Bruce Lee and Dragon Tides: Playing the Dragon, Part 1

Developing Dragon Tides has been incredibly satisfying.  My adolescence was filled with Hong Kong martial arts movies and my twenties were filled with Hollywood action movies.  Having a chance to design a game that brings these genres to your tabletop has been an honor.  This is the experience of cooking for a president, of painting The Queen, of painting for the Louvre.

This week marks our deadline for development of the core game set.  It’s a perfect time to share the experience with you.

eb8453e8fe149ad70c8b92ac6192b703_largeIt was Alex Lim of Artistic Justice Games secured the license for Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee and several other action movie stars for Dragon Tides.  AJG was partnered with Greenbrier Games to produce the game.  Luther and I already were already working on a project for Greenbrier so the two asked us to be the designers.

It was clear that this would be a big project but we were just coming off of Sentinel Tactics and eager to take on another project of that scope.

We knew immediately that we wanted Dragon Tides to promote the image of its stars, to have characters at multiple levels, a campaign mode, and action movie flavor.  Did we succeed?  I believe we did.

The Core Engine

Our first task was to create the core engine.  Alex already had a number of ideas about how the game might play.  He also had some sample components shown below–character mats, maps, custom dice–we set to work building on his ideas.

Preliminary DT bitsOur initial plan called for players to spend dice to make their characters take actions.  To move, you would spend a die that rolled a foot symbol.  To move multiple spaces, spend multiple feet.  Attacks would cost fists.  Defense costs shields.  Spend one type of die, then play passes to the next person.  The round ends when all players are out of dice.  This approach offered a fair bit of strategy but was lacking in excitement.  That’s no good for an action game.

The second plan was an extension of the first.  Dice were still spent in a similar fashion but now players spent all the dice they wished in a single go.  You might then spend 3 dice showing feet to move 3 spaces, then spend 4 dice showing fists to make a strength 4 attack.  Your opponent would spend shields to cancel fists on a 1-for-1 basis and take damage from any fists which remained.  Better but still not exciting.  Plus any player who had spent all her shields defending against an attack early in the turn was helpless against late-turn sharks.  No fun for that player.  Back to the drawing board.

We explored a few more ideas before finding the right system for Dragon Tides.

The custom dice stayed but with fewer icons: Fists and Shields only.  Each character on their turn gets to first move, then act.  Each character has a short list of Stats–Move governs how many spaces the character can move on its turn.  Strike, Throw and Grapple represent the three ways a character can attack an opponent or interact with things in the game world.

With our core engine in place, we were able to begin customizing the system to each character.  Dragon Tides was on its way!
Next Time

Our next post will take you on a trip through the Signature Move system.  Come by and see how a hand of six cards can differentiate characters.  See you then!

And if you’re interested in getting a copy of Dragon Tides for your very own, Artistic Justice is currently accepting preorders until the first week of March.
What do you think of the core mechanism in Dragon Tides?  What other games used this approach?  Which ones used them best?  Why? Share with your fellow readers in the comments below.  And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, create an account with WordPress and follow this blog.  If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.

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