I chose the word “goods” for this game for two main reasons. First, it is shorter, so it is easier to fit the text on buildings. Second, I think of them as produced items, rather than raw materials, like a “natural resource”. Although wood is arguably more a resource than a good. It also feels more thematic to me to sell goods at a general store.
Wood and food were the two first goods I included, since you need them to build ships and stock them with supplies. Bricks were added for buildings. Money was another obvious need for the game, both based on theme and on gameplay. Several other types of goods were considered.
Because of the game time and setting, iron seemed like a great thematic resource to include, in the form of tools, harpoons, and buildings in a society on the verge of the industrial revolution. Sadly, it was tried and rejected at the very beginning. It worked like brick, it cost the same as brick, it was obtained the same way as brick. (As they say, if it walks like a brick and quacks like a brick, it’s a brick.) So it had to go.
Iron was replaced by Lumber, which made it through most of development. Lumber was effectively worth 2 wood, and could either be gained like brick, or at the Lumber Mill, making it potentially cheap and easy to get. My reasoning was that the wood had been converted to a more valuable form that was easier to work with. Although lumber and wood were two completely separate resources to me, most people found it overcomplicated. So, I took it out to simplify the game. The fact that it was removed so easily is proof that it it wasn’t adding much to the game.
I looked at possible other goods, but there would need to be something that couldn’t be accomplished with the existing goods. Stone would have the same use as brick. And although sheep were important in the time and area, their purpose in the game would have shared elements of both wood and food, so sheep didn’t really add much. I considered using different goods in expansions, but all of the ideas changed the focus of the theme, rather than contributed to it.
When choosing money, I had to do a little research. Paper money was hard to come by, and was not standardized until the 1860s. Coins, on the other hand, were common, relatively standard, and are much more fun to throw around in a game. It also made sense to have a larger denomination coin, and since points were $5:1, a $5 coin also made it easy to count points at the end. In addition, it is a very natural addition based on modern currency.
I looked at using plastic US coins, but realized that Abraham Lincoln could not be pictured on the currency. So I went looking for some pictures of old coins, hoping to find $1 and $5 coins. Unfortunately, I only found $1 coins from the right era, and they were gold. I wanted the different denomination coins to have different colors and sizes for easy identification. Moby Dick references silver coins several times, so the $1 coins became silver. For the $5 coins, I reversed the front image to help distinguish them more. I added a darker 1 and 5 to the backs.
Observant players will notice that although the $ symbol is used in text on whale tokens, buildings, and in the rules, it does not appear on the coins, just like modern US currency.
Notes from New Bedford – Part 5: Goods and Money