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Defenders of Wessex - How it came to be (continued)

I figured its best to update today, since I won't be around much at all tomorrow and Monday is a holiday (which will hopefully score me at least 1, if not 2 play tests!).

Big news for Defenders of Wessex: I get to preview the game board yesterday. Its still only a sketch, and I didn't grab a snap shot of it, but the board is beautiful. It combines a traditional "fantasy" style map (like you might find in the front of a fantasy fiction novel) with some of the more evocative Viking imagery (for example, it blends Huginn and Muninn, Fenrir, Mjolnir, and the Viking dragon/serpent head with some of the key game mechanics. It has other imagery, like the common viking shield, spear, and axe incorporated into a compass indicating North. The border of the game is written in norse runes (and yes, the runes actually say something!). The Celtic Cross is used to indicate the location of monasteries on the map.... In short, the board is only a sketch and its already super cool. I am really looking forward to seeing it made ready, and I've been told that this week it will progress by leaps and bounds.

Sadly it will not be ready in time to go to Fallcon. Even if my artist could do the remaining work in 2 weeks, it would take the other 2 weeks to get the game printed and shipped to me, and it would not leave a lot of time to get the graphic design work done. Perhaps if the planets align I might get the game to Fallcon, but I'm not counting on it.

I'm still pretty excited to see things coming together like this!

Being that its only a short update, I thought I'd throw in a little more on how this game came to be in its current state. Last update I left off with the first large group play test. It was an epic failure. So epic, in fact, that I had to reconstruct most of the game from the ground up. I kept the central theme -- the Viking invasion of Wessex between 871 and 876, but I really needed to change a lot of other things.

Basically nothing was safe from the editors pen here. I first scratched out the idea that every player controlled a city exclusively. The problem there was that it isolated players from each other and didn't allow for a truly cooperative game. It was also exceptionally clunky. With exclusive city control gone, resource management had to change. Resources had previously been similar to Ticket to Ride, with a random assortment of resources available every turn. That wasn't feasible now.

Enter the characters. Players would now be able to move around the map and interact with whatever city they chose to. Resource management was altered so that only specific cities could produce specific resources. I drew up new build cost charts and I made all the characters unique. With that in hand, I scheduled another play test.

The game worked! I discovered that one character was so OP that he was a must have for every game, and another character was utterly useless. They both got changed. Several rules features served no purpose and got ditched.

But the core of the game was solid and it became a process of carving off the garbage to get to a workable core of the game.


At least you understand

Trimming the garbage - is essential. From my early prototypes of "Tradewars - Homeworld", I had all kinds of things that just did not work. Things like spaceships with shields, paying 2x point cost for cards on the table, having unique cards (for all the cards in the deck), etc.

Sometimes trimming something is "accidental" and it has a wondrous effect. Like in my case put three (3) of each card in the deck. Firstly it's easier to remember the cards, secondly it's second nature to have less artwork and take less time to make/produce the game.

You're going to find those "nuggets" which lead to "ahaa" moments where you will modify your game - for some reason - and get a different benefit altogether. In addition to getting the original benefit.

I had a couple of those... And surprisingly it has led to a very solid game!

Best of luck with this venture - already on the artwork of the board is a sure sign that things are moving forwards and you are taking the game from a concept into a real game!

That's the real road towards Game Design...!

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blog | by Dr. Radut