Focus on: 8 versions of SS Sandbrook

A little review of some of the changes to the SS Sandbrook game over the last year of playtesting and updates.

Beginnings

The game started as an offshoot from a defunct game called “Sandbrook Museum”, a board game where players work to either place 6 artifacts and two ritual objects before daybreak (10 rounds) or prevent this from happening. Sandbrook Museum also started the Sandbrook series of game, based in a small town with a steam punk and Lovecraftian theme.

Placing artifacts on the board also caused players to become confused or go mad, causing different effects such as making good players place more artifacts etc.

Good players could also end the game early by placing 7 research cards onto the board before the final artifact was placed.

Sandbrook musem game board

A later version of the Sandbrook Museum game board

Playtesting revealed that, whilst fun, players were confused as to when to play the different cards and felt that it was too obvious who the good and evil players were within a couple of rounds.

Sandbrook Museum was later developed into a card only game following feedback that it would be nice to have a portable / card version of the game. The game worked better as a board game though so the idea was quickly scrapped, however the ideas and characters involved in it were taken and used to develop later into SS Sandbrook and Sandbrook Heist.

Version 1-3

SS Sandbrook developed as an offshoot, following on from the incidents that took place in Sandbrook Museum. The cult has found an inquisitor aboard a steamship and intend to take him out before he can report back. The inquisitor player must work with the other members of the ship to route out the cult before they are all turned against him, he is killed, or the ship is destroyed.

In the first version there were only the same characters as in Sandbrook Museum, the Inquisitor – though with new found powers (to actually do something!), the Mystic (formerly ‘the Seer’) , the Traitor, the Tycoon, the Tourist and the Doctor. They also discarded their names to become just titles based on feedback from players.

In version 3, Miss Waintrop, now known as the Tourist was dropped as unnecessary and not a fun character to play as (she could only play grey cards).

The Tourist player reappeared occasionally to add an extra player to the game when needed, but has officially not been part of the game since version 3.

Game character card

Wainthropp – Museum style

Tourist character card

Wainthropp – Steamship style

Party game card which makes two players skip their turn

Players were quick to point out that this just essentially means “pick up another three cards”

Chat game card which does nothing

Noone wants a chat anymore!

Some of the grey cards were also dropped as not being fun to play and therefore taking up space where more usable cards could be. These were dropped from the game.

Version 4-6

A redesign to the card layout removed the “in hand/pick up” icons and mechanic – players were often either confused by it or ignored it completely. When it was used it often also wasn’t fun. Eventually any cards that targeted the player solely because they picked it up were scrapped as players found that (unsurprisingly) becoming injured for picking up a card wasn’t fun.

This shows the importance of constant playtesting and updating your games -if something isn’t fun you won’t always recognise it yourself but others will!

New characters: the Shapeshifter appeared to take over other players’ lives. The Shapeshifter allowed another player to take part but as more of a neutral character than strictly good or evil. This character is also a slow burner, better for slightly longer games of over 15 minutes as the longer they are in play, the more powerful they become, eventually being able to kill others outright.

The Engineer and the Seducer also appeared alongside the shapeshifter, helping to fix the ship and turn people to their will.

Kraken character card for SS Sandbrook game

The Kraken! He has his own deck, own agenda and is out to get you all!

With version 5 also came the first iteration of the Kraken character, an admin role I originally created to be able to help run the games but without being one of the main characters. This character didn’t get playtests until version 7, and has changed little since except for taking a few of the more crazy cards out (like the one that changed everyone’s characters around – somewhat out of the games theme).

Call of madness game card, lovecraft themed

Funny – but a game ruiner. Discarded.

Between version 5 and 7, the markers for expansions were also discarded. You will be able to see on some of the cards a circle with “base”, “broken” or “Kraken” on. The base game and broken expansion (engineer/seducer characters) were rolled together and after version 6 were removed altogether as it confused players. In version 5 and 6 the card backs were also different to show the cards as from an expansion deck (I wanted it to be quick to playtest with and without the expansion). Playtests found they could work out who each others characters were by looking at the card backs, so this was scrapped for version 7.

Version 8 (Current playtesting version)

In version 8 the Kraken character made its proper debut as a playable character rather than an idea. With it came a few other characters which allows the playtests to get further play out of the game by changing how the dynamic works.

Apart from the Kraken (above), players can also chose from the Captain, the Cook, and The Collaborator. The Captain can work somewhat against the Kraken with the Engineer, the cook can defend other players but also poison players who are eating making that card much more dangerous. The Collaborator is a new version of the secret cultist with his own orange deck, the ability to play cultist cards and imune to one of the inquisitors powers. This is a powerful character, but has found to be fairly balanced and add a different tactic to gameplay.

A change to the cult has also been added, there are two cultists if there are more than 6 players – one secret (or collaborator) and one “known” cultist, making the cult more powerful.

Murdered players now also discard their cards on death, meaning that they cannot take cards out of the game as some players were doing on purpose and elimination cards also now take effect immediately to avoid confusion

Changes for version 9 so far are:

Need to sort out layout errors such as making captain the right colour (blue rather than grey).

Editing the rules to make more concise and change the order in which players are dealt characters to avoided having one over powered character.

I will continue to update this page as changes occur over time, but hope that this has been a little insight into how one particular game has developed over time through playtesting!

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13 thoughts on “Focus on: 8 versions of SS Sandbrook

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