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Roll n' Write: "WriteScape"

Jotting down some brief notes here on a roughed-out roll n' write I've developed in the past week or so. As opposed to an economic-based rnw, this is one of those map-making ones. At this point, it's a single-player game. I am wondering if there's a way to allow a multiplayer version, but that may come at a later time.

In a future update, I'll post photos/graphic elements.

The object of the game is to score points based on the layout of the map, which is comprised of a 6x7 hex map (I use offset squares, but if you can imagine hexes, it's the same thing). As you continue the game, you also build structures that help you earn points for certain configurations of terrain surrounding them. The game ends when the player's entire allotment of energy is expended, and scores are calculated at that point.

The player throws three six-sided dice, and must allocate each to one of three different areas:

  • Filling in a map sector with terrain,
  • Collect and then use "talismans" (collectables that permit in-game bonuses or new terrain & structures), and
  • Consume energy. This is the game timer, but also provides bonuses at certain intervals.

A couple things I want to make a note of that I think are important:

  • The quantity of specific types of terrain is limited. There are six varieties of terrain (one for each number on the die), and there are a limited number of each. If you've assigned that number but you've already added your maximum number of River (for example) you must either put in a Wasteland terrain (which can easily count against you in scoring), or expend talismans to choose the terrain you want.
  • Talismans are easier to earn in the beginning of the game. Much like terrain, there are a limited number of talismans, but they are initially distributed in pairs. As the game continues, the pairs have likely already been collected, so single talismans are awarded as that same number is assigned multiple times.
  • The progress along the game timer is variable, but it awards bonuses and perks at specific intervals. This is the aspect of the game that has received the most attention and revision so far.

    Energy is organized in "rows," and when all the energy from one of these rows is expended, the player receives a benefit of some kind they can use immediately or at any point in the future.

    Total available energy is somewhere between 45 and 55 points, and this allows for a lot of flexibility for how energy is allotted and/or length of game.

The game ends when either the map grid is completely filled, or all possible energy has been consumed. Final scores are calculated in traditional methods of "point salad" for terrain configurations, including bonus points related to the talisman lookup table.

I'll have more about this game and concept in a future update. But there are a few key concepts I wanted to experiment for this game:

  • Limited types of specific terrain, and more of a specific terrain becoming more expensive over time.
  • Structures, built from collected resources, that affect the player's score based on what's around them in the map.
  • The amount of time remaining in the game based on die results, and not necessarily a fixed number of turns/rounds. Better yet: the player has some agency in how long the game happens to be based on what they do with the die results.


Game Sheets v1

I have the first draft of game sheets here:

I stress that I don't have the rules written down in a presentable format yet, and the form factor is way too large for practical use. These pages are more for me and playtesting (solo and with a local game group while I'm coaching over their shoulder).

There's a (large) map and a breakdown of how to score the game on the first page, and the second sheet has the reference tables. A player will need one of each to play, along with 3d6.

Some of it is self-explanatory. Here's a summary of what you do in the game:
1. Throw three six-sided dice.
2. Assign each die to one of three different areas. These are marked on the second sheet:

  • 1. Terrain to be drawn on the map. Terrain can be placed next to one of the "hand" icons on the left and right sides of the hex map, or adjacent to already-placed terrain. Once you assign a die, look in its column and scratch out one of the terrain in that column. When all terrain are scratched out, then the only thing left is Wasteland (the "X"), which is worth 0 points.
  • 2. Collect talismans, and use them for bonuses. Again, scratch them off in that column when you collect them, then circle the talisman(s) in your inventory area on the right-hand edge. Scratch off a collected talisman from this inventory once you use it. The different ways to use talismans are listed on the bottom-right of that same player sheet.
  • 3. Expend energy. Scratch off any of the energy bursts in the section of the bottom-left of the player sheet. When you fill up a specific row, you collect that row's bonus immediately.

The game is over when (1) the entire hex map is full of terrain, or (2) the player has no energy remaining in section 3. After either of these conditions, scoring takes place.

Things are still clunky and need work. But I wanted to document some things here for reference. I have a designer's meeting this evening and I should have a new revision by the end of the weekend.

Feel free to ask questions or make comments here if you like. Thanks!

Theme, No Humans, & Wildlife

I'm concerned about a lack of theme present in the game right now. At this point, it resembles a general "god game" where the player is some powerful entity that can create terrain with a touch of their hand (represented with the hand icons displayed on either edge of the game map).

I don't want humans or civilizations in this game because I don't want players to focus on exploiting terrain for resources and the like. I had originally though of ways to develop or create habitats for non-human animals in the game (eagle nests in the mountains, gopher mounds in the hills, lions in the prairies, etc.) , but haven't found a way to make that happen yet. I also wanted to separate the "light forest" and individual "conifer trees" terrain by restricting what part of the map the player could place them on, but that seemed too finicky a restriction.

Some of the structures are anthropocentric (something humans might make), but they are not based on resource extraction or war: aspects of games that I am not interested in promoting. If I were to describe these structures more thematically, I'd like to have them shown as ruins or ancient structures, as opposed to ones being instantly created.

The game map can be considered a representation of a biome being created with the player's input. At the same time I want to see the representation of an ecosystem, I don't want to focus on bonuses for creating a monoculture (the same type of terrain all over the map). However, I may need to experiment with this more in an effort to implement wildlife habitats: which I suppose would be my ultimate goal.

An idea on theme

When I read what you are doing with wildlife and terrain and most importantly game timer, it feels to me that your theme could be ‘ghost’. Ghosts have a limited time to affect the world (game timer) and can do special actions of varying power. They can be enhanced by talismans to affect their abilities. Finally they can have different objectives: save another player, revenge, leave a legacy, really any range of action that can lend a sense of urgency and lack of available time.

It sounds like a fun start!

Reworking Theme & Mechanics

After some playtesting this past weekend, I'm reworking some of the key mechanics regarding populating hexes. To sum up, I'm allowing the player to place terrain and the inhabitants of terrain simultaneously. Hexes will be divided into four asymmetric parts. The largest of these pieces will be where terrain is recorded, while the three others will be indicating the type of creature at the bottom, middle, and top of the food chain in that environment.

I want to focus primarily on non-human stuff in this game, so I'm going to come up with completely different icons and names (though not necessarily different functions) for the structures the player can build. They will most likely be organic or mineral type structures, cementing the theme in the natural world instead of the anthropocentric one.

@Warklaxon, not sure how to fit in a "ghost" angle, but it's definitely worth thinking about. I reckon even though I've done a bit of paring-down over the last couple playtests, I have a long way to go. Plenty of time to work on theme and flavor, ghosts or otherwise.

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