Sooo, the past couple of months have involved taking my game Dangercube to my local gaming group a bunch and reluctantly asking people to test a shambled mess of a game! Despite the intensely anxiety-inducing process, it’s been worth it, and I ended up with something I was happy to take to a local convention, where further playtesting gave me something I was even happier with.

Where we left off on the last blog post, I’d been working my way through a bunch of different ideas for “arena combat game set in the future” without much direction really, except for the central idea that players would share joint control over the fates of fighters, and that there would be some secret bets and possible alliances involved.

For the rest of this post, I’m going to let the photos do most of the talking, and then just write captions to explain what you’re seeing a little…


This build was a bit obsessed with the idea of a modular sliding-puzzle maze… it was okay but it wasn’t where the fun was.

I wanted to encourage players to move the fighters all over the map, so I had set-collection based on triggering the largest variety of traps, and trying to injure all of the different fighters… The thought behind it was sound but the solution was too fiddly.

I’d gotten the game to a point where it was possible to deduce other player’s bets, but there wasn’t really much players could do with that information. So, instead of publicly drafting their Fighter Action cards from a public market, I changed this element of the game so that each round of the game began with players drawing 2 cards and passing one to each neighbor. This meant they could actually act on suspicions about their neighbors bet’s by giving or denying them the cards they needed.

It should’ve been obvious really, but somewhere along the line I forgot to ask “and then what!?” after “players should be able to deduce eachother’s motives”.

Once it became clear that players needed something “positive” to do with their preferred winners, I added hidden upgrades which had to be unlocked by collecting cubes. Later on I replaced these with fighter-specific pick-ups to encourage more movement around the map.
Apparently it’s remarkably difficult to create a map using rotational symmetry which doesn’t end up looking like a swastika.
These dual-use cards served their purpose but are gone from the current design. Initially I told people to “play the top action [move] from one card and then the bottom action [rig traps/heal/barriers] from another”. I’ve now split out the trap rigging into its own phase before the fighter movement.
Players get to decide where the injuries go, for ANY fighter injured during their turn. Placing two injuries on an arm reduces the fighter’s possible damage output, while injuring the legs reduces their movement potential. Damaging the head/torso confers no penalty BUT that set of wounds can’t be healed. Interesting decisions abound, I think? I’ve also found that placing the injuries, while a bit of an unusual concept, really gets playtesters into the brutality of what’s going on more than something more abstract (like standard hit points).
The concept of “audience as Victory Points” came back in a big way… Players are rewarded for how exciting they make the match, and earn VPs by starting fights on their turn (the zeroes on the combat dice reward VPs) killing combatants on their turn, fulfilling their bets, and passing up on opportunities to disarm traps or heal the fighters.
A first draft of some card designs for “Control Room” cards. These are essentially an event deck like the Round cards used in Colt Express. Players are told to take an amount of cards, and then usually make a decision about whether to take another card, set up a trap, or rearm an existing trap. There are also some where users get to choose between doing something “nice” like healing a fighter or disarming a trap, or receiving Victory Points for opting out of the Nice Option. Hopefully, starting each round with this setup phase will help to get players into the mindset of a fight controller as opposed to combatant.
Here’s an alternative Control Room Card cardback design… I think this gets the general idea across pretty well… ideally all of this plastic would be closer to Amstrad black (I like the idea that the televised elements are shiny and white and the behind-the-scenes stuff is darker)… but I keep prototype stuff to mostly lighter colours to avoid blowing up my home printer.


I guess the next step, after testing the last additions above, is going to be to start trying to write down the rules properly so they can be blind-tested in print and play format.