Buying a ship is very expensive. The costs - before choosing a ship - are:
1 x Bazaar Permit costs 10 x Vision of the Surface, 100 x Romantic Notion (also available via Thefts of Particular Character in The Flit, or doing especially well with legal heists in The Flit, and also via enjoying lethal prominence through the "A Rival in Power" option).
1 x Personal Recommendation 6 x Stolen Kiss, 30 x Compromising Document, 150 x Intriguing Gossip (also available with Talk of the Town 12 through attending parties from the A Polite Invitation card).
1 x Legal Document costs 6 x Aeolian Scream, 30 x Correspondence Plaque, 300 x Maniac's Prayer (also available in Wilmot's End, via "Playing the Game at Wilmot's End" repeating storyline; Unlocked with Shadowy 110, a fine piece in the Game 1).
1 x Cellar of Wine costs 1 x Broken Giant 1844, 5 x Strangling Willow Absinthe, 50 x Morelways 1872, 250 x Greyfields 1882 (also available via up-converting Wines items).
1 x Whirring Contraption costs 300 Phosphorescent Scarab, 60 x Memory of Light (also available in Wilmot's End, via "The Missing Woman" repeating storyline; Unlocked with Shadowy 110, a fine piece in the Game 1).
1 x Collated Research costs 2 x Tale of Terror!!, 12 x Appalling Secret (also available in Wilmot's End via "Playing the Game at Wilmot's End" repeating storyline; Unlocked with Shadowy 110, a fine piece in the Game 1; also via Enjoying Lethal Prominence; also via up-converting Academic items — not worth it if you're currently Unwelcome at the University).
2 x Strong-Backed Labour costs 13.50 Echoes each (available in Wilmot's End, via "The Missing Woman" repeating storyline; Unlocked with Shadowy 110, a fine piece in the Game 1, and when Enjoying Lethal Prominence, via "A Rival in Power"). This step requires "a Zailor in the making 1" OR Connected: The Docks 20 (a worse option, because you have to cash in much of that connection).
If you intend to grind the resources to buy these components directly from the Bazaar Side-Streets, End Game Grinding has the best locations for doing so.
Buying A Specific Ship
So what else is needed?
All ships, save the Tramp Steamer, are exorbitantly expensive without fate. Costs below:
100 x Relic of the Third City
1 x Use of Villains (20 x A Journal of Infamy, 80 x Appalling Secret; also available through Enjoying Lethal Prominence / a ghost mantled in shadow)
Connected: The Docks 20, Connected: Society 20 (will lower these connections), 1 x Legal Document
10 x Fate and 1 x Cryptic Clue
1 x Legal Document, 12 x Use of Villains
20 x Fate, 1000 x Jade Fragment
1 x A Copy of your Tale of the Future (can be written in the Empress' Court —this will not consume this item! you just need to have it to pass this step.)
Have "a Scholar of the Correspondence" 3 (earned in the Forgotten Quarter via Archaeological Expeditions and reaching the Tomb of the Seven, then raised in the Forgotten Quarter as well — similarly, you just need to have this status to pass this step.)
10 x Fate
20 x Strong-Backed Labour, 7 x Bejewelled Lens (1 x Magnificent Diamond, 10 x Ostentatious Diamond, 60 x Correspondence Plaque, 1000 x Moon-pearl each), 20 x Whirring Contraption
30 Fate, 1 x Favour in High Places (200 x Cryptic Clue, 1 x An Identity Uncovered!, 1 x Secluded Address, 10 x Incendiary Gossip, 25 x Inkling of Identity, or up-converting Influence items), 1 x Comprehensive Bribe (6 x Touching Love Story, 30 x Vision of the Surface, 300 x Romantic Notion)
Gaining Zub Materials
The Lenses and Contraptions make the Zubmarine the hardest ship to acquire. Contraptions are straightforward to get in Wilmot's End, but take a very long time to get all 20 (21 total, given that all ships need 1 up-front).
Bejewelled Lenses are available only by buying them in the Bazaar Side-Streets. The seven total Magnificent Diamonds are the major problem here. You can try for the rare success from buying "A bag of low-quality diamonds" in the Side-Streets, but by far the easiest way to gain them is as follows:
- Grind Casing in the Flit using either the Gang of Hoodlums option, or — if lower-level — the failure-proof POSI Casing option.
- Sell Casing to Criminals, also in the Flit. This also will significantly boost your Shadowy score — possibly the best way to grind Shadowy in the game.
- Once you have Connected: Criminals 30 (at least), wait to draw the Implausible Penance card.
- Choose Pugilism and Politics, then beat up the Minister. This will gain you 2 x Magnificent Diamond as well as 2 x Ostentatious Diamond. (Do not beat up the Underworld Kingpin — this will exchange 500CP Criminals for 500CP Society and increase Turncoat, and grant you no diamonds!)
- Repeat this process until you have all 7 Magnificent Diamonds. (Consider doing gathering the diamonds first, so you can grind other things while you wait for the Implausible Penance card to show up again.)
A Watchful alternative:
- Repeatedly loop any expedition in the Forgotten Quarter (including Thieves Cache) for the Wooden Mask result, which supplies 2 x Magnificent Diamond and 10 x Ostentatious Diamond, among other smaller rewards.
Majestic Pleasure Yacht:
10 x Touching Love Story
Or 3 Connected: Masters of the Bazaar (does not cost any of this quality, you just need to have it; in fact, you'll get a small reward for using this option: 2 x Dark-dewed Cherries)
10 x Fate and 1 x Whispered Secret
5 x Comprehensive Bribe, 5 x Favours in High Places, 5 x Cellar of Wine, 5000 x Deep Amber
A matter of luck: the odds are strongly against you here. Also, a Persuasive and Watchful check. Losing this contest will cost you one-fifth of your stake. Winning will cost you all of it and grant you the Yacht.
Note: It is possible to win this exchange very quickly… and also possible to lose it repeatedly for a very long time. Using Fate will cause you to succeed automatically (and comes with almost no extra cost, unlike the Zubmarine's Fate option).
20 x Fate and 1000 x Deep Amber
Which Ship Is Best?
- The Majestic Pleasure Yacht is far and away the best ship, because it grants +2 BDR (in the form of +2 Respectable).
- The Zubmarine is the second best ship, because it grants +1 BDR (in the form of +1 Bizarre).
- The Swift Zee-Clipper is the third best ship, because of its unique card when zailing, but has much less value due to no BDR.
- The Tramp Steamer almost as good as the Zee-Clipper due to card mechanics (take note that despite the flavor text, it's 100% reliable).
For more help determining which ship is best for you personally, read summary at the end of this overall section.
Because of how BDR (Bizarre, Dreaded, and Respectable) works and its importance to the end game gaining of Notability, the Yacht is the best ship (and the Zubmarine the second best). The other two ships provide no BDR and are therefore significantly less valuable.
The reason is that it's not about zailing. BDR boosts benefit you in your time in London — which will be 90% of your career, if not more. The other two ships provide no benefit outside of the zee. The ships were balanced for an earlier version of the game, when things were arranged differently.
A small extra benefit to the Zubmarine is that Bizarre is harder to gain than Respectable, though challenges that make use of Bizarre are rare. This is less of a benefit in the current (mid-2015) state of the game, though; the Yacht is still better because +2 total BDR from any source is superior to +1 BDR).
That aside, the difference is still fairly marginal, at 1 or 2 points. If you don't mind a little extra Making Waves grinding to reach the next Notability tier (each point of BDR is one less Making Waves level), or just don't care about Notability, or if you value something else more, or if you just like one ship better than another for aesthetic or roleplaying reasons, then just get the ship you like best.
In terms of cost, unless you are extremely unlucky with Yacht gambling, the Zubmarine is the most expensive ship to acquire.
The best ship in terms of cost is the Tramp Steamer, followed by the Zee-clipper. (Though the Zee-clipper's price increase is not necessarily worth it for the benefit, unless you plan to zail a lot.)
Ships also affect the cards you draw while zailing. While on the Unterzee, your deck is drawn from 12 to 14 cards:
7 cards can be drawn anywhere;
5 cards are linked to your current Troubled Waters;
(1 card appears when Embarking on a Voyage of Scientific Discovery;)
and the ships have 1 unique card each. Additionally, each ship unlocks an option on two other cards, except the Tramp Steamer.
Although many cards provide Appalling Secrets, the rewards in the Unterzee are poorer than those in Fallen London or Hunter's Keep, so you will usually want to cross the Unterzee as fast as possible.
This means that in terms of cards, the best ship is the Swift Zee-clipper, because its unique card is the best for granting speedy progress. But the difference is, again, marginal. The Zubmarine is barely better than the Yacht, but the Yacht also
The Tramp Steamer unlocks no cards and no options. This is actually where the Tramp Steamer shines. The Yacht's unique card is not good, and the Zubmarine's card is merely okay. (However, the Zee-clipper's card is great.)
Conversely, you will miss out on any benefits associated with the other ships.
The Swift Zee-clipper unlocks a unique card that is, well swift: it significantly accelerates your progress. Almost certainly the best unique card.
Its first card option unlock is at middling Troubled Waters and is pretty good (advancing progress), and a card option unlock at maximum Troubled Waters which lets you avoid a dangerous luck challenge. You'll rarely be at max Troubled Waters unless you've done it on purpose to get a Plated Seal, but it's a nice option if you need it.
The Zubmarine unlocks a unique card that reduces your Troubled Waters Menace along with progressing your journey, which is not quite as nice as the Zee-clipper (since Troubled Waters is not that dangerous), but better than the Yacht's unique card.
The Zubmarine has perhaps the best card option unlock, on the Killing Wind card, which appears at all stages of the journey. The Zubmarine option allows you to ignore the dangerous luck challenge and increase your progress (unlike the luck-avoidance options for the other ships).
It also has a mediocre card option unlock at middling Troubled Waters which does nothing for your progress or Troubled Waters.
The Majestic Pleasure Yacht unlocks a unique card worth 1.62 echoes and 1 CP Persuasive, which is decent. However, it does nothing for your progress or Troubled Waters. This is the least useful unique card.
The Yacht has the only card option unlock in Calm Waters (where you will spend most of your trip unless you have a specific reason not to) allowing you to invite passengers of another ship to a party. Unlike the Yacht's unique card, this option is very much worth it, because it gives you 5 x Secluded Addresses and 1 x Scarlet Stockings, worth 2.9 echoes! (Additionally, if you're kicked from Court and finished with the Big Rat, Secluded Addresses can be very difficult to come by.) It also increase Troubled Waters & Scandal (not usually serious), and does not progress your trip (more serious). Also gives Hedonist CP (up to 9 or 10).
Like the Clipper, the Yacht also has a card option unlock at maximum Troubled Waters which lets you completely ignore a dangerous luck challenge and decreases Troubled Waters. Again, you'll rarely be at max Troubled Waters unless you've done it on purpose to get a Plated Seal, but it's a nice option if you need it.
- If you care about Notability the most, get the Majestic Pleasure Yacht.
- If you intend to zail mostly calmly (as is normal) and care about profit, get the Majestic Pleasure Yacht.
- If you want to split the difference between speed, Troubled Waters benefits, and Notability benefit, then get the Zubmarine.
- If you care about your Bizarre score the most, get the Zubmarine.
- If you care about speedily getting to your destination the most, get the Swift Zee-clipper.
- If you don't care about Notability benefits, get the Swift Zee-clipper.
- If you just don't want to worry about it (no real upsides or downsides), get the Tramp Steamer.
- If you don't want to break the bank (or worry about grinding), get the Tramp Steamer.
- If you like a ship's aesthetics the best, then get that ship. As explained above, the in-game differences are fairly marginal!
Once you have your ship…
Some of the following section may be out of date.
You can set sail. It costs 100 Rostygold to set sail, but that is only one action at Watchmaker's Hill. The difficult Watchful challenge on setting sail can be happily failed - it just grants a small reward (IIRC worth ~1 Echo).
When you start your journey, you'll be healed one point of wounds.
Things to know: The Broad Unterzee has 3 states, depending on the weather: Calm Seas, Lashing Waves, or Fury of the Unterzee. The more recklessly you sail, the worse the weather. You will not have enough opportunity cards to cross the Unterzee unless you spend several real world hours on the trip. So when should you use them?
The Pleasure Yacht has a bonus card in Calm Seas, so spend early.
Both the Zub and Yacht have a bonus card in Lashing Waves, so spend later.
Cards can only be spent in their appropriate weather, so be careful to spend all Calm Seas cards before entering Lashing Waves (happens when Troubled Waters reaches 7). Actions and cards on average provide about equal amounts of progress and trouble, so you should reach your destination before entering the Fury unless you are very unfortunate.
The "A Mountain of the Unterzee" card is useful initially, as you have no progress for an unlucky result to reduce; however avoid it after that. "A Corvette of Her Majesty's Navy" is very useful if your suspicion > 5, dramatically increasing either your progress or troubled waters; but useless if your suspicion is < 5. Best to max out suspicion before heading to zee, as escaping from new Newgate removes all suspicion - your suspicion can easly reach 10 or more at zee, without making escape any more difficult.
Where to first?
Neither Mutton Island nor Hunter's Keep allow access to your hand. However any cards in hand are retained and become available when you return to zee. Landing resets your Troubled Waters Menace, so Calm Seas cards that were useless at the end of the trip will be usable on the return voyage.
When on Mutton Island: there is a rare success available for "The Mutton Island Wind"; it can also be used to increase Stormy eyed. Be sure to visit the Cock and Magpie (at least once, and up to 6 times) once time passing >6, and when you return to London revisit the Carnival. Finally, there is an action only available here that unlocks when Watchful reaches 140. Worth going to for the story, but the poor rewards mean that it is probably not worth revisiting.
Hunter's Keep: this is particularly tempting if you already have a Stone Tentacle Key from the Duchess! Hunter's Keep is the more profitable of the two locations, so come here for loot. Important tip towards the end of Time Passing: visit the Well *after* playing a Game of Charades (or at least wait until Time Passing =10), but *before* hearing the winning sister's concluding story.
Into the Fury of The Unterzee
Some of the following section may be out of date.
When monster hunting for the Bishop of Southwark, you'll be heading into the Fury… this is harder than it looks. "Steam Boldly/Make it up as you go" is a good opening move, as this rapidly increases both Troubled Waters & Approaching Journey's End: however this option locks when Troubled Waters hits 10. At this point you will need to juggle between opportunity cards and the Steam Prudently/A Cautious Captain option. Steam Prudently/A Cautious Captain locks at Troubled Waters 11.
All storylets lock when Approaching Journey's End reaches 9, forcing you to rely exclusively on opportunity cards: A Ship of Zealots, A Tiny Coral Island, A Shape in the Depths are all good choices; A Blanket of Fog is also acceptable. Failing The Clinging Coral Mass is the best of all. The other cards though will likely reduce either your Troubled Waters or Approaching Journey's End progress, making them counterproductive.
[EDIT: The following section is out of date; Plated Seals are obtained via a pinned storylet at under Steam Boldly at high Troubled Waters, and acquiring one sets Approaching Journey's End lower.]
Once you have reached the Fury, cycle cards until you draw the Cold, Calm Waters card. Be wary of using other cards! Most 'good' cards will reduce your Troubled Waters. The Clinging Coral Mass, Those engines don't sound healthy/Hoist the black flag, The Killing Wind/Make Your Depth Fifteen Fathoms are useful if your Approaching Journey's End < 9 though.
Once you have your Plated Seal, you can head home - as Approaching Journey's End should be 9, this will likely be 1 action (so arguably you found the monster splashing in the Stolen River!) It does not appear possible to collect multiple Plated Seals.
[EDIT: This tip no longer works] If a Fury card reduces your Approaching Journey's End progress to 0, and you have a counterfeit head of John the Baptist, consider kissing it: this sends you to the Tomb Colonies, which may get you home faster and will allow you to collect a Tomb-Lion. [a counterfeit head now merely increases your Scandal].
This unlocks an additional card, "The Fleet of Truth", and a card option to "Share your Research with a Fellow Scholar". "The Fleet of Truth" is very useful, providing 2 change points of progress and 15 research notes! It is possible, at least in theory, to complete a journey just by using this one card repeatedly. "Share your Research with a Fellow Scholar" is a social card, and does not provide any progress - interesting, but not ideal. As you will likely be ejected from the new islands multiple times, there is no pressure to collect a Plated Seal on any specific journey; best to focus on crossing the Unterzee and head for the Fury when the luck of the draw pushes your Troubled Waters up.