Nan o’ War CH13: Debrisbiscuit

By Rutskarn
on Jun 7, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play

So I think I’ve grasped the core strategy behind winning naval battles, if strategy’s not too grandiose a word for “having some bombs.” And now that I’ve got a ship that wasn’t designed for running mail, I’m happy to get past all this fussy tutorial-area low-grade busywork and just get to the horse racing already. I mean, what gives? I’m hours into this 18th century pirate sandbox and I haven’t seen one goddamn racetrack yet.

But oh boy, I sure have been hearing about “the races” from every single Suspicious Man I’ve been to thus far. It is literally the first dialogue I encountered in the game. Like, here’s a small sample of things I learned after I found out that the Caribbean(!)’s secret underground racing circuit was being held in Fort Jacob:

  • Where to hire a crew
  • Where to find jobs
  • How most of my skills work
  • How to sail a ship
  • How to fire a cannon
  • That I have made a terrible mistake
  • What a “hanger” is

So you know what? Let’s see what the fuss is all about. Get ready to watch some nameless awkwardly-costumed NPCs trot around a track and bet imaginary money on the arbitrary outcome, because that is almost certainly what we’re in for. I mean, did they just have a track they used for testing horses and they figured they might as well—

Weevil my biscuits, they actually made a racing minigame. They took a clunky knight simulator and made a clunkier pirate simulator and then threw in a racing minigame. Obviously, we are going to drop everything we’re doing and play the racing minigame.

First I’ll need supplies. As I’ve yet to meet a horse who had the unflappable determination it takes to be a sailor, I have not invested my limited capital in a steed. Fortunately, there’s a gently pre-owned horse dealer in town. So which of these noble beasts will accompany me to victory?

Or we could go with this one.

Like me, she doesn’t look like much. More importantly, and also like me, she has very little objective value. For this reason she is my Huckleberry. Stick with me, kid–we’ll go far, kid. We just won’t go fast. Also, I am probably not going to leave this island with you. In fact, I’d bet on being back here inside of like an hour.

What are the rules, anyhow?

It turns out, pretty straightforward. There’s three races, each race is harder than the last one, and the more races you win the more money you make. Also, while it’s made clear nobody will actually die, fighting the other jockeys is totally permitted. I’m guessing that was always the developer’s plan, but I kinda want to believe someone almost got fired on this hill. “Double-dag-dangit! The rights for 2003 historical drama Seabiscuit were within our grasp, but no, you assholes wanted to make a pirate total conversion of Mount and Blade! And now you want to add combat? Have you even seen the movie Seabiscuit?”

You know, I shouldn’t be surprised if pirates raced at some point in history. I’d even believe they raced horses, like, as the opening ceremony of some epic Bahamian horse barbecue. I’m not sure I believe they ever committed to staking out an illegal racecourse, complete with dangling pennants and bleachers. We are one level of dubious history away from a provocatively-dressed race girl and a side ramp you can jump for a shortcut.

How about we let the actual racers with actual horses take the lead and spend this run checking out the course.

Wow. They really went all out on this location, I gotta hand it to them. They’ve got the distant sails and the lighthouse that fell over in one piece and everything. The effect isn’t “pirate steeplechase” so much as “pirate mini golf,” but it’s something to look at.

And that’s…a bigger ship than I’ve seen so far in the regular game? I think that’s actually part of the track.

“Stefan. Yeah, it’s 3AM, sorry. You know that cluster of rocks at the midway bend of the horse race? I had this idea, and it woke me up, so I need to say it out loud before the magic is gone. So we take our hanging lantern model with the chains and the weird half-assed lattice, then we scale it up like a hundred times, then we take one of our dancing girl models and just throw in there and let her do her thing. No. No, not like she’s a big fire–like the lantern’s a cage. It’s like she’s dancing in a—Stefan. Stefan. Stop squealing. I know it’s a good idea, Stefan. I know it’s a good idea. Stefan, you’re waking my ferrets.”

And yeah. There it is. You know, the funny thing is, I think if I tried that jump with this horse I’d fall straight into the water. I’ll have to catch up some other way! Maybe there’s a treasure chest full of powerups I can ride over! A Cannonball William, perhaps!

You know what? I’ve seen enough. Let’s just take this whole race from the top.

Same horse, same course, same opponents. This time, though, I’ve got a strategy.

Well. Maybe “strategy” is too grandiose a word.

Now, is my whole game plan to throw bombs at the other riders? No. No, it is not. I’m actually aiming for the horses.

See, this is the body language of a guy realizing he brought a horse to a bomb race.

This screenshot’s actually really misleading. No, I did not explosively unhorse my fellow racers just so I could cut them down as they staggered deaf and bloodied into my path. I actually rode right past them. That way whichever one survives the inevitable, painful, and completely pointless second-place brawl gets to agonizingly shuffle the whole length of the course while I breeze ahead to an easy first place.

I think I could give that a try, yes. Although they’re not letting me break to buy more grenades, which—personally—I find just a little bit unsporting of them. I’ll just have to make do with such bombs as remain.

Look at the guy’s thousand-yard stare as I casually fish my grenades out of my jacket pocket. Yeah. You know they sell these right next door? Check your local sporting goods armory!

Hey. Oh, wow.

They reset my character between rounds—like Mount and Blade does during tournaments. But Mount and Blade never had any single-use items.

I got my grenades back.

Did you guys hear me? I said I got my grenades–

Yeah, they heard.

To put it mildly, their horses are faster than mine. I manage to tag the two stragglers, but the lead quickly becomes a dot on the horizon. I’m basically never catching up to him.

Fortunately, I know a shortcut.

Just through the starting line here. Hey, race fans, back in a few. I’ll be happy to autograph such bloody scraps as you collect in the meantime.

(whistles)

Nice stretch of track here, but it’s just a bit too dark. What they could use is a magically-floating torch to brighten things up.

Yeah, see, right idea, wrong place. They don’t do much good when you fix them to thin air in direct sunlight, geniuses.

Well, here’s a likely spot. Nothing to do now but kick back, light a pipe, and wait for the hoofbeats.

Oh! There they are.

Some time later, I return to the horse traders and slap the flank of my saddle horse proudly. “Got a horse for sale!”

“Isn’t that the horse I just sold you?” asks the proprietor.

“This, sir, is the fastest racehorse in the New World.”

“Yeah? I’ll give you 51 piastres for her.”

“Sold.”

NEXT WEEK: SKULL DRUDGERY

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From the Archives:

  1. NoneCallMeTim says:

    That race went down like a bomb.

    Also: I remember a racing game where the start and finish were right next to each other, so the way to win was just to run laps round the start and end, ignoring the course.

  2. Bloodsquirrel says:

    This Let’s Play is kind of bombing for me.

  3. djw says:

    Brought a horse to a bomb race. LoL!

  4. Retsam says:

    You’d be forgiven for thinking that over-the-top pirate horse races are ahistorical, but the little-known truth is it wasn’t until after the Great Derby Incident of 1672 that the pirates decided that gathering a bunch of bloodthirsty individuals known for their complete disregard for little things like “rules” or “respect for human life” and trying to have a peaceful sporting event was possibly not the best idea.

    It was, in hindsight, a pretty embarrassing oversight, and so their tendency to kill anyone who even mentions the word “derby” has led to it being largely overlooked by the standard history books.

  5. John says:

    I hereby call shenanigans. Shenanigans on the developers, shenanigans on Rutskarn, shenanigans on everybody.

  6. MichaelGC says:

    Quality stuff. Set high standards and then consistently surpass them; it’s most impressive!

  7. Jarenth says:

    I don’t know why I expected this to go any differently.

    (For real though, this episode is excellent, and I was laughing for a full minute at the grandiose strategy payoff.)

  8. CruelCow says:

    So… how big was the payout?

  9. ulrichomega says:

    Was it everything you’d ever dreamed of?

  10. silver Harloe says:

    I’ve heard it said “there is no problem that can’t be solved with a sufficient application of high explosives.”

    Good to know there’s a world where that’s true, I guess?

    • MichaelGC says:

      “The trick is not to be around when they go off.”

      I believe it’s a quotation from the film Valkyrie, which was about the nearly-successful inside-job plot to assassinate Hitler with a briefcase bomb in July 1944. (Point being, I guess, that the problem wasn’t solved, so the aphorism must be wrong? Well, either that, or the application was insufficient …)

      • silver Harloe says:

        The first part (“there’s no problem…”) is far, far older than that movie. Probably older than me.

      • djw says:

        Schlock Mercenary has a variant on that joke every other week or so. I’m sure its one of the Maxims of Maximally Successful Mercenaries.

        • 4th Dimension says:

          Actually it isn’t. Maxims tend to be more specific, and the closest one I could find was
          Maxim 37. There is no “overkill.” There is only “open fire” and “reload.

          Apparently the explosives one is by Scott Adams?

          • TheJungerLudendorff says:

            “4. Close air support covereth a multitude of sins. ”
            “6. If violence wasn’t your last resort, you failed to resort to enough of it. ”
            “12. A soft answer turneth away wrath.
            Once wrath is looking the other way, shoot it in the head.”

            Schlock mercenary isgreat.

            • 4th Dimension says:

              Sure there are many violent ones and ones dealing with fire, but there are no others that are specifically about explosions.
              Well except that one about anything that can make a hole is an entrenching tool.

    • Blackbird71 says:

      Personally I’ve always been fond of:

      “There’s nothing that can be blown up with one pound of C4 that can’t be blown up twice as well with two pounds of C4.”

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Say what you wish,but these races sound way better than the witcher 3 ones.

  12. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    When you said there was no rule about attacking the others, I imagined you shooting your pistol at the others as you raced. I’d like to apologize for my lack of imagination, and I’m grateful you found a much better way.

  13. Philadelphus says:

    I don’t know what it says about me, but when you mentioned the third rider racing off into the distance my mind immediately jumped to the same conclusion and I got a hearty laugh out of the ensuing narrative.

    Come to think of it, it probably says there’s a reason I don’t play organized sports…

  14. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    The greatest part of this entry is what other way would you EXPECT a bloodthirsty pirate to race?? It’s their fault for being shitty pirates, really.

  15. I’d love to play a game where they let you get away with all this stuff early on to lull you into a false sense of security, and then later on it actually gets you into more trouble.

    “Sure, sure, hurl grenades everywhere! Go crazy!”

    *next level*

    *throw grenade*

    BOOM
    YOU HAVE DIED

    oops, did you hit the powder magazine? Sorry!

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