Chum in the Water: Changing Gear on SharkBait

posted in: SharkBait | 1

This turned out to be a longer post than I intended.  So, for the “tldr” crowd: SharkBait went out via the PPP and I got great feedback from Tom G. So, I made major changes. Feedback is appreciated.

Here are the latest rules: SharkBait Rules Booklet (568 downloads)

SharkBait: Fish placed on the Ocean Mat as sharksAs Protospiel-Milwaukee gets closer, I am prepping each of the different games I plan to bring along.  As I get each of them ready, I’ll try to post something about them here.  For example, I’ve posted recently about Cosmic Critters (including rules) and For Goods and Honor (rules coming soon).  I even plan to post a full set of rules for my behemoth (relative to most of my designers), Magistrate, before I leave for Milwaukee! 🙂

One design that I had fairly far along — or so I thought — was Sharkbait … a family-style dice game about saving fish from being eaten by sharks.

I had a cool dice-rolling-and-placing mechanic that let you roll your sharks and your fish and put them on a board and get a score based on how the fish were located compared to the sharks … and I had a nifty scoring token board thing that gave some player interaction … and my subtle (and, sometimes, not-so-subtle) catch-up mechanic using “Shark Bait” tokens to upgrade your score … and it all seems pretty polished and ready.  And then I sent it out into the wild via the PPP Program administered by Grant Rodiek of Hyperbole games.

The game found it’s way to Tom Gurganus (he’s also a good Twitter follow), who was able to try it out a number of times with a couple different groups, including folks square in what I want to be the game’s target market, as well as some other experienced designers I know and trust.  Tom’s feedback was thorough, thoughtful, and pointed out both things the player liked as well as things that needed some work.  (I will now badly summarize and paraphrase my interpretation of Tom’s nicely detailed points.)

For the most-part, players liked the theme and the dice-play allowed for some interesting decisions to be made, along with the scoring tokens and Shark Bait token upgrade. But some of those things — such as the decisions allowed when placing dice — actually contributed to too much downtime between turns, especially for a rather casual game.  Turns took too long and some of the things were complicated enough to make the written rules overly-long (again, for a lighter family-style game).  The biggest kicker was that there really was no magic in the end-game … scores were tracked with pawns on a track, and there was no end-of-game bonus or other scoring elements to give something of an aha! at the end.  So, it was pretty anticlimactic.  And since it was obvious if you were too far behind the leader, it would lead to players disengaging.

So, I felt a mix of some bigger and smaller changes were need to fix the different issues here:

  • Bigger — I’ve completely changed the scoring method altogether … from a pawn-on-a-track approach, to hidden values on tokens that are collected.
  • Bigger — A new player-interaction element … although for now it’s labeled as being the “advanced rules,” I expect I’ll be switching it to being standard (with a “simpler rules” option for those that need it) … the same tokens used for scoring are used by players to place the sharks on a neighbor’s turn.
  • Smaller — Fewer dice to roll (down to 6 from 8), sharks are placed ahead of time (tokens determine the sharks’ locations instead of the player rolling the dice), and a simplification on which dice can be placed … in fact, I may have over-corrected here (we’ll see from more testing).
  • Smaller — Simplify the components and terms … this cut by components by about 75%, and my rules pages in half.

The new tokens-from-a-bag are going to be fish-shaped … I think that adds a fun element. You’re not literally saving fish by pulling them out of the water (a blue draw bag) based on how well you do in avoiding the sharks with your dice.

In any case, I’ve rambled enough here … the rules are linked at the top of this post, if you care to give them a read.  As always, I really appreciate any feedback you might have! 🙂

  1. tomg

    Hi Matt.
    We had fun with Shark Bait and were very happy to provide some feedback. The changes you have made sound really neat. I wish I still had the game so we could try them all. It is a solid game and I think will hit the market you want right square in their happy spot. Keep me informed on how it goes.

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