Design Diary Monday: Consolidation

The design diary is now caught up with the current version of the game. Hopefully this is an iteration of the game that I can stick with for a while, and even more hopefully this will be the last major revision I have to make before getting to a publishable version of the game.

UPDATE: From the field testing that took place after the initial design went out, though, things are not going well. I’ll have to figure out what can be salvaged and what needs changing… it looks like this will be a temporary stay after all.

This version of the game focused on the consolidation of assets in games and the simplification of rules… I also wanted to add some cooperative aspects to the game, which had not worked out so far. But before I make any changes, here are the current rules:

Components:
The game consist of one deck of 36 pirate cards (shown in picture), 24 plunder cards, and 16 captain cards. The full list of individual components are:

Pirate Deck
12 Broadsides,
4 Deckhands (2 of pirates),
4 Grenadiers (3 of pirates),
4 Brutes (4 of pirates),
4 Corsairs (2 of sailors),
4 Swashbucklers (3 of sailors),
4 Mariners (4 of sailors)

Plunder Deck
8 Merchant Frigates (+1 card, strength 2, vp 4)
8 Gold Convoys (+2 cards, strength 4, vp 7)
8 Warships (strength 6, vp 10)

Captain Deck
16 unique captains, each with one special ability.

Game Flow:

  1. In the beginning of the game, each player chooses a captain and draw 3 to 4 pirate cards according to the crew size listed on the captain chosen.
  2. On each turn, a player:
    • Reveals a card from the plunder deck. If it is has +1 or +2 cards, add more cards accordingly (but additional +1s and +2s are ignored)
    • Attack plunder targets. To attack a target, a player must reveal strength equal to or higher than the total strength of all plunder cards drawn that turn. The player can additionally add any number of cards face down to support the revealed crew. This form the capturing hand. The target is consider captured at this point; if the player can keep the crew alive until the beginning of his or her next turn, the plunder can be scored for points.
    • Plunder targets can be attacked by multiple people with a combined strength higher than the total strength of the plunder cards.
    • A player can also attack other players with captured ships that have not scored points. The game enters a battle phase at this point.
  3. Player versus Player battles
    • The defending player picks up the capturing hand, and the attacking player can use any card currently not involved in other capturing hands.
    • Each player chooses one of the pirate cards available in his or her hand, played face down, and both cards are revealed at the same time.
    • The battle resolves. The general premise is Broadsides beat Pirates, Pirates beat Sailors, Sailors beat Broadsides. If the same cards show up, the numbers on the cards determine the winner.
    • Whoever wins the battle keeps the treasures, whoever loses must discard the entire hand
  4. Captain abilities can be activated, and refreshes at the beginning of a player’s turn.
  5. A player can lose a turn and all cards on hand to change captains and draw a new hand.
  6. Whoever has the most points when the plunder deck runs out wins.
That’s the gist of the game. Starting from next week I’ll actually go over the details of individual test sessions, the tester feedback, and some horrible truth about the difficulty of designer expectations versus playtesting reality. That’s when the pain begins…

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