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Tidal Blades: Heroes of the Reef» Forums » General

Subject: Tidal Blades Design Diary #1 rss

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Tim Eisner
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Tidal Blades has been in development for a year-and-a-half, and in that time it has gone through many transformations and shifts. To give you a better sense of the inner workings of the game, we’d like to outline the genesis of some of the central mechanics. Today we will start with the character Traits which impact the strength of certain actions, how well players can utilize their dice and let players unlock asymmetrical player powers.

With the goal of making a character driven dice rolling game, one of our very first design decisions was creating four attributes (which would later become Traits). The four starting attributes were:
Max Dice - the total number of dice a player could hold (Spirit)
Max Roll - How many dice a player could roll in a Challenge (Focus)
Dice Refresh - How many dice a player could refresh at the end of any round (Resilience)
Miscellaneous Rewards - This included gaining resources, extra workers, and more. (Synergy)



Focus

This is the Trait that has remained most constant throughout the design process. The amount of Focus players start with has gone up and down but the basic limitation on the number of dice that can be rolled has remained. It works well as a bottleneck, and players are always excited to increase their max roll.

In the beginning, players could only spend a maximum of one Fruit to temporarily increase their max roll. Through playtesting and development, we relaxed this and now any amount of Fruit can be consumed to add to your max roll. This helped to make Fruit a more dynamic resource, and made players balance between spending Fruit to roll extra dice, and purchasing cards from the Market. It also helped to reduce the power level of Focus and make it less of a “must have” trait--we wanted players to be able to pursue other strategies and still be able to use all their dice.



Resilience
Having an active dice pool and a spent dice pool was part of the game from the beginning and Resilience has always been the Trait that determines how many dice a player refreshes at the end of each round. While the numbers went up and down, the basic function of Resilience remained constant for the majority of the development. A monumental change came later in the design process when we realized that upgrading dice was an underutilized part of the game.

Up until this point, upgrading dice was present on certain action spaces, but these only allowed players to go from White to Red or from Red to Blue. Once we tested it with Resilience refreshing and upgrading dice, we knew that it should be part of the game. This led to an expansion of the types of dice in the dice pool (which we’ll discuss in a later diary) and to the removal of the dice upgrade locations from the board, to help give more weight to the Resilience Trait.

Refreshing and upgrading dice allowed us to make an expanded dice pool and upgrade path which has proved to be very fun and exciting, but the benefit we like most of all is how it keeps the focus on completing Challenges. Dice can only be Upgraded from your Spent Dice which means you must first use them in a Challenge. Thematically this works well, because the dice represent your current power and energy level. The more Challenges you successfully complete, the more you learn and, the more you can attempt more difficult challenges. Mechanically, this creates a very satisfying puzzle of which and how many dice you want to use in a Challenge, and which types of dice you want to upgrade.



Spirit
This started out as the maximum amount of dice players could hold, but that ended up being less interesting and exciting than we had hoped. It worked to some extent but felt mundane, and players did not feel like they were progressing by upgrading this Trait. The issue with a dice limit was, if we set it too low, players would have to jettison dice to get new dice, making many of the actions spaces useless. But if the basic dice limit was too high, this trait became the least important, and players could ignore it outright. We settled on a set dice limit of six and looked for a way to give Spirit a little more pizzazz.

Stunt cards were a part of the game from early on but gave players a fixed bonus. In discussion one day, we came up with an idea of a stunt card that got better the higher your Spirit was. This started out as a single card, but it worked so well that we soon adopted it as the main mechanic for both Stunt cards and Spirit. Thematically, a character’s spirit is what lets them pull off amazing moves and dramatic finishes. Mechanically, having Stunts and Spirit intertwined creates tension in when players want to use their Stunts and how much they want to build up their Spirit score. The more Stunts a player has, the more they want to raise their Spirit and vice versa.



Spirit, while not as foundational as Focus or Resilience, offers players a divergent strategy that hinges on acquiring enough Stunts and using those to make up for lower Max Roll and less upgraded dice. I would compare Stunts to the extra actions in games like Dominion. They are not the surest way to win, but they are very fun and if you can raise your Spirit score to 4 you will be able to pull off some amazing maneuvers and might even claim victory.



Synergy
Ah, Synergy, the ever changing, elusive, magical miscellaneous Trait. From the get-go, Synergy was the odd one out. All the other traits dealt with dice and rolling, but Synergy begged to be different. The first path we tried was having extra workers present on the Synergy track. This worked at a basic level, but as happens in many worker placement games, the extra workers became the dominant strategy. Whoever was able to nab the Synergy challenges early got a leg up that was hard to beat. We tried handicapping the extra worker by giving a player an extra danger die for each extra action they would take. Mechanically, this was excellent, but the feedback from playtesters was almost universally negative. Players did not like being saddled with extra danger. Ultimately, we decided to give extra workers to all players periodically throughout the game, so players would not have to worry about whether or not extra workers were the sure way to win, or a red herring.

This left us looking for something else for Synergy. Digging into the amazing world built by David and Lina, we were drawn to the Shell Devices. These were scientifically crafted items of power: an advanced tech with a feeling akin to magic. Synergy became the way that players could craft and obtain Shell Devices. These devices offered unique upgrades to the players and were purchased from a central Market. They were upgradeable and worked fairly well.

However, the game already included several shared markets, and having yet another was adding a lot of cognitive load (not to mention table space). At the same time, we were looking for a way to inject more of the personality of the characters into the game, which led us to the creation of Character cards. Instead of selecting from the market, each Character would have its own deck of cards that could be unlocked with Synergy. These individual decks featured many of the Shell Devices (Racing Engine, Crocodile Armor) and also added unique abilities and latent talents that the characters could manifest throughout the game.



The Character cards were very successful in how they brought the characters to life, allowed for more divergent strategies, and made the characters even more customizable. By building individual character decks, we were able to create complimentary bonuses and effects that players could unlock through developing their characters’ Synergy. Tidal Blades is a game with a strong theme and narrative, and the Character cards help tell the story, and are also a way players can forge a unique path to victory.

All of the Traits are important to a Tidal Blade, and through the game you can choose what you will specialize in to customize your character’s strengths. They each offer their own individual reward, and can be paired up in interesting ways. While Focus and Resilience are the foundation of a strong dice pool, Spirit and Synergy offer alternative solutions and ways to overcome limitations.

Thanks for reading, and we hope this diary has been informative. Please join us in the coming weeks as we discuss the creation of the Islands, the structure of Challenges, and the deadly Monsters from the Fold.

Tim and Ben Eisner
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CardBoard Bear

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I generally do not like playing with dice as I'm a euro gamer. but I'm interested in this game. I was wondering how much of a factor luck plays. are there big swings or is there a lot of luck mitigation. roughly speaking, where is this game between "mindless rolling" and "options for every dice"?

can you still win if you roll poorly? statistically speaking, strings of bad rolls will happen. would that decide the outcome of the game?
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James Hudson
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Cardboard bear - great question!

The Shell Shield that every player starts the game with is our dice mitigation mechanic. When the danger dice hits an "x" you have to pay a shell to ignore its effects. (The effect of an "x" on the danger dice is that it kills a dice) So, when you pay that shell to keep rolling, it goes on the Shell Shield, you have 2 options to spend Shells that have accumulated on the Shield (they accumulate there when you have a "bad roll") - You can spend 3 shells from the Shield to turn a dice to any facing or you can spend 5 shells to advance any trait dial 1 position.

What we have found in play testing is that if you plan your resources wisely and plan when you want to attempt your challenges, mitigating "luck" is almost a non factor. You can push your luck and go into a challenge with the bare minimum resources and dice, maybe you get lucky and complete it, but probably not, but you know that beforehand.

This system immolates a strategic approach to attempting a challenge or monster fight. You can plan out your strategy and moves, build up the correct resources and go into knowing you have a super high chance of completion. Just like in life, if you take on a task, typically you think you can complete it, but sometimes you go for a long shot, but you know its kinda a bonus if you complete it. I think the game gets that just right.

Hope that helps! There are also play throughs so you can see this all in action. Just did one with The Brothers Murph last night - Link here:

https://youtu.be/qLp_JN2e2IM

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CardBoard Bear

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not sure why many ks campaigns don't but I think it'd be great to see a game played by people who know the game. so you mentioned in that video that you can play a 2 players game in 1h. that'd be a lot more watchable in my opinion than a 3h video.

but at least, thanks for posting this video...some campaigns don't even post a gameplay video at all.

one thing the video didn't show is how many monsters there are, and the differences between the hero decks. at least, I didn't get that (I skipped through the banter to shorten the video).

like I mentioned in the other thread, one funny thing this video showed is that Eko looks like an axolotl, and Axl looks like Ekko (from league of legends). coincidence? easter egg? ^^

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David Forest
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CardBear wrote:

one thing the video didn't show is how many monsters there are, and the differences between the hero decks. at least, I didn't get that (I skipped through the banter to shorten the video).

like I mentioned in the other thread, one funny thing this video showed is that Eko looks like an axolotl, and Axl looks like Ekko (from league of legends). coincidence? easter egg? ^^


There are currently 6 unique Monsters. As for the asymmetric powers, the Kickstarter page will have a section where you can compare the abilities in each Character decks.

We just answered your last question in Eko's diary!
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Doug Butler
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Great article Tim and Ben. You guys never fail to amaze me with what you come up with. I know the hours of design,test,design,test... will be well rewarded with a great game. Thanks for these peeks behind the magic curtain.
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Filipa Tato
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BoardGameNoobie wrote:
Hi guys, great work with the campaign so far! I had a question about all this lore you’re putting into the KS updates. I love the art book in the Deluxe pledge level, but are you considering offering a lore book maybe, too? I don’t want to have to look around for scattered lore posts here and in KS, and it would be awesome to have all this world building in a single resource.

Last question: how about a neoprene “under mat” for the campaign? The boards are super nice-looking. But they don’t fit together or hold together, and on a table top may slide around. A mat underneath with lines showing where each board piece goes would be an excellent add-on or even SG that would add tons of value. Thoughts? Thanks!

Lorebook would be great, I can't think of a reason why this couldn't be a reality maybe the art book could be completed with the lore, instead of having 2 different books? Just an idea...

Playmat would be amazing. The art of Tidal Blades is so beautiful I want everything that extends the experience of it and the immersive feeling of playing in this world!
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Adam Larson
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Impressive looking campaign! I'm looking forward to following along.
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Ben Akers
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Really appreciate the effort that has gone in to do these design diaries, journals, etc.! Game looks awesome and all this “extra” work definitely adds to the appeal! Great job!
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James Hudson
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The game is a table hog. Check out the Dice Tower play through, it took every inch of that Rethskeller's table to hold the game.

Also a playmat would be obsolete if we released an expansion.
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Lee Fisher
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Where is #2?
 
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