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What are the chances for an abstract battle game?

19 replies [Last post]
Joined: 11/26/2012
Flash version screenshot


as you know, chess and checkers are the most popular board games in the world. They share one common trait: two armies aligned into battle and clashing together. Is it possible today to make another enjoyable game, with different but still simple rules, which follows the same principle? And if someone makes up such a game, is it destined to reach a big popularity?

I am asking because I have made such game. And have already proposed it to three publishers one after another, but was rejected each time. The common reason was, the game is too chess-like, too classical to attract customers.
WTF? My game really does LOOK like chess at the first sight, but the rules and the gameplay is completely different from any other known board game, still more intuitive and battle-simulating than chess.

Am I and my friends blind to think the game is so fun, while it actually isn't? Or it simply doesn't matter that the game is fun and has a strategic depth? Do I need to make it look more fancy, more exotic, more complex in order to draw publishers' attention?

And one more question. I have already asked it here but didn't get a decisive answer. I have made this board game as Flash application. So it can be played online by anyone if I make the link public. But what happens when I launch it and spread it through the internet? I am afraid that if then someone likes the game and wants to publish it, they will not ask me for permission, still less offering me royalties. Am I right or not?

Joined: 11/19/2012
I can't give you a publisher

I can't give you a publisher opinion, but as a player I do see issues with abstract battles. One of the major things that draws me to a game is the artwork... theme... and look. I'll rarely pick up a chess board when I can pick up something that draws me into another world for a while.

I'm absolutely NOT saying that your game isn't fun or that I wouldn't EVER play it, but that it is a major hurdle. Probably an unnecessary hurdle when you can simply slap on a theme to give people a more immersive experience.

Flash games on the other hand I know a bit about. By posting it online you ARE protected from someone "Stealing" your game. If someone else takes your game and sells it, you can sue them for infringing on your rights.

That said, if someone creates a similar but slightly different game, they are legally allowed to. Most software is judged on "Look and Feel". If a program looks the same and feels the same... it's copyright infringement. Otherwise, it's fair game. Dirt-baggy and frowned upon by most people... but legal.

But the reality is that the odds of someone choosing to steal your game are on par with you winning the lottery. People want to steal the most popular idea's so that they leech off the profits. Stealing "that game that some guy made" is likely to be more work than profit... which goes against their purpose for stealing.

Besides, most designers have zero inclination to steal anything. We create games because we love to CREATE them. I've had plenty of people build on idea's I've posted, but it was never "Theft". It was inspiration... sometimes asking for permission... sometimes not. Either way, I've never felt robbed in these situations, but pleased because I know I did something good.

I've been making game's for a LONG time now and I haven't worried about people stealing my million dollar since the beginning. I've found that the benefits of openly sharing idea's with other designers outweigh any risk of theft.

ender7's picture
Joined: 10/07/2008
Publishers are in the

Publishers are in the business of knowing what they can sell. If they don't think they can sell your game, either take it to Kickstarter and prove them wrong, or modify the game based on their feedback.

Btw, based on the look of the flash game, maybe this is something better sold as an app on phones and tablets?

Joined: 11/26/2012
To express it more clearly

Thanks for the answer. To express it more clearly, my possible plan is to launch the game online and wait if someone likes it, wants to publish it AS A BOARD GAME, and contacts me, offering me an agreement. But I am afraid it's too idealistic, and that's why I am hesitating. I am not afraid of the idea being stolen in another online game (have made a lot of them), but in a real board game.

The reason why I am so immodest about my game is that the idea behind it is in fact very simple. It can be also played just with the chess set. So telling the rules seems like saying a password to a treasure room :) (Well the amount of the treasure inside is unknown.)

As for the abstract battle theme: I too prefer games that make my mind flee to a fantasy realm for a while. But such games have small replayability. There are situations where one prefers to draw a simple game like good old chess or backgammon. Do you know Arimaa? That game makes me optimistic about my plans (though I have never played it). Adding an unnecessary fancy stuff into the game seems to me like corrupting its clear and simple idea.

Joined: 11/26/2012
to ender7

I have no experience with making and selling phone apps. Want to have the Flash version sponsored (i.e. sell the distribution license) and then be played for free. Or just launch the game for free waiting if a board games publisher contacts me, as I said in the previous entry, which I am really not sure if it can work.

I confess I want to make money on the game if it's possible. But feeling stressed with the possibilities and risks which I don't see clearly. So I am really gratefull for any your suggestions and advices.

Joined: 09/11/2012
I'm not a published author,

I'm not a published author, so take this with a grain of salt.

Games are a niche market, and publishers are a naturally cautious bunch. They also like to specialize: perhaps your simply don't do abstract games. That doesn't mean it's impossible to sell an abstract game. Take Arimaa, which you have mentioned: it can be played with a regular chess set plus four beer caps, and yet it's published as a separate game, and reasonably popular. (Arimaa is also crazy fun; I recommend it!)

I love the screenshot you posted. The graphics convey tactility; I'd LOVE to fiddle with those pieces.

As a programmer, I can only echo what McTeddy said about copyright.

I wish you good luck with your game.

Joined: 12/02/2012
I just wanted to add my two

I just wanted to add my two cents here. In response to you wondering, if chess and checkers are so popular, why wouldn't your game be an instant hit with publishers:

My only guess would be that chess and checkers became popular in a different time and era, and rooted their presence into our cultural. I'm not saying this is my opinion of your game, but I could picture publishers saying "Well, there's already one chess game out there, why would anyone want to play another chess-like game?". Because chess already claimed it's stake a long time ago, it's pretty much the go-to game for it's genre.

At to that the fact that your game, from a brief glance, looks a lot like chess already, and the publishers might feel it would just be a hard item get anyone interested in.

I'm just going out on a limb here, but have you ever played with the idea of changing the board around so it didn't look so much like chess? Maybe so it looked slightly different, but still shared similarities. Then you might have people saying "Well, it looks a little like chess, but it looks like it's own game too... I wonder what it's all about!"

And finally, just another idea, but maybe don't tell people that you can play the game with original chess pieces and board. Because then, what's the point in buying your game? Anyone can come up with new rules for old games. I think right now you're in the territory of "just like chess, only different", when you need to be in the territory of "if you like chess, you'll like this game".

duchamp's picture
Joined: 12/25/2012
Tell the differences and be unique

First of all, I would say, that you should introduce the game WITHOUT even name "chess". Your game is played on a 9 x 7 checkered grid, where two armies of Indians (?) fight an unusual battle ...

Second, tell the people the USP (unique selling point), making this game - well, unique. Have a look at Trench and its hype on BGG ( - these Portuguese people totally over-exagerrate their theme (Trench battle in WWI), add some Op-Art black/white artistic look and - they turned the board for 45 degrees! Or take Pivit - currently on kickstarter. It is played on a chess board, yes, but with one kind of pieces only, turning for 90 degrees every time they moved, pointing in the other direction, where they can now move to.

As you said in the second line of the OP: Two armies aligned to battle to fight each other. This is not "Chess", but almost every tabletop fantasy game, WWI or II or Napoleonic or Civil War game, games like Stratego or Abbott's "Confusion". There are just too many - it is just the classical 2-player game setup.

So, as long as you come up with some good looking, unique game, nobody cares, if there are resemblances to Chess. Just don't start there introducing the game! ;-)

JustActCasual's picture
Joined: 11/20/2012

You say that you can play it with just a chess set...but the 7/3/3/2/1 piece breakdown you show in your screenshot doesn't seem to support that, nor does the apparent facing importance of 2 of the pieces (unless these are bishops or knights?).

Still: if the real value here is simply variant rules for a chess set, it is easy to see why publishers don't want to spend money on publishing it as a separate game. Why not sell just the rules for a low price? You could probably sell the rulebook for ~$2-5 dollars a shot of almost pure profit, skipping over a slew of unnecessary physical costs. Maybe jack it up with some kind of interactive tutorial app? You could still pitch custom piece sets as bonus for players who really get into it. This kind of scaled business model really plays to the strength of internet commerce, positioning you uniquely rather than trying to shove through the regular process.

It's true that Arimaa is sometimes printed as a separate game even though it is a chess variant, but it also has a strong case for it's uniqueness: the custom pieces really help to teach the game as the variable weights of different animals is a central mechanic; the pits on either side are an easy way to distinguish it from a standard board; it has the famous AI challenge history to back it up anecdotally. Trust me, that AI challenge is gold when you're trying to sell it someone.

Joined: 11/26/2012
You guys speak reasonably

Pinbot: thanks, you are kind!

SinJinQLB: For an abstract board game which isn't based on a special board by its rules, I believe the simple square board is the best choice. Anything else is going to lower the quality. I simply don't want to show extravagancy where not needed.
The board size is not too important in my game, though it's perhaps best played on 7x7. So it can be played with the chess set but you probably know how poorly it feels when you try to pretend that your knight is not a knight actually. I used to play chess extensively, and chess pieces not moving like chess pieces always distract me badly. Custom pieces design is allways much better than using chessmen.
I'll remember your last sentence.

duchamp: I wish you were right! Interesting game examples, BTW.

JustActCasual: what does the 7/3/3/2/1 mean? It's not how they are distributed here. They are 7/3/4/6/1 :) But will be 7/2/2/2/1 on the 7x7 board. Their facing is not important, it's just an animation effect when moving.
I wouldn't say arimaa (nor my game) is a chess variant but I understand how you mean it. What you propose might be an interesting solution if it really can work somehow. Slight problem is what I replied to SinJinQLB: 7 or 9 rows are needed, and people would imho prefer to buy a custom set rather than restrict their chess board and use chessmen to simulate differently moving pieces.
Well, the AI challenge might really have been what helped arimaa gain popularity a lot, though it doesn't have much to do with its real quality (which I don't question here).

You guys speak reasonably, but I am strongly inclined against changing the board because it's not what the game should be about. It's about showing the essence of the battle, by its rules. It should either be published with this board, or fail.

The question:
So you say that if a new board game appears online on the internet, the board game publishers are likely to feel commited to ask the author for permission and offer him royalties if they happen to like it and want to publish it as a board game? It's an important decision for me - to make it so much public or not - that's why I am asking it explicitly. Or is it safer to continue asking the publishers one by one?

Joined: 11/26/2012
Divoshi game online now!

Hi again!

No matter how your answers to my main question seemed indecisive, I decided to release the game online. You can now play it on .
There is turn-based as like as real-time mode, so I suppose this is the only game which can be played both turn-based and real-time at the same time :) Anyway, the turn-based mode in the "Custom game" section is the one which emulates the real board. I hope in the second step - the game being published as a real board game.

Enjoy it, comments welcome.

Joined: 12/02/2012
This game is great! I like

This game is great! I like it. However... and maybe it's just on my end... but once you finish a game, it seems the "Back to main menu" button doesn't work. I had to reload the page. Would be nice if there was a "Play again" button or something. but that is only a minor comment.

Joined: 11/26/2012
You are right, the glitch

You are right, the glitch must have been made when making last changes to the game. It's now corrected.
Thanks for pointing out.

Joined: 11/26/2012
(ctrl-f5 to refresh the page,

(ctrl-f5 to refresh the page, the wrong version may be still in your cache)

Joined: 11/13/2012
Just a quick question. What

Just a quick question.

What program did you use to make the flash game? I'd like to try it with one of my own.

Joined: 11/26/2012
I used Flash :)

It's not a matter of days, not even weeks to learn it well.
Send me a message if you want me to make a flash game for you. It's my profession.

Joined: 11/26/2012

I have created a special website for the game:
Basic tactical guide included, more to come soon.

SLiV's picture
Joined: 10/21/2011
Nice work

I've played a few rounds (and got beaten) and your game is looking pretty neat. It's so simple in design (one type of movement, one type of capturing) but still so intriguing. Kudos.

I've also been developing an abstract wargame and I was thinking of building a pc game as well. It's got its own issues so I haven't much more to add to this thread, but I'm definitely keeping an eye on it.

Joined: 07/12/2012
Looks good so far

I only played it like twice or so, but it's pretty fun so far!

Joined: 11/26/2012
Thanks, SLiV and

Thanks, SLiV and MikeyNg.
Looking forward to seeing your game completed, SLiV. It's allways interesting for me to see a new abstract war game. Let me know.

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