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Wind Direction as a Mechanic

8 replies [Last post]
Joined: 03/27/2014

Hi All,

I'm working on a game that uses sailing/boating as the primary means of transportation. A main mechanic I'm trying to implement is that the direction of the wind plays a big role in where you can get, and how quickly you can get there depending on what kind of ship/boat you use as you travel between many different islands.

The board is on a hex grid, so the wind has 6 possibilities of direction. Throughout the game, players have the opportunity to build different types of sea vessels which have differing abilities to hold cargo, hold crew, and navigate the sea.

Example, a Sailboat would be faster traveling with the wind or at angles, could never travel directly into the wind, and has moderate abilities to hold cargo. Meanwhile, a Barge would not be at all impacted by the wind, but can also move any direction equally well (albeit, slower) and hold lots of cargo.

Each round, the wind direction would be determined by a modified die with indicators such as +1 or +2 (the wind shifts 1 or 2 directions clockwise), -1 or -2 (the wind shifts 1 or 2 directions counter-clockwise), 0 (no change in direction) or the possibility of Dead Wind. Initial direction at the start of the game and after Dead Wind is determined by a d6 with each number corresponding to a direction on the hex grid.

Has anyone seen this wind mechanic or something similar in another game? It's been on my mind for a few weeks now, and I just can't shake the idea!

Any thoughts and input are appreciated. Thanks!

Dralius's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
Regatta does. Here are the

Regatta does. Here are the rules.

and many other sailing games do too.

Joined: 07/03/2013
No board games I know of do...

But I know of a few videogames that did. My favorite of those was "Moonbase Commander" with its ability to fling projectiles and buildings which was affected by wind.

However, having sailing experience myself, I think that this idea is a great one. I think it would be good to have various methods of transportation, like rowing, sailing with the wind, etc., allowing you to move against the wind if needed, or have a battleship with the ability to row very fast towards an enemy that requires frequent stops or else your ship has to skip turns while the oarsmen have to rest.

I think the key would be clarity in showing wind direction. Using a spinner at the bottom of the map or a standing object that players could easily see would allow for the rule to be easier to follow. Perhaps there could be events cards thae alter wind direction a fixed amount in a direction on the spinner, or a card that requires a roll of a 6-sided (or 12 sided) dice. Storms could make sailing dnagerous, with a chance of tearing a sail (it's not fun in real life either...).

To me, the question is whether players would all have the same ships or would get to choose between them. If the rules for each ship were printed somewhere (like an owner's card for the given ship a la "Pirates of the Spanish Main", it would create a great diversity with which the players can interact.

Joined: 03/27/2014
You hit on many of the things

You hit on many of the things I'm currently thinking through!

Each crew member would have the ability to hold one item during the trips from the home island. Oars would increase distance per turn (and allow some movement into the wind), axes would allow crews to chop down trees on an island, machetes would allow them to navigate/harvest islands covered in overgrowth and slaughter animals for food, and axes would allow them to dig for metals.

Wind direction is indicated by a token placed on the corresponding side of the hex board. It's large enough to easily see how the wind would effect each boat on each turn.

I've thought a lot about adding storms and event cards (tearing sails is a new one!), and still not sure how to incorporate it effectively. I've thought of a "Rough Seas" event where basically everyone's boat gets tossed a random direction, along with the possibility of losing crew and/or cargo.

My other big hurdle is figuring out how to encourage player interaction. I'm hesitant to make it too combat-heavy, and would rather instead focus on trading and Skill Exchange.

Skill Exchange Example: Rick has a boat that can carry lots of people, while Sara has a boat that can move a little into the wind. If these two boats meet up, Rick can get a card for +1 Movement Into Wind (which he 'learned' from Sara) and Sara will get a card for +1 Crew (which she 'learned' from Rick). The next time they build a new boat, they will be able to use that +1 card towards the abilities of that new boat.

Players have options to build different kinds of ships, which each require different supplies and have different abilities. Ships with higher costs to build and more crew required to operate have greater abilities. Choices are pretty open, but depend on what players harvest from other islands. Boats can be deconstructed to salvage parts for better boats.

I should mention at this point that the goal of the game is to eventually build a big enough ship to take a crew and supplies out of the island chain and explore other lands. First one to be the next Magellan is victorious!

Joined: 02/05/2015
Need mechanic that combines wind direction + other variables

Since this thread deals with wind direction mechanics in a sailing game, I thought this might be a good place to invite mechanic suggestions for my boardgame design in progress...

It's a sailing wargame with a 1 km square grid. It's solitaire, so I'm trying to design an elegant, playable system for determining the AI enemy ship's turn direction (one of 8 possible headings) and an order that the ship will follow for the next 3 movement pulses (6 x 5 minute pulses per 30 minute game turn).

My inspiration mechanic comes from the classic Tokyo Express, (Victory Games, 1986). Here is a small portion of its Battle Movement Display:

Here is how this system works:

The ship in hex #1 is your human player ship.
The numbered and colored zones in circles (2, 3, 10, 11) represent the location of the enemy ship in relation to your ship (i.e, zone 2 is off the port quarter).
Within a zone, you see colored arrows, and numbers representing a range of results from a 1d10 die roll. You roll, and then make the enemy ship turn immediately in the direction of the arrow matching the dieroll result.
Next to each arrow is an order (Example, 60P is 60 degrees Port turn, and AbS is about turn starboard). The ship also has to complete that order over the next three movement pulses.

The Tokyo Express system gives some very intelligent and variable enemy movements that respond to the player's actions and try to get into a position of advantage.

My challenge: An age of sail game also has to factor in not only the above parameters, but also the wind direction relative to the starting heading of the enemy ship. Ships can't sail directly into the wind, either, and generally will avoid tacking (turning the bow through the wind) in the presence of the enemy.

Ideally, I'd love to make a diceless system using colored dots and colored arrows, in combination with, say, a rotating enemy ship counter (showing its heading) and a rotating donut-shaped ring token around it (which could be rotated to the current wind direction). Then perhaps it would be possible to match some combination of dots, arrows and and tic marks on the inner and outer edge of the ring with marks on the ship counter and/or the display. Somhow, all that would tell you two things without having to consult a separate chart or roll a die: the immediate turn direction and the enemy ship's order (Ahead, 45 degrees port, 45 degrees starboard, About Port, About Starboard).

Another idea was to use colored dots and arrows on the display/counter/ring in combination with a card system of some kind.

I need a way to randomize each available turn/order combination, but those outcomes have to be (a) limited to the 3 to 6 outcomes that fit the current tactical situation given the enemies' current relative positions, and (b) make some outcomes more likely and some less likely -- not just 100% random.

Any ideas?

[Edit] Another thought: Perhaps a point and cards system, something like this...

Each combination of ship bearing counter, the zone it's in, and the wind direction give a set of good, better, best turn/order combinations with a point cost (say, 1 to 8 points). Then a deck or decks could be used to draw random cards that have point values. The AI uses the immediate turn/order combination whose cost is affordable with the points on the card.

Hook's picture
Joined: 09/22/2014

Hey Ryan,

I don't know if this is any use to you, I have been working on a wind system lately for a project (not about ships ). My idea was that the wind is posted on other game cards drawn each turn. So a wind would blow in a direction and with a speed value. BUT i didnt want the wind to shif 180 degrees every time you draw a card. This is solved by cards only modifying the total wind speed.
If we have a token on a board indicating a current wind direction for example 3 North - and the card says 1 South, the final current wind speed would be 2 North.

umm. Here is an diagram sketch. The wind token starts in the center - but the center is ignored after that.

Cards in the right side is example draws.

The Professor
The Professor's picture
Joined: 10/25/2014
Wind...interesting, but challenging

To those who contemplate using 'wind' as a mechanic, I can only say, be careful. I served as the Lead Developer for a WWI Zeppelin game for a gentleman out of Australia. While the concept appeared sound on paper, its execution proved nigh on impossible. I'm a military war gamer at heart and the use of wind as a mechanic in the game slowed the pace of movement that I thought the designer was actually trying to train Zeppelin pilots in the operation of these air ships. In short, it can work, but don't make it painful.


Joined: 05/23/2015
For boardgames, the only one

For boardgames, the only one that comes to my mind is Primordial Soup ( which uses water current that shifts every turn, but it's completely random. You draw a card that tells you what direction the current is moving.

Sid Meier's Pirates is a videogame that uses wind direction and sailing. For the most part the wind goes went to east, but it will vary in both direction and intensity throughout the game. Different designs had differing ability to tack, etc. It also has storms which can give you a great speed boost at the risk of damage to your ship. I'd actually recommend checking it out and mining it for ideas (it's also on sale for 2.50 USD on Steam right now).

One thing to think about is whether you want to have totally random wind direction or give it a general prevailing direction. Using a small card deck would give you more control over the direction than dice would. It would also allow you to include some random events like storms, or dead winds.

JewellGames's picture
Joined: 06/03/2012
Just a slightly different

Just a slightly different mechanic to consider (which works for any variable in a game really)...

Here is a way to have quasi-randomness if you don't want the wind direction drastically changing between every turn.

Have a white wind direction die and black wind change die with the same 6 symbols.

Roll the (white) wind direction die to determine initial wind direction.

Every turn/round, roll the (black) wind change die. ONLY when its result matches the current wind direction do you reroll the wind direction die.

Cards and powers could allow you to reroll the wind change die more often. Other cards and powers could force you to roll the wind direction die itself. Other woulds have you decrement or increment the wind die (+/-1, +/-2), etc.

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