I've been working on this game for about five months now. It's an LCG/light wargame hybrid with a modular board. The main gimmick is that the board is made up of cards, each one divided into a 2 by 3 grid (6 square spaces). You connect up the cards to make a game board, and during the course of the game you can replace board cards in play with ones from your hand. Each player has a few boats on the board, represented by tokens, which they can move around.
The goal of the game is to score five points, which you can do in two ways. First, you can win skirmishes, which are fights that happen when two enemy boats get next to each other. Whichever boat has higher power wins the skirmish; in case of a tie both players win. Each skirmish you win gives you one point. Secondly, you can get one of your boats adjacent to your opponent's port space, on the other side of the board. Each turn that you have a boat adjacent to your opponent's port, you score one point. In practice, the latter happens less often, but the threat of it leads to a fun "defend your port" theme.
If the game were simply a contest of who has the stronger boats, it would be pretty boring. So, there are a number of ways to increase your boats' power. Keep in mind that, by default, you can only put basic boats on the board, which have one power.
• Nearby boats can join in the skirmish. If either player has boats next to the boat that was attacked, those boats can join in as additional attacking and/or defending boats, adding their power to their side's total.
• You can build special boats, by playing a special boat card. The card is linked to the boat token, and its text defined the boat's power, spaces it can move per turn, and any special abilities.
• You can play tactic cards during a skirmish. Each tactic adds to your power for that skirmish and/or gives you a useful effect.
• Each player rolls 1d4 and adds it to their power, adding a vital element of uncertainty to skirmishes.
Rounding out the game are event cards (play 'em, do something, discard 'em), asset cards (play 'em for an ongoing effect), a resource system (6 gold per turn, spent gold to play cards), and various space types (portals that let boats jump around the board, sandbars that block progress, and islands that give you extra gold for docking a boat at them).
If you want, there's a slightly outdated version of the rules here: https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0Bwey3Ct7OzHPMzdmYjZkZmYtNTRhOC00YTYwLTk...
and a pnp starter deck here: https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0Bwey3Ct7OzHPMjA4YjJlNzAtZTA1Zi00ZThiLWE...
Now onto the journal part:
At its best, this game is an exciting and suspenseful, full of player interaction and all the customization fun of an LCG. At its worst, this game is dull, requires way too much thinking to play, and drags on for hours and hours and hours.
Aggression seems to be the key factor in deciding how well the game works. When players are being aggressive, skirmishes happen, driving the game to an ending and thus shortening play time. The struggle to hold off opposing forces is dramatic and suspenseful. The more players wait and build up their forces, the more the game drags on with nothing happening.
I can make being defensive a losing strategy, but it may take time for playgroups to realize this. By then, they would've already concluded that this game is boring.
I would like to encourage aggression, but I'm finding this difficult to do. Giving bonuses to attacking players only works part of the time (since defenders can run away to avoid battle), encourages stalemates where two boats lay several spaces apart, waiting for the other to move closer so that it can move in and attack in the same turn, and may make it hard for players to achieve solid defense when they need it. Making only the attacking player able to score points might work, but it might stall out the game even more. I need to test it first.
On another note, I feel the modular board is this game's biggest asset, but I've kind of been neglecting it. So I'm brainstorming another round of space types to try out, as well as new effects for board cards. I'm also experimenting with allowing players to play cards at will from the board deck, the deck the initial board is dealt from. If there's some way to reset the board during play, allowing players to explore new face-down board cards throughout the game, I'd like to find that too.
Adding complexity to the board aspect will make this game more of a brain-bender though, so I'd like to remove complexity from somewhere else, and skirmishes are a good candidate. I'm going to test each aspect of skirmishes (high-power special boats, joining in, and tactics) alone to see what it adds to the game. I already know what the dice do.
I hope I can work something fantastic out of this merely okay game.