August 13th, 2010

Game Design

Inspired by talking to Sara about Frontierville, and by my Party-word-game.

The main flaw with the word game is that it's too easy for a few people to take over completely and just grab people with the letters they want to build a word. Part of the design was that more outgoing people could play a greater part in organising words and pulling in quieter people to the game, so it would work well as a party game. This happens too much though.

Making letters secret just leads to people shouting the letters out, or (if they can't do that) noone can possibly make a word. So that's lame.

In Frontierville players can only make 2 types out of 6 resources. To build things you need to have a network of friends who will send you their paint (because you only have nails).

These limited resources are exactly like the letter you have in my word game. Only you can provide it, but it's no good on its own. That made me think - what if instead of building words, you were building...buildings. As long as you have enough resources to make the building, you make it, even if some players in your group couldn't help at all. You all get points. Resources can be secret now - you can tell people whatever you want, bluff your way on to high scoring teams and take points even if you weren't actually able to help.

First pass at the game looks like this:

There are five resources. Planks, Bricks, Six-Shooters, Cattle, Gold. Each player is dealt 2 resource cards from the deck, and may not show them to anyone.

A number of buildings from the building deck are turned over (depending on number of players). Examples are The Outhouse (1 plank, 1 brick, scores 1 point), the Bank (3 Stone, 2 Six-Shooters, 3 Gold, scores 8 points) and the Cattle Ranch (2 planks, scores 1 point per cattle)

Players form into groups taking on these building tasks (you can have more than one group per building - 3 outhouses is fine, for example).

Once the groups are settled (the majority of a group gets to say who is actually allowed in the group, so you can't just refuse to leave) they say what they are building. Everyone in the group MUST reveal relevant cards, if they have them. As long as the group reveals enough resources to build the building, everyone in that group scores the points for the building.

You play 3 rounds with the same cards, then change cards, I think. After 6 rounds total the town is finished, whoever has the most points wins the game.

I think this neatly sidesteps the issues with my party word game, and adds some interesting possibilities (for instance "of course I'll help with the bank, or course I'll help with the bank...(time runs low)...oh dear, I think I'll build this outhouse instead, hope you have enough planks and bricks!")

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Anyway, I'm going to try to take game design seriously in the coming months. I want to publish games - take them from ideas and first drafts (which I have no problem with) to finished shiny product (something I find challenging).

I'll probably continue to develop this frontier town game in the near future - needs a playtesting evening with 10+ people at some point though. But my main project is an XCOM inspired board game where one player is the Earth Defense Force, and the others each play commander of a different Alien Faction, trying to complete missions on the Earth.

That one has most of the major systems in place, and needs a little more development and then some polish before I create the first prototype and playtest it. Should be maybe 3-5 players.

If anyone is a budding artist and wants to draw lots of UFOs and Aliens for bargain prices, please get in touch :-D