Saturday, April 17, 2021

Rolling Seas - Design Diary - Part 5

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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
    • 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 - YOU ARE HERE
    • 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
Nuts! Publishing & Rolling Seas Updates - April-July 2020

At the end of April, I was contacted by Nuts! Publishing.  They were interested in the game and wanted to know if I was interested in working with them to develop the game further and maybe sign a publishing contract at some point.  Of course, I was ecstatic.  I asked what they had in mind and they mentioned one thing that had been brought up before, but I didn't have a solution at the time, and one thing that sparked a completely new idea (several ideas, actually).

The first was a comment on the frequency that new adventures appeared.  With the reliance on dice, the number of adventures could be swingy.  Over a long period of time, new adventures should have come out about 37.5% of the time, so about 8-9 adventures per game.  But I had games with 15 new adventures and games with 4 new adventures.  It wasn't consistent enough and, since adventures are critical to scoring story points and just to have a fun experience, they wondered if there was a way to have adventures come out more consistently.  They suggested maybe having a new adventure come out every 3 rounds (something that had been suggested before), but I didn't like the predictability of that.  I liked the unpredictability of the dice but needed something more consistently unpredictable.

That's when I hit on the idea of the Smooth Sailing cards.  This adds a small step to the game setup - creating the Adventure deck, but it is a simple step and allows you to customize how often you'll see new adventures.  Now the Adventure deck is built with 30 cards - a mix of Smooth Sailing and other adventures.  One card is drawn every turn.  Smooth Sailing cards do nothing, Adventures get added to maps.  This way you can add more or fewer Smooth Sailing cards to the deck to control how often Adventures come out.  It's still somewhat unpredictable, but you'll know if you make a deck with 15 Smooth Sailing and 15 Adventures, that you'll see about 12-13 new adventures in the game.  And since there are only 25 turns in a game, but 30 cards in the deck you might see slightly more or slightly less, but you won't have the huge swings that dice could cause.

Adding in the Smooth Sailing cards did require a small change to the game phases though.  Now, instead of rolling the dice to begin each turn an Adventure card is revealed.  This means players have to draw the Adventures without the benefit of knowing the wind directions for that turn, but this was a minor inconvenience for the benefits of the Smooth Sailing cards.  I think the biggest inconvenience was just for me to get used to swapping the order of cards and dice since I had been playing the other way for so long.  I haven't heard about any confusion from anyone who learned the game this new way.

The second thing they mentioned was needing more player interaction.  I felt the game was playing pretty well, but it was mostly a group solo game.  The only real interaction came from passing your maps when Rocks came up.  This is about the same as in Cartographers, but I understood the desire for a bit more.  The problem was, I didn't want to break the simultaneous-play flow of the game just to have people interacting.  But pirates were mentioned, and really, what's a game about sailing and exploring without having some pirates to encounter?  
Long John Silver comes out in the 
Northwest quadrant of your map
along any shoreline.

So I sat down to try to figure out a way to add pirates to the game without breaking the flow of the game.  Pirates became a new type of adventure.  One with a bit higher risk and higher reward.  Like Rocks, Pirates have you pass your map.  Unlike Rocks (or any other adventure), they don't get placed in a specific row or column, but in one of the four quadrants along a coast (pirates don't like to venture too far from land).  You can ignore pirates if you like, but you'll lose 5 Reputation at the end of the game if you don't defeat them.  If you do decide to fight the pirates though, you'll need to end your turn in their space and spend 3 Provisions.  This will earn you 2 Story and 3 Gold though, so a pretty big reward!

I found this added just a tad more player interaction since you pass your maps again and maybe have to think a little harder about where to hide the pirates.  But it wasn't much.  So I started thinking of other ways to add player interaction, too.  I came up with three new ideas, all three of which I'm still working on since I haven't had much opportunity to playtest with groups in the past year.  

New Ideas - July-December 2020

While I've been able to playtest the Pirates and the Smooth Sailing cards quite a bit, testing out some other ideas that require more player interaction has been more challenging.  But I've been working on three ideas that I'd like to add to Rolling Seas someday.  

The first, which is nearly complete, though barely playtested, is Events.  Events consist of 8 new Event cards that get added to the Adventure deck (which is built to 35 cards in the setup now).  When an Event card comes up instead of an Adventure or Smooth Sailing, a card is drawn from a new Events deck (featuring large 21 jumbo cards).  The events range from immediate things that happen, like 
a Ship Race or Tidal Wave, to persistent events, like new Explore rewards and a Treasure Hunt.  There are even multi-turn events like The King's Quest and Festival Season.  Some of the events add quite a bit of player interaction while some don't disrupt the flow of the game at all - just add some new considerations.  I've been really happy with the Events, though they definitely need more playtesting.
I actually have all the cards and artwork created and was hoping to have these for sale
after some more playtesting, but alas, you're going to have to wait for Events!

Rules are written, but I need to make
components and start playtesting!
I also started thinking about an expansion that would provide custom ships that you could purchase.  Each ship would have unique abilities and a unique combination of speed and cargo hold.  This is still in a pretty early draft and I haven't playtested it at all yet, but I think it might be fun for someone to have a racing vessel with more speed, but little cargo, or a science vessel that gives you additional benefits when "researching" storms.  

The last new idea I've been working on will change the game up significantly, at least for one player.  One player would be the Pirate Captain and play by a completely different set of rules.  The Pirate Captain would sail around their map trying to end their turn in the same relative space as other players, resulting in a battle.  Battles would be somewhat beneficial for both sides (adding to story points), but whoever wins the battle would gain some extra benefits.  This is still in its very early idea stage, though I'm excited to see how it'll grow and evolve.

Thanks for reading!  Join me for Part 6 where I talk about what's new in the latest edition and the Crowd Sale!  And be sure to check out the Crowd Sale before it ends!

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