My biggest desire for the new 3- and 4-player factions was more interaction, things that mattered for more players at the table more often. Since each piece you place in Ahoy is a potential interaction point I knew they’d need to place more pieces.
From a thematic standpoint I had been interested in exploring a Sea Monster faction and fortunately these things went hand in hand! A monster that grew and was so massive and dangerous that it would block sections of the map was my starting point and this was my first cut.
The Sea Monster starts as one piece on the map and every turn could move one space, if they had available body pieces they would leave one behind, and they may never enter a space with any of their pieces. At the end of each round they score one Fame for every piece they have on the map. Additionally, any players scoring Fame for controlling a region with a Sea Monster piece gains an additional Fame. These two rules would remain as pillars of the design throughout the whole process.
Their primary goal was maintaining a supply of body pieces and using Grow and the free move to place them. They also could assign to their Spines to protect their body, making other players assign an equal or higher die just to enter their space. How this was supposed to work was they’d eventually find themselves headed to a corner and use Dive to reset at a different location.
They were supposed to be slow but inevitable, requiring a degree of planning because you couldn't simply spend dice to get where you wanted without giving up your scoring.
This version was close but it was way to centralized around using the Grow action and Spines was only being used in the final round or two to solidify final scoring. The gameplay loop just wasn’t particularly exciting and they weren’t an intimidating presence just occasionally annoying.
The next version needed to have more things to balance gameplay wise and needed more “reach” on the map. With only one Head and no movement it was too difficult to reach anything to interact with.
The next version looked like this:
The biggest difference was the introduction of Speed and Fangs as attributes. Now rather than growing and only gaining body segments there were multiple stats to care about. Speed let you move more at top of the turn and Fangs make you better at fighting.
These new incentives started to fix things, making a player choose what stats to actually grow but there still was a hyperfocus on advancing the Size chart and even when players did grow various stats there still felt like a lack of player growth. Players were doing the same thing with nearly the same tools all game. They also were getting stuck or having very obvious moves. It felt like they were just waiting to fix their position rather than getting to make choices.
The next version would attempt to address this in a few ways.
There’s a few key changes in this version. First is the introduction of the ability to gain additional heads by advancing your tracks. This was to address the “reach” problem; they simply needed more pieces they could use to influence the map and achieve their goals. I also gave them the ability to Slink, this is mainly as a “fixer” action for when you weren’t able to properly plan and need to pivot positions. This also introduced the ability to unlock card abilities with Devour giving another layer to the position and planning puzzle and added a nice feeling of player growth. It also leaned into the storytelling elements of our games. You no longer were just a large monster you could be large, with giant fangs and covered in gold plating!
This version was really promising and with a bit of trimming and polishing I’ve arrived here recently.
This was mainly a lot of small adjustments, changing Dive to be less punishing when used, adding battle incentives for large Fangs, an ability to cycle evolution cards and some shuffling of rewards. This version embodies the carefree monster the most of any, it's a powerful force that views every other piece as means to grow larger and stronger. While the smuggler is a slippery hard to pin down individual, the Leviathan is an ever present force that you simply can’t avoid. If you want a little bit more chaos and violence in your games of Ahoy the Leviathan is a wonderful addition!
Check out the Ahoy: New Horizon campaign on BackerKit for more info!