Amateur Boardgame Design - Sword and Planet pt. 1: Introduction

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Like many game geeks, I really enjoy the process of creating a game, and for this reason I plan on using this blog as a place to post my ideas and get some insight from other gamers of similar inclinations. I don't have any grand plans for any of these ideas, but I do enjoy the creative outlet it gives me. I encourage anyone who might read this blog to comment with ideas, concerns, criticisms... anything really. I know every gamer and his dog want to make games, but that doesn't really discourage me. I just enjoy working on something creative to give me a break from my routine tasks in life. I expect no greatness or publications, this is just a hobby and just plain fun.

The Warlords of Mars pt. 1 - Introduction and original ideas

One of my favorite series of fiction is Edgar Rice Burroughs "Barsoom" Mars series. Originally published in 1912, the series is the definition of pulp - fun and ridiculous. Horribly out of date and completely unfathomable to modern science, the stories are still a blast, adventure doesn't need to based within reality to be fun!

The stories follow Earth man John Carter (for the most part) as he is forced to rescue his beloved princess Dejah Thoris time and again. In the process, he kicks a lot of martian ass, and becomes warlord of Mars (the third book, published in 1918). My idea for the game, is to create a multiplayer AmeriTrashy game of combat and conquest in which players attempt to become the predominent power on Mars (known to the Red Martians as Barsoom). My game will take place before John Carter or any other Earth men arrived on mars, and before they permanently altered the history of the dying red planet.

As the first five books in the series has passed copyright date, I'll be confining my basis of the game on these works solely, along with personal development as well. I wanted to avoid bringing Earthmen into the game as they would throw the balance of the game off horribly. As John Carter notes, since Earth has stronger gravity than Mars, he is extremely strong compared to even the 10-foot tall green Martians and is able to leap extremely long distances with little effort on his own part. As much as I love John Carter, he is just too awesome to bring into a competitive multiplayer game.

The game will be largely character driven, but also incorporates war fleets of flyers (Resembling earth naval ships but converted with advanced Martian knowledge of the "eigth ray" to hover in the air) in order to conquer the cities of the dying planet. The battle over scarce resources is the focus of the game, and players will have to combine character actions, fleet actions and special actions in order to win. I still have yet to decide what the final victory conditions of the game will be, but it will likely be a combination of glory earned through conquest, duels and other special actions.

Two decks will play two different roles in the game, and players hands will comprise a combination of the two card types.

The resource deck will serve as the backbone of play, but also serves as a time clock. It is never reshuffled and once the last card has been drawn from it the game ends. Characters, weapons, special ships, occurences and other single-use cards will be in here.

The other deck is the special action deck and is reshuffled after use. This deck enables players to use their characters and fleets special abilities and will include kidnappings, assassinations, duels, etc. When cards are redrawn, players will be able to choose which cards to choose from.

It is presumed a player in a leading position will try to draw more resource cards in order to shorten the game, but these cards will be limited in their play, and without special actions, a player will be very limited. A player in a winning position would still need special actions in order to do much, as otherwise he would just sit there and take a beating.

Although this is just a mock-up, here is a hypothetical character card I created for John Carter. It was more to test the look of the cards, but will serve as an example so far:

Starting from the lefthand column working the way down, these are the stats (will eventually have symbols for easier use):

(Left Column - Personal Traits)

1. Personal Combat - use in duels between characters

2. Piloting - used when piloting a flyer - used in dogfights.

3. Intrigue - use in kidnappings, assasinations, etc.

4. Personal Honor - glory gained by success in any of the personal traits.

(Right Column - Leader Traits)

1. Leadership - the number of warriors and flyers a leader may personally command in battle.

2. Combat Leadership - modifier while commanding a fleet in battle.

3. Cunning - modifier for special maneuvers and other special combat actions.

4. Leadership Honor - glory gained by success in any of the leader traits.

All dice rolls are based off of a base number of dice for an action type (generally the same for both attacker and defender, but not always) plus a one die for each point of ability difference between the two characters.

John Carter is a nasty example because he has amazing stats but let's assume he goes into a personal due with another character, let's say Matai Shang the Thern (who will not be in the game, nor will any other Therns as it was John Carter who discovered them!). Assuming Matai Shang has a personal combat rating of 7 (very high!) this is how combat would play out.

John Carter (Attacker) = Base Dice (3) + Bonus Dice (9-7=2) = 5 dice rolled

Matai Shang (Defender) = Base Dice (3) = 3 dice rolled.

All successes are on 5's and 6's when rolling. John Carter odesn't actually have that great of an advantage here, which goes along well with the stories. He always did have problems outwardly defeating Matain Shang. If the number of successes is a draw, the attacker wins and the defender is "wounded," if either side wins by one success the loser is "wounded" and if either side wins by two or more successes, the loser is "killed." Wounded characters are flipped over and taken off the map, they will miss a turn but will return to fight again the turn after, it is presumed that they were defeated .

Killed characters are put into the resource discard pile, and may never reenter play. They are simply dead. Since John Carter, or any other hero in the Mars series, never dies, I decided to add the "Protagonist" ability. John Carter can be beaten in combat, but will always be back to kick ass in another turn. None of the protagonists of the stories will be included, but it was fun to add that onto the character card.

If John Carter were to win the battle, he would give his controlling player 9 (a hell of a lot!) glory. Killing the enemy grants no special bonus other than removing a character from play.

Another feature of the game, will be the presence of the green Martians in the dried ocean bottoms. Special event cards will keep a neutral horde of powerful enemies in a pool in the dead sea, and sporadic incursions by the creation of green Martian leaders will allow players to activate the green Martian hordes for raids. If left unchecked, the green Martians will destroy precious resources and slowly exert pressure on all players. Battles between players will be sidetracked on occassion to battle the hordes of Green martians who threaten a players resources.

Cities are the key resource in the game, but become weaker after continuous usage. A track will exist around all cities presenting different levels of resources which will shift according to refresh rates and unit buildings of a player. If a city is used to frequently, raided against, attacked or changes hands too many times, it will eventually become deserted and worthless. As dead cities are a key feature of the series, this is supposed to be a keen problem. The more dead cities, the more green Martians as well, as green Martians frequently make their homes in these deserted cities.

To give an example, the twin cities of Helium would be represented by a wheel around the space. There would be six spaces - 0, 0, 1, 3, 5, 8. A players control marker would be placed on the number of development the city was currently at. At its peak, Helium is worth 8 points, and would grant 8 points for production of units. Tapping this resource would, however, drop the city to 5 points. Cities will only regenerate when area refresh cards arrise, raising the value of all living cities in an area. Anytime a city is attacked and changes hands between players, its value will drop by one. Cities locked in combat for too long will simply become worthless. If a city ever drops below its last box, it will have its control marker removed and be considered abandoned. Over the course of the game, resources will get tighter, player armies will get smaller and green martian armies will get bigger.

All movement will be point to point between cities and locations, with areas sectioned off for refresh purposes and possibly glory purposes.

I'll post a bit more later, but this is a pretty good start to give an idea.

Please, let me know what you think!

*Edited to include a quick mock-up of what a portion of the map may look like - also quickly edited for spelling.

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