Notes from New Bedford: Part 14 – The White Whale


In All, Four special tokens survived from the initial development of the Ship’s Log. They are not, strictly speaking, part of the Ship’s Log, but they all include reference cards which act as Ship’s Log cards, if that inspansion is included. Three of the items are whales, or whale-related, and I felt it was important that they still be tokens, to keep the excitement of drawing them from the bag. The fourth is not a whale, but it made sense in the prototype to keep the tokens in groups of 4, and it made sense to give it its own token.


First, the White Whale.

It simply gives 4 points for free. Well, free except that you lose the ship used to catch it. I heard some feedback that it ought to give at least 5 or 6. Aside from the thematic reasoning that the White Whale is a sperm whale and sperm whales are worth 4, there are good gameplay reasons to keep it worth 4. At 6, the White Whale is automatic, and I don’t want that to be an easy decision. Since it’s free, that’s effectively giving you $8 that you can use on other whales. Even if you would catch 5 points worth of whales, you still come out ahead. True, you’ve lost that ship, but you’ve already spent the resources, just like any other ship, and In fact, you can send it out again, faster than if you waited to catch those whales.

The second token is the Blue Whale. I had some fun with my token design, making it so that the whale doesn’t fit in the frame of the token, as the other whales do, implying its greater size. It’s worth 6 points with proportional cost. But the complication is that you can’t do anything else with the ship once you catch the blue whale. It is not so much that the hold would fill up due to one blue whale, although that is usually how I explain it, but that catching and processing a blue whale requires much more effort than the other commonly hunted whales. Blue whales were rarely hunted because they dive so deep that they are hard to find and catch. And that is also why there is only one blue whale token.

The third token is Ambergris, which I discussed a bit back in Part 9. While it isn’t worth points directly, it gives $8, rather than costing $8, which makes it worth at least a point. But its real value is in paying for whales on the same ship. You effectively give up the chance at a point or two, to regain the turns that would have been used to earn the money instead.  As something very rare and valuable, it makes sense to include only one. I am glad to be re-including it, because it is so deeply entwined with whaling history.

The final token is the castaway. It is s bit out of place, as it is the only token which is not a product of whaling. Yet, thematically, it makes a lot of sense to randomly draw a castaway out of the ocean bag. Though relatively rare, whalers were occasionally lost at sea due to shipwrecks, stove whaling boats, or just falling overboard. The wreck of the whaleship Essex is a famous historic example in which all but one small whaleboat was destroyed. The last survivors were found just barely in time. This event, in fact inspired Moby Dick and is the retold in the upcoming movie In the Heart of the Sea. And of course, when you pick up survivors, they really can’t contribute until they return to port. So it makes sense to leave that token on the boat. While the code of the sea would suggest that a captain wouldn’t expect payment for this service, I liked the idea that the sailors represented by this tile (or perhaps their families) repay you by doing you a favor when they return.

Those tokens, but with better art, make up White Whale promo.



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