Welcome back! In case you missed the last 2 entries into the series, we started by discussing my selection process of what characters I considered designing. Then, I went into depth on my design process for Hamlet, a character that seems well-built technically but a little vanilla to my taste. No, one of my goals from the start was to try and make a more ambitious design. Enter Captain Hook.
I knew that I had always been fascinated by the idea of a character that could be both ranged and melee, and it struck me that Hook would be a great example of this. While he primarily battles up close with a sword, he’s known to shoot from a distance with a pistol, often in acts of cowardice.
But how would one go about translating that into mechanics? Obviously, the hero would be melee primarily with the ability to occasionally take potshots at some expense. The answer, to me, was to have him be able to, when drawing cards, set aside a maximum of 1 as a bullet, simulating him loading his gun. Then, he would be able to do 1 ranged attack, using that set aside card specifically. Instead of the standard value, he would be forced to use the BOOST value.
Quickly, rules started to form; Hook could only load cards that he could legally attack with. Abilities could trigger from these cards, but many of the effects would need to be dependent on whether Hook wins the combat. Also, while I liked the idea of only being able to set aside the card immediately drawn, that felt too restrictive to the controlling player, especially considering potential first draws.
With all this in mind, the ability now reads as follows:
After drawing a card, you may place 1 card Hook can legally attack with face-down in front of you as a bullet (max 1 bullet). Hook may spend a bullet for a ranged attack, using the BOOST value as the card’s value (effects still trigger).
Perhaps it could be slightly reworded, but I think it gets across the design intent currently. Because of this, BOOST values needed to be carefully selected, keeping in mind that only certain cards could be bullets, but I think the balance that I ended up with felt very strong.
Equipped with Feint, Ambush, and Leap Away, Hook needed interesting ways to interact with his bullets, as well as to get some card draw. The solution is Well-Armed, allowing Hook to both draw 3 cards and either place a card face-down as a bullet or swap out the current bullet for a new one.
Shoot Him Out of the Sky!!! can also be used to spend a bullet to deal damage to an enemy in your zone equal to the BOOST value while giving Hook the chance to replace his bullet. It’s costly in terms of cards, but it can be valuable to take care of some of those pesky sidekicks.
Cowardly Shot and Reload, while themed around the gun, can be used as melee attacks effectively. Winning a combat with Reload lets you place a card from your discard pile face-down as a bullet. A valuable effect with only 3 Versatile and 1 BOOST, getting it to trigger won’t be too easy, and it won’t have any effect if you already have a bullet in the chamber.
If you win a combat with Cowardly Shot, you can discard your current bullet and deal additional damage equal to its BOOST value, making it a good way to dish extra damage but at the cost of 2 cards and losing out on the bullet’s effect.
Hook’s other cards are primarily aggressive, forcing a random discard or an extra 2 damage (again if he wins the combat). The fact that many of his cards are focused on winning I think also plays well with Hook’s competitive nature, which is something I’ve always felt to be indicative of his personality. He wants to win more often than not, and breaks down in rage or tears when he doesn’t get his way.
One of my favorite cards at his disposal, though, is If It’s the Last Thing I Do. A 5 attack, Hook can choose to discard any number of Attack cards from his hand, adding +2 to the card’s value for each. With the deck only containing 10 Attack cards total (4 of which are his sidekicks), it gives him the option to throw away a ton of attack options for one big swing. It also gives the sidekick cards more value when they are no longer on the board.
Speaking of which, the Crocodile has fittingly chosen to fight alongside Hook in the same vein as the Jabberwock working with Alice. His attacks can be pretty brutal if ignored. Time’s Up is a 3 Attack that forces the opponent to discard 1 card for each damage dealt by this attack. Taste for Flesh deals an extra damage to each adjacent fighter afterward. And Ravenous Chase will let the Croc swim through enemies, dealing 1 damage to each opponent he moves through. Being a beefy boy at 8 HP, he’s a force to be dealt with but has few ways to defend himself.
As it stands, I’m very happy with the good captain. I feel like he’s got a great hook (pun intended), thematic cards that are exciting to play, and has clear play styles and weaknesses to navigate. I’ll probably continue to playtest him in the coming weeks, but I know for sure that he will be one of the characters I will be submitting.
Next week, we’ll likely be taking a look at Captain Hook’s younger foe, Peter Pan! I don’t know what it is about this story that’s got me so invested, but clearly I’ve been inspired by something in the original text. See you all next week!