Board Games

I started playing chess and scrabble recently, so I’ve been inspired to work on a new board game. They’re certainly a lot easier to design than video games – the constraits here are really helpful.

For one, it needs to be simple enough that someone can learn how to play the game using only a manual (and hopefully a short one),without the benefit of interactive tutorials or being part of a well-known genre like FPS that are easy to pick up after you’ve learned one.

Additionally, the entire game, all assets, rules and pieces need to fit in a single box. Imagine a board game version of golf – you could probably only fit boards for one golf course if you intend it to be big enough for someone to see clearly and play with. You wouldn’t be able to put in the number of courses that most video games have, and forget about the detail level. While 3d boards certainly do exist (Fireball Island, Mouse Trap) they are by no means easy to create, and they can be fragile as well. Most board games are restricted to pieces of cardboard and plastic.

Another constraint is that you generally want the game to be over after no more than an hour or two – less is even better! Who is going to pull out your game to play if it takes 4 hours to finish a single session?

The last constraing I could think of is that the rules can’t be too complex. There are some things that computers make very easy to do – math and formulas are so easy, that most combat formulas in computer gamesare completely hidden from the user. Some games like Civilization put it up front, but there is still so much to keep track of that it would be almost impossible to create a board game version without simplifying things like cultural influence, citizen morale, trade routes,technology, and so on.

So, here’s how my game is laid out. It’s definitely an abstract strategy game. That is, there’s no random chance, and all players have perfect information (nothing is hidden like in Stratego). Let’s call it a wargame/chess hybrid, since it’ll look like a wargame with the corresponding units living on a hex grid, and there is resource management (in a sense, there are no stockpiles to keep track of though), and there is no random chance involved in the combat.

As an example of one of the units I’ll use the simplest thing I can think of: This game’s version of a pawn.

  • A pawn takes up one space on the hex board.
  • A pawn faces in a single direction. (Other pieces can face multiple directions at once)
  • A pawn can take one of three actions during its turn. It can advance, rotate, or attack.
  • A pawn advances one space in the direction it is facing. (Other pieces can move farther)
  • A pawn rotates to face any direction.
  • A pawn can attack one space in the direction it is facing. (Pieces can attack in any direction they can move to, and some can attack at greater range)

Here’s some information about the combat.

  • All units have two combat statuses: Mobility and firepower.
  • Mobility is the ability of a piece to move and rotate. A piece is either mobile or immobile.
  • Firepower is the ability of a piece to attack. A piece is either armed or disarmed.
  • When a piece is attacked, the defending player choses which status is removed: The piece either becomes immobile or disarmed.
  • If a piece is already immobile or disarmed and it is attacked again, it becomes neutralized. It can’t move, rotate, or attack.
  • If a piece is already neutralized and it is attacked again, it becomes annihilated and removed from the board.
  • Pieces can be healed after they are neutralized or otherwise harmed. Annihilated pieces cannot ever come back!

Here’s a quick flowchart, the number is how many attacks it has to sustain:

Healthy -1-> (Immobile/Disarmed) -1-> Neutralized -1-> Annihilated

I’ll be working on this a while, and I’ve already thought of some changes while I was writing this, so there will be some new stuff later on.

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