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Design Me: Area Movement

It’s time to flex my brain muscle once again! Why? Because it’s a Design Me Friday! Every other Friday I do some exercise… of the mind! The idea behind these Design Me articles is to practice being creative and see what I can come up with in the spur of the moment.

In the last two exercises I designed a dice rolling worker placement game about brewing beer and a grid movement resource collection game about flying your aircar around a distopian world. What ever might I come up with today???

Once again I am using the tool from Boardgamizer for the inspiration for today’s exercise. Let’s see what it came up with:

Time traveling boats capturing other boats while only having 18 cards. This could be challenging to design!

Time traveling boats capturing other boats while only having 18 cards. This could be challenging to design!

Quantum Orcas

A little closer and that boat’s a goner!

Alright, where would one begin with a time traveling boat game based on capturing other boats all while having less than 18 cards?? Time Pirates is the first thing that came to mind, but I cannot compete with the Alan R. Moon version of that game. So I’ll go a different route. Whales.

This is only my third Design Me article, but all of the names of these fake games have been terrible. So there’s no reason I can’t call this game Quantum Orcas. But I admit, it is a pretty lame title.

In Quantum Orcas you are a killer whale that likes to eat boats. You also possess the awesome ability to jump through time. Okay… you can’t really jump through time. You can merely freeze time to make it appear that you are jumping through time. I guess the whales realized that swimming was too slow so they had their scientists (Beluga whales) design time jumping suits for them to wear so they could eat more boats.


I’m designing this as a two player game of epic boat munching awesomeness. Here are the components:

  • 48 Cards (16 for each player and 16 for the grid)
  • 8 Number tokens to mark the grid (4 gray and 4 blue)
  • 2 Four-sided dice (one gray and one blue)
  • 2 Whaleeples
  • 6 Large boat pawns
  • 12 Small boat pawns
  • Rulebook

The objective of the game is to chomp the most boats. To set up the game, shuffle and randomly place the 16 grid cards into a 4 x 4 grid. Then line up the blue and gray number tokens along the top and left edges of the grid as shown below. Then each player will roll the two 4-sided dice to determine their starting grid location. In the image below Blue rolled Gray-4 and Blue-1 while Green rolled Gray-2 and Blue-3.

Each player has a hand of 16 cards that represent the grid locations. Throughout the game you can only play each card once. The game is played over 10 rounds, so not all locations will be visited by both players.

At the start of the game each player will roll the two dice to determine the location of a small boat and a large boat. Therefore there will also be 4 boats out on the water. Note: Boats cannot be placed on the whale locations, so if that happened, the dice should be re-rolled until the boat can be placed on a vacant spot. Here’s the game after initial setup:

The orcas are getting hungry!

The orcas are getting hungry!

How to Play

In each round (except the first) players will each roll the dice to determine where to place a new boat. Once rolled, players will choose whether to place a big boat or a small boat at that location. At this point it does not matter whether or not a whale is already at that location. Place the boat there anyway because the whale will be moving off of that spot.

Once the boats have been placed then the players will choose a card from their hand, which represents a grid location. Each player will reveal their card simultaneously. Players will then move their pawns onto the corresponding grid spot.

If there is a small boat at that location, players will “EAT” the boat and move it to their area on the table in front of them. If there is a big boat at that location, players will “EAT” the boat and move it to their area on the table in front of them AND randomly discard one of their remaining cards. Over time a whale may come to a spot where there are more than 1 boat. If this is the case, the player may discard cards from their hand equivalent to the number of boats on that location and then eat them all. For example, if the green player moved to a spot where there were two small boats, that player may discard two cards and eat both of them. A player may choose to not discard any more cards and then would get to eat only a small boat from that spot. Big boats always require the discarding of a card, so if a whale came to a spot where there was a small boat and a big boat, it would cost three cards to eat them both.

Note: discarded cards are removed from the game.

Once each player has moved their whale and eaten a boat if possible, then it’s on to the next round. Note: this movement mechanism represents the whales jumping through time to come up on the boat without the boat being able to flee.

If, however, both players chose the same location then it becomes a Whale Duel! Players check to see how many boats they have eaten (Big boats count as 2 small boats). If one player has eaten fewer, that player wins the duel since their voracious appetite would cause them to womp on the other whale and win the battle. If both players have eaten the same number of ships then each player will choose and reveal a card from their hand. They will add together the blue and gray values. Whomever has the highest total will win the battle and will have to discard their card. The loser does not have to discard their card. If there is still a tie, no player eats the boat and the bosun and captain grab a bottle of rum and celebrate!

After ten rounds each player will total their value of boats eaten, keeping in mind that big boats count as 2 small boats. The player who has eaten the most boats wins the game!

Your Designer Perspective

So what would you change about this game design? Did I miss anything major? Are there holes in the design? Anything seem broken?

Those are all excellent questions that designers need to constantly be asking about their designs. I challenge you to use the Boardgamizer tool to try and come up with something on the fly. It can be a lot of fun!

Today’s Design Me exercise was actually a lot of fun. I think I could mock this game up relatively quickly and see how it plays out. Thanks for reading today, and don’t forget to exercise your game designer brain!

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