Game Design Concepts Continued…

I’m firmly in the game design concept camp that any game like Leviathans needs to have a “yea!” moment. Or to provide a more visceral example, it needs to have a moment like the kid on the bike at the end of The Incredibles: “That was totally wicked!” A moment in the game where you get a chance through a lucky die roll to suddenly change the tables and that forces players to cheer or groan outloud. Obviously it can’t be too easy or it would happen too often, not only upsetting the balance of game play but also making the moment mundane through too much repetition.

For Leviathans this moment is the Breaking The Keel Roll. Once you make the Breach Roll and determine the Breach Roll result and are ready to compare that to the Breach Number in a slot as indicated by the Slot Dice, if you hit a slot that was previously destroyed (even in the same turn) you’ve a chance for doing additional damage.

Now two rules iterations ago this would immediately spark a Breaking The Keel Roll. You’d grab 2DRed (2D10) and roll. Then you’d add a +1 modifier for every destroyed slot anywhere on the target ship. You’d then add an additional +1 modifier for any destroyed slots in the location being hit (it’s taking the force of the blow, so destroyed slots apply a double modifier). You add all those modifiers to the 2DRed result and if that number equal or exceeds the Structural Integrity on the target ship, the keel has been broken and the ship tears apart and cascades down in a fiery death across the landscape below.

However, while that “That was totally wicked!” moment worked perfectly for the feel and style of Leviathans (and for the game balance) we actually found there was a problem. I played in several games where I was hitting a location with only a single slot destroyed (say Slot 3) and due to lucky die rolls I dropped almost half a dozen shots all into Slot 3 and due to the SI involved either the Breaking the Keel Roll was impossible, or nearly so. For example a Battleship has an SI of 30…that means you have a lot of slots to destroy before there’s even a chance the keel will break (appropriate for the size and importance of the Battleship…but not very fun for the player).

Yet while it was appropriate, it still could lead to situations when far too many rolls were ineffective. Now as I mentioned many months ago, the aesthetic of Leviathans is an “iron-sides” type of feel, where you “bang away” for a few shots without any effect but then suddenly find the weak spot in the armor and blow through to destroy something. However, even with that aesthetic we were getting too many of those.

Strangely enough, it was on the 12 hour drive a few months back for a family reunion that I struck upon the solution; with the family mostly asleep at one point and the music blaring, the hind brain to gnaws on problems endlessly and you discard a dozen concepts before the right one finally pops up.

So going back to the top, you make a Breach Roll and if the Slot Dice indicates a previously destroyed slot, then there’s a chance for further damage. However, now what you do is keep all the D12s the same but re-roll the Slot Dice. If the new result indicates an un-destroyed slot, compare the already rolled Breach Roll result against the new indicated Breach Number; if it equals or exceeds it, that new slot is destroyed (i.e. the shell tumbled around behind the armor of that location, crashing into something new and destroying it.

If the new result of the re-rolled Slot Dice indicated another previously destroyed slot again, THEN you make the Breaking The Keel roll as described above (i.e. the shot didn’t tumble around but drove deeper into the bowels of the ship).

This solution worked out very well. Players didn’t need to try and keep track of anything (something I’ve managed to almost completely avoid), Breach Rolls significantly decreased in the number of ineffective rolls that occurred once a location started to take damage, and of course we got to keep the “That was totally wicked!” moment.

And that, by the way, covers almost every aspect of the Lieutenant’s Manual: The Quick-Start Rules. Once we release it and you start reading and getting ready to play your own games, you’ll have the behind-the-scenes of the “why” behind almost the entire booklet.

As a final aside, I happen to be looking at the site over-all to see what additional updates need to occur and I realized that Doug Chaffee did not have his biography on the page. Considering it’s almost all his stunning visuals that are bringing this universe to life (not to mention his stellar career and skills set he brings to our table), I’ve rectified that immediately.

See ya next duty shift!


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