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Cyberpunk Savages - A design blog

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Note: All artwork is pulled from opengameart, google images, or deviantart, and is being used for prototype purposes.

ABOUT ME

Thought I’d start a blog detailing the growth of my current project and focus. Welcome.

I’m pretty fresh to the board game design world. Since I was a kid, I’ve been heavily involved with creating digital games, programming, interactive design, that kind of thing. In the past few years, I’ve built half a dozen prototypes of varying success. I tend to make fast strategy games that are rooted in the video game world, and my mission is to make something engaging for that audience. I think with the recent success of digital card games, there’s a bridge opportunity for tabletop games to capture this crowd.

THE DESIGN

Cyberpunk Savages is my most fleshed out design. It’s a two player strategy game set on a barren world where a few dirt-punk factions battle over the few resources left in the galaxy. It’s very tongue-in-cheek and a love letter to everything cyberpunk sci fi.

Mechanically, it’s a light deck builder with some base building and a lot of “trading” — structures rise and fall, armies get bigger and badder, and eventually someone overwhelms their opponent. Combat is kept purposely simple. Card management is fairly straight forward. Tends to take about 20 minutes start to end.

BGDL CONTEST & COMPONENT AWARENESS

Originally, this game was a mix of cards, tiles, and a timer. Each round would start with players flipping a timer, and grabbing as many resources as they can in real-time, ‘till there was nothing left and then the main phase would commence — assigning resources, purchasing, attacking, etc.

I completed the basic design, ordered a prototype, photographed it, entered the BGDL contest for fun. Was a great experience. Everything was made using component.studio, a tool which I highly recommend for anyone who wants to prototype quickly. I’ll probably make some posts about that in the future.

Anyway, I made it a few rounds deep in to the contest, and got some excellent feedback from judges who reviewed my gameplay video and the rule book. The big takeaways for me: a confused core loop, and expensive to manufacture for a small-box game due to components.

Sure enough, I use TGC to prototype parts, and their tool gives a good estimate for production costs of components. I figure, if you can design a profitable print run on TGC, then you are probably in good shape for a real print run somewhere else. My original game — box, cards, tiles, and timer — was pushing $15 per game, despite only having 60 cards and a few dozen tiles. This kind of ran against my initial design idea. I wanted a fun, quick small box game that lives bigger than its carton. Through bloat, it had turned in to a bit of a beast.

CORE MECHANICS & REINVENTING THE WHEEL

Good games have great core loops and mechanics. Things tend to flow.

My design had trouble here. Players were essentially playing two separate games: a dexterity / real-timey game that was frustrating due to lots components, and a strategy game. I watched other people playing my design. They were amused at the real time section, sure — flipping the timer, scattering the tiles, etc. But after a few rounds, that became more of a chore. The fun was slipping away. It added a good minute to each round that essentially was meaningless: flipping tiles, mixing them around, resetting the timer, a lot of upkeep for no real payoff.

The payoff for players was in the strategy section. They enjoyed the building aspects — buying stuff, managing their resources, attacking. In particular, the combat system is unique. Players shuffle their armies up, and the defender has to pick at random from their opponent’s attacking cards. It sounds simple, and it is, but players really enjoy it.

So there’s my new focus. Keep the game simple, don’t reinvent the wheel, and build a fun strategy game that’s all about that core mechanic: attacking each other until there’s nothing left.

WHERE I’M AT

I took the axe to it. The timer is gone. That thing was crazy expensive ($2+ per game) and really didn’t fit the theme. The tiles (see attached) are dumped and replaced with cards. Resources are dealt out at the beginning of each turn in a more traditional way.

What is left, I think, is something more compelling. Being purely a card game means it’s way easier to table. Players inherently “get it” more, and I can chop a page out of the rule book. It puts the focus back on the core mechanic. The game is all about building again — building structures and defences, building your army, building up your overwhelming attack.

Sometimes I think that it’s not different enough — like there was value in the old system simple because it was, well, weird. I’ve realized that I don’t want to design something different for the sake of different. I want something that feels right.

Oh, and not to mention, it’s going to be about a third of the cost to manufacture: Roughly 80 cards, a smaller box, and no extra components.

NEXT TIME...

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I think I’ll keep writing about a few things. Obviously the different steps and iterations in this game as I get closer to a finished product. But other stuff I’m learning, too. In particular, I’ll do a post about using component.studio and why I think it’s worth the $5 a month.

I’m also an entrepreneur. I run a small business using Shopify, and I know that’s a tool a lot of designer might want to learn more about. If you are interested, let me know, and I’ll make a blog about that for designers.

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blog | by Dr. Radut