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War of the Worlds game: Fixing the Earthlings

Last time on the 'War of the World' game: The Earthling has a disturbing 'lack of things' to do and no incentive to attack the Martian. That's two problems.

In a theme-led game design like this, I suspect the answer is in the book. After the Martians have died, the Earthlings study the fighting machines. They make many discoveries and perform experiments (some successful, others not so). This helps them develop their own technology.

Whilst the original book only has the Martians trashing southern England, I've already decided I want a world-wide stage. I want the Martians to attack France, India, and Australia - I'm going to go 'off-piste', a bit. This means the Martians 'death-by-disease' has to take a little longer than in the book.

Over a longer timescale it's reasonable to assume the Earthlings start experimenting with Martian technology whilst the war is on-going. It's also reasonable to assume this technology might make it onto the battlefield. Which means it's almost certainly not going to be very effective, or safe.

With all that in mind, let's smash the two problems into each other. And after a smash you get ... debris.

When a fighting machine is destroyed, the Earthling player receives fighting machine debris. The Earthlings have a set of technologies they can 'unlock' in exchange for X fighting machines debris.

The Machines become currency for the Earthling player to spend on Technology. Stuff like, Tanks (actually invented in early 1900s), Better artillery, Gas Masks. And the technology helps them even the odds in a fight.

Now, where to put the technology? I'm not sure I like the idea it's sitting around waiting for the Earthling player to 'buy' it. The Army doesn't have this stuff waiting around in the hopes that some advanced alien technology turns up to solve some technical issue.

It's far more likely that various countries in the world have different technologies. And each of them have Leaders and Politicians. Some of whom might want the Martian technology for themselves... perhaps we can 'buy/persuade' the countries leaders to hand over the technology, by giving them debris too...

... I'm going to need a lot more Martians.

Comments

The problem with trying to

The problem with trying to follow a book is that you have to follow the book. Some books don't lend themselves well to games. I think this is one of them. If the humans KNEW that they only had to wait out the invaders, or just cough on them a lot, they would've behaved very differently, and the book wouldn't have been the same at all. The book works only because they, and the reader, didn't know ahead of time about the waiting.

In your game, everyone knows. And they also know all about what the Martian weapons can do, etc. So there's no suspense, and no reason for the humans to struggle against the invasion.

Honestly, the only two solutions I can see are (1) call it a Martian Invasion, but not War of the Worlds, or (2) set it AFTER War of the Worlds, as a second wave of invaders arrives and the humans are already reverse-engineering the alien tech...

Re: The problem with trying to

Jay103 wrote:
Some books don't lend themselves well to games. I think this is one of them.

Well ... there are already several War of the Worlds board games out there :)

Jay103 wrote:
In your game, everyone knows. And they also know all about what the Martian weapons can do, etc. So there's no suspense, and no reason for the humans to struggle against the invasion.

I agree there's no suspense about the abilities of the Martians. I don't see this as a problem though? Whilst the book is suspenseful, that wasn't the primary emotion for me. I felt the stronger emotions were about the horror of the futility of fighting, the wanton destruction, and the incredible losses.

The reason to struggle is that if the Earthling player doesn't, they'll lose. I'm going to increase the Martian count from 10 Fighting Machines to 30. This is because the Earthling player will get Tanks and Artillery, making destroying Martians easier.

I hope it should still have the same feel as the book. The Martians will attack and win most battles, yet heroic groups of soldiers will attack and sometimes win. The fighting machine debris will pay for technologies that slow the Earthling's losses.

Jay103 wrote:
Honestly, the only two solutions I can see are (1) call it a Martian Invasion, but not War of the Worlds, or (2) set it AFTER War of the Worlds, as a second wave of invaders arrives and the humans are already reverse-engineering the alien tech...

Ah, I see. I'm not aiming to recreate the book line for line as it were. To be honest, that's already been done. And better than I could do it.

I want each player to have the same 'feel' as the characters in the book.
- The Martians, enclosed in their machines, confident in their supremacy, but working with limited numbers. Speed is as much of a weapon as the Heat-Ray.
- The Earthlings, everywhere, but de-clawed, weak like house cats. And slow, fumbling, trying anything to escape.

Thank you for replying though! I really do appreciate the chance to discuss this stuff. Up until now its just notes in a book and conversations in my head :)

ceethreepio wrote:I felt the

ceethreepio wrote:
I felt the stronger emotions were about the horror of the futility of fighting, the wanton destruction, and the incredible losses.

Ah, well, there you go!

So your design needs to focus on those elements. Looked at from that perspective, is the "martians die off on day 20" thing even needed? Except perhaps as a hard cap on the length of the game?

In other words, surviving until the Martians die off is NOT the point of the game. Because "survive until the game ends due to time" is not that same emotion. Make sure whatever you end up with includes:

Wanton Destruction
Incredible Losses for the humans
Occasionally significant victories for the humans (e.g. killing a martian) that replace the feelings of futility with hope, at least for a while.

So your design needs to focus...

Jay103 wrote:
So your design needs to focus on those elements. Looked at from that perspective, is the "martians die off on day 20" thing even needed? Except perhaps as a hard cap on the length of the game?

Good question. This is really about 'Victory Conditions' (VC). Each side has one Victory Condition.

Earthlings win the game if all the Martians are dead.

Martians win the game if there are ten or less Soldier Units left on Earth.

There's also a 'Game Condition' "Disease", (which I've been mistakenly thinking of as a VC). It states:

----
Disease
[picture]

On turn 15, the Martian player sacrifices one fighting machine.
On turn 16, the Martian player sacrifices one fighting machine.
On turn 17, the Martian player sacrifices one fighting machine.
On turn 18, the Martian player sacrifices two fighting machines.
On turn 19, the Martian player sacrifices two fighting machines.
On turn 20, all fighting machines die.

[Some blurb about the Martians having evolved and eradicated disease and no longer have need for antibodies]
----

The 'Disease' is nice - it's on-point thematically and serves as a mental pressure for the Martian. (I appreciate the shared knowledge of it is not true to the book.) It also creates an indirect goal for each player:

Martians need to annihilate everyone, and fast
Earthlings must survive - fight and flight

Without the 'Disease' aspect its just a straight and unbalanced war game.

(I considered expanding on 'game conditions'. E.g. perhaps the Martians are weak to alternative phenomena? Sound, Light, Gas, Radioactivity, Smell, Poison? In this model, the Martian would choose a random 'game condition weakness' at the start of the game. But they would not reveal their weakness to the Earthling player. Instead the Earthling would have to perform various experiments to discover the weakness... and then build technology to exploit it. In the end I thought it felt too random - unless the Martian player was forced to give away clues ... which felt clunky.)

I'm also considering making the stated turn numbers on the 'Disease' game condition, (15,16,17,18,19,20) variable. I would need 5 tokens, and it would look something like:

----
Disease
[picture]

Before the game starts, place:
- a (1) token on turn 15, 16 and 17.
- a (2) token on turn 18, and 19.
- a (all) token on turn 20.
Whenever the turn counter is placed on a turn containing a (1),(2) or (all) token, the Martian player must sacrifice that number of fighting machines.

[Some blurb about the Martians having evolved and eradicated disease and no longer have need for antibodies]
----

Why? This would means the game can interact with the diseases. Thematically, the Martians could 'research antibodies', which might move the tokens up the track (or even remove some of them!). The reverse is also true. Whilst the Earthlings are at a 1890s technology level, biological warfare has been around for centuries ... perhaps they fight with diseased corpses, or allow sick people to be captured. Horrible, but they are desperate...

option 3) war of the worlds

option 3) war of the worlds from the alien pov. can you wipe out humanity before you succumb to the sickness.
but thats an entirely different game.

i think with any book you can give it a twist, like the ones mentioned. you can also make the goal to keep the plot on track, or derail it for a better/ different ending.

Well, my point is that the

Well, my point is that the tension in the book is because the humans don't know that on day 18 the attackers will start dying off. In the game, they do. So right there, the two are diverging in a huge way, as that knowledge would change everyone's actions.

So by trying to use that in the game, you already have a game that won't really match the book.. it'll just match some of the events or backstory in the book. If there's no Red Wedding, Game of Thrones is very different from that point on.

So then the question is in what respects you're trying to remain faithful to the source material and why.

i think that a random timer

i think that a random timer could work here or event trigger . so you dont know when the martians are going to die.

re: i think that a random timer

I think I'm moving towards a making the 20 turn death point a variable. Perhaps one that can be altered positively or negatively by both players.

You can say the game was "inspired" by the Novel

As I mentioned the geography of the game could play a part in giving THIS game a "unique" setting. Sticking to Great Britain is a great idea ... because you can play on the notions of the past and FOCUS the game on one location.

In addition the UK Backers will definitely back the game. I know we had a flurry of last-minute UK Backers because their money is SO STRONG. And our game was pure Sci-Fi. Imagine if the setting of the game was Great Britain!

And like I said in the subject, it could be "inspired" by the Novel not a direct copy which would make the game "too predictable". Or something along those lines...

E.g. You can say the game was "inspired" by the Novel

questccg wrote:
Sticking to Great Britain is a great idea ... because you can play on the notions of the past and FOCUS the game on one location.

Well, yes, except that I think one of the other War of the Worlds board games is specifically set in Great Britain. So, someone's already done it :D

My push to make it a a World game is partly to differentiate it from the competition. And partly cause I want a WORLD war ... not a little scuffle in south England.

questccg wrote:
In addition the UK Backers will definitely back the game. I know we had a flurry of last-minute UK Backers because their money is SO STRONG

Really? I thought lately, after all the Brexit malarky, the pound was well down against the dollar.

So sorry... I feel bad.

ceethreepio wrote:
...Well, yes, except that I think one of the other War of the Worlds board games is specifically set in Great Britain. So, someone's already done it :D

I hate that! Sorry to hear about that... Nothing more like having an idea and someone has done a crappy job at it. And it's less appealing to design/develop.

ceethreepio wrote:
Really? I thought lately, after all the Brexit malarky, the pound was well down against the dollar.

Well it's still 0.76 Pounds = 1.00 USD. So I guess not. But do realize that our KS campaign was about 2 years ago. So "Brexit" may see the British Pound drop a bit... I'm pretty certain afterwards, the Pound will go up again.

Historical accuracy as per the novel

Here's the thing. If you decide to go for GLOBAL Martians (all over the Earth) ... Your product may find itself competing with XCOM from Fantasy Flight Games (FFG). Here's the BGG LINK/URL:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/163602/xcom-board-game

If I was you, I'd TRY to stick to the book as much as possible. So while the game might be only in England ... you can stick to higher counts of Alien Activity in the Southern-most parts of England but some other activities might lie in Scotland mountains and elsewhere around the outskirts of cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh... Maybe even St-Andrews!

This will give the game MASSIVE UK appeal. And believe me UK "KS" Backers like it when you offer them "great deals" because of their high value of their Pound Sterling. Which means you'd have a "near-instant" following.

In the USA that too could be good because accuracy with the literature might attract Science Fiction Readers who have read the book and listen to the audio-tracks. You might disappoint readers who really loved the book.

So you have a couple reasons for sticking to the "story".

But at the same time, you have to "fill-in" the game with all kinds of things that the players can DO! That in cohesion with the story ... IMHO would be a sure bet for success.

Cheers!

re: Historical accuracy as per the novel

questccg wrote:
Your product may find itself competing with XCOM from Fantasy Flight Games (FFG).

Maybe, but that's a four-player coop game (with individual roles), against a 'ai' martian player.
So far, in the design, mine is a two-player competitive game (one player Earthling vs one player Martian). So, not that similar...

Mind you, the four player thing is nice ... I wonder how I might do that ...

Quote:
Scotland mountains and elsewhere around the outskirts of cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh... Maybe even St-Andrews!

Haha! There are no mountains in Scotland.

questccg wrote:
You might disappoint readers who really loved the book.

This is a definite concern for me. I think I might have to say 'inspired by War of the Worlds' on the box ... :)

I'm hoping to take a trip around Guildford soon. They have a Martian statue in the town centre, a crashed 'martian pod' along with a statue of Wells himself. You can also take a walking tour around the city to see his house, and the sandpits where the Martians landed.

You are wrong about the mountains!

ceethreepio wrote:
Quote:
Scotland mountains and elsewhere around the outskirts of cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh... Maybe even St-Andrews!
Haha! There are no mountains in Scotland.

No mountains, you say?! I've been there and believe me there are AMAZING Mountains that create the most alluring canyon roads towards the center of Scotland near Braemar. It was the most amazing journey I have ever driven in. I spent an entire day on the road to reach it. I was in awe of the Valleys that I drove in... Nobody around, no speed limits (or so I thought! Haha) was just spectacular...

Here's a picture (not my own... Google Braemar Castle):

ceethreepio wrote:
I'm hoping to take a trip around Guildford soon. They have a Martian statue in the town centre, a crashed 'martian pod' along with a statue of Wells himself. You can also take a walking tour around the city to see his house, and the sandpits where the Martians landed.

Very nice! If you ever go to Scotland... Buy the road guide with the tours of all the castles. An EPIC JOURNEY ... Fun for the kids too! Great with the architecture and some of the wonderous history lessons also...

Alien Abduction (maybe)...

Maybe give the players 18 turns to find the location of the Alien Spacecraft otherwise they "Abduct" the Queen of England and the game is lost...

That's an interesting "twist" on the Novel... We know all of the stories about the "Grays" and their interests in human abduction and scientific probing! So maybe you can use that as a bit of "divergence" from the plot of the the Novel...

Given an area to explore, Great Britain would be a smaller more localized area which could contain the Alien Spacecraft and all the while why those aliens are on Earth is rather simple... "Take me to your Leader!"

Just some additional ideas. Best of luck with this design, I'm sure you'll figure out something that will make it work.

Cheers!

re: Alien Abduction (maybe)...

questccg wrote:
Maybe give the players 18 turns to find the location of the Alien Spacecraft otherwise they "Abduct" the Queen of England and the game is lost..

Haha! I'm suspect making a game where Queen Lizzy gets kidnapped might get me put on a 'register' somewhere.

I had some ideas about the Martians in the game abducting the soldiers and actually sending them back to Mars! The intention by the Martians would be sending them back as 'blood-banks', where they can be feasted upon by the Martians on Mars. (Something similar happens in the book). Perhaps there's a 'Blood Level' gauge on the map, and every turn it goes down, so the Martians need to send back blood to keep Mars alive.

Then I imagined having a 'Mars' map, and that perhaps some transported Earthlings escape - like the Martians accidently sent back a disguised commando squad - who break out and cause havoc on the surface of Mars ...
... yeah. That was getting a bit too complex :)

BTW, Thank you so much for all the thoughts and ideas! It's really enlightening!

hi. i dont think the xcom

hi.
i dont think the xcom comparison will be a problem, if it was D&D would be the only fantasy game. and while its good to make it as accurate as you can, you aren't making a simulation your making a game. if you made it 100% accurate the martians arrive, the humans basically just get overwhelmed then the martians die, not fun for anyone.
it would be easy enough to fudge the facts though. i dont think it says the martians are wiped out entirely by the flu. its heavily implied all the earth bound aliens are killed but im sure, once the scout force landed in england, they sent for the full invasion fleet. infact if you set the game years after the first wave, the humans would have some starter tech and the martians wont just sneeze and die.
you might also, eventually, decide the book has outlived its usefulness so instead of making "war of the worlds: the game" you make "the second wave: invasion game" (or a better name) thats just inspired by WotW. that might also free you to go in more directions, like a triffid expansion, (i know its not the right time or author but they fit nicely together)

as for your new human direction, it sounds good. once you have the basics down you could consider plqyer powers, im thinking if you start with europe (as i dont know the leaders of the resistance) are especially strong vs weed, but the US has tanks and is better at dealing with machines.

@Wob: quality of the game

I'm not saying not to make the game "global" because of XCOM. I'm saying it because that game is ALREADY "totally amazing" and if players want a game with aliens and technology and interceptors, etc. Well they can play XCOM.

Now if you think about "War of the Worlds", well it might make sense that the Aliens have come to Earth to "abduct" the Queen. It takes place in Britain and instead of dying from sickness, they capture and escape with the Queen... Sound like a plausible outcome???

I'm just saying with game nowadays, people are looking for Market Differentiation. Not just designing a "game". You need to compare your ideas with the ones already "out-there" for consumption. And if you even LOOK at XCOM, you'll immediately see that XCOM is AMAZING! Not saying Nick's game will not be good... I'm just confident that XCOM will be the better of the two.

Being "inspired" by the War of the Words Novel is one thing... You can kind of "connect-the-dots", could have 18 rounds which is about average (<20) and can play in 60 to 90 minutes depending on the number of players. And people who have READ the Novel will UNDERSTAND why the 18 round limit. People who have NOT read the Novel will not pick-up on the subtleties tied to the Novel used by this game...

Anyways I'm not at all suggesting a COPY of the Novel. Just using some of the elements in the storyline to create "parallels" and things that make the readers go: "Oh... so that's how he used that!" or "This is similar to what is in the book..."

re: @Wob: quality of the game

questccg wrote:
Not saying Nick's game will not be good...I'm just confident that XCOM will be the better of the two.
Hehe, fair enough. This is my first board game. I'm also hoping to offer a different experience to X-COM. Mine's not a co-op for a start ...

questccg wrote:
Anyways I'm not at all suggesting a COPY of the Novel. Just using some of the elements in the storyline to create "parallels" and things that make the readers go: "Oh... so that's how he used that!" or "This is similar to what is in the book..."

Yes, that's sort of my plan at the moment. I want to take the fundamental ideas from the 1890s novel, and apply them to a world wide war game. But trying to keep the rules nice and simple - e.g. fighting is just pull a battle card, and check the number on it, compare to units on board etc...

So many BGG entries...

Maybe making a "War of the Worlds" game is not recommended. There are over a DOZEN games using some variation of that name. Granted it's not Zombies, Medieval Merchants or Pirates! It seems like the NAME of the game is sufficiently TAKEN.

This is true, what is your "backup plan"?

Are you still interested in a game involving Aliens trying to conquer England, Great Britain, or even the World???

What would you "Call" your game? I ask this ... because that's usually the way I work on my own games:

  1. Find an interesting "Title" for the game.

  2. Build up a "theme" for the game behind this title.

  3. Try to see what kind of mechanics may apply.

  4. Refine and re-iterate until I have a FUN "prototype".

The steps taken towards designing my own game look like that. Anyhow good luck with this design... Like you said there are already numerous games using the name "War of the Worlds".

I'm keen on seeing how you move forwards with this design.

re: So many BGG entries...

questccg wrote:
There are over a DOZEN games using some variation of that name.
Haha! Yes, there are a several games out there, but none appear to be World-focused - not unsurprising given the book's focus.

questccg wrote:
It seems like the NAME of the game is sufficiently TAKEN.
Well, it depends on what I call it really. I definitely want some reference to War of the Worlds (that will help place it in people's minds and help it sell). I figure given the changes I'm looking at compared to the original novel, it might well be 'inspired by'.

questccg wrote:
This is true, what is your "backup plan"? Are you still interested in a game involving Aliens trying to conquer England, Great Britain, or even the World???

Yes. I was already aware of all the previous games. I've not spent any real time studying them though.

questccg wrote:
What would you "Call" your game?

No idea. I'll figure that out that during the design. :)

Quote:
I'm keen on seeing how you move forwards with this design.

Actually, I'm thinking a lot about 4 players now ... :D

I can share some thoughts

I can share some thoughts based on playing two of the games named War of The World.

1. The game that was published last year by DVG. I playtested that for the designer. But the published version had some changes done by the publisher that I have not looked into too carefully. And the details of the original game being playtested are a bit vague. It is the game set in England. But there are expansions for France, US, and Japan (if I remember correctly) that you can also get (and that was available as add-ons in the kickstarter I believe). Playing with more than one are of the world allows you to send goods between the different regions, and to play the game as a coop, so it becomes more like the world-wide strategy game imagined in this thread. But I only ever tried the original England-map.

Since that is a solo (or coop) game only played as humans, obviously they give the humans some things to do. Production centers must be defended to be able to keep producing units to hold of the Martians before they have destroyed the entire country. I do not remember the specifics, but I think if they get to London it is probably game over. Also when some city is overrun by tripods what often happen is that you get refugee counters on the map, that you then have to try to save by getting to a port so they can leave the country (and you may have to use warships to fight off tripods trying to attack the passenger ships as they leave ports). The disease is tracked somehow increasing randomly becoming increasingly strong until you eventually win the game, or something like that.

2. There was a game published in Ares #1, in 2014 if I remember correctly (Ares being the scifi game magazine from the early 1980's that was revived). That is a fantastic game really. much lighter and more on a tactical level. The map covers London and surroundings. It is for two players or one player defending solo against Martians. I almost only played with two players. Even if the title, cover artwork, and all the tripods implies that it is based on Well's book, it actually takes inspiration from other generic pulp and early scifi Martians tropes. Best thing is that the Martian player picks a secret objective (or possibly more than one?) so the human player does not know for sure what they are trying to prevent. And during set up both players secretly buy reinforcements to arrive each turn and place them secretly.

The virus is present in this second game. I do not remember the details, but I think it is something like that the human player can buy the virus as one of their reinforcements, and if the Martian player did not have a bio lab then they insta-lose. Something like that. It might be tied to one of the objectives as well. It will play very differently depending on if the Martians are arriving to conquer the city/planet of if they are after something else.

my method is 1) think of a

my method is
1) think of a game i want to play (a theme, mechanic, genre, experience what ever).
2) see if someone already did it for me.
3) if not make the game in prototype
4) find out its not working
5) repeat 3/4 several times.
luckily i like to make solo games. so basic play testing is relatively easy.

More about playtesting

wob wrote:
... luckily i like to make solo games. so basic play testing is relatively easy.

I like Andrew Harmon's approach to playtesting:

Play each player as if they want to win the game...!

This is how he demo-ed "Portals & Prophets" with the Gameplay Video and it worked surprisingly well.

I know there are times where you "remember" the opponent's hand and so you do a different tactic than you would have done normally... But that's why you also do Blind Playtesting to ensure that the rulebook is solid and having real players to your game is a great way to "solidify" the game (in terms of mechanics and overall strategy).

So playtesting multiplayer games is "not" impossible either. I try to use Andrew's approach in most of my playtests.

Cheers!

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