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Area control game with features similar to Chess and Risk

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Jakup
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Joined: 09/27/2018
Latest version board
Board map
Map with sea movement
Unit symbols
google earth board version

Hello everyone! I’m a new game design hobbyist I’m in a process now and I just feel like sharing. For years I have had a game idea in the back of my head, but recently I made some progress on the mechanics. I read advices in the designer community about the unlikelihood of anyone stealing my idea, so I take the advices to heart and give it full disclosure here :) Let me jump right into it. In my game I seek to combine the best elements of Chess and Risk, while eliminating some of the more tedious elements in Risk. The crucial idea is that provinces are broken down into 3x3 squares, where you take the province by moving one of your pieces to a province’s central square and place a flag there. See attached board map to get the idea. Provinces form nations and nations form empires. A province gives you one food income per turn, a nation gives you one or more silver income per turn, and an empire gives you one gold income per turn. With food you can buy the level 1 piece pawns (the peasants or foot soldiers of the game); with silver you can buy level 2 pieces: the officers/noblemen (rooks, knights and bishop), and with gold you can buy level 3 pieces, queens and kings.
The pieces’ movement is similar to chess, though slightly adapted. Only pawns and kings can place a flag on a province’s central square to claim the province for your kingdom. When you attack and kill an opponents piece it happens in the same way as regular chess. An exception is when a lower level piece attacks an higher level piece, then the attacking piece also dies in the attack.
I use common chess terminology. This is rather stale and theme-less, but at this stage it serves to make the game concepts easier to understand, especially if I recruit play-testers from the chess community.
Take a look at the board (rough Inkscape sketch) and rule book, both are attached.
I would greatly appreciate any feedback and thoughts BGDF members may have. Questions I ponder much are:
- Am I re-inventing the wheel? Are there games out there similar to mine? I did not find any myself that was too similar.
- What would be a good way to proceed towards a prototype of my board map? I feel my core competence is not graphical design, and that I should seek out an artist/designer that can help me spice up the board, and then to make prototypes for testing.
- Are there fundamental flaws in the concept which I might have missed?

I just want to get to having a decent prototype of the game, then do loads of testing with people.

The grids and tiles on my sketch should be toned down and be made somewhat transparent, so the main focus on the strategic map of Europe and its nations is in the forefront. Also, I think, if it is possible to round the province border somewhat to make the board look more realistic, without blurring the functionality. The end result need not be a Europe map at all, it could be a fantasy theme map or anything. It could even be something as abstract and un-sexy as a chess board.

Here are my thoughts on some features which I think make the game good:
Contrary to Risk there are no dices or cards - you win the tactical battles like in chess, by outsmarting your opponent. I think this gives players maximum in-depth tactical choices. At the same time, the strategic area control element decides how many and how good pieces you get to fight your tactical battles with. I think the tactical battle concept is nicely integrated into the overall strategic framework, and that this produces a more natural game flow than in games where tactical battles are set up on a separate battlefield outside the main board.
Also the 3-tier units, where the more capable units only unlock once you advance in the game, gives each player a goal to work towards.
I just felt like sharing, at this stage. My apologies in advance if my post is somewhat disorganised. And I did not playtest the game at all yet, but plan to get there soon.

Best regards
Jákup

Tim Edwards
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Joined: 07/30/2015
This game idea gave me a

This game idea gave me a great deal of joy and made me smile.

If I understand it, it's a game of chess but instead of playing on a board of 8x8, we're playing over continents and gaining more pieces as we make specific gains?

I love it on one level. Another part of me is wondering how it will play out in reality. In a recent post, the dangers of "analysis paralysis" were discussed. That MIGHT be an issue here. But...maybe not.

Play test it and let us know!! As I said, there is something I find gorgeous about the concept. When you test it, you'll know whether you're at the beginning of a journey or the end.

And thanks for sharing the idea in such detail. I think it was a good move. My feeling is that publishing ideas online protects you at least as much as it puts you at risk.

Jakup
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Joined: 09/27/2018
Hello Tim, thanks for the

Hello Tim, thanks for the input, greatly appreciated. Im very glad that you find the concept interesting. Yes exactly, a game of chess, winning countries to unlock better combat units.

I read through some posts here about analysis paralysis. It is definitely a concern with my game. Perhaps I tend to underestimate the problem of AP due to the amount of tournament chess I have played. In chess there are endless options to analyse, but only so much time per move. I think we chess players may be accustomed to analysing under this mental strain and the time pressure, and somehow, through much tournament practice, learn well to manage AP. That is, the trade-off between when to stop analysing and start executing the move.
Introducing a clock/timer (eg. Max 1 minute to execute your turn), would inevitably put off a lot of gamers, so Analysis Paralysis is a thing I have to consider further.

One thing which can cause AP and which I tried to address, is to remove counting from the came. In this game it should be rather simple to count how much resources you get and how many and which units you can purchase with those resources.

Anyways, you are absolutely right, the best way forward is to play test it - stay tuned! :)

gxnpt
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Joined: 12/22/2015
better map fit idea
tikey
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Joined: 03/31/2017
Don't worry about the quality

Don't worry about the quality of the prototype at first, your map looks just fine to see how the game plays. Graphic design is important but it won't matter until late in the development, you need to nail the mechanics first.
The game looks really interesting but I'm intrigued about how combat would work in practice. Also you should check whether the current grid layout will work as it's pretty irregular, with some blocks sharing a two tile border, others three tiles. You need to see how that's going to work without worrying to much about having to match the countries borders precisely.

Hope this helps! Keep us updated.

Jakup
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Joined: 09/27/2018
better map fit idea

Hi gxnpt. Thanks alot for the inspirational input and for answering my first question: I am indeed reinventing the wheel, at least to some extent :o)

The road network in the game you share is more nimble and easier to map design. The pieces mentioned are also well suited to this layout. You have the bishop, ambassador (rook) and wizard (queen) as well as the king. Warlord is referred to as “common”, so perhaps a pawn like unit. Interesting that only kings and warlords can capture provinces, just as in the rules in my game where only the slow moving kings and pawns can capture provinces.

I think it creates a good gaming balance when you only can capture provinces with the slow-moving units, and thus the best attack may be a blitzkrieg with the fast moving units leading the charge, and the slower moving, province capturing units following up. I wonder though, what constitutes a province in this game, is it 3x3 cities also, and how does the income system work? What is the name of this game, and is it publicly available? Thanks again.

wob
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Joined: 06/09/2017
hello. i think you have the

hello. i think you have the basis of a good game, but there are a few things that niggle me.

firstly- your king seems wrong. at the moment it is a rubbish pawn that costs loads. i realise this is as a result of taking the pieces from chess but in chess the king is made more than a pawn by making it the focus of the game (and a couple of other moves). i would start with a pawn and king and make losing the king alone as a lose condition (you could still keep the others)

secondly- france. as a general rule for game design any exceptions to a rule mean you need to look at that rule. i would say "to claim a country you must control the majority of its provinces" .although that might give you more problems ie. countries with an even amount of provinces.

thirdly- i find the reward system a bit confusing (but a lot of people like that in empire type games) i would just have gold (or food ) as the income. give n gold per province, double gold if you control the country and a bonus if you control a neighboring country. this should get rid of the analysis paralysis and all the book keeping.

overall i think its a good idea but it could do with some streamlining.

gxnpt
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Joined: 12/22/2015
is just a mech analyze of your game

All I did was look at the idea of splitting the "move to adjacent square" with "move using road to adjacent position" to allow stretching of roads to fit positions to a map.

Simplified, it came to 2 types of roads and each type had 2 subsets.

8 gates to a city, each road has 2 gates on essentially opposite sides of the city. (Some cities do not have all the gates to represent no adjacent space)

Renamed the pieces. Seemed to be a more cohesive naming system with king+warlord as conquerors, mid-rank counselor/specialists, and a powerful "equal in rank to king" non-conqueror piece.

For the PC crowd, we seem to have lost a need for gender references along the way. Careless of us, I suppose.

Just a couple of ideas for you to use if you like them. Packaging tricks.

https://www.bgdf.com/image/roadgrids

Another possible set of names - more generic - would be Overlord, Hierophant, Priest, Merchant, Spy, and Warrior.

If you use sea lanes as well (count them as roads) your grid can connect across oceans where you want it to - board layout will be important to having a good game balance

(with a bit of a grin) - and then there is the warrior leapfrog rule..............

The game looks promising with your current rules

Jakup
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Joined: 09/27/2018
better map fit idea

Hi gxnpt,
Thanks a lot for your valuable input. This is really helpful. Apologize for the late reply - busy week.
I didn’t get the point after your first post - I thought you already had an existing game with mechanics exactly as mine. I must admit though that I am relieved it wasn’t the case :)

The “move using road to adjacent position” idea is great. You provided a solution to the challenge I had been pondered - namely how to allow movement over longer distances, particularly bodies of water. In my current game map, I have 5 locations where I intend to allow movement over sea. See the new version attached to this post, where I try to visualize where and how movement is allowed over sea.

This is of course too ugly, but only serves as a stepping stone to a solution. The “move using road to adjacent position” fits well, except where the direction is not either straight or diagonal, but some degree in between. So for example in the Scotland-Norway and the Spain-Italy connection, my plan was to show a mirror image of the province across the sea. I find it very difficult to display sea movement in a satisfying manner, especially since in this game (contrary to Risk) to facilitate movement it is not enough draw a single line from location A to location B, but it has to be made clear just how movement is possible, taking into account the movement rules for the various units. I think such movement borders should be at least 3 squares wide, to allow for some manoeuvrability by the penetrating player. If narrowed to a single square entry, I expect testing to show that its too easy for defending units to kill any attackers who try entry.

At this stage it might be tempting to rework the map in order to remove movement over sea at a distance, but I have not given up on this map of Europe yet.
The road system is technically superior to the grid system, but I’m afraid that a road-filled map will clutter up the map too much. Just as in Civilization 2; an area where the AI has built rail roads on every square is plain ugly (perhaps bad comparison, but it came to my mind)

Again, thanks a lot gxnpt, I can not say how much I appreciate.

While contemplating the sea movements on the board, I have given some thoughts on the making of the units. I plan to acquire 1 ccm wooden cubes and glue the symbols (attached) on them.

The warrior leapfrog rule yea :-) I like the way you name units and concepts - at some stage I will have to divorce myself from chess terminology.

Jakup
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Joined: 09/27/2018
Wob, Thanks for your 3 points

Wob, Thanks for your 3 points of improvement suggestions. They made me think the following:

wob wrote:
firstly- your king seems wrong. at the moment it is a rubbish pawn that costs loads. i realise this is as a result of taking the pieces from chess but in chess the king is made more than a pawn by making it the focus of the game (and a couple of other moves). i would start with a pawn and king and make losing the king alone as a lose condition (you could still keep the others)

1)Great idea to substitute one starting pawn for a king and making it a losing condition to lose the king. This may also put a reasonable time limit on the game. I will definitely try both variants in testing to see how different players will play in the two different rules. I agree that at first glance the king seems like nothing more than a fat pawn and weak compared to its cost. However, the king’s manoeuvrability compared to the pawn’s is greatly enhanced. It can actually reach most destinations double as fast as a pawn. For example a pawn’s range in 4 moves is 40 squares whereas a king’s range in 4 moves is 80 squares. It is easy for the long range units to hunt down pawns, but the king escapes them easier. And the king can both flee and pick up new provinces as he goes. Needs testing to see if players will buy the king.

wob wrote:
secondly- france. as a general rule for game design any exceptions to a rule mean you need to look at that rule. i would say "to claim a country you must control the majority of its provinces" .although that might give you more problems ie. countries with an even amount of provinces.

2)Agree not to make exception to rules. I will drop the exception and see if any players will choose a starting location in France.

wob wrote:
thirdly- i find the reward system a bit confusing (but a lot of people like that in empire type games) i would just have gold (or food ) as the income. give n gold per province, double gold if you control the country and a bonus if you control a neighboring country. this should get rid of the analysis paralysis and all the book keeping.

3)I will stick to my 3-tier resources and unit system. If I only use one resource type in the game, then there is no element of achieving milestones in the game to unlock more advanced units, since they’re available with the basic resource. It eliminates the excitement about advancing in the game to unlock better units. It would be like being able to purchase dragons in the first couple of turns in Heroes of Might & Magic. The only reason we buy troglodytes and hobgoblins is because dragons and titans are not available to us yet. Otherwise we would just wait 2-3 turns more while accumulating money to buy them. Upfront access to all units tends to make the lower level units obsolete at the start of the game. (In this game the pawn has special flagging ability which avoid its becoming obsolete, but that is another matter). Perhaps the income system can be confusing to newcomers to the game, but I don’t think it should be difficult to learn. Analysis paralysis is inevitably a feature of this game, as the mechanics are designed to allow for deep tactical and analytical considerations. I think it is okay that the game confronts players with challenging tactical decisions which causes some degree of analysis paralysis, but it is not okay if the income counting each round causes to much bookkeeping and analysis paralysis. Again, I need testing.

Jakup
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Joined: 09/27/2018
tikey wrote:Don't worry about

tikey wrote:
Don't worry about the quality of the prototype at first, your map looks just fine to see how the game plays. Graphic design is important but it won't matter until late in the development, you need to nail the mechanics first.
The game looks really interesting but I'm intrigued about how combat would work in practice. Also you should check whether the current grid layout will work as it's pretty irregular, with some blocks sharing a two tile border, others three tiles. You need to see how that's going to work without worrying to much about having to match the countries borders precisely.

Hope this helps! Keep us updated.

Hello Tikey. Thanks for the comment. It's great to get advice on what to focus on (mechanics first), it helps me focus.
The irregular grid layout is also my concern before the testing. The main reason for designing the map in this irregular pattern is to avoid all flag squares being on the same trajectory. In the main landmass I stick to the same pattern most of the time, but on peninsulas and islands (UK and Scandinavia) the grid is rather individual. I'm excited to test this.

Currently I'm traveling in Asia, so I'm kinda excited to get back home to work on the physical map and components and then playtest.

bottercot
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Making a Board

I am not gifted in graphic design either, nor do I have money to really spend on programs or resources. I use Microsoft Powerpoint to make basic game boards and cards, and it actually works surprisingly well. For a prototype for your board, you could even just draw up a rough scetch. The important thing is that it works, not that it looks good.

tikey
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Joined: 03/31/2017
The thing is that games are

The thing is that games are going to change so much during development that it doesn't make sense to spend time in prettyfing stuff that might no longer exist in future iterations.

What's important in designing components early on is clarity of information, what do you really need to put, how to organize it in the cards, boards et all. That doesn't have anything to do with typefaces or color pallete. Knowing which information is important, what should be put on top is also helpful when desiging the game.

Jakup
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Joined: 09/27/2018
The latest board version

Hello everyone!
The past week I have been thinking: “How can I make the map look as good as possible before I print prototypes for play testing?” I want to share with you some of my detours on the way as well as the latest map version, which I’m quite satisfied with compared to earlier map versions.

- What do you think of my latest board map?

The first map I shared at the outset was the one named "board map" above.

(side question: How can I paste images in the middle of the text? I seem only to be able to attach images to the top of the post. This is inconvenient, as I in this post refer sequentially to 3 different images.)

From here I wanted to make the underlying map look realistic, and to make the tiles & squares become more transparent and blend in with the map underneath. I wanted the map itself to become more visible, also those locations under the game grid. The difference in colour of the various nations in the game grid must still be clearly recognizable. Instead of the blank map of Europe, I wanted something more alive and colourful, so I choose to take a google earth map of Europe. I resized and rotated the map, so it could fit the square-tiles pattern I had already made. When I copied the grid pattern I made it partially opaque, so the map details underneath were partially visible. Mostly I wanted the outline of the sea shore to be visible and unaffected by tile overlay. When I began, I imagined that this map would look great with the dark blue and dark green satellite background, while the game tiles would contribute with the colours of the rainbow, and in a brighter tone than the google earth background.

Boy was I dissatisfied with the result - se "google earth board version" above.

This map seemed to me more ugly and un-playable than my first map. I got all the colours I wanted but it simply didn’t work. Beside that the colours didn’t fit, the 3x3 provinces fitted badly to the map, giving a feeling that the underlying map makes no sense and gives no contribution to the game play.

Then I figured, if I took an old fashioned drawn map with a white-ish colour as the background, it would be easier to make the colours of the tiles work the way I wanted. I found an old french map from the 18th century, and began to fit my ready made pattern of 3x3 square provinces on top of the map. By this time I realized that my current tile pattern did not fit this map either, no matter how I stretched and rotated. Even when I got it to fit somewhat, the rigid 3x3 square province system could never fit to the map details to the degree which I wanted.

Since I already saw the necessity of rearranging the relative locations of provinces and countries, I decided to make another change, which not only was a cosmetic change, but also a fundamental change of the map mechanics. I decided to dump the 3x3-square-province system, and instead I made individual, irregular provinces, effectively reducing rigidity from 3x3 to 1x1. That enabled me to place each square to fit the most with the seashore borders of the underlying map. After placing all the squares I wanted inside the seashore borders, I started to outline the borders between countries, and once that was done I coloured every square according to its country. ONLY THEN did I split the countries into provinces by grouping squares into provinces on an individual and irregular basis.

See "latest board version" above.

The benefits of this change are squares/tiles fit much better with the underlying map, making the board much more clear and beautiful (in my subjective view). The drawback is that now the flag squares of each province has to be marked/identified individually, since the shapes of the provinces are now individual, whereas earlier the 3x3 square provinces allowed for the assumption that the flag square was always the province’s central square.
I also found what I think is a solution to the problems with sea travel mentioned in earlier posts. I invent white, neutral, sea squares, which are placed as extension to land squares, in patterns that allow for the desired sea travel between countries. Since the sea squares are extensions in the same pattern as land squares, there are no need for special rules to govern unit movement over sea. I think this solves the difficulty I had earlier, of properly allowing for sea travel in a clear manner.
I still haven’t split all of the countries into provinces, and I haven’t marked flag squares yet, as I have no clear idea yet on what they should look like.

I really take to heart all the advice I got here about focusing of getting the game play tested, and I’m aware that at this stage the game badly needs play testing. But I’m currently travelling, and far from printing equipment and play testers, so I choose to focus for now on what I can do to improve the game with my laptop only.

When I look at the board I suspect that perhaps the board is too big (that is, there are too many squares/provinces), and this will compound the challenge with analysis paralysis, as has been pointed out by contributors on this forum. I played a lot of chess on tournament level, and I believe we chess players are so accustomed to deal with analysis paralysis (AP), that we have a blind spot for it. So I’m eager if non-chess players will find joy in my game, or there will be too much AP for them to deal with.
I think about also making a smaller map for play testing, which will be small enough to play a game in half to one hour. (That said I’ve no clear idea how long time a typical game would take on the current map).

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