Ahhhh the Coral Cap Pirates. They may currently be one of my favorite factions in the entire game, but the journey to get there was much rockier than any of the other factions. Initially they weren’t even pirates!
When first ideating expansion material I approach it with mainly one question: “what do I think would be cool or funny to see in the game world we’ve created” And there is one fishy character who has captivated me ever since I first saw him in 2015… Tahm Kench from League of Legends.
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.
After playing many Blackfish vs Mollusk games I had become much more confident in the viability of alternative factions and felt like I had gained an even deeper understanding of how these factions worked with each other.
For the two player factions it isn't only about having interesting gameplay, it's about being an interesting opponent that will force out interesting gameplay from the enemy.
Getting to revisit Ahoy wasn’t an opportunity I was expecting to have. This may surprise many but when we originally published Ahoy it was intentionally developed for no further expansion. We wanted Ahoy's rules to be rock solid and dead simple to learn, this meant closing off a lot of design paths would allow for much crazier interactions. Opportunities where the design could spiral into several new things were often cut in favor of a cleaner core experience.
Every project teaches you something and then taunts you with that knowledge—it whispers, you could always do that part better on the next project! Root taught me that it’s possible that good aids can do more than help players remember rules they already knew, but actually teach large parts of an intricate game: in tests, I often asked players to learn their factions just by reading their player boards, and it paid off. In a perfect world, people could sit down at the table and learn the game without looking at the rulebook or watching a how-to-play video.
Today I plan to speedrun you through all of the development — that I can remember — that eventually turned Hyperspace Smuggler into Ahoy. So buckle up, we have a lot to cover!
I’m so excited to get to reflect on the history of Ahoy this week! In the first part of this piece, I’ll go a bit more into the nitty-gritty of how the game developed between the time I first started conceptualizing and when I turned the prototype over to Nick for development. In the second part, I’ll share a bit about my own life and how it impacted the game’s journey.
Initially, we had planned on building Arcs like Oath. The idea was that it would probably be a big box game, with tons of cards and a pretty hefty price point—likely around $130 dollars or more. The game was designed initially as primarily a campaign game, and I didn’t want to present it without that mode. However, over the past several months we have decided to split the game into essentially two product lines.
In general, my designs tend to have a lot of thematic overlap but very little mechanical overlap. Arcs is a little different. In this design, I consciously built on mechanical elements from both Root and Oath. I wanted the game to be easily to teach and learn for players with some passing familiarity of our games and to serve as a good entry point into our other titles. I also didn’t want to innovate in a space where innovation wasn’t warranted. For instance, Oath had presented some very interesting design challenges when it came to movement and demanded a novel solution. However, for Arcs, it was pretty obvious early in the process that the game would have pieces coexisting and moving in a manner very similar to Root. It seemed obvious that Root’s general movement system would work just fine within Arcs.