Captain's Log: Rosalind

"We should make a healer."
- Mitchell, at some point in development

The reason Rosalind entered the game was that simple. But she’s gone through a few iterations between her time as Henry V and today, and we’ll walk through the interesting ones.

Mechanics

Original: “You win if everyone is alive by round 8.”

Current: “You win if everyone else is alive when the game ends or on round 8. If another captain would die, instead Reveal and match their health to yours.”

So yes, she plays as a healer. You spend your rounds pacifying violence, stalling for time, forming alliances and protecting everyone else. Because Rosalind wants people to survive for 8 rounds, and Captain’s Gambit ends upon victory, we get into an interesting side effect: the threat of Rosalind winning before you can finish the game encourages captains to start killing each other as soon as possible. This stops players from spending the first half of the game doing nothing but overcharge - in other words, adding this healer to the captain pool increases average aggression, even if she’s not in the current game.

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The additional bonus of having a healing-based win condition is that aggressive players an easy excuse to start smacking. One of the earlier problems of the game was that the first player to attack another had an immediate target painted on their head - but now, because of the threat of Rosalind, you have a lot more persuasive freedom to come across as a helpful leader.

Interestingly, the most difficult part of Rosalind’s development wasn’t really finding balanced mechanics as much as finding mechanics that could actually fit on the space of the card. When working with physical games it turns out there’s a very real logistics problem of figuring out how to cram as many words as possible into a small text box while keeping things both clear and brief… that’s been the true challenge.

Lore

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Our first draft of Rosalind was named Henry V - I liked how his character did his best and then died anyway, and I thought of him as a kinda squid-ish person.

A bit later we noticed that there was only like one woman in Captain's Gambit, and since Richard III was already here, we decided to trade off the mirror aspect of "Henry vs Richard; save vs kill everyone" to get another theatrical production (As You Like It) and another woman in the game. Mitchell suggested Rosalind, so here we are!

Rosalind is my favourite visual design in CG - I love the colours and the feeling of someone who keeps everyone else alive in order to actually just win herself later on.

Obviously every captain has a different origin story, but you may have also noticed that some captains started as a necessity for a character while others started with a mechanic idea that later had an identity attached to them. How it is, I guess.

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The final infusion of lore, that makes Rosalind feel most like Rosalind, is allowing her to win from the victory of others. Because Rosalind in this play is a highly social person, regardless of her current gender she is doing something in service of companionship; thus, having the player seek a potential suitor and ask to work alongside them for victory is quite fitting of her abilities. It also makes her more balanced.

And that’s Rosalind!

“If I were a woman I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me, complexions that liked me and breaths that I defied not: and, I am sure, as many as have good beards or good faces or sweet breaths will, for my kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell.”

  • Rosalind, As You Like It, Act V Scene 4

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Captain's Log: Aliens and Women

Happy Women’s Day!

In Captain’s Gambit, our cast of characters involves aliens, but of course based on Shakespearian characters from centuries ago. While we’ve kept the names and pronouns of the original characters, it was a conscious decision to design the female captains as such that we didn’t give them all cis-mammal-human characteristics. But it’s actually a fairly complicated issue that boils down to - how do you make representation obvious without perpetuating stereotypes?

In Favour of “Female-Looking” Aliens

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There’s two sides to this question that we wrestled with when designing the captains: on one hand, having visually identifiable “human female” presenting captains means that onlookers and players can easily recognize that women exist. This won’t be a blog post discussing the argumentation in favour of representation, but essentially that’s the upside of having ”female”-looking aliens: visual indicators help players recognize the act of representation, and with that, all the good empowerment and single-brick-deconstruction of patriarchal norms. Conversely, if nobody ‘looks like a woman’, there’s the question of whether or not there’s female and femme representation at all in the game - would it look like Captain’s Gambit is trying to “hide” the presence of women?

In Favour of Aliens Looking Like Aliens

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There’s the other hand, though: particularly relating to biological essentialism is the fact that there is no way aliens would share the same gendered visual stereotypes that humans do. And, looking at how we’ve designed men with such a variety of body types, it seems not just stifling but also uncomfortably focused on gaze and appearance to try and design all the women in Captain’s Gambit within a box. The implicit throughlines one would draw from comparing genders seems gross if we were to make every woman in Captains’ Gambit “look feminine”: why constrain the appearance range of one gender?

Wait

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Yeah, the path is obvious in retrospect, huh? Just do both! Multiplicity is key, and is what I think other media often mess up: by having only one person of a group, or every person in that group represented the same, there’s an uncomfortable burden for that character to embody the complex and multifaceted nature of anything falling under “womanhood”.

So yes, some captains look cis-human-female (mostly via eyelashes) but others don’t look humanly-female but are still women. And now you know why! My hope is that it’s never even crossed your mind until now - I want to normalize this stuff, and I hope we’ve been successful.

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PS: We recognize the patterns with the win conditions of most women in Captain’s Gambit… blame Shakespeare’s narrow scope of characterization. If you do have characters you’d love to see in future expansions or stretch goals, let us know!

Captain's Log: Hamlet

The time is out of joint; O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
- Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 5 (Hamlet)

Hamlet was one of our first captains. We designed him with the goal that players will go through the same trials that Hamlet does in the literature: coming into conflict with themselves over their fear of being too early or too late to strike.

For context: the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is about a young man who must overcome his mental paralyses to fulfill the wishes of his deceased father and enact vengeance upon his uncle. Of course, the struggle with Hamlet is that his sharp wit and astute analysis combine with his existential issues to lead him into a proverbial hall of mirrors. His wilderness is of his own design. He must take decisive action, but his melancholy and doubt paints him into a mental labyrinth with only a glimmer of hope at the end pulling him through.

We convey this backstory through the simple mechanic of secretly marking a player, and making it your goal to kill them. Your mark knows that someone’s out to get them, but they don’t know which player it is. They can’t publicly reveal that someone is after them, either, or else they’ll be in an even worse spot.

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...but, as Hamlet, you can’t just directly attack them, either. First you must sow some kind of chaos to prevent them from calling you out and making things impossible for you. You must wait until their health gets lower from other causes, or until you have built up your own strength.

When playing as Hamlet, we know you don’t have to wait for the perfect moment, nor are you guaranteed to feel fear or stress over proper timing and remaining innocuous until the last second. Ideally, though, the mechanics make the plot emerge on its own. And then you’re (hopefully!) pulled into the same emotional hurdles as Hamlet throughout those 12 rounds.

When drawing his concept art I wanted to make someone who looked very slow to act! So his first incarnation was of a sad slug. Once Bo took over the art, we decided that a sloth would look way cooler, and that he should also have Yorick’s skull. While the dagger isn’t accurate to Hamlet’s story in a direct sense (Hamlet is more of a sword user) the dagger has better imagery of a planned and sudden strike.

 
 

The sloth is an improvement for sure, but I’m also definitely gonna use the emo snail aesthetic for future games.

And that’s the story of Hamlet. If you’d like to know the backstory of any particular captain, comment below to put in your vote for who we should cover next!

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