2/28/13

Game Design Gets to Be a Habit

In my October post I showed a prototype for my MOVIE MAGNATE game. It turns out Version 3 still didn't get the job done. I needed to shorten the game, and I needed to recast one of the economic tables to encourage play oriented toward the bigger films. That's done, but it's still awaiting a new playtest.

In the meantime, I've been busy! I've invented six more games and I'm finishing up a prototype of one for a playtest next week. In addition, I prototyped and completely tested one of them, and it's in a finished state.

BOOM or BUST! - This game tracks two industrial activities, finding and mining iron ore, and smelting ore to steel. Each player commands one company in each industry, making the decisions for them during a full economic cycle. Secretly, each is accumulating stock and attempting to make money off any of the other players who may be captaining their companies better than they.  This is a fairly specialist game.



DROP TOWER - I'll not go into the details on this one, as it has a good chance of going commercial.  The idea came to me as I lay on my back, looking at scudding clouds. My initial playtest group suggested only one change to the rules, which I adopted. It's simple - I can teach the rules in under 2 minutes, and at Christmas I taught it to a 7-year old neighbor who then proceeded to beat a college-age girl! It handles 2-8 players, never plays the same, and takes (usually) 45 minutes to an hour, so it's great for parties. I've gotten enthusiastic feedback from my players.
I call it a "sofa table game." It's 3 feet tall, so the top is too high on a dining room table and the bottom too low on the floor, but a low sofa table is perfect.
I owe my handy neighbor Alex a lots of thanks for helping me with the construction.


WAR PROFITEER - Players are part of the industrial base that makes the weapons of war in World War II. Contracts come zooming from the War Department with tight deadlines and little concern for cost effectiveness. Players who research new military technologies are showered with orders from a grateful nation. Anyone can make scads of money in these circumstances, but who can do it best?


BUSINESS CONVENTION - This was a design challenge I set myself. My gaming group, The Greenville Mafia, started playing a newly-published game, Libertalia, which to my mind has an implausible backstory and major holes in the logic of how the character cards interact. I tried to think of a scenario that could correct these flaws but use the very interesting mechanics put forth in Libertalia. This design does it!


CITY-STATE - Players are knights in a province left leaderless by the deaths in battle of the King and the local Baron. As the Baron had no heirs, each of you attempts to mobilize enough of the local population (from Country, City, Church, and Army tracks) to become the obvious candidate for the next Baron. Or if the country stays politically unstable, you might carve out your own city-state. This is a Euro game with a lot of choices and no clear winning strategy, especially as you are each backed by a different local faction that throws its weight behind you at the end of the game. I'm currently preparing the prototype; the picture shows proofs of some of the cards. I'm excited by this; I think it will play well.


CAVE MINER - Players lead teams of miners into a dangerous gemstone mine which is being gradually flooded. The better stones are down deep - but the penalties for losing a miner will be prohibitive. How low do you go? I see two sets of rules for this game: one for kids that uses straightforward rules and another for adults that takes into account such things as the formation of air pockets that can allow a player to wrestle out more stones before abandoning a flooding gallery. This game came to me during a 10-minute break while I was photoshopping cards for CITY-STATE - then I had to take the rest of the afternoon to get it down on paper!

When I say I invented a game, it means I've written a document, usually 6 - 14 pages long, detailing the situation, the game mechanics, the charts and tables (if any), the sequence of play, special situations, a list of the needed game components, and enough notes to write a ruleset. I'll also list the areas that have to be felt out by the playtesting crew to see if the balancing and play mechanics mesh properly. In CITY-STATE, for instance, which has the 14-pg design document, I even have all the 268 cards (4 player decks and 2 game decks) detailed out, but on most of the others I only have general notes describing the cards and maps used. That work gets fleshed out during prototyping.

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