My goals for The Isle of Cats expansions

5th May 2021 by Frank West1

Tomorrow I will be releasing my first deep dive into one of the new modules in the upcoming expansions, but before doing so I would like to explain some of the thought processes behind the new content.

The Isle of Cats has 3 core modes, family, standard, and solo, and each of these modes has a different audience that enjoys the game for different reasons. You might think the family mode is the only way to play, while someone else may feel the same about the standard or solo modes.

My first goal was to make sure I approach the new content with all 3 modes in mind.

Over the past 18 months I have read thousands of comments about the game, watched hundreds of hours of videos, and used this information to evaluate all my ideas for expansions and to help decide which are best placed for this release.

Equally, I have made sure to keep a balance between new content that adds more replayability to the existing game without changing it, and new content that changes the experience in some way without losing the core experience you currently enjoy playing.

My second goal was to increase replayability of the current experience, while giving players the option to expand upon the experience when, and if they are ready to.

Lesson modules are one of my favourite parts of The Isle of Cats, they allow you to switch a few cards to completely change the challenge you will face. They keep the game fresh, replayable, and expandable, without adding new rules or taking up too much space.

Yet, I also dislike the requirement they add of browsing through a deck of cards to remove each module and replace it with another. For the existing game, I think the pay off is worth it, you do not need to switch the cards every play and I often say every 3-5 plays is absolutely fine. 5 minutes of sorting every 3-5 games isn’t terrible, but I don’t want to increase this further with new content.

My third goal was to make sure each new content item in the expansions was as quick and easy to plug in and play as possible.

Finally, I wanted to make sure you, as the player, could continue to enjoy the game in the way you wanted. Originally, I was looking into one big, large expansion, but the problem with this is:

* It restricted my options for goal one, as making everything work well for both family and standard modes is challenging, and I want to limit the number of components needed for just one mode as much as possible to make it more affordable for everyone, and to stop you paying extra for components you will not use.

* It didn’t work well for my second goal as it became more one or the other and not both.

* It challenged my third goal, as switching between playing with and without the expansion was a lot of work for the player.

This led me to start exploring a modular approach which I found to be the best option moving forward.

* Each module could be packaged with its own components and you either take them out of the box, or you don’t, there’s no cross mixing of components from the expansions with the base game making it incredibly quick to add in.

* Each module could focus on enhancing different parts of the current gameplay. If there is a particular change you don’t like, you can opt to not use that module while still experiencing the rest of the expansion.

* Each module adds a different level of complexity to the game, meaning you can slowly introduce them as you get more familiar with the game.

* Each module has been designed to work in harmony with all other modules as well, meaning if you want to take The Isle of Cats to a whole new level, and experience a heavier, deeper strategic game, then you can. Equally, if you enjoy the current complexity, you can try each module individually without feeling overwhelmed.

I also feel the great thing with modules is when the expansion arrives, you can pick one, play it and not have to spend too much time reading rules and trying to take on too much new stuff at once. It then gives you a chance to explore each module in detail and gives you many extra sessions of play as you build up to combining it all. It also offers you the chance to use some modules even with new players should you feel they will be comfortable with them.

My fourth goal was to have each module focus on enhancing specific parts of the game allowing players to experience the game in many ways, while also making sure they worked in harmony with each other to provide a new heavier game for those who are ready for it.

For most people it probably will not come as a surprise to hear how much I enjoy the solo mode of The Isle of Cats. The sister system is something I am incredibly proud of and supporting solo play is just as important as multiplayer play for me.

My fifth goal was to make sure at least one of the new modules had a large impact on the replayability of solo play, and added new difficulty levels for those wanting them.

Over the next weeks, as I dive deeper into the new modules, I’ll be coming back to some of these goals and talking about how the modules achieve them. Specifically goals 2, 4, and 5.

I can say the first module we will dive into is the kitten module, which is the simplest to play of all the modules. I know kittens are something a lot of people have wanted since the beginning, so I made sure to keep these as accessible as possible while making sure they have a big impact on the game.

Frank West

Frank West is a gamer and designer based in Bristol, UK. He published his first board game, The City of Kings, in 2018 and now works on other games and organising events in the local area. His goal? To design and publish games focusing on immersive themes, fun mechanics and beautiful components. If you have any questions or would just like a chat, feel free to get in touch at any time!


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