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Creating the board as part of the game?

7 replies [Last post]
Pe-ads's picture
Joined: 01/30/2010

I've had an idea floating around my head for a long time. I finally dug it out of the dark recesses, and here it is:

The basic idea of the game is that the board is a whiteboard. Players then draw the regions on the board using whiteboard markers. This would probably be done using cards, e.g. Joe plays a sea card and draws on some sea.

I guess you could colour in regions if you wanted to, but I was thinking more of placing counters in the region to describe region type, etc., and using different coloured pens to draw different forms of borders.

Do you think it would work? I'm a great fan of Nomic and this idea is reminiscent of it, so I would personally love to play. However, I'm not sure how other people would react to it.

Any answers would appreciated,


stevebarkeruk's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
I was working on a similar

I was working on a similar principle a while back and the problem I ran into was that you can't force players to draw things to an appropriate scale or in a playable layout. If each area drawn has to contain counters (for example) and has to relate to other areas drawn by other players then getting a playable consistency between all the areas is a major problem. I think this is why tile games like Carcassonne work so well but haven't been transformed into a truly free-form 'draw your own' model.

The only way I can see this working is to have 'whiteboard' tiles in regular sizes so they are all the 'right' size and all fit together in a reasonable fashion, but players can draw/write board elements onto them Nomic-style. Either that or a whiteboard with a grid printed on it and some restrictions about the size/shape/position of drawn areas (such as every area must be between 5-10 squares in size and, with the exception of the first area, share at least 3 squares of its sides as borders with pre-existing squares). I wonder whether that sort of restriction would kill most people's creativity and/or enthusiasm, though?

ilta's picture
Joined: 12/05/2008
It sounds awesome. I think if

It sounds awesome. I think if the cards were sufficiently specific, and the grid were used to keep things in check, you'd be okay. "Draw a lake with an area of five tiles" "connect any two cities no further than ten tiles apart with a road," "place a fishing wharf on a pre-existing lake tile" "move a trading post from one road intersection to an adjacent intersection" etc.

I think it would be tremendously fun to play a game where you end up physically creating the map each time, not just drawing it from a bag of pre-made tiles. Themeing it would be cool, too -- are the players colonial powers, divying up an already-existent land even as they alter it? Are they gods, building a world filled with worshipers? Are they cartographers, mapping an already-existent, but ever-changing country?

EDIT: You can also provide for various "starting scenarios" and have the cards mostly be about altering existing terrain, rather than creating new features. Count on a good player base to come up with some other neat layouts, too.

Joined: 07/08/2009
How much . . .

. . can you do on a board like that, though?

What would you use it for. I just imagine bits of the map getting erased every time a move is made.


seo's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
I wonder how is this much

I wonder how is this much different from just using tiles in a modular board, and how big the benefits would be over tiles.

Given that most people feel their drawing talent is limited or non-existent, and that even those who like drawing will need more time to draw than to place a tile, I think on most cases tiles would work better.

Granted there are scenarios where the higher customization allowed by actually drawing the board might be a good thing, or even a requirement for the game to work at all, but I think on most cases the resulting weakening of the visual side of the game, and the disruption of its flow, drives designers away from this concept.

Maybe a combination of pre-printed tiles (e.g. with different types of terrain, etc.) and drawing on them (e.g. to add specific elements to the tile like buildings, roads, lakes, rivers, bridges, etc.) could work better?

Pe-ads's picture
Joined: 01/30/2010
Thanks for your comments...

I've had a bit more of a think.

To mitigate massive areas, I thought of an alternative to a grid. Basically, you have 'units' of some kind. These will probably be circular counters, about 1" wide (think checkers/draughts counters size; perhaps slightly smaller). When you play a card, e.g. draw a river 3 units long, you would lay out the counters side by side in whichever way you liked, i.e. a straight line, a curved line etc. and then draw a line following those counters.
Example (the O's are counters and the _'s are borders):

I know the 'diagram' is terrible, but it's better than nothing. I also like the counter unit idea because when you upgrade your technology, you can get more counters to draw bigger lines, or something like that.

I think having some pre-placed counters/lines would give the game more direction, e.g. artefact counters that the players are vying to grab for themselves.

I was thinking the theme could be a medieval/tudor world, where after a cataclysm they seek to rebuild the world using ancient machines (I much prefer mysterious machines over magic wands).

I know the idea sounds odd, but I think the game would be weighted so that players wouldn't do much border destroying at the start and attack/border merging would happen later. I think if it was better for players to draw smaller regions (or indeed could only draw bigger regions) to begin with, and then divided them up into bigger regions later would represent empire building more (diversity lost, but production gained through amalgamation).

I know what you mean about people's feelings about their drawing abilities. However, I don't think people would shy away from this too much, as the only drawing that is happening is borders. The player's wouldn't be expected to draw a detailed castle or a whole forest. Counters would be used to actually define the production, buildings, inhabitants, etc. of a particular region.

I think the game I have in mind just wouldn't work without drawing. The idea I have is more about the regions being defined mainly by their borders, e.g. a region couldn't produce ore if it didn't have a mountain border. As the players expand their empires and amalgamate their regions the diversity is lost, but the production is higher from the certain regions.

As for the game losing graphical appeal, I think that's one of the hardest issues to address. I was thinking of using player mats for tech trees etc. anyway, and the cards would help. As for the actual board, I think having counters and buildings on it will help with the aesthetic values.

I guess I just wanted to make a game that was all about the geography of the board. In games like Carcassonne, I often find myself wanting to invent a certain tile, or just alter it slightly so that the ruddy thing will fit! I guess that's one the central ideas of tile games, really, but I wanted to make a game that took ideas from a tile game, but wasn't actually a tile game.

Of course the idea may fizzle out after playtesting, but I have hopes for it.

Joined: 01/26/2009
Pen-n-Paper version

I had a game sort of like this, played with pen and paper and a deck of cards.

The deck of cards represented resources (2-10), with the face cards representing basic actions.

Most of the dynamics were unimportant, but the main thing was, I had built in a control to even out the size of regions drawn - a player, on their turn, could draw a region (of a type of their choice: city, field, ocean, whatever) OF ANY SIZE, but at the beginning of each turn, had to pay resources to support it based on how much population was in it. Initially, the population in an area is set at 1, and each 2 population in a region supports one grid space. You must then pay the difference in 1 resource per region space.

The scoring at the end was based a combination of population, total land area controlled, and POPULATION DENSITY. That last one was thrown into the scoring as another measure of control.

Players could make regions of huge size (if they had a lot of 9s and 10s in their hand, say), but had to pay to support them until their population in those regions was high enough. This initially kept players making regions of moderate enough size that they could score heavy points with them at the end of the game, but still small enough that they could support them in the interim while allowing for other actions during their turn. This kept the game board evolving at a nice even pace, even having players make very small regions that they could populate in a single round for a small, quick points boost.

Eventually, though , players would just pack every space with population, and end up winning with HUGE scores. The POPULATION DENSITY solved this issue, by allowing opposing players to play THEIR population in YOUR regions, and if the population reached 3/4 of the grid spaces in the area, you could actually end up LOSING points.

That forced players to make regions of moderate size, but also balance their available resources to populate them against where an opponent might be able to screw them over by increasing the region's population (it also allowed for an opponent to take over one of your regions by having more population there, so drawing a LARGE region, and losing it eventually to an opponent would be a detriment).

I think that if you had a game mechanic that forced a penalty for messing up the playability of the game by how you drew your regions, you wouldn't need to write rules for limits on region size or region placement, or add cards, dice, or other additional game components for that purpose.

I DO like the idea of having pre-drawn items on the board, but you would need to have a limit on how you approach them, or otherwise someone could just draw a region around the "artifact" or whatever, gaining control over it's game usage immediately during their first turn (or setup, or whatever).

Pe-ads's picture
Joined: 01/30/2010

I originally started out with pen and paper as the materials, but as seeing I wanted the borders to change, rubbing them out would be very messy as unless you use soft enough pencils and draw softly, the pencil marks stay.

I hadn't really thought about population as a mechanic but it could be interesting. However, I really like the idea of having penalties for messing up playability making it a lot simpler than having rulers or suchlike.

From the ideas I have at the moment, regions should be drawn smaller at the start and then the option to combine them into bigger regions as the game continued, thus giving the player the options to go for a few resources and lots of production, or more variety and less production. Resources would be key to the game and there would have to be plenty (at least 6). I was going to make it so that players just couldn't combine regions at the start or couldn't draw bigger ones, but having it so that it's just better for the players to draw smaller at the start would make it more interesting, I think.


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