Sven Uilhoorn

Interaction- and Game Designer based in Groningen, the Netherlands
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Strategic and tactical board game around the Dutch merchant fleets during the Dutch Golden Age. Each player controls a fleet to compete for the biggest profits, battle victories and settlement control.

Beat other players either by trade, battles or controlling ports. Go aggressive, be the pacifist or end up somewhere inbetween. Plan ahead through the weather, but be wary of pirates and the stock market.

Roles and Responsibilities

I am responsible for the entire project, from coming up with the idea/concept, designing mechanics to the visual design. The images on cards and cities are all taken from the web, but the icons are my own work.

Final Product

The latest version:

The full game board of the Admiralen board game in the middle of a play test session with card of both players at each side.

The current game during a two player session. Starting October 2022, I started work on the game again after a year long break. Smoothened the rules for more consistency. Added a completely new, based on actual tactics, battle model. Some placeholders, some mechanics are still being slightly updated.

Process and Methods

Completely the wrong way around, but that's what learning is about. At first I designed a system rather than a game and focused on getting it to look reasonably well over getting the gameplay right, all while still in early phases of prototyping.

Four a4 sheets with square lines, making every field about 3 by 3 centimeters large. There are some pieces of paper, 3 by 3 centimeter, representing goods. On the side there is a stock market board with fiches marking the stock value.

Very first prototype. Back then the idea was to design a game around naval trade and battles, not necessarily involving the Dutch Golden Age.

Six a4 sheets make up a game board, with cards next to the board as the piles where you can buy cards from. The board consists of hexagonal fields, six by eight on every a4 sheet.

Second prototype, started way to early on the visual stuff. I didn't see more potential in this, so I decided to start over.

Close-up of a part of the sketched game board with a lot of tokens on them. The board consists of hexagon shaped fields, with arced coast lines.

Third prototype. Based on a world map divided into hexagons.

The game board now looks a bit like a world map. There's a lot of hexagonal fields; 9 fields vertically, and 22 horizontally. On the board are tokens representing fleets of the players

Fourth prototype. An evolution of the third. This is where the deeper problems started to show; players had a hard time keeping up with all the factors and with being able to move the pieces multiple fields per turn, this could turn into the ultimate analysis paralysis game. Not my goal. What the board on the left did, I don't even want to know anymore..

A drawn game board consisting of seven A4 paper sheets making a rectangular board. The hexagonal fields are about eight by eight centimeters, and the board has close remsemblance to a real world map.

Fifth prototype. Introduced a weather system, larger hexes for a less complex feel. The sixth prototype looked basically the same, but had some new mechanics introduced and some old ones removed.

Four different ship cards. They all have a different card color and the characteristics are listed at the bottom of each card.

Ship cards of the current game, as well as renaming from "Kapteins" (Captains) to Admiralen (Admirals). Images are obviously ripped as it's still a prototype.

Board seen from a low side angle with high rectangular pieces on the board, ship cards on both sides and lots of different colored blocks representing the goods you can trade.

Earlier version that has quite a lot of similarities to the current game, yet plays very different.

The full game board of the Admiralen board game in the middle of a play test session with card of both players at each side.

The long time (2016-2020) version during a two player session. There are still some unpolished white pieces of paper used for a few of the mechanics.

The full game board of the Admiralen board game in the middle of a play test session with card of both players at each side.

The 2021-2022 version during a three player test.

Toughest Challenge

Converting a theme into an interdependent system with enjoyable and meaningful choices; a strategy board game. The deeper I studied the Dutch Golden Age, the trade routes, ships, goods and technologies, the harder the game became to get right.

Another tough challenge is the tradeoff between quick prototyping and the need for good visual design; you have to be able to easily distinguish all of the different objects, something that's very hard when everything's drawn and written in black on white paper.

What I'd do Differently

Most of all: go for a more simple first game. Interdependent systems, as most complex strategy board games are called, require lots of years of prototyping and testing, and even then a lot of them fail.

As far as this game goes, I think I would've been better off starting with a set of mechanics. Prototype that until it works. Then choose a theme.

Tools Used

  • Word: rule books
  • Pen & Paper: design of maps, logo's, cards
  • Excel: calculations regarding balance for the early versions
  • Trello: checklist and project planning
  • Illustrator/Photoshop: board design, card design, icons
  • Various online sources: knowledge on the Dutch Golden Age

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