an additional mechanic to offset the advantage that would be gained by being the first player to act each round.
At the game start, a game of English, Spanish, Pirate (ESP) is played to determine the first player position for that round, using the Allegiance Cards following the rules of rock-paper-scissors (English beats Spanish, Spanish beats Pirate, Pirate beats English).
For the game start only, matching Allegiance results cause the players to play another game of ESP until a winner is determined.
In later rounds, each player will secretly bid 0, 1, or 2 Compass Points from their own supply (if they have them) prior to playing ESP. The player bidding the most Compass Points (ties in favor of the current first player) will also win at ESP on a matching Allegiance result (e.g. English vs. English). All Compass Points bid are returned to the common supply, regardless of the ESP outcome.
The overall result of this added mechanic is that the first player position for each round generally stays the same once it is obtained (the current first player winning ESP outright, or with matching Allegiance results). The player in the second position can steal the advantage away with a bid of Compass Points at the right time, or bluff the current first player into spending Compass Points to maintain their advantage.
The bidding of Compass Points each round really embraces the fiction of the two warships maneuvering to gain the upper hand in the battle. Being caught without Compass Points prior to the bid leaves a player vulnerable, so more cagey spending should occur throughout the game.