Game Design Concepts Continued…

So I banged and banged on the core concept of how to drop away most of the modifiers in the game (making it easier to pick up and play) but to keep those modifiers within the mechanics of play or the game wouldn’t be very fun on re-peat play (all the tactics would be missing).

Now I’m trying to remember where the epiphany came from…and try as I might, I can’t. Strange. Regardless, during that process I realized that you could take various dice bell curves and use that to approximate modifiers.

For example, three of the previous modifiers I had were the size of the target (i.e. differences between Destroyer, Light Cruiser, Armored Cruiser and Battleship), whether you were striking the target on the starboard or port sides or on the bow/stern and the target movement.

Additionally, as I started working on that (and thanks to Mike Miller for putting together some truly sick spreadsheets to help me prove that switching to dice bell curves would result in the same situation as my original “D10 + modifiers” mechanic) I further realized you could use such bell curves for weaponry as well.

So under the original core mechanic if I was firing say a 3″ Gun Battery at a target I’d roll 2D10, then potentially add several additional modifiers: did the target move, what was the target’s silhouette, what was the target’s size and so on.

Switching over to a “dice bell curve” mechanic, then, most of the modifiers became woven into a set of dice.

If we take the example of say the British HML Raven Destroyer firing a 3 IN Gun Battery at the French Pontbriand Light Cruiser (provided it’s in the right firing arc and range, of course), I’d use a D6 (for the gun battery), then if I was hitting the Pontbriand‘s Stern or Bow I’d roll a D10, while if I was hitting its Port or Starboard Location I’d roll a D12. i.e. I’d roll the D6 together with the D10 or D12 (along with a D6 Slot Dice) as a Breach Roll, totally the D6 and D10 or D12 and comparing that value against the Slot on the target as indicated by the Slot Dice.

Thanks to those sick spread sheets I was confident I was on the right track and sending it out to playtesting only re-inforced that moving most modifiers into dice curves worked perfectly.

Along the way I made another change, this time based on the graphics that would eventually appear on each Ship Card (the “record sheet” used to track each ships’ game stats). While the new dice mechanic worked find, trying to come up with a host of dice icons that you could easily read and understand was proving difficult to say the least. It was also during this time I discovered it was actually cheaper to manufactur the same size dice and change the dice facing then it would be to have a full set of polyhedrals.

Those two concepts then merged in my head to color code everything. So all the dice are D12 shaped, but each color coding equals a different polyhedral (i.e. their dice facing reflects the bell curve): Green = D4, Blue = D6, Yellow = D8, Red = D10 and Black = D12. [For the math inclined, yes this means the D8 and D10 are not perfect, standardized D8 and D10 bell curves…but they’re close enough to only make a difference say in every 100 games if one side was playing with “Leviathans Dice” and the other side was using standard D8 and D10 polyhedrals.]

This allowed for a simple set of colored pips on the Ship Cards to then easily showcase which dice should be used under various circumstances. So taking the example above, a player would look at the 3 IN Gun Battery Slot on his HML Raven and note the DBlue (grabs a blue dice; i.e. the D6), then looks at the Pontbriand and either grabs a DRed or DBlack (depending upon which Location he’s striking), adds in the prerequisite D6 Slot Dice, tosses all the dice in the Breach Roll, adds up the colored dice for a final value and compares that to the Slot Number indicated by the Slot Dice.

Now ultimately I further tweaked and refined this set-up, adding in additional dice combinations for various situations that enhanced tactical play (obviously I’ll get into those down the line). Additionally, I didn’t dump every modifier…there are still modifiers based on attacker and target damage that refused to be melded into dice…but they’re so few that during play it doesn’t feel encumbered like other games where a half dozen to a dozen modifiers might be applied.

However, at its core I felt I’d found the key to making Leviathans exactly what I wanted it to be. Relatively easy to pick up and play (due to everything being so visually based), yet retaining all the important mechanics that you need for re-playability fun (movement, range and so on are all important and you must play to the strengths of your ships and faction). And that sentiment has only been re-inforced across several large playtests…can’t wait to get up a QSR so you all can try it out yourselves and see how I did.

See ya next duty shift.


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