Amateur Boardgame Design - Sword and Planet pt. 2: Frustration and Redesign

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This isn't going to be such a comprehensive post as the last, but will chronicle what is now going to be a marked shift away from the previous design. I would like to thank everyone for pointing out the finer points of copyright law bfore I got too enveloped in using the Warlords of Mars theme. Although I am forced to redesign much of the game, that doesn't mean that I am not committed to an immersive, fun and interesting theme. It just means that the theme will have to be strong enough to stand on its own without any personal knowledge or nostalgia to drive interest in the game.

My plan is not fully developed, but I do have some general goals as to what I want to do with the design from here on out. Firstly, I am fully committed to a pulp theme, and am going to spend some time researching (or imbiding a better term here?) in a variety of pre-1950's pulp adventure stories to get a good idea of the style and adapt it to the game. The game will be about heroics, dules, battles and conquest. Think light wargame with a heavy dose of character involvement and development - not sure if saying that the game will have rpg elements, but it will certainly have influences. Leveling up, gaining gold and experience, and other familiar adventure game themes will not be present. This will be a game about warlords in a pulp world, and while they will be able to become greater as the game progresses, it will be from the conquest of nations and cities. It will be for glory and honor!

 Things that I really want to avoid, and this is a big one. I must avoid the label of "fantasy adventure" game or "steampunk." My ideas are more along the lines of science fiction - but in a pre-1950's concept - that is, science fiction that is merely a way into which to frame a story or setting, completely ignoring the plausability and in fact, openly scorning it. Fantasy as a genre can be extremely formulaic with your "orc, elf and dwarf" being so familiar, I am almost reduced to tears whenever I hear those names. "Steampunk" is an interesting idea, but unfortunately, has been overfeatured as the "only" alternative to generic high fantasy that it in itself has become quite formulaic. I want to avoid these like the plague, formulae are pretty rampant in board gaming (see games like Runebound or Last Night on Earth) and it takes a truly fun and engaging theme, like Arkham Horror, to create an impression that passes beyond being "just another game."

So what's going to be different?

Now that the setting won't be focused on the previous source material, I'm able to experiment a bit with it. The biggest difference, is that I want to introduce all sorts of crazy races and kingdoms, and it is up to  the player to conquer them and gains their allegiance in order to gain glory over their competitors. I'm also going to get to have fun with technology, and am thinking on how to implement scientists and inventors as vital resources to be battled for amongst the players. Another point I'm considering, is expanding the game outside of just one world. There are beings to be conquered not just on Mars or Venus, but Neptune, Titan, Ganymede, etc. Travel amongst the heavens may be an interesting topic to explore. We'll see how it works out.

 As for everyone's comments, I've really appreciated the advice, and in response have tried to retool the character card a bit. It seems that most people have considered 8 individual character traits as too extreme, so I've created a new character card with 6. This isn't a drastic reduction, as I have toyed with only 4, but I still want to keep a large variety of traits. I keep a small doodle pad with me at all times, and these are the different ideas I've come up with. I would like some feedback, to see what people consider too much or too little.

Previously there were 8 traits: 4 personal (combat, piloting, intrigue, honor) and 4 leadership (combat, leadership, cunning, honor) - this was to emphasize the dual nature of the characters, as both leaders in battle, but also as unique talents for a variety of independent missions and interactions with other characters outside of the battlefield.

6 traits would be much the same, but would remove honor from the mix. Glory rewards would be uniform for actions, or dependent on the results of the action. Glory of course is the incentive to constantly do something - as all affects will always favor an attacker over a defender and players are rewarded for successes.

4 traits seems quite bare bones to me, but might be more in line with what others have in mind. It would remove piloting and leadership from the mixture, leaving a standard rate for all characters with special exceptions noted for specific characters. Each character would be able to command the same number of units until assuming a title (more on this later!) or other benefits. The only four traits would be 2 personal (personal combat and intrigue) and 2 leadership (combat leadership and cunning). I just worry that this won't be enough variety amongst characters to keep them each unique and interesting. 

 With the new setting in the works though, now characters won't be confined to being red martians, and now will be able to come from any sort of background. Included in this will be "mechanicals" and "prometheons," artificial lifeforms created by scientists of the ancient days.

 Thanks for all the comments, and keep them coming, I find them extremely useful. 

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