Saturday, April 11, 2015

What kind of chicken do you like? Caribbean, jerk!

I have never been much for cruises - my parents like them, but I've never been on one, nor have I ever been particularly excited about them. is a very handy website, and if you're reading this then I assume you know about BGG already. You probably also know that they host a convention in Dallas every year, and I've attended every BGG.con since it's inception over a decade ago. When they announced BGG@SEA - a small game convention aboard a cruise ship - I was torn. On one hand, it sounded potentially awesome... like a regular game con, but with all the food and entertainment options available on a cruise. On the other hand, it was super expensive, and I wasn't sure how well I'd be able to handle the constant motion of the sea.

After some consternation, I decided this could be a good opportunity to see if I liked cruises, and to go on a vacation with my girlfriend, so I went ahead and signed Michelle and myself up for BGG@SEA. I spent last week aboard Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas, unplugged from the world, soaking up the extravagance, and playing some games!

Some of the highlights of the trip included...

  • Hanging out with Peter Hawes (game designer from Australia), Jeff Anderson (one of the BGG crew that runs the conventions), and even Scott Alden (owner of BGG) for a little bit.
  • Winning a copy of Royals in the Royals tournament for scoring highest in the tournament (despite losing in the semifinal round).
  • Swimming with a dolphin in Jamaica - though I kept thinking "smartest species on the planet, and we make them do tricks for us?" Michelle pointed out that the trained dolphins are well fed, and that it's not dissimilar to paying an athlete to play professional basketball.
  • Thinking up ideas for a cruise themed worker placement game.

Some time ago, the League of Gamemakers had a blog post called Steal This Game Idea, which inspired me to write this comment:
The basic idea is that you place workers in different locations, and then when it comes time to resolve each location, you zoom in and it’s another worker placement game.
So you have workers that are essentially groups, and you assign 1 group at a time to the areas, and upon resolution of that area, you reassign the members of that group to the worker spaces in that area.
I imagine the different areas would be sort of themed – like if you’re gathering resources, you assign a worker group to the Resource acquisition area, and if you’re expanding your borders you assign a group to the Expansion area… then within each area there are multiple spaces (collect wood, collect stone, collect ore… move 3 units 1 space each,move 1 unit up to 3 spaces, etc)
I suppose you could start with groups of 1 or some small number of workers in them, and over the course of the game you could maybe increase the size of your groups, or maybe split a group into 2 smaller groups. It’s also possible that the groups could be “better” at certain types of actions, so the way you distribute workers between your groups might make a difference in your strategy.
On the airplane to Texas for the BGG cruise, I started thinking about the cruise, the excursions we'd looked into, and I started formulating a game structure. With that idea for a worker-group placement mechanism rattling around in my brain, I started putting these two ideas together, and I think I've started a design that could work. I thought about it on and off over the course of the cruise, even sketching out how I thought the board and some of the cards could look. Basically, it'd be like this:

Imagine a board with 4 major quadrants - maybe each quadrant is a different cruise line (like Royal Caribbean, Princess, carnival, or Celebrity for example). [Alternatively each quadrant could be a part of the world where one might cruise (Caribbean, South Pacific, Alaska, etc)]. Within each cruie line are a number of standard worker placement spaces that do startndard actions such as get money, get VP, translate money into vp, or get discounts on future placements on that same cruise line. In addition, each cruise could have between 1 and 3 Excursion spaces - blank spaces the size and shape of a 1/2 size poker card. These spaces woul house Excursion cards drawn from a deck (perhaps that deck is sorted by type, or by area of the world perhaps?

My thought is that some of the standard worker spaces would be exclusive, like most worker placement games. Others might fit a specific maximum number of workers at them, and perhaps the excursions can fit any number of workers, and the player who places the most workers there gets to keep the card for additional bonues or something (a little bit of area majority).

The Excursion cards I imagine would come in various types:

  • Adventure: Zipline, Bobsled, Dunn River Falls
  • Archeological: Chichen Itza, Tulum Ruins, Cuzco
  • Aquatic: Dolphin Swim, Stingray Bay, Barrier Reef Snorkeling

Stuff like that. I imagine some excursions could be in multiple categories. Each excursion would have a cost to go on (payable when placing the worker on it), and my current thought is that it would have a game effect you get immediately. Perhaps every worker who goes on an excursion collects Excursion tokens according to the category (in addition to the afore mentioned game effect, or that IS the game effect), and the player with the MOST workers (tie break to first player to get there) collects the card a well, for extra such icons and/or end game set collection scoring.

The game structure would have players playing stacks of workers to the quadrants in turn order. I figure players would start with 3 worker groups, with 1, 2, and 3 workers in them. When placing in a quadrant, you'd place a whole group on the next available (numbered) space, so the first player to place in a particular quadrant would place in space 1, the 2nd player to do so would place in space 2, etc.

Once all players have placed the worker groups, the game would zoom into the different quadrants to resolve them, and they'd be resolved by placing the individual workers from the group into the individal spaces in the quadrants, one worker at a time, in turn order based on placement (the numbered spaces). Therefore if I go to space 1 of Quadrant A (let's call that A1) with a 3 worker group, and you go to A2 with a 1 worker group, and Bob goes to A3 with a 2 worker group, then when resolving quadrant A, placement would go me-you-bob-me-bob-me.

I figure the quadrants would just be resolved in order, A-B-C-D, but to spice that up, perhaps players could go in a strict turn order, and on your turn you place any worker (or workers) where you are next in line? That's nearly the same thing, I tink, with the exception of some timing bits.

Anyway, that's the crux of it. The unique mechanism is placing worker groups into super-spaces, then distributing them (in commpetitive worker placement style) to sub-spaces within those super-spaces.

For some reason I really like the Excursion aspect. I think I like the idea to have them spice up what actions are available for the round, but for some reason I really like the idea of set collection scoring for the various excursion symbols (maybe you score for 1-of-each symbol, and also majorities for eah one - or perhpas you have a secret goal with respect o symbol collection - the Thrill Seeker is eager to have Adventure excursions!)

I currently have just money, VP, and Ecursion icons as resources, but perhaps one more wold be good, to allow for more standard spaces. I would like to focus each quadrant on a particular apect of the game, like maybe all cruise lines have a Buffet that collects you 1vp, but one line has a 5 star restaurant that earns more VP, or a better buffet where you get 1 point per worker assigned to that space (max 3). I could see a Casino which doubles your money up to a certain amount, or another location which just gives you a couple bucks. Maybe another resource such as Stress (people go on cruises to relieve stress, right?) could be involved... though that might start to be imilar to another prototype that TMG might pick up anyway.

That's the basic idea. One stumbling block (thematically) is what the actual role of the player is. You're sending people out on cruises and excursions - different groups of people... maybe you're a travel agent? but then why do you get money when your clients go to a Casino?

I'll keep working on it. Let me know if you have any thoughts about this game - do you like the sound of it? Would you like to see it become playable?


1 comment:

Brian said...

Sounds interesting - good theme to go with my favorite game mechanism!