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1987 Channel Tunnel Design Diary (2/4)

Isra C.
Spain
Valdemoro, Madrid
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As you could see in the photos of the previous post, wooden discs were shown. In this post we are going to tell you where the concept of action discs comes from and how it was one of the motivating factors for the design of the game.

Once the theme was chosen, we were very clear about the main actions, where to spend those records. It was going to be necessary to drain water (drain, or what is now the action of planning) and it was going to be necessary to excavate (the action of tunnelling). The question now was how to bind those actions with the disks.



To do this, we rescued from our backlog an idea scrapped from another previous game (Marble Empire, which some of you will know that is the previous name of The Red Cathedral): the incremental cost of actions. A mechanics that worked really well for 2 players, but not so much when the number of players was higher. With this system we got that the different actions were auto-incrementing in their cost. For the first tests of Dover - Calais we used money to represent the cost, with the idea of having a single resource -some of our favourite games only implements one resource. But, it didn't go very well and the feeling was that all the weaker points remains the same.




Trying to reduce it down to the max, we opted simply use weights for the actions, which were reset turn by turn, and you could also get previously used discs. All discs are equal to effects but the cost of the actions is determined by the colour of the ones you play. It took only a few turns to see that this mechanics worth a game for itself.

So we had the central mechanics and its 2 main actions of the game, but if we stayed there, it was going to be a very bland game. We'd already had problems in the past with just scratching the surface and not adding something to give you the feeling of completeness. So we decided to include one more layer and add a random supply of cards. Along with that we added a couple more places to spend your discs, as well as the double drain/drill, get-card/play card.



In a design session, we thought to include an additional use to the cards. So that the card purchased on the display could be used and discarded to perform a main action. The use of cards for multiple actions also came from an earlier design that one day we’ll resume. But how could we get them, if we didn't have any resources to "spend" to buy such card? Of course! With the action discs!

Another thing we were looking for in this design was that the rounds could happen without a certain number of actions. The player could do as many actions in a round as coloured discs managed in turn. He could block an option for his benefit, but doing less action in that round, spending discs in pursuit of doing something less now, but then more powerful, resulting in very fast rounds or slow rounds as the players wanted.



We didn't want to use personal boards for this design, having the rubble tokens and the discs seemed enough materials (and if we wanted to make a 19xx game, that it means, a few materials) but it was crying for them. At the end we incorporated a pair of boards, to give the player a sense of development and give another uses to other components of the game. Because when you tunnel, you get a rubble token that... was useless!

Some time ago (before this design) we looked at many eurogames we played, wondering why we found them so satisfying and realized that the feeling of development and "I've done something" in a game can come in two ways: Either by emptying the board you that have full of things (Terra Mystica, Clans of Caledonia, Scythe...) or by filling it with things (Castles of Burgundy, Grand Austria Hotel...) so we already had the emptying part (the channel) we added the feeling of filling with the personal boards. We put goals and special actions (which ended up on the cards) on the board that you will get them covering with those rubble tokens.



But the randomness. Oh, the randomness! And that static supply of cards that moves less than the Caylus provost in a game with people who don't like to have fun. What to do? We can't put a "discard everything before you pick up a card" rule because when it appears in a game, it's not a mechanic we like. Increase supply? Nobody wants to have 20 cards on the table and see what each one does, you have to dose the information to the player. Although, despite this, we tried it with 3 places to get a card (so they didn't block the actions so much) and there was a kind of double supply.




After these inclusions and after many days of testing (and above all, versions and versions of the cards and the boards), when played the last time, we fell in love. Everything clicked. It was ready to show it to playtesters. And so we did.

Taking advantage of a sort of convention in a rural house with friends, the first two unwary who tried Dover-Calais, were the illustrator Paco Dana and 50% of Spanish famous blog Jugando en Pareja, Fayzah. We explained it to them, they began to play and... they finished it because they are friends, because the game was a real disaster.



We were planning to give them a lot of runs that weekend with friends who play all kinds of games (from heavy to light), but as that game ended, it went to the trunk of the car.

The most important prototype fair in Spain is “Protos and tipos” and in less than a month, we had promised Looping to bring them something they were going to love.

So… HELP!
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