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First post, first game, first theory. Starting somewhere and ending somewhere else.

4 replies [Last post]
Joined: 04/19/2011

Hi all, I’m new to board game design and board game designers forum and would like first of all to say hello to everyone and that I look forward to sharing and discussing ideas.

I’m interested in examples of how games have changed over time, going from one thing to something completely different. I’ve only been reading the forum for a couple of weeks but it seems to be mainly specific game ideas/rules or general design practices, I hope to bridge the gap between the two. So in that vane here is the tale of how my first game actually became my second game and what I learnt from the entire process.

In the beginning.
I wanted to create a card game which represented the last few surviving robots, long after the death of all biological life, fighting over the last remaining scrap parts in order to maintain their lives that little be longer.
The robots would be constructed with a body card, two arm cards, a head card and a legs card by laying them out on the table so they fit together. The body card would contain the starting class statistics of the robot (strength, dexterity and intelligence), each component card (head, arms, legs) would change their ability statistics (attack [STR], defence [DEX], steal [DEX], scavenge[INT] and repair [INT]).

The robots would have to scavenge components (pick up cards from a deck) or steal components from other players hands in order to upgrade and repair their robot. They could also attack other robots to removed their installed component cards through damage.

I found that the problem with having different classes was a robot would always go against the same robot. The strong warrior, would fight the weaker robot, the quick thief would steal from the slow, etc etc. The characters moves were pre-determined by their class.

No more classes.
So, I removed classes and had each robot start on equal footing, with the same basic components (no stat effects). All characters picked up the same amount of cards each go (scavenging), their attack ability was determined by their right arm, their defence by their left arm, their steal by their legs and alertness (against being stolen from) by their head.

As component cards got better their cost to install got higher. Also the higher the ability modifier the greater the affect on reducing a further ability. i.e. (increasing defence reduced steal, increasing steal reduced attack, increasing attack reduced alertness and increasing alertness reduced defence).

A players turn would be the following:
1. Scavenge (pick up cards)
2. Repair/Install (replace components)
3. Complete a single action
a. Attack
b. Steal
c. Gamble

To repair you would have to pay the price of the component card with other component cards in your hand in order to install. For example, a head value 5, could be installed by paying with legs value 2 and arm value 3. Alternatively legs value 2 and arms value 3 could be installed by paying head value 5.

Attacking would involve the attack statistic verses the chosen opponents defence statistic, and the difference would have to be paid by component card(s) of higher value. This would remove one component piece from the opponent’s robot body.

To steal the steal and alertness statistics would be compared, the higher the difference the more attempts the player would have to determine the suit of the opponents card (three suits, fire, water, grass). Correctly determining the suit would mean the player got to steal the card. [note: fire, water, grass were chosen as place holders which worked on the paper scissor stone rules whilst I tried to imagine a more robotic termed system]

Gambling was a ‘my card is better than yours’ game. The player who’s turn it was would lay a card face down and declare my part is better than your part, the person they chose would have to do the same. Both cards are then revealed and the player who laid the card with the highest value wins both cards. In the case of a draw, the suits are compared (fire beats grass, etc etc), in the case that this does not find a winner they must lay another card or quit.
In order to try and add a little bit of chance to it as well as fun, I added action cards which could stop attacks, let you repair for free, always win at gambling. The idea being that these could have amusing text of some sort.

After making the 164 cards by hand I tried the game on my own, some things I just couldn’t work out. Which card was removed when you attacked someone (maybe it has to be the same component that you played to remove it), the numbers and maths were hard to follow. It was complete luck whether or not you got the cards you needed.
I also played with friends (already feeling a bit uneasy about the game) I told them it didn’t work but they were still happy to try. It was slow, clunky, boring, the rules weren’t clear. I actually got the most help from the friend who wasn’t a gamer. Basically we worked out there were too many cards, too much adding and thinking (you never lost yourself in the game) and it just wasn’t fun.

Back to the Drawing Board
Ok, too many cards. Take away the action cards. What if a robot is made from a head, body and legs (5 cards down to 3), heck what if it was made from a top and bottom (3 down to 2). What if instead of one robot, I’m building an army of robots to protect myself. I start with a single creator robot and I can make robots or I can command them to destroy the opponents’ robots, hopefully destroying their creator robot. Fire robots destroy grass robots, grass destroys water, and water destroys fire. I have two choices but only one action each go, build a robot (if I have the matching parts) or command a robot to attack the opponent.

I really need to find terms that make sense other than grass, fire and water. Or…

Change theme, change direction
If I’ve got grass, fire and water why don’t I use them. What if instead of a robot, I’m a summoner and instead of bottoms and tops of robots I have elements and matching creatures. The game starts to make sense. (obviously I could go back to robots if I find the paper, scissor, stone elements that make sense for a robotic world, but changing it to summoning has made me come up with a whole load of new ideas.

This post is getting way too long, possibly why there are not many posts of this nature. I’m actually further than the above lets on, but the rules for what that game has become are for a difference post. What I really wanted to talk about was how I started with this complex idea and over time boiled it down to its very, very basic elements and made something that worked (it may not be the most interesting game at the minute) but it works. And now I can start adding the complexity back in. Also I found it interesting how the slowly changing mechanics of the game actually ended up changing the theme. One day I will go back to my scavenging, fighting, gambling robots but for now I’m working on getting this new game finished. Starting simple and building up. I should know this, I spend most of my day at uni writing programs in this very manner.

t0tem's picture
Joined: 04/21/2011
Sounds familiar bro. I think

Sounds familiar bro. I think starting simple is probably the way to go.
The problem I find is that making games I wouldn't wanna play is not as inspiring, so I usually bite off way more than I can chew.
I have made a pact with myself to make the next game I design a game for children of about 5. Hopefuly that will teach me something about starting out small and focusing on essentials and NOT begin making advanced probability trees, action cards and lists of skills only to find out the core idea sucks awfuly after 100 hrs.

Joined: 04/19/2011
Glad to hear I'm not the only

Glad to hear I'm not the only one. It will be interesting to see on future game projects how starting simply and building up works for me.

Making a game 5 year olds can play seems an interesting challenge. I guess the mechanics would have to be fairly simple and the theme suitable, it would be balancing the level of decision making they'd have to do (would there be any decisions for them, it's been a while since I was five, I can't remember what I was capable of). It would probably be a valuable learning experience though. Good luck.

bonsaigames's picture
Joined: 12/20/2010

We made a game called Monsters Attack! and it has a similar building mechanic except that all players contribute to the giant monster. Originally it started out looking a little too much like Pokemon, so I know where you're coming from.

If you'd like your game to be printed someday, remember that cards are printed in sheets of 55 (think of a standard deck of playing cards being 52 + 2 Jokers +1 Rules or Ad card). Not that every game should be a multiple of 55 cards, just keep that number in mind for economy's sake.

What if your Robot parts had different power sources; electricity, steam, etc...?

If you can get rid of the Math and English do it! Go to symbols and make all cards worth the same value. You can give each power source a unique quality or even a Paper/Rock/Scissors combat system.

Why do the robots have to be humanoid?

Hope that helps,
Levi Mote

Joined: 04/19/2011

Thanks for the info regarding card printing, I'll keep that in mind.

I had a look at the rules for Monsters Attack! I can see the similarities in the building mechanic that you pointed out. I liked the way the cities could change their defense type.

I guess there's no reason the robots need to be humanoid, it's just what was in my head when I was designing the game. It does open up some more possibilities.

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