Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Rolling Seas - Design Diary - Part 3

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I see a lot of other designers write up design diaries for their games and I've always found it interesting to learn about the process that a game went through from initial concept to publication.  So I decided to share the history of Rolling Seas so you can learn more about the game, how I made some of the design choices I made, and what my plans for the game in the future are.  It's a bit long, so I've broken it down into a few posts that I'll share over the course of a few days.

Rolling Seas Design Diary
  • Intro & Part 1
    • Coming Up With the Idea - Early November 2019
    • The Sailing Tests - November 12-14, 2019
  • Part 2 
    • Finding a Sailing Solution - November 14, 2019
    • Bonuses - November 15-22, 2019
  • Part 3 - YOU ARE HERE
    • A Prettier Game - November 23-29, 2019
    • The First Public Playtesting - December 3, 2019
  • Part 4
    • Maps & Crew - January-February 2020
    • The End of Playtesting, Sort Of... - March-May, 2020
  • Part 5
    • Nuts! Publishing & Rolling Seas Updates - April-July 2020
    • New Ideas - July-December 2020
  • Part 6
    • Second Edition & Getting Signed - January-April 2021
    • Crowd Sale - April 2021
A Prettier Game - November 23-29, 2019

I took a few days to create a nicer-looking Map and Ledger.  At this point, I set the final dimensions of the map (19 columns by 15 rows), the layout of the ledger, and chose icons for various game elements.  I also created nicer-looking cards and Dice Mat (almost the same as what's in the latest version on The Game Crafter).  

I also took this opportunity to closely evaluate the coordinates I had previously chosen randomly for all of the adventures.  I marked up a blank map, making sure that each type of adventure had an interesting distribution.  Rocks are generally dispersed around the edges of the map with a few more centralized, Trade Winds got placed mostly toward the center of the map (my hope was that players might find opportunities to string two or more together for some exciting movement), and Storms and Sea Monsters were scattered fairly evenly around the map.  I made sure that there wouldn't be clumps of one kind of adventure (though being able to place anywhere in the designated row/column meant this could still happen if a player chose) and that adventures would appear throughout the whole map.
The colored boxes indicate the coordinates for each adventure,
however, they can all be placed in the row or column, thus the dots
on the margins.  The rocks I showed their possible placement in a 
solo game with the dots on the map and the direction they get passed
in a multiplayer game with the letters in the boxes.

Then I took everything to Office Max to print out.  My first few solo playtesting games were great and I didn't feel like I needed to make any more changes, but I was itching to play with more players.  Fortunately, I was just a weekend away from my next Game Night and it just happened to be a game design playtesting night!
Solo playtesting was going great. 
Time to try it with real people!

The First Public Playtesting - December 3, 2019

On December 3, 2019, Totally Tabletop Tuesday arrived and the first Tuesday of every month is set aside for playtesting games.  Mostly we test out my games, but there are a few other members of my game group that have been playing around with designs, too.  But on this Tuesday it was a small group and I was the only one with a game to test.  I was super excited to introduce the group to Rolling Seas.

And the game was a hit!  We played twice and then talked about the game a bit.  Everything mostly worked, but we felt that there was too much map passing.  The Provisions and Movement bonuses felt weak and set up with the islands the way I had it was a bit confusing, too.
Playtesting the first time in public!

You can see the first set of bonuses on Provisions
and Gold didn't escalate at all.

The dice mat has remained the same, except for a few minor
graphical updates to make the explore area easier to read
and the Explore Value 5 rewards.

I adjusted the adventures so they were kept 50% of the time (instead of 25%).  I also changed the setup to be one island at a time instead of two (that's the advanced variant in the Islands expansion now).  I shortened the Gold tracks from 6 to 5 so you're hitting bonuses on them a bit more often, plus redid the bonuses for Gold so they escalate as you gain more Gold (Provision bonuses didn't escalate until the second edition).  I also made the story track go up to 60 since we're regularly hitting 35-40 story points, so now there's another row in case someone builds a huge story.  I changed it so you get a 5 Reputation bonus if you end at a port, 10 Reputation if it's your home port, and a 20 Reputation bonus if you manage to tell a story at all 8 ports.  This is also when I changed the 5 Explore die value to give 3 Gold and 1 Story (instead of 2 Gold and 2 Story), just to make it a little different and have one Explore value that gives a bunch of Gold since there were other big scores for Story and Provisions for Exploring, but none for Gold.  
Everything was working great but passing
maps still felt too common.

One other, minor change from this time was naming all the adventures.  Now, instead of generic sea monsters, you got to meet Merfolk and the Kraken; storms became Typhoons and Blood Rains, and Rocks became Fisherman's Doom or Sawtooth Sea.  But trade winds were a problem.  It turns out trade winds generally blow east to west around the equatorial seas.  And they don't really have names.  But currents are more widespread and often do have names.  So trade winds became currents and gained names like Condor Current and Stingray Swift.

After a few more playtests I got rid of passing maps completely, except for Rocks.  I realized that the game was a lot more interesting when players could determine for themselves where to put the Adventures that could earn them points.  This got rid of a lot of the player interaction, unfortunately, but it made the game run a lot smoother and ended up being more fun when you could set up bigger scoring opportunities (only to have the wind blow you in the opposite direction).

Now only the rocks get passed and everything has a name!

These were the last big changes I made for a while.  I playtested the game a bunch more, even at our regular game nights, and it was always working out great.  I participated in a rules exchange in December and was able to really clarify some spots in the rules.  Then I submitted the game to the Staff Roll and Write Contest at The Game Crafter, and made it available for sale on December 20, 2019.  Over the next few months, I continued to play the game but didn't really make any changes since I couldn't make any changes for the contest.  The one thing I did change was the layout of one of the islands, just to make it a little easier to draw.
He was so proud of his voyage!

Thanks for reading!  Join me for Part 4 where I talk about the first expansion ideas!  And be sure to check out the Crowd Sale before it ends!

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