Ocean Traits! Artist sketches, a call for trait ideas, and a free copy of Oceans

Cover-character-600Cover art character sketch

The thoughtfulness of BGG commenters is a constant surprise. When we started writing about Oceans, we didn’t expect readers there to help us design the thing. We expected death threats and sarcasm. But BGG isn’t like the rest of the internet.

First, BGGers helped us name the game. After more than 1000 reader votes (here and here) and a long comment thread about naming, the working title is now Oceans: An Evolution Game, for which commenters are almost entirely responsible. We’ll be surprised if it doesn’t stick.

Then commenters produced a 218-comment thread of suggestions about the species boards, some of them head-blow-uppingly brilliant. That discussion deeply informed our thinking and the game will be better for it.

Now that you’ve been so helpful, we repay your help by soliciting more! The task before us is perhaps the most fun part of making an Evolution game: the traits. But first, we have early sketches to show you.


Catherine Hamilton, the illustrious wildlife artist who did the art for the previous Evolution games, is doing the art for Oceans too. We’re lucky to have her because demand for her work has gotten even nuttier lately. She also loves marine life and has attacked this project with uncommon gusto. She’s given us a cover-art character sketch and three trait sketches.

You’ve seen the cover sketch at the top of this post, but here’s another one:


…and here are the traits:


Brian would need to change his wetsuit if he came across this beast on one of his dives


Notice the plankton obscuring half the fish. It’s only when the water clears that you can see the transparent fish

Filter Feeder

filter-sketch-600 A gentle giant

We want your traits

Now’s a great time to suggest trait ideas because we’re entering a phase of intense work on them. There’s a free game in it for you (see below for details)

To brainstorm traits, you may or may not want to see the current traits (spoilers!) and the current rules (also spoilers!) All this is work in progress so don’t expect perfection. Note these aren’t living documents and they’ll go out of date fast (like, by tomorrow).

Here are our design goals for each trait:

  • Fun – if it isn’t fun the other constraints are pointless
  • Iconic – everyone has heard of the trait and associates it with the ocean
  • Functionally thematic – creates game dynamics you’d expect from it
  • High dynamic value – it’s power waxes and wanes with game state
  • Not over- or under-powered
  • Interacts with multiple other traits in cool ways
  • Easy to understand 
  • Expressible in few words (and errata-free)

Every constraint is important. Satisfying all at once is brutally hard, and astronomically harder when you haven’t played the game. Most of you haven’t, so it’ll be tough to be brilliant. But we can have interesting discussion in any case, and we’ve learned not to underestimate BGG.

To get you started, here are some iconic ocean things for your edification:


Free copies of Oceans incoming

  • If you have a trait suggestion, put it in the comments here.
  • We’ll let this thread bake for two weeks and then pick our favorite suggestion. It’s author will get a free copy of Oceans upon publication.
  • In the event we use a suggested trait in the game, its author will get a free copy of Oceans, credit for designing it in the rulebook, and our gratitude.
  • It’s possible we’ll use traits proposed here as promo traits in the Kickstarter campaign. In that case, their authors will get attribution and kudos in the Kickstarter campaign.

We encourage the thoughtfulness and civility BGG is known for, so future anthropologists can one day point here and say “There was once a place on the internet that was not engulfed in stupidity and flame…”

From the Sea,

Brian and Nick

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