Hi all. For the last 3 years I have been gradually working on a chess variant that would allow for a free-form board (tiles drawn at random like letters in Scrabble) and chessmen consisting of both traditional chess pieces and "fairy chess" pieces with special moves/abilities.
Recently I learned of Kickstarter.com and it's given me hope that maybe I can make my idea become real and share it. So I am redoubling my efforts, but I am running into some snags which I would like to get feedback on.
First, I mostly work with wood when I make normal chess sets (as a hobby). I don't use or have a lathe so my pieces don't look like your average Staunton set; I work with craft shapes and modify them with a Dremel tool. Would this be an issue in presenting a prototype to a developer (both the fact that the pieces are wood instead of plastic, and the design is not exactly traditional)? Would a prospective developer work with me on translating the prototype into something more commercial-looking, or would they expect me to have a "perfect" set already made to show them?
Second, in order to keep things simple, rather than make fairy chess pieces in addition to regular ones, a friend suggested making "wings" to attach to the chessmen, and different color wings on different pieces would mean different fairy piece statuses. (I.E. red wings on a pawn would mean something different from blue wings on a pawn, and red wings on a pawn would mean something different from red wings on, say, a bishop.)
However, because chessmen are (typically) round and (at least with professional Staunton-like pieces) have tapering bodies that get narrower close to the "head" of the chess piece, I cannot envision a decent way of connecting lightweight wing-shapes to chessmen without making them square and blocky like some abstract set (the knight is especially tricky!). Either the curvature is an issue, or the material to connect the wings to the piece are an issue (snaps, twist-ties, velcro, magnets, all of them have problems I can easily imagine). Any thoughts on a compromise or resolution? For a wooden demo prototype, at least, it needs to be something that is easy to attach to wood and stay on securely, taking into account that flat wings may have to attach to a round surface, but also withstand handling when attaching and detaching the wings to/from the chessmen bodies.
Hi Saganth, this sounds like a neat idea. My major concern on your behalf is that it will be hard to sell a chess variant. I think there are two kinds of people in the world, those who like chess and thus would never buy a variant, and those who don't like chess, and would never buy a variant. Kickstarter does give you one way of testing the market, so if you feel confident, go for it.
The standard advice is that it does not matter what your prototype looks like when showing to a publisher. My sense that a certain level of professionalism and serious should be evident in your prototype, but polishing it is a wasted money. Also, graphic design that makes the game easier to play (well laid out cards, unique looking pieces, color coordinated board) is worth doing so your game can shine. So, don't worry if the pieces you are currently making don't look like a final product. A publisher will do that for your final product if they publish it. Of course presenting to a publisher is usually a different path than going through Kickstarter, so maybe I'm misunderstanding you.
My thought on your pieces and attaching wings is this: attach the wings to rings and then you drop the wing rings onto the pieces and they will settle where the base of the pieces widen out. You might need to redesign the shape of the pieces so they widen out at the base more than at their top, like for the queen and knight. Just a thought.
1) I wouldn't worry too much about the finished quality of the prototype, as long as it is playable and conveys the theme to at least some extent, you'll be fine. Most publishers have their own design departments which work closely with manufacturing so they will expect you to give them a reasonably free rein with that part of the game's production (it's their money they'll be investing, you know) Imo you should concentrate on gameplay, the rules first and foremost. Unless the design has a direct impact on how the game is played or its theme, you should pretty much leave it alone.
2) Wings sound a bit... complicated? Or even limiting from a design standpoint. Maybe you should consider some kind of hats or crowns that you can place on top of the figures? Some of them might fall down the back and be winglike, if you wish. The second option are the multi-colored bases, but they might be too limiting and fiddly if the fairy powers change during the course of the game.
I want to encourage you in your path to creating a chess variant. The logic of one responder--that there are two types of people in the world (those who play chess, and those who don't), and NEITHER of them would want to play a chess variant--is silly and simplistic, as there are many types of chess variants out there, both in the general public, and for sale. At my local game store, I can buy at least three different types of variants. Sure, they may not sell as much as Settlers of Catan, but exactly how many games in general DO sell as much as Catan?
As for a prototype, if you are showing it to a game designer, I would not worry about it looking perfect. It seems like game companies will work to manufacture it how THEY want it to look if they accept your game. More important (in my opinion) is to make sure the rules are airtight, and the gameplay is fun and engaging.
Feel free to contact me if you have further questions, or just want to chat. You can reach me through my website, sovereignchess.com
Good luck in your journey!
A chess 'variant' was my first game design at age 14 - haven't looked back since. I also have it available for sale on my website:
I call it EAGLES & KINGS. It is basically a complete redo of the game found in CHESSMEN OF MARS by E. R. Burroughs. The original game [though unplayable in it's original form] is known as JETAN, and you can find very fine sets for sale on the net as well as websites devoted to it.
But back to my version. ;-)
I bring it up because if you examine the pieces closely, this might be an answer to what you're looking for. All I had to create the pieces were the designs in the top. I sent these designs to this fellow here:
He used a laser thingie to cut the image into wood originals [for a reasonable price!]. I then took the wood originals to a fellow who makes miniature terrain using a goop you mix up then pour into a rubber mold [which he made for me for a reasonable price!] that then comes out of the mold as a sort of 'stone' material. Once I had the mold and bought the goop materials, I am now able to make up as many sets as I like.
I haven't sold many, but that's OK. The whole project was more of a vanity thing - actually publishing the first game I designed as a 14 year old kid! The graphic designs are INFINITELY cooler than those I made back in the day.
But the point is - just produce a drawing and have the wood guy turn it into a physical reality. Then take the originals to a miniature terrain guy [there are lots] to see how much to turn it a wood original. Then have the originals, worked into 3 dimensional mold and off you go.
It's an option that you can see works.