Dipping my feet into the waters of game design by starting this pirate project has been smooth sailing so far. We have fun, ambitious ideas, and we’re creating a game I would love to play that skirts the lines between D&D combat simulator and storytelling rpg in a hyper accessible format.
Like all endeavors, there is a pain point, a point at which your inspiration, enthusiasm and motivation are brutally slammed against an unflinching wall that will not move no matter how hard you push it.
Fitting then, that my first design barrier has been our first Tank class.
The constable was our first idea. CLL’s primary focus is to use unique game mechanics to tell interesting stories and deepen the bond between player and character. We started by looking at the big three game components: cards, dice, and wooden cubes. If the Rogue is using cards, the Navigator uses dice – then logically our tank has to use wooden cubes right?
Wooden Cubes are famously used in worker placement “Euro” games, so I thought “Constable” would be a fitting name for a tank. Using worker placement mechanics to choose actions like move, attack, and defend… We had a fatigue system in place that required players to cycle fatigue to each possible action before they could be selected.
In early testing though, playing the character felt a little unresponsive, like driving an RC car for the first time, like there was an annoying wall between what I wanted to do and what I actually could. I decided to set that design aside. For fun, I rethemed the character to be a “Golem” powered by cycling sparks of mana, I doubt this would become a main character class, but it might be fun to use in some other way.
After playing Sagrada, a game about building stained glass windows by placing dice into a pane – it seemed like a cool way to use similar mechanics would be by placing HP token cubes into a player board that gave benefits like bonus damage on attacks.
You would only be able to place damage after being wounded, and any HPs placed onto the board would be unhealable, effectively reducing the players max hp for the duration of a scenario to gain other benefits. It is the thematic equivalent of playing as a “Dark Knight”or “Berserker” trading life for power. I thought it was the perfect way to incentivize tanking; however it’s not exactly the self-contained mechanics ecosystem that I’ve been designing for our other classes.
How does this character attack, how do they impact the battlefield? If all they do is take damage, they would just move around and smack things in the most generic way possible. That is not the kind of gameplay that could evolve into something deep and rewarding to play; not on it’s own anyway.
If it were for some kind of magical-knight-sith-lord type character – I would integrate a card playing mechanic that uses damage suffered as a resource. Card costs x “rage” to play, gain [RESOURCE] each turn equal to number of hitpoints locked into the bonus grid. We already have a cooldown rotation system that we’ll be testing to see if it works for any card-based mechanics.
Brainstorming alternative ideas for a tank that could inspire some really exciting mechanics, we looked to our theme and designed this character:
A badass warrior of Polynesian descent inspired by musician and activist Israel iz kamakawiwoʻole. He is a mostly silent, giant of a man, with a giant heart, and a giant sense of duty to protect his friends. His name is Chef. He does not cook.
This grumpy tribal warrior will make for the perfect addition to the crew of any seaworthy vessel, just don’t ask him to make you an omelette or you may find yourself hanging upside-down from the crow’s nest.
In CLL, we are not using nameless characters who are identified solely by their class. This is a bit contrary to how similar board games work. I think we will be able to offer an overall more immersive experience by putting players in control of a character with a story to tell.
Finding The Right Design
Most of the mechanics designed while working on developing the first tank class I think will find a home in the finished game in some form or another. Designing game mechanics has been easy compared to the challenge of coordinating them into a unified character that evokes the right feel.
I’m still up in the air about how Chef will play on the table, but he’s such an interesting character that I’m really only struggling to devise a set of mechanics that do him justice. I have a “cooldown rotation” and hp grid hybrid idea in mind, but there is also this idea of turning him into an ocean-themed martial artist with stance-dancing mechanics which could be a more light-hearted take and play up his role as a comic relief character.