Die of the Dead Designer Diary 4: Casket Case

From the initial conception of the game, the caskets have been a massive draw. With beautiful artwork they have captured people’s hearts before the game has even been played. James’ early version of the game, before it was themed or had a consistent scoring mechanics, were centred around the caskets. You could say the game was born in these coffins. So why have they proven to be the backbone of the game?

Early prototype caskets trialled

There is a tactile joy in shaking them. Everyone who has played the game has loved shaking the caskets. Often tentatively at first, but we have designed them in a way to make sure they feel comfortable in a player’s hand, and sturdy enough to be shaken with vigour!

They are eye-catchingly gorgeous. Especially with the art by Rusembell, they stand out like nothing else on the market.

They allow for new & unique game mechanics which entwine in the game’s themes.

  • Because they are small they can move, and this movement of caskets is what the game hinges on. They are small and sturdy enough to be moved, and so there is a literal journey and sense of progress in the game.
  • They keep information hidden. There are 4 caskets, one of which is opened throughout the game. So players only need to track what’s in three caskets, all of which are highly distinct. This amount of hidden information is just enough for players to feel relatively confident in what is where, but not so much that it ever becomes trivial. Indeed, some of the biggest laughs when playing have come from players forgetting which caskets is best for them, and helping their opponents instead!
  • For those players who dislike hidden trackable information, there are ways to mitigate this, such as always being able to shake a casket to see if it’s empty, or playing a token to help. There’s also a variant which removes this entirely, so players can always see what’s in each casket.

So the caskets aren’t just stunning to look at, and a joy to hold and play with, they also serve the gameplay in both theme and mechanics, allowing Die of the Dead to give play like nothing else out there. In the next post we’ll look at what each casket does when it’s chosen.

About mark

Small games designer into small games publisher.
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