Oh no board games!

December 27, 2012

So I was sitting in a meeting a couple weeks ago. It was kind of a boring meeting, so maybe I wasn't paying attention as much I should have been. But I was receptive. You see, like a lot of people, I have been watching the success of Kickstarter with some interest as it has catapulted nerd projects such as video games and board games into the realm of success and decided that I should be receptive to the development of a board game, as it could actually be something that could get produced through a Kickstarter campaign. That was a long sentence. Let me try again. I decided Kickstarter was good. And I decided if I ever had an idea for a board game, I should think about using Kickstarter to get it made. Keep in mind, it wasn't like, "Oh, people are making money on Kickstarter - I gotta get me some of that." It was more like, "Oh, this is something that is possible. This gives me the power to potentially produce a board game that could be played by people other than myself, which would be cool." So I didn't go out and immediately try to make a board game, but I became receptive to the idea of creating a board game. So, anyway, seriously, this next bit was like a bolt of lightning. Maybe it sounds kinda silly, but I was sitting there and suddenly the mechanics of a board game just came to me. So I grabbed a pen and a crumpled piece of paper from my pocket and started writing them down. I love Euro-style board games. Worker placement and economic games of investments and returns really make me happy. Games like Agricola, Caylus and Powergrid I would play all day long if I had people to play them with. So the base idea was a Euro-style economic game where you gather resources not through worker placement but spatial reasoning. If it's not obvious from Lazy Robots and my 1st-person maze explorer, I'm kind of a big fan of spatial reasoning. I then immediately decided to build that round the theme of a blacksmith gathering metals in a mine to forge weapons and complete quests. Not sure exactly where that came from. Maybe Jacksmith, which is a pretty entertaining Flash game. But, anyway, from there came 3 distinct phases to a turn: phase one in the mine where you use spatial reasoning to move workers and gather resources; phase two in the market where you use money to buy blueprints to build new and better weapons; and then phase three where you send out adventurers wielding your weapons to complete quests and bring back victory points, money and more resources. So it's a basic investment process of "resources + money => points + more resources + more money." The real innovation here, if I do say so myself, is the spatial reasoning aspect of the resource gathering, which helps draw in players who may not like standard worker placement games. The other innovation is the idea of time-resolved quests, which was somewhat inspired by the new worker placement game Tzolk'in, where you place workers down on gears and then wait a number of turns for them to spin around to the location where you actually want to pick them up and use the corresponding action. What's really important there, of course, is the idea of time resolution - a structured method of forward-thinking where you have to plan things out in advance and then wait to reap your rewards. Most games offer this in one form or another, but Tzolk'in and the game I'm working on have it coded right in. Essentially, any quest you embark upon is split up into "legs," which each have a distinct number of sections and an attack power required to complete it. For example, one of the basic quests to start the game is "Hunt the Plains Goblins," which has 2 legs - one made of 3 sections, each requiring one attack power; and the second leg is one section requiring 3 attack power. So a player can acquire that quest and send in an adventurer with any old crappy weapon to achieve the required 1 attack power, but at the end of each turn, you have to progress all your active quests one section. So three turns down the road, the player will need to add 2 more attack power to the quest - either by upgrading the adventurer's weapon, or sending in a second adventurer with another weapon - in order to finish the final leg and reap the rewards. There are obviously a lot of other intricacies being woven into the game at this point - the stuff you can buy at the market adds a lot of depth in particular - but that's the basics and I'm really excited about where it's going. At this point I've made up somewhere around 200 note cards with quests and market items on them, purchased a giant tub of multi-colored cubes for most of the gaming bits (and cannibalized some other games to make up the difference) and printed out a rudimentary but highly functional game board for keeping track of turns, turn order, points and mining. And every time I play it, I really feel like it's one of (if not THE) best games I've ever played. Surely I am biased, and I know my tastes for board games aren't necessarily the same as everyone else (the game does tend to run pretty long, which can be a detriment for a lot of people), but still, this game is totally great. Right now I'm just trying to playtest it as much as possible to balance out the quests and market cards. And I'm hoping to find an artist interested in joining me on my adventure to produce it (since artwork is a big part of any Kickstarter campaign). I'm also entertaining the idea of making a Flash version of it to help promote interest. So anyway, there it is. What I've been doing for the past month. Being totally excited.

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