I Live Again

Beep.

So things didn’t quite work out as planned as you can deduce by my four year hiatus from this blog. Forgotten Lore indeed.

I did make some board game prototypes; five or six actually. I lose count. In the end I realized that things just were not working out as I had hoped. Part of this I think was due to the nature of designing and play testing a physical game vs. a digital. You would think that they would be similar but they are not. The digital games in my indie experience, which means me doing the design and coding and then relying on others to pitch in for art, music and play testing, were like sculpting. You made choices at chipping away at the marble but your process went forward whether or not you broke off the nose. In that case you added a prosthetic nose or carved a new one.

When designing a board game you have so much more flexibility that it’s almost paralyzing. You can cut the nose off and then decide its not a human but an alien with a smelling orifice, add tentacles and then quickly chip those away just for the heck of it. If you don’t like the sculpt then just throw the whole block away and start again. After all it’s just a bunch of cheap card holders, die and a pdf rule book not a code base.

There was also a dirty little secret of mine that came in to play (pun intended). I love collecting games, ogling the pieces, inhaling the rule books, setting them up and fiddling around with them but I don’t actually play them with people all that much. Playing with real people for me has been limited to those lame party games at the beach house every summer. Oh, and Ticket To Ride because my mom loves that game. The Train Game she calls it.

So yeah, there are solitaire games; good ones even. And I kept finding myself compelled to try and make game designs that had strong solitaire possibilities. But in the end I kept coming back to computer games as my preferred way of entertaining myself. You can do things in digital that you simply can’t with card board; set up, ai, visuals. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying one is better than the other. There are strong arguments for playing both in different circumstances. But for me and my misanthropic, hermit ways it became obvious that computer games were the best fit. And once I had decompressed from making games for ten years, I started to actually enjoy them again.

But I did make some board games and I’d like to thing they were fun. The problem was that I kept thinking that they really weren’t all that original. If you’ve looked at the board game world lately you can see that it has exploded. Are there new mechanics left to be invented or cleverly juxtaposed inside a spiffy rule system? Perhaps marginally so but it’s to the point where it almost has to be a gimmick to be novel. Theme is king nowadays.

In the end I realized that while my designs were fun, mostly, they weren’t anything special. And seriously how special can you be moving one piece of card board here or flipping one card there or making you go oh, I want to do that but I have to do this or that other thing might happen. In the meantime you surrender yourself to the enchantment of the game’s thematic appeal and wonder of wonders it still isn’t enough. And even if you like elves with pointy ears and shotguns, it’s still not enough despite the cool new mini sculpts. You end up collecting boxes of cool sculpts that you never paint. And then your wife starts yelling at you to clean out your office but I digress.

So what unpublished treasures did I create? One was a multi player assassin game set in a mythical fantasy city. You can see the prototype in previous post. You had to use cards and attribute stats to roll dice to come up with enough “successes” to beat other numbers that represented mission objectives. Your opponents could mess with you or bluff you. You tried to get enough VP to win when the end game condition triggered.

I let that sit for a while but later came back to it and turned it into a game focused on just two players but really tuned well for one player. It had you try and become guild leader by getting prestige points which you spent in the last mission encounter with the evil guild master. You could buy powerups etc to help beat the last mission. You didn’t always know what you were facing unless you had put some effort into discovering the final boss’s secret abilities so it wasn’t always easy to know what to buy.

I made a space exploration game. You had cards that represented your ship and you put little wooden cubes on them to track fuel, supplies and tactics. You rolled dice to get successes to beat encounter cards and survey planets. You could spend the cubes to add dice or play cards to do so or change the rules (rerolls etc.) It was fun but very fiddly.

I made an Armageddon Empires card game. I tried to capture the whole recon, supply, turtle vs aggressive offense strategy choices that the game has. You could build special project with your labs and then nuke your opponents HQ if you could find it. I created a great recon system for that which I was really proud of. You could see your opponents cards of course but you had to tag them with a recon token to actually attack them. It had something like 350 cards so I realized that it just wasn’t going to work. I spent countless hours in photoshop making the mock ups with the AE art. Even got them printed up. They did look sharp.

I started trying to really come up with a good solitaire game in the mold of Dawn of the Zeds. I had wanted to do an asymmetrical computer game like that but in a fantasy setting but I realized though that my coding days were long gone. But I came up with several designs centered around cards where you built up your kingdom and then an AI opponent with special rules attacked you from all points of the compass; The Demon Horde etc.

There was a design based on Chakra colors and symbol matching that I worked on for ages but never really got into a state that was fun. There were a couple of others too that were just printed paper slips in card holders. The cats chewed them up since they were plastic.

So TLDR: Designing board games didn’t turn out like I thought it would. It ground me down in the end. But it led to something else. Part of the fun of playing and making games is the story generation aspect. And that’s what I found that I really enjoyed. So hopefully in a month or so, I will have something to show anybody who is interested. I won’t say anything more until it’s ready. But it’s NOT a game; card board, digital or otherwise.

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