Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A quickly generated full prototype

I've had a possibly-unique (for me, anyway) experience the past couple weeks. After my last trip to Rick Steeves' monthly game night, I thought about a game that would combine history (a little) with war (a little) in a one-hour game that might sufficiently appeal to some of the more extreme Euro gamers--something simple that takes an hour or so.

I've made several attempts at "one hour wargames", and while they are good, they tend to be 90-120 minutes.

One of the games we'd tested was Agonia (TM), a development from Law & Chaos (TM) that introduces territoriality and victory points to the L&C idea of changing capture methods. My "leap" was to imagine using the Agonia system in an historical instead of abstract game, and the key here was to accept placement of pieces as well as movement. People like me who started playing Avalon Hill games 45 years ago are so accustomed to having to move pieces from one place to another--which, after all, is how it is in the real world-- that placing pieces from off the board to "out front" is a foreign idea.

But it works here to simplify the game, though after five playtests I now do not allow placement to attack or explore, only to deploy more pieces.

Having come up with this notion, I thought about scenarios and decided to pursue the European Age of Discovery --a game with exploration, trade, and possibly fighting, on a familiar map of the world. As I already had a computer version of a board for Lands of Gold (TM), which is similar in scope but much more complex, I adapted that board. Lands of Gold will be a representation; Age of Discovery i(TM)s a "thematic" game, not one that's realistic in any sense, though I have found myself trying to add some features that contribute to a more historical feel.

The other thing I've eliminated from what I'd call a typical Euro(war)game is Event Cards. Instead I have a card, selected from the top of the deck at the start of each round, that can alter how conflicts are resolved. This is the only overtly random element in the game. Any other randomness, if you can call it that, comes from not knowing the intentions of the other players, because players play Action Cards simultaneously. They are resolved in card initiative order. (This method is also used in Colonia(TM), which is about Mediterranean colonization more or less; but that game is quite different in many ways.)

What makes it all unique is that, having come up with the idea, I've pursued it through five solo playtests (of up to six players--it works better with more players rather than fewer) in just a couple weeks, hardly working on any other game. As I normally jump from one game to another with considerable frequency, this is really different. I am now at a stage where I have a full set of rules (still a bit rough, but a full set) and a pretty polished prototype, and I need to have other people play. Going from idea to full-rules polished prototype in a couple weeks is the unique experience.

1 comment:

Ian Schreiber said...

Have you played the Days of Wonder line of wargames? Battle Cry, Memoir '44, Battlelore. I think these would qualify as one-hour wargames.

The first two are historical (Civil War and WW2, respectively), the latter is fantasy. All use almost identical mechanics.