Intertidal Survival – Characters

When I came up with the concept for my “rockpool” game, I imagined that everyone was playing as a crab, but I very quickly decided that I needed multiple species.

In selecting the main characters for my game about the Intertidal Zone, I have been doing a lot of research into which species will feel good as characters. What looks visually interesting and different? Which 6 silhouettes will look completely different? Which 6 colours will work? And most importantly, what do people want to choose to play?

Working with the help of people from the Board Game Design Lab Community and the Pacific Coast Tide Pool & Beachcombing Identification & Appreciation group, and the contributions of members of my Intertidal Survival Board Game group, I narrowed it down from a LOT of possible creatures to 6: nudibranch, mollusc, fish, crab, something that looks like an insect, and something spiky.

The game plays with 2-4 players, but there are 6 Jumbo cards in a pack, so I thought – why not have 6 choices? So that’s where we are starting – 6 characters. From those 6 general options, I chose ones that were both highly localised to the Oregon coast, and easily matched to a player colour.

  • Coralline Sculpin – Artedius corallinus
  • Purple Shore Crab – Hemigrapsus nudus
  • Katy’s Chiton – Katharina tunicata
  • Red Sea Urchin – Mesocentrotus franciscanus
  • Rockweed Isopod – Pentidotea wosnesenskii
  • Opalescent nudibranch – Hermissenda crassicornis

Coralline Sculpin – Artedius corallinus

A sculpin of some sort was the first choice I made – they remind me a little bit of my beloved mudskippers, and they are weird-looking. I like to draw things that look a bit weird.

For practice, I drew this sculpin, using this image as a reference:

I realised that I needed to be very accurate, though, and draw the exact species I was representing in the game, so I will be working on a better version of this fish. I decided that brown wasn’t the most inspiring player colour, so I was stoked when I found the Coralline Sculpin, a pinkish-looking fish that definitely allows me to give a cool colour choice to my players.

The next stage for me is to do quite a bit of research on the anatomy and specific differences that make this clearly a Coralline Sculpin, and hopefully see and photograph some myself.

Purple Shore Crab – Hemigrapsus nudus

Another Intertidal creature that a lot of people suggested was the Purple Shore Crab. I decided to find a reference image and have a shot at drawing it, too, so I could see if it would make a good subject. I used this image as a reference for this sketch.

Purple Shore Crab sketch

Again, the next step is to understand crab anatomy, how the joints articulate, how the shell fits together, and all those other things that will allow me to make a better final drawing.

Katy’s Chiton – Katharina tunicata

This organism is commonly known as the black Katy chiton, black Leather chiton, black chiton, or leather chiton.

Wikipedia image

The reason I chose the Katy chiton name is that it reflects the scientific name of the animal, which was the first genus named in honor of a woman scientist, Lady Katherine Douglas. I found almost nothing about her online, which is disappointing.

Quote from the Report Of The British Association For The Advancement Of Science: Twenty-Sixth Meeting ; Held At Cheltenham In August 1856

Given that we share a first name, although we spell it differently, and we share a passion for sharing knowledge, it made extra sense to include an animal in this game that recognises Lady Katherine’s contribution to science.

Red Sea Urchin – Mesocentrotus franciscanus

In New Zealand, sea urchins are known as kina, and they are a subtle mottled brown, a bit like a hedgehog.

I was STOKED to discover that here on the Oregon coast, they come in amazing colours like red, purple, and green! I am hoping to take my own reference photos soon, so these are pictures from online, credits in the captions.

Rockweed Isopod – Pentidotea wosnesenskii

The first time I realised that there were amazing, bright-green isopods like this on the PNW coast was when someone posted a photo of one in the Pacific Coast Tide Pool & Beachcombing Identification & Appreciation group, and I immediately went to my books and my Google to find what it might be, and if it was usually green. It looked like a weird, bright-green shrimp in the photo, a bit like this one, from a blog post by Piccalilli Pie:

What’s cool about these creatures is that their colour reflects their diet, so they can actually be brownish tan, pinkish-red, black – the colour of the seaweed they eat. There are some more amazing photos here. This is my favourite:

Photo 46967397, (c) Matt Muir

Opalescent nudibranch – Hermissenda crassicornis

I have been mildly obsessed with nudibranchs (pronounced NIU-dee-brank or NOO-dee-brank) for years.

Imagine my delight when I found out that not only are they present on the Oregon coast, but they are large enough and common enough that there’s a high chance I will get to meet one! I knew if I could make it work, there had to be one in this game.

The hardest thing was to choose WHICH nudibranch to use!

In the end, it was pretty easy: there was a flurry of sightings of opalescent nudibranchs and I felt like an orange player colour would be good, so while I considered the clown nudibranch for a minute, there’s no going past how much fun this one will be to draw!

Stay tuned for the actual illustrations of these gorgeous creatures, and the other organisms that feed and threaten them in the Intertidal Zone.

Feel like joining in the conversation? Please join the Intertidal Survival Board Game group and help develop this game!

Published by Drayer Ink

Artist, designer, ideas person

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