Game Design Concepts Continued…
After finalizing the concept of moving everything to the visual-based dice icons mechanic, I found in my own playtests that I’d simplified a little too much. There wasn’t enough differentiation in weapon ranges and target movement to encourage tactics. This was supported almost universally through playtest feedback.
Now there was a few other problems that arose that were relatively easy to deal with. For example because the dice are so much smaller on Destroyers (to simulate both their smaller profile, speed and agility), they can be difficult to hit. However, initially I’d given them too high of Breach Numbers, making them far too powerful.
Another silly issue is that the Stern and Bow Breach Numbers were relatively in line with the Port and Starboard values. Not only is that not accurate for wet navy ships, but it also reduced the need for maneuvering tactics.
Both of those were very easy fixes. I dropped all Destroyer Breach Numbers by 2 (regardless of Location), then I dropped ALL ship Bow Breach Numbers by 1 and ALL ship Stern Breach Numbers by 2. So yes, that meant the Sterns on the Destroyers dropped by 4. It felt huge, but once you dove in a played with multiple ship Types together the Destroyers instantly felt right where they should be.
So those type of issues were relatively easy to fix. But weapon ranges and target movement proved a much thornier proposition. I kicked this one around for weeks trying to find the most elegant solution. And at the end of the day, I believe I did. In both instances it may not reflect ‘reality’ as well as other games, but within the game aesthetic of Leviathans, I felt it worked just fine.
First was the weapons. Originally I simply had a chart of weapons: 3″, 6″, 9″, 12″. And the chart listed the dice to roll, the type of attacks it could make and the range in hexes. Pretty standard. However, with the dice/color coding option starting to open my eyes to all the possible ways I could continue to make the game easier to play, I decided to move almost all of that directly onto the Ship Card Slot for a given weapon.
As you can see by the two Ship Card excerpts above, in addition to the name, we’ve now got damage, range, as well as the type of attacks a given weapon can make (the triangle means it can also perform a Bracketing Fire attack in addition to a standard attack). And in doing so I was able to easily split the range into two brackets to help encourage movement. For those Gun Battery Slots above, anything up to six hexes you grab the yellow dice (D8) and add it to the Breach Roll; anything 7 to 12 hexes you grab the blue dice (D6) and add it to the Breach Roll.
Another great side benefit of dumping a chart and moving everything onto the Ship Cards is it allowed us to embrace the real world flavors of the various style and type of weapons fielded by different factions. Originally all ships mounted 5″ Gun Batteries…but the French didn’t use that type of terminology. So while the ‘game mechanics’ of those two guns are identical, one feels more French (138mm) and one more English (5 IN), which really helps to mold each factions play identity.
Another great side effect of this move is that it allows us to really play around with the dice and with ranges to simulate the different weapons available. For example, if I’d stuck with a ‘chart’, it would have 4 different weapons on it and any time I want to add a new weapon I’d need to try and publish a new chart. By moving to the Slots, though, you can play around with different damage/range profiles to increase game tactics with ease. After all, if you’ve done the homework, the range of weapons available during this time in the real world is astonishing…being able to fold that breadth into the game is cool.
If you look at the three Ship Card excerpts above, you’ll see what I mean. The 3 IN and the 75mm Gun Batteries are identical; the 3 IN is off a British Ship Card and the 75mm is off a French Ship Card. You’ve then got the 65mm Gun Battery, which you’ll notice has the same Damage Dice as the 75mm, but shaves off 2 hexes at the top end, meaning it’s a gun you need to get close to use…and since the French Pontrbriand Light Cuirser mounts 4 of these on a side…don’t let that ship stay too close!
Finally, I used the same concept when dealing with target movement. Again, I was hoping to completely avoid this, but playtesting showed we simply couldn’t avoid creating some mechanic to help accentuate the need for tactical movement.
Looking at the Ship Card expert above, if a ship has moved out of its hex, you grab a black die and add it to the Breach Roll (the dice icon is against a green background, as in ‘go’ to help you remember) and if the ship didn’t move out of its hex you grab two red dice and add them to the Breach Roll (the dice icon is against a red background, as in ‘stop’ to help you remember).
As a final comment on all of this, there may be some of you wondering if this game is getting too complex and is perhaps something you wouldn’t want to play…especially with me harping about how ‘simple’ I’m trying to keep it, relatively speaking. Ultimately that’s going to be your call, obviously. But at its basic level (leaving out the fun Captain’s Manual plug-in rules I’ll talk about down the line) it’s exceptionally intuitive, with everything visual based. As mentioned in my previous blog, even with the ‘added’ complexity of the split ranges and twin target movement dice, it’s still a case of simply looking at your Ship Card and your opponents Ship Card, making sure it’s in range and in the right firing/damage arcs and then grabbing up the various dice as indicated and tossing them to see if you’ve cracked your opponent’s armor!
See ya next duty shift!