This Monday marks the beginning of a Coursera course about literature, games, and how you translate one to the other. Like all Coursera courses, it’s at university level, but totally free, and you don’t “have” to do any test (though you might want to, just to get some recognition and to know you can, like I’m planning on doing).

If you’re interested in the media, games, fictional worlds and how they all interact, there are worse ways to get some basic, and hopefully some advanced, info.

If you’re signing up, leave a note or something – I’d like to have some classmates I know and can talk too, and we can also meet in-game!

The Agents is a cool card game with a unique mechanic, and I talked about it before. I was a playtester and a supporting game designer, and it all worked out alright.  I like the game, but it also seems like quite a few people like it as well, seeing as it’s almost at 4,000% funding.

Yeah! Managed to write the second part within a month or so from the first. This game might actually get made in time!

Eclipse
Godaaiiim, I heard it was a cool game, but I had no idea.

  • A limited number of influence tokens, using them both to mark actions and to conquer hexes on the map. Like in Twilight Imperium, only Eclipse also adds a cool upkeep aspect. Not sure I’ve got a use for it.
  • Discovering things on the board, and either keeping them for points, or claiming them for a specific bonus. Love it!

Civilization
Father, I have returned to your bosom. It is a hefty bosom.

  • Like in Eclipse (and lots of other management games), there’s a side board, keeping track of things like culture, current age, and such – things that are relevant to all players. I think my event cards play a similar role. Currently, they’re mostly keeping track of time (turns), but I can actually use them for other stuff. I won’t go further than that, into actual side-board territory, that’s a bit more complex than what I’m aiming for.
  • The land gives you all sorts of stuff, relating to different ways to win. Resources, coins, trade, etc. Important.

Gheos
I was wrong, Gheos is my real father! Away, Civ! After all, Gheos is my 2nd main inspiration, next to Small World.

  • Although the map changes, you can’t replace temple tiles. Some things remain constant.
  • Cultures gain stuff according to the land they own, that’s obvious. But I should note Gheos only has 3 types of characteristics for each culture, each useful for an entirely different reason (war, creation/migration and points) and the amount of symbols in your territory is the main thing to look for.
  • You can choose when to score, and since your situation will rise and fall throughout the game, catching the right moment is important. Not what I’m aiming for, though, but maybe I can do something similar, just not with points.

Terra Mystica
I heard about this game before, but only recently watched a full tutorial. Seems a bit complex in light of it’s colorful design, but maybe that’s just me. I like it a lot, anyway.

  • Random special bonuses and victory point conditions for every turn – talk about replayability!
  • The cults give you all sorts of bonuses, as you rise in level with each. I might do the opposite, theme-wise: tracking the player’s influence on the civilizations. That will probably require a side board after all.
  • Recycling power in a circle, I love this kind of forward-thinking. Where have I seen it before? Don’t remember.
  • Having a once-in-a-game ability, unique to each god. Or maybe once in an age.

Clash of Cultures
Cool looking game.

  • Objective cards, something to strive for, per age. Just a few victory points, but that’s enough of an incentive. Well defined short-term goals FTW.

Kingdom Builder
I see why people are conflicted about this. I think I’ll probably be in the “every game feels the same” group.

  • Drawing random victory objectives every game is great for replayability, especially in my kind of game, which might be more on the playground side. Reus is my prime influence, after all, and it’s a game where you just try to get certain achievements or maximum points before your time runs out. So this random victory objective thing seems very useful, and it’s also meshing well with the short-term goals from before.

Cyclades
Looks like a solid, well rounded game. Not what I’m aiming for, but fun in its own way.

  • Purchasing mythological creatures. Maybe you can “purchase” (recruit to your cause) a mighty creature (a better avatar?)
  • Sucking up to gods. Maybe in my game it’s the opposite, the people’s are sucking up to you. Maybe it’s a reverse bidding? What’s a reverse bidding? Is it a thing? Will have to look into that.

Chaos in the Old World
An old favorite of mine, it has gods, a map, and conflict. Lots of fun.

  • Events affect the board. Already got that, actually.
  • Playing cards onto regions, in a limited capacity. Being able to affect a region only in a limited way, only twice per turn, or something like that.
  • Gaining influence per region. Too many counters for my game, though. The hexes are too small! The culture side-board does the same thing, anyway.
  • Every god need to fulfil specific conditions in order to gain power. We’ll see about that.

Next up: First draft of the rules. It’s about time.

These past few weeks I’ve been doing a little research. By ‘research’ I mean looking at several games that relate to mine in premise or mechanics, and stealing all the good parts.

I began with BGG, of course, with Civilization. That’s the first game I think off when I see a board with hills and forests and hexes (300 hours of Civ 5 and counting). I also opened a tab with Small World, which, as  I mentioned before, has a certain similar feel to my god game. From there, I started browsing by mechanics and categories: Area Control, Civilization, Territory Building, Mythology. I sorted them by ranking – I want to steal from the best, after all! – and opened several new tabs with the top games from each category. I surveyed each game for 20-30 minutes, reading a review or two, trying to find a tutorial video or something like that, and summed up in points everything I found interesting.

Here’s the first part of my conclusions so far.

Age of Gods
Surprisingly, not much here. Although there are gods, races, and a territory map, there’s almost no common ground with my god game. The basic idea is that everyone attack each other all the times, but the other players don’t know which races are yours.

  • Gods can reinforce a territory with a marker. Maybe reinforcing (Against attack? Against natural disaster?) is one of my Avatar’s abilities. A god should protect his chosen people, no?
  • Each race has cards that allow it to expand in some way. Hmm. Maybe there are ‘civilization upgrade’ cards? Only a few might be used each game; that helps replayability. Or maybe the actions available your Avatar this turn must be selected from your hand, a random variety of “godly action” cards? Maybe you can try to increase your hand size, or make other players discard at random? Wait, maybe the amount of cards you can have in your hand is equal to how much ‘worship’ you have?

Pantheon
Hexes, gods, a sort of worship mechanic, what more can I ask for.

  • You score points by having control over specific places on the board.
  • Cards are used to represent money, sacrifice and movement. Again, different types of actions and stuff, coming from the same source (a deck of cards). It’s simple and straightforward, only three types of cards, with a simple symbol for each.
  • You use the cards to buy things. Maybe you buy things with “worship points”? Meh, gods don’t BUY. They simply choose what to do.
  • Uneven scoring – the more columns you have, the more points each one is worth. Why? So players can concentrate only on columns while neglecting other ways to gain points. Might be a bit more complicated than what I’m looking for.

Genesis
Got the basic god theme, but not much in common with my game. Still:

  • There’s an evil Dark Angel, and if he wins, the game ends with everyone losing. Hmm.
  • There’s a balance between the amount of resources, and the diversity of types of resources, that you can gain from each spot on the board. Nice choice.
  • Using  resources is an action, and you have to use them in a specific place. That’s how you get points. So getting points is an action – not something you calculate based on your actions. Very straightforward, you always know what you have to do in order to win. Also, you can only do so in specific places on the board. Hmm. Shrines? 
  • The first player in every round is the one who’s most to the left, in the “weakest” position.

Tigris & Euphrates
I’ve played this several times, and I love it. It does several things really well, which is why I wanted to take another look at it.

  • Very simple choices: On your turn, you only take two actions, out of a list of 4 (and two of those are hardly ever used). Like in Ticket to Ride, or Small World.
  • Evolving Complexity – placing several tiles next to each other creates a “region”, and now you can start using leaders. They can only be attached to red tiles, and the black leader can take points by default, and all sorts of other stuff. The rules are getting more complex as more things are added to the board, and you should be aware of these rules, but you don’t actually do a DIFFERENT action to use them. You simply have to aware of the color and position of the tile or leader you place with your regular, simple action.
  • A Catastrophe Tile is a limited resource, allowing you to demolish stuff – and that’s the only way to do it. Sounds godly enough.
  • Monuments allow for a different path to gain VP, more secured but more confined (giving you only 2 of the 4 types of VP). They also become something players would want to fight about. Interesting. Reus has something similar, with civilization building great projects. Maybe the civs in my game build things, and then the gods fight over them.
  • Treasures – taking points from the board, after you first placed some infrastructure. Also, it’s a “super” VP, it counts as any kind of the 4 colors. I should have some natural treasure-like resources around the board from the start of the game.
  • The point system is unique, but hard to grok, so even though it’s an amazing tool to encourage strategies, I won’t be using something like that.

Dungeon Lords
A board game in the style of Dungeon Keeper, building and maintaining a dungeon while heroes are trying to break in and ruin your day. I love these kinds of games – there aren’t a lot of good ones, though. For now, it might prove useful, on the side of management and theme-implementation.

  • Lots of different boards, a bit too much for my game.
  • Limiting your actions, so you can’t choose the same one two turns in a row (or so). I feel like gods shouldn’t have arbitrary limitations, they’re gods, they can always do stuff. Then again, thinking back to the idea I had before, in Age of Gods – if I only let them draw random action-cards, it’s an arbitrary limitation just the same… Hmm, although, I already gave a reasonable reason for that limitation: it’s determined by faith. So maybe I can find some good excuse there. Maybe even use it game-wise. I might have something, will expand on it later.

 

I’ll probably post a second part in a few weeks, and hopefully, by August I’ll return to the game itself. Meanwhile, you should take a look at this guy’s YouTube channel, he has excellent, short, to-the-point reviews of board games.

While I’m doing some research for my own board game (more on that in a few days), here’s a card game called The Agents, for which I offered some playtest and support.

The unique mechanic of the game is card duality: you can play each card in one of two different directions. You’ll get the effect pointed at you while I get the one pointed at me, either a special command or points. We all love points, sure, but commands allow you to change/extract/kill/swap other cards, and don’t forget you’ve got TWO factions of agents, one with each player, to your right and to your left. And missions! Lots of stuff to do.

Print and play for yourself! Soon to be Kickstarted.

Tiles are cool and all, we all like tiles, I once married a tile, but what about everything else?

Okay, some ideas:

As said before, the game is divided into several Ages. Currently I’m thinking n+1 Ages, where n is the number of players. Every round/Age someone else gets to be the first player, and in the final round, the player who’s lagging behind (points-wise, probably) will get to be the first. I seem to be aiming at a 2-4 player game.

Each Age is divided into 4 events, cards drawn from an event deck.

Love the boxes.

Love the boxes.

Each event have several boxes (I think I’ll use 5, not 6 like in the original cards), each of which signals an action, in which every player gets to act once. The players advance some sort of playing piece along the boxes, to show how many actions are left in this event.

But that’s not all – see those dark blue boxes? Each event might have some of those, to indicate a “Dangerous Time” of some sort, probably related to the event. During these actions, things are harder, or maybe your villages are under attack, or something like that. Probably depending on each event.

I like the idea of having the event cards placed one after the other in a long row, the playing piece continuing from the previous event to the newly drawn one throughout the game. That way, you can watch the history of your world unfolds, and look back at the timeline. (It might also be useful for the game to “remember” which events already happened).

What do you do with your actions? Well, you probably move a lot.

A small yellow civilization, next to a mighty white-player emissary.

A small yellow civilization, next to a mighty white-player emissary.

I’m thinking, gods should have agents in the world, right? Black and White and Reus both suggest that the gods use giant creatures as their emissaries. Seems reasonable enough. If I were a god, I would like to have one of those. Handy, and also, giant.

The players move their emissaries in the world, using them to change the landscape and/or do other stuff. You can only do stuff in the hex where your giant stands, or in the 6 adjacent ones, so you’ll need to move here and there.

The yellow token in the picture is a local civilization. Just like in Gheos, I think different civilization will be marked by different colors, their tokens showing where they are settled. They aren’t controlled by the players, so a player might want to invest in several civilizations at once, or maybe just the opposite, try to claim one civ as his own, fending off other possible “investors”.

Unlike Gheos, I think my civilizations won’t move much, but instead will try to expand and gain access to more hexes. They will rise and fall according to events and Ages – us gods can only try to gain what points we can from them, shape them to our whims and such, during their short existence on this savage world. Such are the lives of mortals compared to those of a god!

Speaking of gods, don’t they usually have specific spheres of influence?

God of bright carpets.

God of bright carpets.

I might decide to give each god a distinction, like “God of Love” or war, or peanuts or whatever. In other words, give distinctive special abilities to each god. The thought occurred to me after seeing those little hexagons, and asking myself what the hell am I supposed to do with those, they are all different, why would gods want to use different terrain types– ah, ok, different types of gods, that makes sense, let’s do that one.

These spheres of influence, along with the event cards, allow me to add lots of flavour to the game. A game about the various gods of mischief is quite different from a game about the various gods of nature; the flavour I’ll choose will help define the game’s goals and its playing style in the player’s minds. It also needs to be fun and cool and distinctive. So no pressure.

What a great timing, Dice Tower, just for me!

The UK Games Expo journal-thingy, the one they gave you after picking up your badge, also had some great advice, from Rob Harris of Playtest.

C611844B-A765-49AE-B3E5-2D627A8F131A'To play, one must first have a game' - totally real person The moment I first saw the triangle tiles, I knew I was aiming for a building /management style game. The original Wilderness game was probably an adventure of sort, but when I see lots of customizable hexagon lands, I ...

So here’s what I have to work with. Every contestant was given a copy of the game Wilderness, but not the rules – we were actually discouraged from finding out more about the game, to avoid us becoming fixated on a specific direction for our redesigned rules. (So I don’t even link here to the game’s page on BGG).

wilderness (5)

See, I wasn’t lying, I’m not the lying sort

I like the general idea of doing a redesign rather than designing from scratch. Basing your design on pre-established components might seem limiting, but from limits come greatness! A sense of purpose! Probably not a sense of purpose. And I don’t really have to use any of the components, it’s just recommended. But I think it’s a good recommendation, and I will try to get as many components as I can into the game, both as a personal challenge and for the extra points in the final ruling. But mainly, because limitations really do help with imagination.

Anyway, yeah, back to the point: here’s what I have to work with.

Wilderness 1

Map tiles!

Lots and lots of map tiles, and some tiny markers and such. Yes, that white thing on the side is a blank tile. I think it was merely a by-product of the original design, but hey, now it’s a full-fledged possible component.

wilderness (2)

MOAR TILES!

Nine map tiles all-in-all. But also, map edges with some written stuff on them. Probably won’t be using the written stuff. However, the other side of these edges is all-green, just like the blank edges from before, so I’ve got 4 green edges. Useful. Maybe.

wilderness (6)

All the rest.

Two dice, a spinner, several colored wooden thingies, lots and lots of actually quite interesting types of cards, personal scoring sheets, and, yes, those are stickers. Probably supposed to be put on the wooden thingies. Several more possible components of note: The box itself, the plastic bags, that brown paper loop holding the sheets, and the cardboard frame for the tiles. All of them are, technically, part of the kit.

And those last ones, the cardboard frames, are the ones that gave me the initial direction for my game, more of which will discussed on the next post.

Originally, I’ve opened this blog to serve as a designer diary, and also as a motivator, for two RPG related projects I started about two years ago. However, during the last NaNoWriMo I actually settled down to start writing, and decided to fixate myself on a specific project, a game book (choose-your-own-adventure style); And early on in the development I decided to make it Hebrew-only.  So… not much need for this blog here.

Thanks to UK Games Expo and Leisure Games, I again have a reason to write in English, which is quite important to me, seeing as I want to do more than wave at such a big audience. Hebrew speakers are a cool bunch and everything, but their total is, like, umph-percent of the total English speakers.

Anyway.

So during the Expo, I was surprise to find out there’s a game re-design competition. A really cool idea, involving Kara Gander of Lesiure Games, Alan Paull of Surprsied Stare and Rob Harris of the awesome Playtest group, whom I know mostly through their Meetup. Got me self into the competition, and so, now I’ve got a design diary to write and use as a focus. Got until January to hand over the finished design, and already a few ideas worth testing, so let’s get to business.